Sunday, October 01, 2006

why cheney wanted to out Plame

I'm lifting a conversation from here

"I don't think Armitage read the memo before the Woodward meeting. I think he read underlying material on the meeting, possibly just Rohn's notes. I think Armitage is the source for this passage (ed: NB, Larisa disagrees, below):
One former State Department official, who because of the sensitive nature of the case asked not to be named, said that the information on Plame in the memo was sparse, but that her identity was known through other means in much of the intelligence community, suggesting that the memo might not have been the way her name spread among government officials — and the media. As the former State Department official recalled, the memo identified Plame only as "Wilson's wife" — it did not give her first or last name, and it did not mention her undercover status.

"The Niger uranium issue was a huge argument within the intelligence community for over a year before the Novak column," the former official said. "So all the ins and outs of Niger uranium were the subject of endless meetings and discussions and food fights among people in the intelligence community and all the details of it were well-known."

Once Wilson's July 6, 2003, article appeared, then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage arranged for a copy of the memo, which had been drafted earlier detailing the Niger matter, to be forwarded to Powell, who was on his way to Africa with Bush.

"There was never any feedback from anyone on the memo," the former State Department official said. "The memo itself was basically repeating common knowledge in the community."
One thing--this would be very consistent of someone who, after getting into a pissing contest with his buddy the well-known reporter, said, "everyone knows Wilson is the envoy."

If I'm right and he's the source--it's pretty interesting. The passage actually makes it harder for Armitage to exonerate himself, because he can't point to one source and claim it didn't indicate she was covert, as the story has him doing with the INR memo. Which would suggest the earlier leak was much harder for Fitz to discount (which may be part of the reason why Rove isn't charged right now).

But then, someone had to know that Rohn's notes were out there--they obviously knew there described the meeting, when it appears they didn't talk to Rohn personally at the time. Which raises the chances that the notes were Armitage's first source. Also note, I'm not sure whether the note would have been SCI, as the INR memo was, which would make it easier to circulate.
"John Hannah and David Wurmser, former John Bolton aides, cooperated with Fitz and testified that John Bolton is who told Darth Cheney that Plame was covert.

John Bolton is also reportedly the first person in the State Dept to receive the Niger forgeries.

According to Henry Waxman, telephone records indicate that John Bolton, through Fred Fleitz, was directly involved in getting the 16 words into the State Dept. memo.
If Darth Cheney wanted wall to wall war in the middle east, surely Valerie Plame and her work on WMD's could really be a monkey wrench to that big war plan. If you eliminate anyone who could convincingly refute you with reliable evidence, doesn't that make it easier to execute your war plan? Hellooooo."
EW: Per our conversation (and some of it I need to repeat for the rest of the class), INR wanted to be heard by the White House, they jumped on any chance to get their input on the Niger nonsense into the hands of the admin. Armitage and Powell both were not too pleased about the Niger stuff.

Rohn's notes are interesting because of how this all played out. First of all, we know Rohn took physical notes, then he went back to state and typed them up and filed them.

He then was on "sick leave" as some want to call it, while others say "he was elsewhere," but he was lent out, that we know and we know where to. During his leave, the notes were requested to flesh out the INR memo.

Grossman was the first person to ask Ford for information on Niger and such, he was the first person to get the document, and he was the first person to deliver the information. All of this took place before and up to June 12. In between Grossman's request and the actual writing of the INR memo, Carl Ford assigned the task to "someone else" who was not in INR proper, if you will. This person is in fact the first person to see the information that Grossman had asked about and would be the person to also add the Rohn typed notes in copy form.

At this point, we should note that we are talking about three versions of the same meetings notes: a). Rohn's handwritten notes, b). Rohn's typed up notes, and c). the copied (possibly altered) notes attached to the INR memo.

IMHO, June 12 is the key to part of this whole story, not June 10, 13, or even 27.

I believe based on all that is in the public sphere of information as well as my own sourcing on this that:

-The request to Grossman was nothing more than creating a legend, that is to say, when an asset wants to establish street cred for example... that person would live their cover for a while before being sent out under that cover. Eli Cohen, the famous Mossad agent, went to South America to create a legend for his cover.

If you look at how this was played out, the information was already in hand and known before Libby ever put in a request to Grossman. CIA was discredited for faulty intel - through Cheney's creation of a legend that could be pointed to. State was framed for use as a legend in this. I think Libby asked Grossman for the information in order to create the appearance of wide circulation of the info and also to launder it so it did not appear to originate from the White House.

