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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fair Game

And Also: GG underlines that it is a lie that "60 votes" needs to be present to do anything in Congress, except when it is Republicans who block things. And, the reason the AG confirmation (heck it's only torture and executive overreaching) was rushed (this sends a lousy signal btw ... do they even care?) through is lame (a major political sin in itself) too ... even a short delay would suggest the block is not just a handy minority tool. And, AGAIN, Dems are cowards ... afraid people with under 30% support will call them weak on defense. Pathetic. Sorry, been thru too much to settle. When that is the result, including in 2008, I feel cheated.

I have just finished reading Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House by Valerie Plame Wilson. It is a bit of a strange read. An ongoing lawsuit alleges that the CIA has deemed too much of the information, including her term of service, is classified. But, even if material is in public domain, the CIA does not want her to confirm it, and argues some of taken as a whole might supply hints to classified material. Since the CIA -- even though it is public knowledge -- does not want her to confirm her years with the agency (1985-2006, six years plus overseas), her account also lacks some connecting tissue -- it would at various points hint at the classified material.* Thus, we are left with a book with significant portions -- more so earlier on -- interrupted by blacked out read

Though this hurts the flow of the book, and Plame (who has no co-author) can be a bit dry at times (sometimes a bit of background flavor can help, but it might be that she was limited on what she can say), the book is still a good read overall. Laura Rozen, chosen by the publishers and kept separate from Valerie Wilson while she worked, wrote a somewhat brief afterword to flesh out some details. Personally, I think it could have been a bit longer, but those interested can search for some of Rozen's other writings (she also has a blog) that dealt with related subjects. To take a for instance of what the afterward supplies, we learn that [Redacted] Tour covers Plame's service in Athens,** and [Redacted] covers her service as a Nonofficial Covered Officer [works for the CIA via a non-government cover job].

The most important lesson from the book is that the government provided a lot to train and equip "Val P." (as she was known in training) with the knowledge to serve her country, and serve she did in very important ways. After all, a major part of her career was spent investigating the problem of WMDs, in Iraq particularly, including finding creative (and secret) ways to collect information on the true nature of the threat (in one chapter, she ironically supplies a long list of the quite real threat Iraq could have supplied). It is almost amusing that certain sorts want to demean her career, especially given the amount of redacted material in her book. Her husband, whose consulting business was ruined as well when Plame was outed, also had a long and industrious career in public service.

This underlines why Plame is one of the top examples of what is wrong with the current administration and their enablers. Many examples can be supplied, and the point is obvious to anyone who doesn't want to lie to themselves or America (sadly, this involves all too many people, especially as to the depth of the problem), but a few blatant examples are helpful symbols. I think the idea we should amendment the the Constitution to hurt homosexuals is particularly offensive one. But, this too. A couple who spent their lives serving their country (Plame's father and brother were in the military, the brother seriously hurt in Vietnam) were spit upon because Joe Wilson dared to be critical to the administration. This is sickening.

[BTW, it is amusing the Wilsons went to the same church as Karl Rove ... though I thought Rove said he is an unbeliever.]

The whole thing also suggests how much we were lied to and bullshitted. The Vice President asked the CIA to check up on the Niger claims. [When the news came back nothing was there, suddenly we learn the VP wasn't really informed about the reports or anything.] Someone -- not Plame herself -- suggested Joe Wilson. Why? Because given his background as ambassador to several African countries and the like, he was a logical choice. The CIA often used outside individuals to collect facts in various ways. Plame did not lead the department or anything -- she did not have the authority to send him over herself. JW had only his expenses paid; Niger is not Paris. Finally, he only confirmed other reports that found the yellowcake claim dubious at best. All the same, even after being warning at least once not to do so, the President implies there really was something to the story.

Wilson is upset. But, does he write the editorial then and there, before the war? No. He waits, after being giving the brush off, until months after the invasion and "mission accomplished." And, what happens? He is blamed ... it is suggested he just went over because wifey wanted to give him a plum ... Wilson's cover is blown, ruining the chance for future prestigious overseas duty and hurting her career in the CIA in general. The fact that Wilson's findings were confirmed also ignored ... Glenn Greenwald would not be surprised that one guilty party here was the Washington Post editorial staff. An investigation, asked for by the CIA itself, was interfered with by Cheney's main man, but this didn't warrant even a day of jail time. Senate Republicans help the cover-up and smear tactics. And, so on.

One thing that drives me crazy these days is how many people miss the point or eat up spin that leads to bullshitting. It eventually came out that Richard Armitage might have been the first person to leak her name as a bit of "gossip," leading to some shouting that all the claims that Plame was outed by others was a big mistake, ditto the whole Fitzergerald investigation. B.S. Not only should an assistant secretary of state know not to talk about CIA agents like that, there was clearly a parallel effort to use the Plames for clear political CYA reasons as well as for general payback. The title of the book itself came from Karl Rove saying she was "fair game. And, I love this idea people have some sort of pass to lie under oath and impede investigations that might turn out not to go anywhere.

There is a rot here. A couple who served their country well, using their gifts in a way that provided less fiscal benefits than was surely possible, are but two victims. Their story, however, provides some hope of what is out there, the potential to serve this country well. As more and more [redacted] goes on, this is the best thing to remember. Writ small, the Wilsons went to New Mexico after it was over, and started a new life with their twins (Joe Wilson also had twins with his first wife). [A touching chapter in the book btw deals with Plame's postpartum depression.]

So many other parents also "just" go about their lives, ultimately doing more good for this country than a good number of those who claim to be our leaders these days.


* Other former CIA agents have received the okay to write detailed accounts, including Lindsay Moran's Blowing My Cover, and Plame logically should have an idea of what was okay and not. So, I am led to believe her claims she was treated shabbily by the CIA's Publications Review Board, including the false claim that she did not try to work with them through the dispute. She was not the only one critical of the Bush Administration that had a bad time in that department [Flynt Leverett was mentioned]. And, the selective concern with classified information has been covered by many accounts.

Since she retired in her 40s, Plame needed a special bill to get retirement benefits ... she had her twenty years, but did not meet age requirements. A letter was apparently accidentally sent to her by the CIA to confirm her years of service, a letter attached in the Congressional Record when that bill was submitted in January 2007 (Plame argues this declassified the material, but she lost her first round in court). In fact, Joe Wilson's book, also submitted, mentions her years of service. Joe Wilson btw suddenly pops up [though the afterword notes they met at some party that didn't sound too interesting] after a redacted portion involving dogs in a baby carriage.

** If her service in "Athens" is a problem, it is interesting that she was allowed to include a picture of herself in front of the Parthenon in "Athens, Greece, in 1990." Are we supposed to assume that it was just some sort of vacation trip or something?