Wednesday, 3 May 2006, 2:00 pm
Opinion: Evelyn Pringle
Karl Rove Indictment Long Overdue
By Evelyn Pringle
On April 28, 2006, Jason Leopold, an investigative journalist who has consistently forecast up-coming events in the CIA leak case far in advance of the mainstream media, is citing "sources knowledgeable about the probe" in reporting that:
"Despite vehement denials by his attorney who said this week that Karl Rove is neither a "target" nor in danger of being indicted in the CIA leak case, the special counsel leading the investigation has already written up charges against Rove, and a grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict the Deputy White House Chief of Staff sometime next week."
For most Americans, this bit of news will be viewed as long overdue.
The criminal indictment filed by the grand jury against Scooter Libby leaves no doubt about who leaked what and when. It states that on or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, Libby spoke to �Official A," who we now know is Rove, who advised Libby of "a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson�s wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson�s trip."
Libby was also advised, "by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson�s wife," the indictment notes.
Rove succeeded in convincing Novak to print the story about Wilson and his wife even though Novak was informed that the story was false. Former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow has testified before the grand jury about conversations that he had with Novak 3 days before the column was published and said that he told Novak that Wilson's wife had not authorized the trip and that if he did write an article, Novak should not reveal her name.
After the first conversation with Novak, Harlow said he checked Valerie's status to confirm that she was an undercover agent and called Novak back to say again that the story relayed to Novak was not true and that her name should not be revealed.
Administration officials like to send out talking heads to minimize the damage caused by the leak by trying to debate the issue of whether Valerie's CIA status was classified. During his October 28, 2005, press conference, when announcing the Libby indictment, Fitzgerald left no doubt about whether her status was classified, when he told reporters:
"Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community. Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.
"The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security. Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003."
For 18 years Valerie had kept her occupation a secret. She worked under the cover of a CIA front company created and maintained at the taxpayer's expense, and all of that was destroyed by Bush administration officials at the highest levels when they leaked her identity.
In hindsight, its obvious that the leaks by Rove and Libby were the beginning of a White House scheme to pin the blame on the CIA for providing faulty intelligence and to take the focus off the forged documents used to insert the Iraq-uranium claim into the mix in the first place
But the overall plot goes much deeper than that. In peddling the story to reporters, a fact not known to most Americans is that Rove and Libby leaked the identity of a CIA agent who happened to be an expert on WMDs at a time when the US had supposedly went to war to eliminate the threat of such weapons being used against our country.
Melissa Mahle spent 14 years as a covert CIA agent maintaining a series of fictitious cover stories, invented by her superiors. On the October 30, 2005, segment of 60 Minutes, Mahle reported that Valerie was working on important national security issues, like keeping tabs on nuclear material and the world�s top nuclear scientists.
�She is an expert on weapons of mass destruction," Mahle said. "These are the kind of people that don't grow on trees.�
What do agents do in that division, she was asked.
�They're trying to figure out, really, the hard questions of who has the capability obtaining and deploying a biological weapon. Or a chemical weapon. Who's doing it? What are those networks? What are the financial trails?� Mahle said during the broadcast."
It is now known that Valerie was monitoring Iran's nuclear activities. According to Raw Story investigative reporter, Larisa Alexandrovna, former intelligence officials, have said that Valerie "worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran."
"The revelation that Iran was the focal point of Plame's work," Alexandrovna wrote, "raises new questions as to possible other motivating factors in the White House's decision to reveal the identity of a CIA officer working on tracking a WMD supply network to Iran, particularly when the very topic of Iran's possible WMD capability is of such concern to the Administration."
On May 1, 2006, the Chris Matthews' show, Hardball, on MSNBC confirmed what Alexandrovna reported in February in 2006, that Valerie was working on Iran's WMD network at the time she was outed.
On July 27, 2005, the Boston Globe described what happens when a CIA agent's cover is blown and said in part:
"Whenever a spy's cover is revealed, a chain of setbacks ensues. Foreign intelligence services then review everything they know about the undercover officer who was operating in their country. Such a review can lead not only to the discovery of informants who may have been recruited by the outed CIA officer but also to an understanding of the practices and techniques used by an undercover figure such as Plame, who posed as a businesswoman abroad.
"After one undercover CIA officer is exposed, others inevitably have a harder time persuading potential sources to pass secrets about their government's -- or their terrorist network's -- plans and capabilities."
In recent years, Valerie told people she worked for an energy consulting firm by the name of Brewster-Jennings & Associates and Novak disclosed that fact to the world on CNN when he said, "she listed herself as an employee of Brewster-Jennings & Associates."
"There is no such firm, I'm convinced,� Novak added.
Upon the public exposure of this information, former CIA agents report that intelligence agencies all over the world would have started searching the data bases for any mention of Valerie or the firm and that over the years, hundreds of agents have worked under the cover of Brewster-Jennings.
On October 5, 2003, Valerie was described as a "NOC" in the New York Times by Elisabeth Bumiller, who explained what a NOC position entails and how the leaking of her identity was viewed by members of the CIA in general:
"But within the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in non-conventional weapons who worked overseas, had "nonofficial cover," and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a NOC, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create.
"While most undercover agency officers disguise their real profession by pretending to be American embassy diplomats or other United States government employees, Ms. Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert."
