On July 22, 2005, Special Forces Colonel Patrick Lang said before a congressional committee that, as a result of the exposure of Valerie Plame, our ability to know when terrorists would "carry 10-pound bags of explosive in subway stations" would "go right down the drain." The media never reported this. