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Following up on last

Following up on last night’s post, I’ve now heard more information that makes me think that the denials from Libby and Abrams --- filtered through McClellan --- are really just placeholders, disposable non-denial denials.

The Libby-Abrams line --- that neither was “involved in leaking classified information” --- is, I suspect, technically true in some sense that has not yet been made clear. Or, rather, I suspect that the players involved have come up with some theory under which they feel they can say this is true.

It’s certainly possible of course that this is just a flat denial. And there’s no need for parsing. But it’s awfully hard to figure why the ‘denial’ is being couched in this very precise fashion which doesn’t even address the substance of the question --- i.e., did they disclose to a reporter that Plame was CIA?

The White House press corps gets two chances a day to put this question to Scott McClellan. To ask him to really answer the question. Why not press this point?

Somehow I think if

Somehow I think if CNN did this Fox would be giving them grief ...

The second-in-command at the information ministry [under Saddam], who spent his days reading the reports the minders wrote about visiting foreign journalists, has been employed by Fox News.


From an article in today's Guardian.

Scott McClellan flummoxed a

Scott McClellan flummoxed a lot of people when he announced that Scooter Libby and Eliot Abrams were not involved in disclosing Valerie Plame’s name. I say flummoxed because there was a lot of chatter, and good bit of circumstantial evidence pointing in Libby’s direction, and at least some pointing in Abrams’. But once McClellan issued flat denials on their behalf it really made people wonder.

But, as you’ll remember, I’ve been making quite a point of late of the administration’s extremely disciplined use of the phrase “leaks of classified information” when referring to anything about Plame. They never mention Plame’s name --- which is perhaps understandable. But they don’t even make any mention of exposing a CIA operative. It's always "leaks of classified information" this and "leaks of classified information" that.

That makes me wonder just how air-tight McClellan’s statement is. What he said was that “They [i.e., Libby and Abrams] were not involved in leaking classified information, nor did they condone it.”

Now presumably Plame’s identity was classified information. But why frame this denial in such a precise, lawyerly and frankly off-point fashion? Why not just say they told no one about Plame’s identity. Or even just, they did not disclose the identity of any agent from the Directorate of Operations?

Something’s up here ...

Why isnt this getting

Why isn't this getting more attention?

A few days ago I <$Ad$>heard from several readers that anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who is a close advisor to President Bush and Karl Rove, compared the Estate Tax to Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. Not kinda sorta. He really did.

When NPR host Terry Gross did a double-take and asked him if he really meant to equate the two, Norquist responded he didn't say they were the same but that ...

the morality that says it's okay to do something to a group because they're a small percentage of the population is the morality that says that the Holocaust is okay because they didn't target everybody. "It's just a small percentage, what are you worried about? It's not you. It's not you. It's them." And arguing that it's okay to loot some group because it's them, or kill some group because it's them -- and because it's a small number -- has no place in a democratic society that treats people equally.


That sounds to me like he is equating the two, or at least the 'morality' behind them.

That's outrageous.

See yesterday's New Dem Daily for more.

A very good run-down

A very good <$NoAd$>run-down on the context and repercussions of the Plame disclosure from a former undercover CIA case officer, Jim Marcinkowski.

The following is from last night's Paula Zahn show on CNN ...

ZAHN: Mr. Marcinkowski, help us understand what this means to an agent in the field, particularly a covert one. Do they now view their government as a threat?

MARCINKOWSKI: Certainly, the act itself has been an unprecedented act. This is not the leak, as usual from Washington, of classified information. And that should not be condoned. However, this is the leak of an identification of an intelligence agent of the United States. So the fact that it's unprecedented sends a ripple effect throughout the intelligence community and drastically affects national security throughout -- throughout the world, and the United States in particular.

As an operations officer on scene in a country, the effects of this are that anyone who knows you or did know you now will look at your mosaic. They will look at the people you've come in contact with. They will suspect those people, be they official contacts or innocent contacts. They will suspect those persons of being intelligence agents. They could be subject to interrogation, imprisonment and even death, depending on the regime that you may be operating under.

There's also ramifications for CIA morale. I'm not naive enough to say this is having a huge impact, but certainly, it contributes to a decline in morale when you know that your own government can identify you as a clandestine operator. Certainly, there's going to be a reluctance on the part of foreign nationals that may want to help the United States in these trying times. They're going to be reluctant to serve and help us with information, based on the fact that their identification may be revealed by the government.

Obviously, in this particular case, there's further problems with looking at the ambassador's wife. Obviously, now all intelligence services across the world will be looking at ambassadors' wives and suspecting them. They may subject them now to surveillance and added security measures.

The continued revelations by Bob Novak of purported front companies also subjects the traveling businessman to added...


One thing that is palpable in this whole situation is the disgust -- even more off-the-record than on -- toward this disclosure from the ex-CIA fraternity. Not surprising, I guess. But notable for its intensity -- which of course grows from a deeper antagonism.

Ive spoken to a

I've spoken to a number <$NoAd$>of lawyers over the last 24 hours about what would be standard and appropriate practice for the White House in turning over documents to the Justice Department investigators, particularly the degree to which the counsel's office gets to review the documents for issues of privilege and/or relevance.

This from this morning's gaggle ...

