Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Recently, many TPM readers have written in to tell me that they thought the broadside of attacks against Joe Wilson might be timed to blunt, head off, or someway affect expected indictments in the Plame affair. I discounted that notion -- in part because it wasn't that clear to me that the administration had much to worry about in that regard. The Journal has made it pretty clear they'd like to use the recent furor to get friends in the Vice President's office off the hook. But whatever you think of Joe Wilson, the White House -- and conservatives generally -- have plenty of reasons for trying to discredit him besides the the Fitzgerald investigation.

Now, though, I'm not so sure.

Today there's an article in the Washington Times entitled 'CIA officer named prior to column'. The article says that Plame's name was twice compromised prior to the Novak column -- once by a Russian spy in 1990s and then again in a snafu when a bundle of documents sent to the U.S. Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy in Havana were sent unsealed, and apparently read by the Cubans.

First of all, this isn't even news -- at least not the more sensational example.

As was reported here and elsewhere almost a year ago, Plame's identity may have been compromised by CIA arch-turncoat Aldrich Ames. My understanding is that there was a range of agents and assets that the CIA wasn't sure Ames had compromised or not. And she was in that category, thus leading her bosses to avoid placing her and others in her position in more vulnerable positions. As for the other example, I've never heard of it before.

These are interesting details, to be sure. But if you read the article the angle of the piece is definitely along line of arguing that this undermines any legal case against the potential leakers.

To quote the last three grafs of the piece ...

However, officials said the disclosure that Mrs. Plame's cover was blown before the news column undermines the prosecution of the government official who might have revealed the name, officials said.

"The law says that to be covered by the act the intelligence community has to take steps to affirmatively protect someone's cover," one official said. "In this case, the CIA failed to do that."

A second official, however, said the compromises before the news column were not publicized and thus should not affect the investigation of the Plame matter.

There does seem to be a rush of articles aimed not simply at discrediting Wilson but specifically at arguing that there is no legal basis for a prosecution of the folks who leaked Plame's name. Who's so concerned? It makes me wonder.

A difference of opinion between Tucker Carlson <$NoAd$>and the 9/11 Commission ...

There is nothing random about the documents he took. Berger stripped the files of every single copy of a single memo which detailed the Clinton administration's response to the Y2K terror threat.

Tucker Carlson
July 22nd 2004

Then there's 9/11 Commissioners Gorelick and Gorton ...

DOBBS: Let me ask you, not necessarily directly on point, but certainly related. Sandy Berger, the former head of the national security -- national security adviser under the Clinton administration, accused of, and admitting taking classified documents from the National Archives, those notes, whether copies or originals still unclear. Did the commission review that material, to what -- can you shed any light on what happened there? Slade Gorton, first.

GORTON: Well, we can't shed any light on exactly what happened there and on Sandy Berger's troubles with the Justice Department and the Archives. What we can say unequivocally is we had all of that information. We have every one of those documents. All of them have -- are infused in and are a part of our report.

DOBBS: So the commission was denied no information as a result of whatever Sandy Berger did or did not do at the National Archives?

GORTON: That's precisely correct.

GORELICK: And we have been so assured by the Justice Department.

Dobbs, Gorton & Gorelick
Lou Dobbs Tonight
July 22nd 2004


Dick Cheney, the multilateral <$NoAd$>years ...

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20, 1998

Former United States Defence Secretary Dick Cheney today hit out at his government for imposing unilateral economic sanctions like the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, saying they have been "ineffective, did not provide the desired results and a bad policy".

"I have made it clear that our (the US unilateral) sanctions policy is wrong," he said when asked to comment on the Iran-Libya Act which contains provisions for sanctions to be imposed by the US against foreign companies making investment beyond US$20 million a year in the oil and gas sector of the targeted countries.

Malaysia, which is against the extra-territorial law, has said that Petronas and other Malaysian companies will continue to invest abroad despite the US threat of sanctions under the Act.

