Abuse of Power

ABUSE OF POWER….Valerie Plame is an energy analyst for a private firm. She is also the wife of Joseph Wilson, the former diplomat who sparked off Uranium-Gate ten days ago with a New York Times article saying that he had investigated the Niger uranium claims last year and found them wanting.

On Monday, Robert Novak wrote this in his syndicated column:

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.

Today, David Corn asks a question in The Nation:

Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security–and break the law–in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?

….The sources for Novak’s assertion about Wilson’s wife appear to be “two senior administration officials.” If so, a pair of top Bush officials told a reporter the name of a CIA operative who apparently has worked under what’s known as “nonofficial cover” and who has had the dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material. If Wilson’s wife is such a person–and the CIA is unlikely to have many employees like her–her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration. (Assuming she did not tell friends and family about her real job, these Bush officials have also damaged her personal life.) Without acknowledging whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee, Wilson says, “Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames.”

….Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation’s counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.

This just gets uglier and uglier, and I hope the mainstream press ? having finally smelled blood ? will follow this up. If Corn’s accusations are true, this is an appalling abuse of power by the administration that not only blows an agent’s cover, but reduces the effectiveness of an important CIA program and makes it harder for the CIA to recruit similar agents in the future.

I hope they think it was worth it.

UPDATE: Time magazine has more background on the White House campaign to discredit Wilson here.

UPDATE 2: Mark Kleiman ruminates a bit on what this might all mean, and he’s not pleased at the possibilities.

You know, GM would have survived Ralph Nader’s crusade against the Corvair if only they hadn’t sent a private investigator after him and then lied about it. I have a feeling the Bush administration might not have learned this lesson.

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