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Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Freddy the Pig

"Patrick Fitzgerald's probe is quickly coming to a head and, frankly, I'm going to be damn disappointed if some big trees don't come crashing down."

Get ready to be disappointed, I suspect.

It is very hard to see how anyone is going to be able to maintain a claim of secrecy about Wilson's CIA status when every reporter in town seemed to know it-- and use it. Fitzgerald, unlike many prosecutors, is not a fool and only brings cases he can win and that matter. I would bet the ultimate number of indictments is exactly zero; he's been using this case to put pressure on Miller over other things.

The silence of the Times on this is because they know their goose is cooked.

Michael Turner

Disclaimer: I haven't followed this story closely, and it's making me cross-eyed to put in Marc's recommended full hour of background reading.

A few months ago, I finished David Halberstam's The Powers That Be. I found his treatment of the backroom dealings at WaPo over this story very intriguing. At various times, there were concerns that the story could sink the paper -- all they'd have to do was get it wrong *enough*, a few times, and the Wrath of Chuck Colson would descend upon them.

If I were a Big Time Editor at the NYT, and a sealed manila envelope from Judy Miller's files was discovered with outer notations vaguely linking it to the Plame fiasco, would I

(1) grab my pearl-handled letter-opener and open it immediately?

(2) leave it sealed, scrub the fingerprints off it and hand it to corporate counsel with a pair of tongs? (Who would likely receive it with a pair of tongs, and hire technical experts who know how to reseal an envelope so that it appears intact.)


(3) leave it sealed, scrub the fingerprints off it, put it right back where it was found in the filing cabinet, then scrub the fingerprints off the filing cabinet?

As an individual -- shall we say, a civilian? -- of course I'd go for #1. Immediately. (Except that I don't have a pearl-handled letter opener. I'd probably use my teeth.)

However, I'm not what they used to call a Zeppelin Pilot, i.e., an executive editor at a national daily paper of record. I don't know how they think, but my gut feeling is that they would be more sorely tempted by option #3.

Bear in mind that this really could be the Watergate of our era. A third-rate spy-outing rather than a third-rate burglary, but still with evil tendrils of culpability (for the coverup, if not for the crime) reaching all the way into the Oval Office. *Could be*. Sad to say, as long as the ambiguities hang in the air, you won't see heroism in the corner offices. Plus ca change ....

Michael Turner

Freddus Porcinus Rex writes: "It is very hard to see how anyone is going to be able to maintain a claim of secrecy about Wilson's CIA status when every reporter in town seemed to know it-- and use it."

Not the issue. Plame's status might have been widely known informally around the Beltway, but the question is about the legal status of someone who reports it formally in open media channels. So long as it's an "open secret" in the Beltway, it still has cover value. A reporter who used Plame as a source of information could have used that information in a way that didn't break her cover. And it seems that they didn't -- until one day, some did.

Freddy the Pig

So Michael Turner, what you're saying is, if Judith Miller knew Plame was a spy, and didn't publish it, that's not a crime, and if Judith Miller and Karl Rove/Scooter Libby/whoever talked about her being a spy, and didn't publish it, that's not a crime, but the moment someone else entirely publishes the fact, it becomes a crime retroactively that Judith Miller and whoever had that conversation? And you can convict Scooter Libby for that? I just don't see how a jury buys that. Maybe in the 3-network era you could have, but today-- as soon as it's out in Washington gossip, it's out in the world, that'll be the defense case. And they'll win with it, in a courtroom decorated with Vanity Fair blowups and Wonkette screen grabs.

Now, Fitzgerald may have other evidence we don't know about yet, in which case anything's possible. But I'll stand by what I said before: unlike a lot of politically motivated prosecutors (cough -Ken Starr- cough) Fitzgerald's track record in Illinois has been extreme competence in squeezing people to get the evidence he wants and only making the cases he stands a good chance of winning. And on that basis and the basis of what we the public know now, I would bet that he doesn't indict anyone else, and he's been squeezing Miller, the NYT reporter with the most contacts in the Middle East, for other reasons.

* Not Wilson, I messed that up in my first post.


NY Times editor is Bill KELLER, not Bill Miller


Gee Freddy...you really haven't been paying much attention to either the timeline or details of this Plame story, have you ?


