A brief note on

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A brief note on this whole ‘everybody knew Plame was CIA’ line being peddled by the usual suspects.

John Judis is one of the most respected political journalists in the country. And he cowrote with Spencer Ackerman one of the first big articles on the whole issue of politicized intelligence. (“The Selling of the Iraq War: The First Casualty,” New Republic, June 30th, 2003).

Here’s an email Judis sent me this morning …

Novak says in his column this morning that it was “common knowledge” that Wilson’s wife Valerie was in the CIA. I had dinner and breakfast with them before this controversy broke out — at a conference last Spring — and never learned from Wilson nor from his wife that she worked for the agency. I did ask her what she did for a living, but she said, as I remember, that she worked for some company. No hint that she worked for the CIA. Nick Kristof also spent some time with them, and I suspect he would say the same.

Now, this line from the right began, as nearly as I can tell, with Cliff May’s piece in National Review Online a couple days ago. May said …

I had been told that — but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhand manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

I think May revealed much more than he intended here. Common knowledge? Let’s unpack this. I’ve met Wilson and have a great deal of respect for him. But before this whole brouhaha got churning, it’s not like he was Henry Kissinger or something, someone who gets actively gossiped about at the cocktail parties. DC has many long-serving and distinguished former diplomats who’ve held many positions of responsibility and are highly respected, but unfortunately attract little notice among most politicos or journalists. People in the diplomatic community or those who follow Africa certainly knew of Wilson. But I doubt May — who’s an insider by any definition — even knew who Wilson was before all this got started.

So how could it be ‘common knowledge’ that Wilson’s wife was CIA, when Wilson himself was just one DC ex-diplomat and an occasional talking head on TV? Think about it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think the whole argument is just ridiculous on its face when you step back and look at it.

I think what May’s comment probably shows is that after Wilson came forward, his enemies started trashing him pretty widely. Even I knew there was a big whispering campaign against him among the neo-cons. Part of that was apparently putting out word about his wife. Folks at the White House probably weren’t just talking to reporters but also chatting up fellow Republican insiders and ideological allies. And I suspect one of them mentioned it — even ‘in an offhand manner’ — to May.

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