Thursday, September 28, 2006

Plame, Grossman and Brewster Jennings

this conversation has been lifted from the comments:

Viget:

I would hazard that this (BJ was largely defunct by 2003) is correct. According to Corn and Isikoff's Hubris, in 2002-2003 Plame was working for CPD as a "manager" of the Joint Task Force in Iraq. Now, I don't know if Brewster Jennings was a covert unit that reported to JTFI; it's unclear from the Corn article. See emptywheel's post on this for more info.

It's also interesting that Corn says Plame joined CPD at Langley in 1997, but wasn't assigned to JTFI until spring 2001. Maybe she was helping to run BJ from 1997-2001?

When did Sibel's intercepts date from? Are they pre-9/11? Because maybe the reason Plame joined JTFI in 2001 was that was when BJ's cover was blown?

Also, I should note that it's very likely that BJ was defunct long before the Novakula article because there was never any referral to DoJ for this revelation , only for outing Plame. I would have thought it more likely that blowing a "unit's" cover would be more serious than just blowing an operative's cover. It's likely that BJ had already been declassified by October of 2003. And therefore, it gave Novakula a convenient "out" as to how he discovered that Plame was covert (i.e. Wilson's Who's who entry combined with FEC contribution records from the 2000 cycle). Sounds like classic Rovian backtracking to me.


LENLARGA:
You Are A Very Wise Person Viget

"When did Sibel's intercepts date from? Are they pre-9/11? Because maybe the reason Plame joined JTFI in 2001 was that was when BJ's cover was blown?"

Her intercepts dated from 1997 to early 2002 (Feb.-March). Which means Plame/BJ's cover was blown at least a year and a half before the Novakula article.

Viget:
So then... what do you think of the Fitzgerald investigation? If her cover was blown, then why bother investigating at all? I tend to think that her cover (as a covert CIA operative) wasn't necessarily blown pre-2003, but maybe her front company was. She clearly was still doing covert work as a part of the JTFI during the relevant time period.

Lenlarga:
"I tend to think that Plame's cover (as a covert CIA operative) wasn't necessarily blown pre-2003, but maybe her front company was."

Bingo

Once her front company cover was blown, any agent associated with that company was rendered useless as a covert operative- permanently. As far as the Fitzgerald investigation goes, it is hard to evaluate at this point. We still don't know the intent of Armitage and others in leaking her name- in one scenario, Armitage might have been trying to put the final stake in the coffin of B&J. But one point we must concede to the Rightists, however, is that Brewster, Jennings and Company's cover was not blown by Karl Rove or Scooter Libby- it was blown by a Clinton appointee retained by the Bush Administration- Marc Grossman, several months before Wilson's oped. However, us Lefties have a concession prize- the involvement of Perle and Feith- directly or indirectly- in the very dirty business dealings that Plame and the CIA were monitoring.

Lukery:
I don't have much to add to that. It looks like Len and Viget did most of the heavy lifting.

Re Fitz, it's all a bit of a mystery, and it's also a mystery why Libby et al kept telling lies. They obviously thought they had something to hide, and Fitz apparently wants to know why

Viget:
"I've been thinking about the genesis of the Fitzgerald investigation a lot recently. And I've decided that the Plame outing was, at its core, a shot across the bow of the CIA by the admin. In other words, we're not afraid to ruin any of your people's career if you don't play ball with us.

Now, the convenient fact that it also probably rolled up Plame's network of spies in Iraq and Iran reporting back to the JTFI was sort of icing on the cake (and this may be where Armitage and Grossman come in). And of course, it probably just made it all the easier to game future intel on Iraq and Iran (and thus make an Iran invasion easier to sell).

So, if I'm Fitzgerald, and I'm given this criminal complaint by the CIA investigators, which was probably launched by Tenet at the behest of his top lieutenants, I'm going to do my darndest to try and right things.

The fact that Valerie may have already been useless as a "pratical" covert agent (ie being able to work in the field) is meaningless when you're talking about an IIPA violation. All that matters there is that she *was* in the field at some point in the previous 5 years AND that the CIA is still taking pains to hide her affiliation with the agency.

Even if foreign intel services all KNOW that Plame is a spook, it doesn't matter, as long as that information isn't widely known in the US.

So what Libby, Rove, and possibly others did was still a violation of IIPA as long as Fitzgerald could prove that they KNEW Plame was covert when they leaked this info to journalists.