Writing for Salon magazine in October 2003, Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean, of Watergate fame, discusses how the Bush administration's conduct trumps that of former President Nixon:
"I thought I had seen political dirty tricks as foul as they could get, but I was wrong. In blowing the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame to take political revenge on her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for telling the truth, Bush's people have out-Nixoned Nixon's people. And my former colleagues were not amateurs by any means."
At the time of Valerie outing, Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie basically agreed with Dean in saying that the disclosure of Plame's name could be worse than Watergate "in terms of the real-world implications of it."
In taking the drastic step of a court compelling reporters to testify, US Appellate Judge David Tatel, in his February 15, 2005 opinion also noted the seriousness of the crime in stating that the vast majority of the states, as well as the Justice Department, "would require us to protect reporters' sources as a matter of federal common law were the leak at issue either less harmful or more newsworthy."
However, Judge Tatel added, "just as attorney-client communications made for the purpose of getting advice for the commission of a fraud or crime serve no public interest and receive no privilege, neither should courts protect sources whose leaks harm national security while providing minimal benefit to public debate."
A question seldom asked is how did Valerie take the news when she learned of Novak's column.
�She felt like she had been hit in the stomach," her husband Joe Wilson said on the October 30, 2005, 60 Minutes program. "It took her breath away," he said.
"She recovered quickly because," Wilson explained, "you don't do what she did for a living without understanding stress."
"And she became very matter of fact right afterwards," he said, "started making lists of what she had to do to ensure that her assets, her projects, her programs and her operations were protected."
"Did she realize then that her career as an undercover agent for the CIA was over?" interviewer Ed Bradley asked Wilson.
"Absolutely. Sure," he replied. "There was no doubt about it in her mind."
"And she wondered for what,� he added.
Fitzgerald and Libby's lawyers are currently fighting over Libby's discovery requests for a wide variety of documents. In a January 9, 2006 letter to Libby's legal team, Fitzgerald responded to a request for documents that assess the damage caused by the outing, and wrote: "A formal assessment has not been done of the damage caused by the disclosure of Valerie Wilson�s status as a CIA employee, and thus we possess no such document."
"Moreover," Fitzgerald said in a brief filed in the case, "the publication of any informal assessment of actual damage caused by the leak could compound the damage by disclosing intelligence sources and methods."
However, 3 intelligence officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to Larisa Alexandrovna, of Raw Story, said that while undercover, Valerie was involved in identifying and tracking WMD technology to and from Iran and that her outing compromised the identities of other covert operatives as well.
As a result, the officials said that CIA work on WMDs had been set back "ten years."
When the Libby indictment was handed down and it became known that Rove had definitely participated in blowing Valerie's cover, 16 former CIA and military intelligence officials petitioned Bush to suspend Rove's security clearance and Bush refused to grant their request.
After it became public that Rove was involved in the leak, on July 15, 2005, ninety-one Democrats in Congress signed a letter to Bush calling for Rove to explain his role in the leak or to resign, and 13 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called for hearings on the matter.
To this day, Karl Rove remains unpunished and still has security clearance.
In his column, Novak included another highly significant statement that seemingly escaped much publicity probably due to the outrage over the outing of a CIA agent, when he said:
"Wilson's mission was created after an early 2002 report by the Italian intelligence service about attempted uranium purchases from Niger, derived from forged documents prepared by what the CIA calls a "con man." This misinformation, peddled by Italian journalists, spread through the U.S. government. The White House, State Department and Pentagon, and not just Vice President Dick Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it."
The forged documents did not make their way to the White House by way of a few journalists peddling misinformation. The forgeries ended up in the hands of the same people who were responsible for their origin, officials at the highest level of Bush administration.
On August 1 and 2, 2004, both the Sunday Times and Financial Times in the UK reported that a con-man by the name of Rocco Martino admitted that he was involved in disseminating the false stories and documents but said the US and Italian governments were behind the disinformation operation.
"It's true, I had a hand in the dissemination of those documents," Martino said, "but I was duped."
"Both Americans and Italians were involved behind the scenes," he said. "It was a disinformation operation."
In July 2005, an Italian parliamentary report was issued on the forged documents and listed the 4 men likely involved as: Michael Ledeen, Dewey Clarridge (CIA operative in Iran-Contra Affair), Ahmed Chalabi, and Francis Brookes (member of a "public relations" body formed by the Pentagon to promote Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress).
The report said the forgeries may have been planned at a meeting in Rome in December 2001, attended by Ledeen and Larry Franklin.
Franklin is the Pentagon Iran analyst who earned a lengthily prison sentence last year for passing classified information to former officials with the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC. Franklin worked closely with Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Office of Special Plans whose main purpose was to manufacture bogus intelligence to bolster the case for war.
On April 12, 2005, the Al Jazeera news organization reported that when the former CIA head of counter-terrorism, Vincent Cannistaro, was asked whether Michael Ledeen had been the one who produced the forged documents, he replied, "You'd be very close."
In holding off on charging Rove, it may just be that Fitzgerald is looking at much bigger fish to fry. On October 23, 2005, UPI editor Martin Walker cited "NATO intelligence sources" as saying, "Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.�
The special prosecutor's team is said to have been provided with the full report on the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the forgeries.
�This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case,� UPI explains, �that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated."
With any luck, Fitzgerald will do the right thing and file criminal charges against all of the high-level officials involved in the fabrication and dissemination of bogus intelligence that convinced Americans to allow Bush to wage the ill-fated war against Iraq. Hopefully, starting with the guy sitting in the oval office.
Evelyn Pringle email@example.com