I'll add that I have no idea if anyone's actually going to be indicted or convicted, but your "contextualization" sounds like Mehlman talking points as interpreted by Woody.

Michael Balter

Okay, everyone, dream with me for a moment: Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay sharing a jail cell. Sweet, sweet, sweet.

Okay, now back to the real world.


Thanks for that OZ moment...I just had a flash of DeLay wearing the lipstick.

Michael Turner

"So Michael Turner, what you're saying is, if Judith Miller knew Plame was a spy, and didn't publish it, that's not a crime, and if Judith Miller and Karl Rove/Scooter Libby/whoever talked about her being a spy, and didn't publish it, that's not a crime, but the moment someone else entirely publishes the fact, it becomes a crime retroactively that Judith Miller and whoever had that conversation?"

No, I didn't say that. Read what I wrote.

If Judith Miller was part of a documented chain of decisions to publish Plame's status as an intelligence operative, or if someone is willing to testify under oath that she was, she MAY be at risk for prosecution. As might be anyone involved in the decision. It goes to intent, which might be very hard to establish. And the less people say now, the harder that will be. That's the simple reason I can see behind the silence at the NYT -- they are probably under the advice of their lawyers to shut up about it. This case could hurt the NYT seriously, while the White House might only have to toss a low-level staffer to the wolves.

Freddy the Pig

"It goes to intent, which might be very hard to establish."

More than that, it goes to whether or not you can even convince a jury that a crime existed at all. That's why I think this is a hard one to win, and therefore an unlikely one to be brought. Indulge yourself with fantasies of Rove or even Cheney in jail if you like, but they are, most likely, just fantasies.

GM Roper

If, as I expect, nothing at all comes of this (remember, it was the Times that was hell bent for leather to START an investigation on the non-outing of VP) I'm going to laugh my butt off at you guys.

P.S., be sure and wipe the drool off your chins as you contemplate Karl being "frog marched."


Right Roper, we'll note you tagging along licking his boots.


DeLay, Frist, Our Miss Meirs, Rove, Scooter, WHIG, WMD, "SS Reform", cakewalks, Dir. Brown & Katrina, Drug & Energy Bills straight outa K-Street, the Christer SCOTUS Litmus Test, ballooning deficits, Monkey Trials and a general demoralization, if not chaos, on the Right...

I won't have to wipe the drool off my chin for many a month...Rove indictment or no. In fact, I'm thinking of buying a bib.

We liberals may not have a particularly smart or commendable Democratic Party to speak for us, but we can always rely on hubristic, crackpot and crooked GOPers to keep hope alive and our fires burning bright.

Abbas-Ali Abadani

Michael "Faster Please" Ledeen's head may also be on the chopping block.


Freddy the Pig

Oh dear.

We're bringing indictments based on Wikipedia entries, now, are we?

I saw some LaRouchies handing out flyers today, maybe we could indict based on that evidence, too.

it's probably a lot stronger than the 'evidence' that Bush or Totten were selling to Americas as justification for murdering Iraqis with cluster bombs...

GM Roper

Markey48.."Right Roper, we'll note you tagging along licking his boots."

OMG, the witticism is just soooooo deadly!

richard lo cicero

Nobody knows what will happen but Fitzgerald's record suggests that indictments of some sort are more likely than not. But the speculation of the media really is a hoot since this guy doesn't leak and so everything is a rumor.

But I really want to comment on Marc's (and Jay Rosen's) comments on the NYT. The silkence of the TIMES speaks volumns of the deterioration of a once proud paper. I think it started with the "Whitewater" fiasco. Jeff Gerth wrote a story that turned out to be wrong in almost all respects. But it fit the paper's meme that Bill and Hill were crooks and no amount of evidence to the contrary would change their minds. Particularly that of Howell Raines who turned out to be even more opinionate than A.M. Rosenthal - quite a feat! Then came Wen Ho Lee and a non apology apology. Now Judy Miller who seems to enjoy a special relationship with the Publisher and a lot of resentment from the staff. I don't remember which blog it was but someone noticed the dearth of support for Miller among the DC staff and from other female reporters. The TIMES can't talk about its role, I suspect, because Punch won't let them. So Sad.

The paper of record's role in electing Bush (by trashing Clinton and ridiculing Gore - see Sommerby) and in promoting the Iraq war will be the blackest mark in the paper's history. It is far more egregious than its not reporting the preparations for the Bay of Pigs or even its failure to back up Ray Danner's reports from El Salvador in the early eighties. By giving Miller a free hand and not editing her in any way they have forfeited credibility. And that's hard to get back.