I think that's what Fitzgerald is having a hard time proving, as to be able to prove this in a court of law probably would require classified testimony and evidence which is all too susceptible to greymail defenses. And this may be why he chose to indict on perjury, obstruction, etc., because he KNEW a crime had been committed and justice needed to be carried out.

But I think, more intriguingly, is that by Libby lying his ass off, he's possibly opened up the door for Fitzgerald to charge conspiracy to obstruct and possibly conspiracy to out Plame. And hopefully, he's still working on this angle to get the big dick.

I think what motivates Fitzgerald today is not so much the Plame leak, per se, but rather the incidental info he discovered during the course of his investigation. In other words, I think he's mad as hell that the admin is misusing classified info and compromising national security for political gain. And he wants to nail the bastards on that. And I think he also believes that the folks at the CIA would be happy if he could get the admin (especially the Shooter) on charges that proves they were using classified info to shape opinion to lead us to war. And the Plame leak is just part of that I think.

So in the end, it's probably irrelevant to Fitzgerald whether for all practical purposes Valerie was no longer covert by July of 2003 (indeed, even if she was transitioning to official cover (meaning every foreign intel service would know she's a spy), she'd still be protected by IIPA). This whole investigation is more about punishing those who would use classified info for political gain at the expense of national security. And the Plame leak was just the most egregious (and unprecedented) example of that.

One other thing--

We'll probably never know, and I doubt Joe Wilson would tell us, but I'd absolutely LOVE to know what exactly the relationship is between Grossman and Wilson. Were they college buds at UCSB? Are they still friends? Were they friends at the time of Valerie's outing?

I just don't understand how you could screw over a friend's wife like that. And if that's true, why is Wilson protecting Grossman? Unless Grossman knows where Joe's skeletons are hidden?

To me this is one of the more intriguing bits of the Plame affair. But as it involves a lot of personal and private details, I guess we'll never know for sure. Though it could come out during the Wilson's suit.

Miguel:
Viget,

Thanks for your excellent posts. I hope Luke will bump it up to keep the conversation going.

First of all, I agree with you that even if the BJ cover (and by extension Plame's cover) was blown well before July, 2003, the IIPA act may still have been violated. BJ being outed by Grossman, however, does have some implications for how the Left should approach this story.

I don't think we can any longer make the argument that Rove, Libby or Armitage destroyed a sensitive operation. Although Rove is a bastard that I'd like to see strung up by his Buster Browns, he is a small player in the whole thing, at least as far as what I know up to this point.

Where I believe the focus needs to be is on WHAT and WHO Brewster Jennings was spying on- a nuke black market trade that partially involves (according to Sibel), high-level U.S. officials like Perle, Feith and Grossman and God knows who else.

The outing of Plame in particular no longer interests me. I wish Val the best of luck in her lawsuit, though I don't trust her husband since he has shady business links with the ATC.

What I'm most interested in is shutting this black market trade down to the extent it can be; and making sure that any companies operating out of the U.S.- be they Turkish, Israeli or South African- put out of business.

Miguel:
I don't think Grossman intentionally went out to destroy Plame's career. In the initial leak (somtime in 2002 or before) Grossman had obviously been taking bribes from Turkey and he sold the information on Brewster Jennings to the Turks in exchange for money.

At least that's what I hypothesize.

In the second stage, which began in '03, I am not sure what Grossman was trying to do when he put Plame's name and covert status on that State Dept. Briefing.

Lots of great stuff in there. Thanks guys. I'm not sure what I can add - but here goes.

1. As Miguel has previously noted, BJ was apparently outed before early 2002. We don't know how wide-spread the outing was - but the CIA & FBI probably had to assume that it was completely blown. There's no such thing as being half-pregnant. In retrospect, it's quite odd that this hasn't been acknowledged/recognized before.

2. "I don't know if Brewster Jennings was a covert unit that reported to JTFI"
I think we can presume that this isn't true.

3. "it's very likely that BJ was defunct long before the Novakula article... It's likely that BJ had already been declassified by October of 2003 "
i'd agree with the first statement, but not necessarily the second. The day after Novakula's October article outing BJ, WaPo referred to BJ as 'possibly defunct' - but the whole episode still caused quite a stir.