Q Democrats are raising questions about the fact that the Counsel is going to be screening the material before, for relevance, as you said, before turning it over. They say that the past practice, in fact, is that the Counsel's Office didn't do that, that that's up to the prosecutors to decide what's relevant and what's not.

McCLELLAN: Yes, it's --

Q Past practice is simply send it all over for --

McCLELLAN: Well, one, I disagree at the way you characterize it and the premise of what you're saying. It is standard practice for the Counsel's Office to be the point of contact to get the information to the Department of Justice that they requested. And that's exactly what -- keep in mind, we are here to assist the Department of Justice get to the bottom of this, because no one wants to get to the bottom of it more than we do. And the sooner the better, as far as we're concerned. And that's why we -- the Counsel's Office will be moving as quickly as they can to get the information to the Justice Department that they requested.

Q Well, they don't dispute that the Counsel's Office is typically the point of contact -- what they say is, though, is that in the past, the Counsel's Office's doesn't filter for relevancy, the Counsel's Office's has sent everything over to Justice that's responsive to -- that fits --

McCLELLAN: That's right, exactly, that's responsive to the request.

Q Well, they say that --

McCLELLAN: And I said -- and, remember, I said yesterday they're welcome to look at other materials if they want. I mean, the President made it very clear that we will be cooperating fully.


More to come on this ...

As you may have

As you may have noticed, we've redesigned the site. On the surface it looks almost identical. But on the back-end, it's completely different. It's now entirely automated, which makes it much easier to update and add new features to, and so forth. One of several new features is the printer-friendly function right there next to the permalinks.

At the moment, it's taking me a bit of time to get used to the new interface, which is of course different from the one I've been using for the last three years. I'm not sure if it'll affect the way I write or not; but I'll let you be the judge.

In any case, if something doesn't look right on the site, please drop us a line, letting us know what the problem is and what browser you're using.

So Donnie Fowler is

So Donnie Fowler is out as sorta kinda campaign manager of the Clark campaign.

I'd been getting hints and allegations of this for several days from various fronts. The first round of coverage last night had it that this was a dispute between the Internet-savvy draft Clark types and the professionals from the Clinton-Gore scene. This morning there's more of a focus on Fowler getting demoted to a "lesser role but still an important role" and deciding instead to quit.

Really, I'm not sure quite what to make of these various interpretations of what happened. It's not like Fowler is some sort of grass-roots activist. His CV, even his ancestry, is very much from Clinton/Gore-land. On the other hand, he saw first hand in Gore 2000 what can happen to a top-heavy, insidery operation.

My sense is that there are just no clear lines of authority in that operation. That leads not only to chaotic management but also to everyone having a different sense of what 'the problem' is.

Based on things I hear from various folks who are in the mix, I think that it's much less clear-cut than this Internet types versus the insiders line we're hearing.

What surprises me and, to an extent, impresses me is that Clark has managed to do as well as he has, even with this sort of chaotic management at the home office.

The thing about campaigns is that they end up telling us something about the candidate. Getting a campaign up to speed in a few weeks is no simple task. If Clark is someone who will make a good president, he'll get this situation in hand.

The big picture here is that there's a vacuum of authority in the campaign operation. Because of that, all the various currents in the Dem party -- out-of-power Clinton-Gore types, new-fangled Internet types, etc. -- are trying to fill that vacuum. Bottom line: Clark has to assert himself over his campaign back office.

Am I wrong to

Am I wrong to think his heart's not really in this one?

Comments today from President Bush ...

I mean this town is a -- is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth. That's why I've instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators -- full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we'll find out who the leaker is -- partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we'll find out.


Rather short of dead or alive ...

When I come across

When I come across something fishy from the Bush administration, I try to use what I call the Clinton Test to keep myself honest and steer me right. As I’ve noted before in these pages, the Clinton Test is quite simply, how would I react to situation X if it was Clinton --- someone I supported --- rather than Bush --- someone I oppose.

It’s a good rule of thumb because seeing a given action through the prism of someone whose motives you are inclined to view favorably is a good check on unwarranted suspicions.

Having laid out the Clinton Test, I think the report in this morning’s Dallas Morning News pretty clearly passes the test. In other words, this is more than worthy of criticism -- no matter who is involved. According to the Morning News, all the White House documents requested by the Justice Department are first being reviewed and vetted by the White House counsel's office.

That sounds a bit different from a normal criminal investigation, doesn’t it?

Now, it’s worth noting that the White House has the right --- subject to a great deal of judicial interpretation --- to claim executive privilege for certain sorts of White House communications. And one could imagine various issues which could come up in such documents for which a privilege might reasonably be asserted.

But it seems from the description in the article that the White House is getting to decide which documents the investigators get and which they don’t without having to go to the trouble, the contest, or the political fall-out of actually exerting privilege.

I’d like to hear more about just what the process is. But on the face of it, it seems like the entity being investigated (i.e., The White House) gets to determine what evidence can be used against it. I mean, I’ve heard of defendants’ rights and all. But this seems to take that notion a bit far, doesn’t it? If the Justice Department investigators have acquiesced in this scheme that also gives me the impression that they’re falling, shall we say, rather short of the Ken Starr level of zealousness.

Finally, let’s say there really are compelling national security and/or executive privilege grounds for refusing to turn over some of these documents. Isn’t that the best argument yet that the president should do the right thing and get to the bottom of this right now?

They could get to the bottom of this by the end of the day. If they don’t even try, I think we know why.

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