As I just blogged, Miller was tapped by Libby to leak the Plame name, but wouldn't, hence the source confidentiality problem even without a story. The office of the vice-president will be indicted for outing a CIA operative during a time of war for politcal reasons: Wilson's report going agin their invasion desires. Bank on it folks.

Michael Turner

Hey Mark (not Marc) -- I just clicked your marky48 link, and it took me to a page that had a supposed link to your blog, but the link was bad. (I did find your blog, and have since commented on your USPS travails.) You might want to fix this link.

Freddy: juries don't decide on whether something is a crime, they decide on whether someone is guilty of one.

Freddy the Pig

Yeah, sure, juries never acquit because they think the prosecutor was politically motivated and went on a fishing expedition. That's why Ken Starr got so many great convictions. Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt the WH played hardball using the press as a vehicle, but so does the CIA, our new best friend.

We aren't damaging ourselves by investing in Plame and Wilson like the Republicans did by investing in Starr and Lewinsky, but it's the same kind of pointless distraction. It'll either happen or not. We should be talking policy, not gotcha, in the meantime.

Michael Turner

Freddy writes: "Yeah, sure, juries never acquit because they think the prosecutor was politically motivated and went on a fishing expedition."

A fishing expedition typically involves opening an inquiry in the hopes of nailing someone on other crimes. I think that doesn't apply here. Though new, as-yet-unidentified fish may be netted, what crime they may have committed has already been identified. (Note the "may".) I don't think anybody involved in this case is pursuing the spy-outing charges in hopes of getting lucky and nailing Rove on other charges, like lying under oath about whether he had sex with an intern. Whatever "sex" is.

Abbas-Ali Abadani

Freddy: "We're bringing indictments based on Wikipedia entries, now, are we?"

I can understand that the existence of media outlets without salaried, degreed and approved gatekeepers, such as Wikipedia, is troubling to some folks, and I can also understand why they'd dismiss anything that appears in such media out of hand.

Unfortunately for such folks the *source* here is not Wikipedia. Wikipedia has merely compiled the data from many other sources. The source specifically quoted in the blog entry that I linked to above is Philip Giraldi, ex-CIA counter terror guy, current employee of Vince Cannistraro Assoc., who writes an intel column for The American Conservative.

Better luck next time.

Oh, and Freddy.

I understand that Penn Kemble is looking for a new intern/gofer/shoeshine boy. You might want to give him a call.



Freddy the Pig

"They said Crippen was mad."

"But Crippen WAS mad."

"Well, that's my point, innit?" --Monty Python

You know, it's pretty funny that yesterday Marc was saying, ever so gingerly, that people on the left might find they had a little teeeny isolationist bit in common with Pat Buchanan (no shit, Sherlock, what part of US out of Middle East didn't you understand?), and today Abbas-Ali, last seen accusing me of being Ian Paisley, is now quoting Buchanan's magazine.

Well, if I'm going to be accused of being Rove's lapdog for not sharing in the general enthusiasm for a court case which may, in fact, never be brought, let me express Freddy's Principles of Sane Partisanship:

1) Rove and Libby may have outed Plame.

2) There may also have been nothing to out, she may have been as openly Spy as Siegfried and Roy are openly gay, and this is typical internecine hardball between the bureaucrats who run the country and the presidential administrations who try, for four years or eight, to overrule them.

3) Putting the Left on the side of the CIA in this deal is, shall we say, an historical irony. I would think some folks, rather than embracing Saint Valerie, might be better off looking at it as equivalent to a dispute between the Gambinos and the Luccheses. Their principles would take a little less battering, anyway.

3) A prosecutor, of considerable ability and fearlessness when it comes to big names, is on the case. What he will do is unknown to any of us just yet.

4) Attempting to overturn election results through the legal process is one of the worst things that has happened to our politics in the last 50 years, not least because it nearly always backfires.

That is why I am not worried that Patrick Fitzgerald can do what's right without any help or blog-comment-section-cheerleading from me, and I am worried that every minute spent on this kind of stuff is, well, as productive as every minute the Contract With America folks spent on blowjobs in the Oval Office rather than passing their agenda.

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