4. "it gave Novakula a convenient "out" as to how he discovered that Plame was covert... Sounds like classic Rovian backtracking to me."
somebody else who I greatly respect suggested the same thing to me this week. I think you might both be onto something. This person also suggested that the name Flame might have been introduced into the mix at this time for the same reason.

5. "I've decided that the Plame outing was, at its core, a shot across the bow of the CIA by the admin. In other words, we're not afraid to ruin any of your people's career if you don't play ball with us. "
this idea has been floating around from the beginning. I agree that it is more likely than the GetWilson nonsense - but it still doesn't quite resonate with me - at least not at that level of simplicity. Perhaps there's a more granular argument along the same lines that makes sense, but generally I don't buy it - particularly given that we know that she was involved in a bunch of other stuff that might implicate some of the other parties involved.

6. "the convenient fact that it also probably rolled up Plame's network of spies in Iraq and Iran reporting back to the JTFI was sort of icing on the cake"
it's a bit difficult to distinguish icing from cake at this point. Larisa has reported that Plame was focused on WMD trafficking "to and from" Iran. She has also reported that dodgy story that Ghorbanifar was trying to sell some dodgy story about uranium being smuggled from Iraq to Iran, and she also implied that the Pentagon/OSP wanted to plant WMD in Iraq. We also have the bizarre tales about the mobile biological labs etc - which, objectively, appear to be nothing more than attempts to buy time, for some indeterminate reason.

7. "The fact that Valerie may have already been useless as a "pratical" covert agent (ie being able to work in the field) is meaningless when you're talking about an IIPA violation."
yes and no. I strongly suspect that the CIA wouldn't (normally) make a referral to the DoJ to get someone on a technical IIPA slip-up. Either they were responding to the 'shot-across-the-bow' - in which case the bow-shooters grossly miscalculated, or there was serious damage done to something. Larisa has reported that there was 'a decades worth of damage'

8. "Even if foreign intel services all KNOW that Plame is a spook, it doesn't matter, as long as that information isn't widely known in the US."
perhaps we need to talk about 'enemies, foreign and domestic'

9. "So what Libby, Rove, and possibly others did was still a violation of IIPA as long as Fitzgerald could prove that they KNEW Plame was covert when they leaked this info to journalists. "
my hunch/hope is that Fitz isn't focused on the fact that she was covert - but he wants to know why they outed her. That's still the million dollar question.

10. "But I think, more intriguingly, is that by Libby lying his ass off, he's possibly opened up the door for Fitzgerald to charge conspiracy to obstruct and possibly conspiracy to out Plame. And hopefully, he's still working on this angle to get the big dick."
emptywheel continues to argue that Fitz wants to get Dick, and it's almost inconceivable that conspiracy charges aren't on the table. One question that I haven't seen really asked is why Cheney would conspire to out Plame. Again, that's the million dollar question. If you take GetWilson off the table, then I can't think of any reasonable possibilities other than that Plame (or one of her groups (BJ/JTFI)) was hot on the tail of some of his illegal WMD smuggling enterprises.

11. "I think what motivates Fitzgerald today is not so much the Plame leak, per se, but rather the incidental info he discovered during the course of his investigation. In other words, I think he's mad as hell that the admin is misusing classified info and compromising national security for political gain. And he wants to nail the bastards on that. And I think he also believes that the folks at the CIA would be happy if he could get the admin (especially the Shooter) on charges that proves they were using classified info to shape opinion to lead us to war. And the Plame leak is just part of that I think."
I agree that it probably isn't related to 'plame' - but the specific motivations behind her outing. That's been the big question all along. I'd quibble with the statement a little - I'd substitute 'personal gain' for 'political gain' - although I'm not necessarily sure there's a difference, and re "to shape opinion to lead us to war" - we have to remember that this happened four months after the Iraq invasion.

12. "I'd absolutely LOVE to know what exactly the relationship is between Grossman and Wilson. Were they college buds at UCSB? Are they still friends? Were they friends at the time of Valerie's outing?"
good questions. AFAIK, they were friends at least till Plame's outing. I don't know if they still are.