Armitage would have known the internal State battle over the niger allegations. So yes, Armitage could have easily made that statement and been the source for Tom Hamburger's article, but i doubt it for many reasons. Some of which I can say have to do, again, with timing, but mostly, reading Tom's piece again, it convinces me of quite another source for this piece and I know Tom, so it fits with what I know of him. But I don't think it is Armitage. Nor do I think it is Bolton or Fleitz, should Kat (wink) ask.

Yes, Bolton and Fleitz for me are important in all of this, they are the point of connection as is June 12 for me. More importantly (and Luke's question (ed: "does anyone have an opinion on why cheney wanted to out Plame?")): I have always said that to understand this story, people need to focus on April of 03 to Oct of 03, because the story is not Plame, or even B&J, they are simply the casualties in this, sad to say. The story is a). what happened during this time, b). that would motivate such a dangerous tactical risk by the admin and c). whom did it protect?

Bolton/Fleitz fit into the point A more so than anyone else outside of the White House.

I think we can all agree that although that whatever the motive of the plame hit was, it was not first and foremost to smear her husband. Remember, WHIG started the work up in March of 03 and Cheney knew in May (as I believe), but no story ran until July, after "our friend" (ed: presumably grossman) at State advised Wilson to write the op-ed. What happened in between March and July or rather, what happened in April and did not stop happening until October, that could justify this type of long focus, during a failed war (even that early) on something that could have been easily ignored, if the motive was Wilson?

I am still working on Iran, so I have not had time to write more about this other aspect of the same story (and they are related). As you all know, I have never been interested in what I call "the front end-sell" or from WHIG to press, rather, I have always been interested in the actual leak, the motive, and the chain of custody of information.

So again, I say without doubt, that while Novak ran the piece, and Armitage was a source for both Woodward and Novak, he was not the original source of the leak. Not the original front-end sell or the original back end leaker. He was simply part of the laundry of information, the process for which he may or may have not been a willing tool.

And Kat, Hadley was more involved in getting those 16 words in and if Hadley was, then Rice was... and now we have a new player, don't we? And it is just so interesting that Rice and Hadley both have been called to testify in the AIPAC case too, no? :)

Lots to chew on there.

Let me focus on two things that stick out. Larisa:
I have always said that to understand this story, people need to focus on April of 03 to Oct of 03, because the story is not Plame, or even B&J, they are simply the casualties in this, sad to say. The story is a). what happened during this time, b). that would motivate such a dangerous tactical risk by the admin and c). whom did it protect?
What on earth was happening between april and october? I have no idea. that's an odd time frame. Larisa and others have suggested that the plan was to do a drive-by in iraq, and then move onto iran - so perhaps that accounts for the 'april' starting point? Weldon was visiting Paris "During the spring and summer of 2003" with that odd Ghorbanifar story:
"The story that was peddled -- which detailed how an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq prior to the start of the war in March of 2003, and stole enriched uranium to use in their own nuclear weapons program -- was part of an attempt to implicate both countries in a WMD plot."
I never really thought that was particularly interesting or nerfarious - apart from it just being bizarre - and as Larisa notes: "It later emerged that (Ghorba) was trying to collect money for his tales, sources say." - so i'm not sure that there was anything significant with this story. colour me confused.

What else was happening in April?

Larisa's "Secretive military unit" article says that an 'off book' group went rogue "shortly after the invasion" - which could be April, although she notes that the team "operated in the summer through the fall of 2003"

In case you were wondering, the take-away from that article is:
"During the summer of 2003 through the fall of 2003, the team, whose members who were not named by sources, is said to have interviewed many Iraqi intelligence and former intelligence officers. The UN source says that the political problem discussed had more to do with solving the lack of WMD than anything else.

“They come in the summer of 2003, bringing in Iraqis, interviewing them,” the UN source said. “Then they start talking about WMD and they say to [these Iraqi intelligence officers] that ‘Our President is in trouble. He went to war saying there are WMD and there are no WMD. What can we do? Can you help us?’”"
This is all a bit bizarre - I had presumed that the Feith's group was being asked to magically conjure up some WMD's that they didn't have - although perhaps the OSP team simply just wanted people to lie. Here's what Barton said:
By that time we'd already rounded up loads of scientists and engineers and the political leaders. By mid 2003 when the ISG started work, we were busy interviewing all these people, and that's really how we knew that there weren't any WMD - not so much by searching every corner of the country, but just by talking to all the leaders and senior scientists because although some of them might lie to you, most of them were clearly telling us what they knew - and they knew there was nothing there.
In terms of Larisa's 'October' end-point - she talks above about the 'off-book' team operating "through the fall of 2003" - which I guess is probably October-ish - but I couldn't find anything else in her reporting that referred to that October. The only thing that happened in October that I could find (thanks to my recent interview with Barton) is that David Kay gave his interim report in early October. It's conceivable that is what Larisa is talking about - but in retrospect (at least), Kay's interim report was basically just a speed-bump - and the same type of shenanigans continued unabated. I'd have to take a closer look at what was being said contemporaneously in order to determine how significant that interim report was - yes, i'm sure it was really, really important at the time, and these guys were operating in real-time - and I'm sure they didn't want Kay to say "Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here..." In any case - Kay's interim report was the only thing of interest that I could find in October - so maybe that's what Larisa is talking about. If not - I'm still at a loss. Hopefully Larisa can clarify.

