On July 8 Vice President Cheney 's chief deputy and key neocon, Lewis "Scooter " Libby met with the NYT 's Judith Miller and apparently discussed Wilson with her. On July 14 Robert Novak in his syndicated column announced that Wilson 's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative and might have had some say in his being chosen for the mission. "Two senior administration officials, " Novak wrote, "told me Wilson 's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate " what Novak called "the Italian report. "
(Recall that Bush attributed the report to British intelligence, and that some have suggested the neocon and Office of Special Plans operative Michael Ledeen, with many Italian ties, is a likely source of the original forgery.)
The somnolent mainstream press, prodded by The Nation 's David Corn, began to awaken to a potential scandal involving White House officials violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. The CIA naturally demanded an investigation of the outing of one of its own; the Justice Department was obliged to launch a criminal probe, and Bush to appoint a special prosecutor, Patrick "Bulldog " Fitzgerald. And now the investigation is apparently nearing completion.
Thus Libby may have identified Wilson to Miller, as the unnamed subject of the Kristof and Pincus columns, as early as June and insinuated that he 'd gotten his Niger assignment due to the influence of his CIA wife. He may have been deeply and personally concerned about the exposure of the lie even before Wilson went public.
Maybe his judgment was clouded by rage or fear, or he had forgotten that the outing of undercover CIA operatives is a punishable crime. He probably expected (and maybe knew from intelligence sources) that Wilson was about to blow the whistle and become a problem. Having great trust in Miller, as a fellow-traveler in a heroic movement, he may have wished to bounce around some ideas about how to discredit the former ambassador in the press. Maybe she (worrying about legal consequences?) hesitated to write about Wilson, and let Novak do the job instead, prompted by Karl Rove. (The excellent documentary "Bush 's Brain, " a political biography of Karl Rove, notes how Rove was fired from the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 for leaking information to Novak.) Nevertheless she was the one who did the jail time.
Given that the Bush administration has more or less acknowledged that the "War on Terrorism " requires the planting of disinformation to obtain U.S. goals; that the administration has been caught red-handed subsidizing journalists promoting its version of reality; that the neocons speak matter-of-factly about "perception management " to abet their goals; that the Office of Special Plans (involving Cheney, Wolfowitz, Libby,
Luti, Feith, Shulsky, Wurmser, Hadley, etc.) manufactured lies to
support war; and that Miller proved herself to be a shameless purveyor of pure disinformation, for which the NYT has itself after a fashion apologized -- is it not probable that Miller was an intimate partner in the OSP program all along?
And isn 't it likely that her otherwise inexplicable claim, contradicted by Libby 's own lawyer, that she could only recently leave prison because Libby finally gave her unequivocal permission to testify, cover for some other reason or purpose (maybe involving a delaying tactic) coordinated with others?
Is it not probable, too, that Libby 's "aspens are turning " love letter to Miller specifically authorizes her to discuss "anything in July 2003 " in order to discourage her from discussing their exchange pertaining to the "Wilson-Plame matter" on June 23?
Is not Libby 's declaration that Miller 's readers want her back "doing what you do best -- reporting " a statement to the discredited reporter that he continues to appreciate her service to the neocon mission? (Note how he especially looks forward to her coverage of "suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program " -- stories that will have to be skewed to justify more aggression to remold the Middle East.)
And is it not possible that the much-derided concluding passage of < href="http://www.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/national/nat_MILLER_051001.pdf">the letter, about the aspens which "turn in clusters because their roots connect them, " is Libby 's way of saying, "you and I are in the same cluster, and if they chop me down, you die too "? "Come back to work -- and life, " he ends, perhaps pleading for her to save his political neck.
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I understand that Jon Stewart had some fun with the "aspens are turning " letter on his October 5 Daily Show, and that he derided the literary talents of Libby, who in fact is a sometimes novelist. For my part I will just note that when Shakespeare alludes to aspen leaves they are always trembling (Henry IV, II, II, iv; Titus Andronicus, II, iv), a metaphor for fear. May the liars tremble in the cold autumn breeze until they 're blown to the ground and scattered.
Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.