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Valerie Plame and the Incredible Shrinking Cover Story

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Valerie Plame Wilson was not a covert agent (so says Victoria Toensing), and furthermore the White House did not know that she was a covert agent (so says Rep.  Tom Davis).  It’s all the fault of the CIA for not telling the White House that she was covert.

That appears to be the essence of the Bush loyalist’s rebuttal to Valerie Plame Wilson’s testimony to Henry Waxman's Committee hearing.  That this account is a flat-out contradiction is of concern only to elite nit-picking liberals and not to the aforementioned loyalists whose elaborate excuses transcend mere logic.

Like mariners stranded on an iceberg adrift in the Gulf Stream, the Bush apologists have less and less to cling to as, with time, the refuting testimony and evidence accumulate.

It has now come to the point that pro-Bush apologetics are so pathetically lame and absurd that their defenses serve only to strengthen the case against the Busheviks.  Case-in-point: the testimony last Friday of Victoria Toensing before the Waxman Committee.

The “not really a covert agent” dodge:

This much can be stipulated: To the “outside world,” Valerie Plame was employed as an “energy analyst” by “Brewster Jennings and Associates.” (To distinguish husband and wife, I will use the names “Wilson” and “Plame” respectively).  However, “Brewster Jennings” was a “front” for the CIA, through which essential information about weapons of mass destruction was gathered, coordinated and assessed.   Plame’s and Brewster Jennings’ actual work, intelligence gathering, was a closely held national security secret.

Accordingly, the Director of Central Intelligence, General Michael Hayden, stated for the public record:

During her employment at the CIA, Ms.  Wilson [Plame] was under cover.  Her employment status with the CIA was classified information prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958.  At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14,2003, Ms.  Wilson's CIA employment status was covert. [EP emphasis] This was classified information.

But no, says Victoria Toensing, Valerie Plame was not really “covert.” Not according to The Intelligence Identities Protection Act which, Ms.  Toensing wants us all to know, she helped draft a couple of decades ago.  Toensing contends that Plame qualified as “covert” according to all provisions of the Act save one, which stipulates that a covert agent is one “...  who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent [etc]...” This is Toensing’s “gotcha!”  Plame, she says, did not “reside” outside the US in the required past five years, so she was not, says Toensing, “covert within the meaning of the statute, which I am an expert on because I helped draft it.” Never mind that Plame was employed by a CIA front organization, that she engaged in top secret intelligence gathering, that the information so gathered was essential to the national security of the United States, that her very life and that of her operatives abroad depended on the non-disclosure of her CIA association.  And finally, no matter that the CIA Director explicitly identified Plame’s activity as “covert.” Never mind all that.  Victoria Toensing points out that Plame did not reside outside the United States, as the law requires.

Ergo, Valerie Plame was not “covert.”

Committee Chair, "Hammerin' Hank" Waxman would have none of it, as he subjected Toensing to a withering interrogation.   You can see it here.

Quibbles such as Toensing's are, no doubt, the reason that Charles Dickens famously wrote, “the law is an ass,” and the reason that some lawyers' three piece suits have Kevlar vests.

So what are we asked to make of this? That because Plame was not “covert” according to the exact letter of the law, therefore no damage to national security resulted from her “outing?” That it was perfectly OK for Robert Novak to put an abrupt end to Plame’s enterprise and that of the fake company, Brewster Jennings, thus shutting off the inflow of vital information, and putting numerous courageous operatives at grave risk?

If that’s the best that the defenders of the Bushevik finks can come up with, then their case is reduced to absurdity.

But it gets much worse.  For Toensing is also defeated by the “letter” of her precious Intelligence Identities Protection Act.  An alternative provision of the Act allowed that a “covert agent” may have “served” outside the U.S., as Plame clearly had done.  Accordingly, we have the alternatives “reside” or “serve.” Thus Toensing is undone by the simple word “or”.   It therefore follows (as if it really matters) that Plame qualified as “covert” according to the exact letter of the law.  (This point is brilliantly argued in “Daily Kos” by "Litigatormom" whose post includes quotations from the Intelligence Identities Protection Act).

Exit the “not really covert” excuse.

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Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. Partridge has taught philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The (more...)

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