13. "I just don't understand how you could screw over a friend's wife like that. And if that's true, why is Wilson protecting Grossman? Unless Grossman knows where Joe's skeletons are hidden?"
I suspect many answers lay in these questions. We know that Libby was frantically following Wilson's every step until Wilson's book was published. This was the only reference to Grossman in the book:
"Throughout the two years I was at European Command, our relations with the Turkish military needed constant attention. [Deputy CINC] Jim Jamerson was on the phone several times a week with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Marc Grossman, working on the most trivial details. (Politics of Truth 218)"
If I'm not mistaken "the most trivial details" was a shot across the bow in the other direction. Sibel has also suggested that there might be a 'Gentleman' s agreement' between Wilson and others.

14. "Where I believe the focus needs to be is on WHAT and WHO Brewster Jennings was spying on- a nuke black market trade that partially involves (according to Sibel), high-level U.S. officials like Perle, Feith and Grossman and God knows who else."
agreed. a nuclear black market is scary all by itself - it's even more scary when it is run by people in 'our' government.

15. "Grossman had obviously been taking bribes from Turkey and he sold the information on Brewster Jennings to the Turks in exchange for money."
I'm not that it's true that Grossman 'sold' information 'in exchange for money' - I'm more than willing to believe that he told his business associates about BJ because he himself was part of the network - rather than freelancing on a 'pay-to-say' scheme.

thanks for the great input.

5 comments:

Miguel said...

"I'm not that it's true that Grossman 'sold' information 'in exchange for money' - I'm more than willing to believe that he told his business associates about BJ because he himself was part of the network - rather than freelancing on a 'pay-to-say' scheme."

To me it doesn't matter if he was paid a fixed amount on a regular basis or if it was a "pay by the piece". But I feel pretty confident that Sibel has been hinting for some time that Grossman sold classified information to Turkey in exchange for cash. She has never said this explicitly; but lots of hints about how corrupt the State Department is.

So Grossman being on Turkey's payroll I am confident about. His role in the "second phase" of Brewster Jennings outing- the Plame/Wilson incident- I am a little fuzzy on.

Is it possible he was part of the conspiracy to put the final stake in the heart of BJ? Or was he acting on his own, putting out information he knew might be too tempting for the political hacks in the White House not to misuse, thereby taking the focus off of him?

There's so much we don't know, so I wouldn't want to speculate too much. But I do think this revelation from "Kill The Messenger" does complicate matters.

calipendence said...

I've seen others speculate that perhaps Wilson himself "outed" his wife to Grossman and therefore would be the "guilty party" as far as outing a secret agent. However, if ANYONE in the administration besides Grossman knew about this fact (and I have to believe it would have been hard for Grossman to keep this to himself), don't you think they wouldn't have gone through all of this trouble of months/years of subterfuge and obstruction of justice, perjury, etc. if they could have just as easily screwed Wilson by pointing to him at the start?

Now some may also say that that wasn't an option, as it perhaps would make visible other wrongdoing they might be engaged in. I think that this kind of proves in my book that one way or the other this incident itself is criminal by one of the administration in outing her or there are other things (Brester Jennings, etc.) that are more criminal that would be pointed when this incident is more thoroughly investigated, which would be why they don't point to Wilson right off the bat, even if he were the one to have "outed" her (even if he thought it was just to a "friend").

Simon said...

I don't want to come as overly stupid here, but surely the only thing that that Valerie and BJ at JTFI could have been monitoring is potential smuggling of WMD prohibited materials in and out of Iraq? If there was no such smuggling then they couldn't have found such, and that must then have gone against the push for the war.

So was the overall (early and/or escape) plan to blow the cover just so that everyone could forget that they had tried to find against Saddam and still found nothing?

lukery said...

Miguel: "So Grossman being on Turkey's payroll I am confident about."
i'd put it a little more differently, MG was on the payroll of 'the network,' rather than 'Turkey' per se.

Calipendence - yeah, there are various versions of WIlson's complicity. It's hard to know which way is up at this point.

Simon - there's a new piece out by Madsen that i've also just published in full saying that the JTFI was 'pressured' to find stuff. Still, I don't know why there was any value in blowing their cover 3 months after the invasion. Separately, we know that they didn't find anything, and that the UN was also looking for stuff pre-invasion, and the ISG post-invasion. So I'm not sure how that stacks up with your hypothesis.

«—U®Anu§—» said...

An astonishing analysis. Truthout published an article by Jason Leopold today about Rice ignoring warnings about bin Laden. It might not be the one he promised two weeks ago, but at least we know he's still alive!