I mentioned above that there were two things that I wanted to highlight - the other thing was Larisa's:
Hadley was more involved in getting those 16 words in and if Hadley was, then Rice was... and now we have a new player, don't we? And it is just so interesting that Rice and Hadley both have been called to testify in the AIPAC case too, no? :)
Two things here (apart from larisa's smiley face) - one thing that jumped out (to me) from larisa's interview with Ledeen is that I think i remember Ledeen throwing Rice under the bus implicating Rice in the whole Niger affair. The best I can find at the moment is this:
"RS: You said to me before that Stephen Hadley authorized your meeting, correct? Did Stephen Hadley have the authority to unilaterally assign such a meeting?
Ledeen: I’m sure Hadley discussed it with Rice. He’s a cautious lawyer, and that decision required approval from his boss."
perhaps i over-interpreted it at the time - it doesn't seem as damning as I remember it.

The other quote that comes to mind if Larisa is implicating Rice via AIPAC/Franklin is Sibel's comment:
"You can start from the AIPAC angle. You can start from the Plame case. You can start from my case. They all end up going to the same place, and they revolve around the same nucleus of people. There may be a lot of them, but it is one group. And they are very dangerous for all of us."
Of course, Larisa has previously reported that:
"National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was the senior administration official who told... Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer'
for more on larisa's reporting on hadley, see here and here

oops - one other interesting comment by larisa is that her reporting on iran is related to the outing of plame. not surprising - but i'd love to know some more about it.

are we any closer?

why did Cheney wanted to out Plame? i still don't know. I suspect that his motivation wasn't benevolent.



rimone said...

why did Cheney wanted to out Plame?

cause he could and as a warning to anyone straying from towing the party line.

starroute said...

The Neocon desire to invade Iran immediately after Iraq was not particularly secret. I don't have detailed notes on this, but I do find a writeup of a WINEP meeting in February 2003 saying, "Many in Iran look forward to a U.S. invasion of Iraq in the hopes that the United States will overthrow the Islamic Republic soon thereafter."

Michael Ledeen was very busy in the immediate post-invasion period, beating the drums for regime change in Iran. On April 30, 2003, he addressed the JINSA Policy Forum, saying, "I have never seen a country more ready for democracy than Iran." A week later, on May 6, AEI held an event titled, "The Future of Iran: Mullahcracy, Democracy, and the War on Terror," cosponsored by Hudson Institute and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Its theme was "What steps can the United States take to promote democratization and regime change in Iran?" and the participants included Cliff May, Meyrav Wurmser, Michael Ledeen, Bernard Lewis, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Morris Amitay -- in short, all the usual suspects.

Those public events don't seemed to have mentioned the possibility of invasion directly, but there was clearly a lot more doing on behind the scenes. For example, Franklin and Rhode were heavily involved in the push for war with Iran. Here, for example, is Juan Cole, writing about the AIPAC case in 2004:

Franklin moved over to the Pentagon from DIA, where he became the Iran expert, working for Bill Luti and Undersecretary of Defense for Planning, Douglas Feith. He was the "go to" person on Iran for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and for Feith. This situation is pretty tragic, since Franklin is not a real Iranist. His main brief appears to have been to find ways to push a policy of overthrowing its government (apparently once Iraq had been taken care of). This project has been pushed by the shadowy eminence grise, Michael Ledeen, for many years, and Franklin coordinated with Ledeen in some way. Franklin was also close to Harold Rhode, a long-time Middle East specialist in the Defense Department who has cultivated far right pro-Likud cronies for many years, more or less establishing a cell within the Department of Defense.