Petronas is currently involved in a US$2 billion gas field project in Iran undertaken jointly with SA Total of France and Gazprom of Russia.

Speaking to reporters after calling on Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the Prime Minister's office here, Cheney, who is now the chairman and CEO of Halliburton, said: "The US needs to be much more restraint then we have been in terms of pursuing unilateral economic sanctions."

Cheney, who served under the Bush administration between 1989 and 1993, however said the multilateral economic sanctions imposed by the international community on Iraq were "appropriate".

"I disagree with the current law (Iran-Libya Sanctions Act) but my company will comply with the rule (Act)," he said.

He said he also disagreed with the unilateral economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar and Arzerbaijan.

See this article for more on the grand jury investigation into whether Halliburton broke the Iranian sanctions law.

For what it's worth, I think the promiscuous use of unilateral economic sanctions probably is a bad idea -- an example of the capricious and shortsighted use of American power that limits our ability to deal forcefully with real problems by antagonizing allies and frittering away diplomatic capital with silliness like the continuing sanctions against Cuba, among other examples.

Do permissive social policies make you taller? Does eating herring do it?

According to Reuters: "The Dutch are nearly four inches taller on average than the British and Americans, and almost six inches taller than they were four decades ago."

Who leaked on Sandy?

Yesterday I was discussing with a friend whether the leak seemed more likely to be a Republican leak or a Democratic one (his view). The latter possibility is not as far-fetched as it might sound: the idea would be that some Democrat found out and realized it would be better to get the story out now than, say, at the end of October.

I've thought from the beginning that this looked like a political leak from the Republican side. And, as I told my friend yesterday, I think subsequent events tend to strengthen that assumption.

Here's my take ...

Clearly, no one in-the-know breathed a word of this until a couple days ago -- as the Kerry campaign found out to its own moritification. Yet from the moment the story broke every paper seems to be finding multiple sources who are willing to talk freely about minute details of the case. Look over at Google News and you'll see that even the Akron Gazette and the Curryville Crier seem to be getting hourly exclusive scoops.

In my experience criminal investigations aren't nearly that porous -- with multiple sources talking to multiple publications, and all on cue -- unless someone on the inside has greenlighted the leaks. What's more, if the law enforcement officials and political appointees hadn't been talking up until this point, why would they be chattering so loud now just because some obscure Dem happened to go to John Solomon with a preemptive strike?

Here's a question -- not a rhetorical one, but an actual one. Is there any sort of definitive reporting on whether the documents Berger is alleged to have taken from the National Archives were originals or copies?

The one thing I'm certain about in this Berger matter is that I really wish the folks investigating his case were investigating the Plame case because if that investigation leaked as much as this one does my life over the last year would have been quite a bit easier.

Possible Bush slogans ...

1. Not as terrible as it could have been!

2. Four more years and we'll be safe!

3. Peace!

4. Incompetence and exaggeration, not bad-faith or lying, as shown in two recent reports!

5. Are you better off today than you would have been today assuming that that idiot Al Gore had won four years ago and he was president instead of me?

Hmmm. Imagine that. Senior officials at the White House Counsel's Office (perhaps understandable) and "several top aides to" the president (not so understandable) were given a heads-up about the Berger investigation months ago.

So says the Times.

Meanwhile, the Post has a tangled article about how Archives staffers allegedly became suspicious of Berger while he was reviewing the documents and even started monitoring him. Calling the piece 'tangled' isn't necessarily a criticism. The reporters clearly have two very conflicting versions of events and are trying to explain both -- and point out the ways they contradict. The piece reads as if the authors' themselves are uncertain which version to credit. What's also clear from the Post article is that not only law enforcement officials but also one 'government source' are leaking like crazy about this story.

The story the leakers tell in the Post story certainly seems hard to reconcile with inadvertence.

Finally, USA Today says that FBI agents involved in the case didn't think the whole thing was particularly serious.