Rhode's own activities during the spring and summer of 2003 are also of interest. Here, for example, is something which originally appeared in the Washington Monthly in September 2003:

Rhode got another big break when Pentagon hawks sent him to Baghdad this spring as their chief liaison (read: handler) to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmed Chalabi, the hawks' favorite exile. But problems cropped up them, too, when, during his stay at the occupation headquarters in Baghdad, Rhode quickly alienated most of the American military and civilian pros in the country by saying all manner of unfortunate things about Arabs, Iranians, and Muslims in general. Later he holed himself up with Chalabi at the latter's hunt-club headquarters and bombarded Washington with faxes about plans to install Chalabi as the George Washington of Iraq. Following his subsequent recall--not so voluntarily, we hear--Rhode showed up sitting next to Chalabi in the front row at Vine President Dick Cheney's rally-the-neocon-troops speech at the American Enterprise Institute in July. Most recently, Rhode made the news again for a series of meetings he held in August with one of the most colorful characters from Washington's last major foreign policy scandal: exiled Iranian arms merchant Manucher Ghorbanifar, of Iran-Contra fame.

Rhode and Chalabi weren't the only ones in prominent attendance at that July 2003 AEI speech:

In the audience when Dick Cheney spoke Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute was Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress and one of the 25 members of the Iraqi National Governing Council appointed earlier this month by administrator L. Paul Bremer. Chalabi did not speak to Cheney, who entered and left the stage without speaking privately to anyone, but Chalabi did exchange warm greetings with Defense Department official Harold Rhode and with Judith Miller of the New York Times and other reporters.

Whatever behind-the-scenes agitation may have been going on for an immediate invasion of Iran seems to have died out after August 2003. Things started going downhill in Iraq, the CIA began pushing for investigation of the Plame outing at the end of September, and if Larisa is right about Ghorbanifar being involved in a plot to plant evidence, that seems to have failed as well.

Kathleen said...


Yes, I do remember Stephen Hadley's name coming up a lot in what I read, and Robert Josephs too. It's definitely a group effort. WHIG.

I don't think Armitage was the original leaker either, but rather a planned fall back guy, so they could make their claim that Plame's identity and status were common knowledge.

Since Plame was working on WMD's in Iran, I think she needed to be outed. Then we have reports that the single author of the new Congressional report on Iran and nuclear weapons was Fred Flietz, a report debunked by Baradei, just like the Niger forgeries were. Bolton keeps asserting that Iran is defying the UN and enriching uranium, so the Fleitz/Bolton team is still in operation, while Plame is not.

James Risen says that a computer glitch outed the whole WMD team in Iran. Does anyone know when that happened in relation to the Plame leak?

Thank you for your painstaking research, Larissa. It definitely helps me define what is and what isn't true here.

Kathleen said...

Given that the company line is that it was common knowledge among the press that Plame was CIA, is it plausible to anyone that several adminstration officials leaked to different reporters? One to Judith Miller, one to Novak, one to Mathew Cooper, one to Woodward.

Didn't Fitz say there were three? The two that Novak mentioned, and another?

Again, whether they knew or not that Plame was covert is beside the point. They knew it was unlawful to reveal the identity of a covert agent, so they had a duty to inquire about Plame's status before mentioning it.

starroute said...

I just recalled another Plame-Iran link that I've found fairly baffling.

Kathleen mentions "the company line is that it was common knowledge among the press that Plame was CIA." However, the first person I know of to make this claim was Clifford May in his September 29, 2003 National Review column. This is the same Clifford May who's been neck-deep in the Iran regime-change movement -- note his presence at that May 2003 AEI presentation I mentioned above. (Indeed, his Foundation for the Defense of Democracies was one of the co-sponsors.)

Last November, Paul Vallely and Thomas McInerney of the Iran Policy Group -- one of the most extreme of the Iran regime-change organizations -- popped up to say that Joe Wilson had boasted about his CIA wife in their presence in early 2002. This claim was immediately and thoroughly debunked by, among others, Larry C. Johnson.

People like May, Vallely, and McIneney don't hve any obvious connection with Cheney or the administration Neocons, and it isn't clear to me that they would put their reputations on the line by telling lies about Valerie Plame just to try to save the administration's bacon. So why are they doing it? Moreover, why would they still be doing it as late as last fall? Iran is the most obvious common factor among them, but but I can't for the life of me figure out how discrediting Plame and Wilson at this point advances an Iran regime-change policy.

Perhaps someone more clever than I am can fill in the missing pieces.

lukery said...

Kathleen - the 'computer error' was apaprently in 2004 according to Risen,12858,1678220,00.html

lukery said...

starroute - bamford also wrote in ROlling Stone that the plan was to go straight through iraq and into Iran.

remember also the recent disclosure that Rumsfeld didn't have plans to stay in iraq for very long. I suspect that there is probably a detailed logistics plan somewhere to move onto iran immediately

lukery said...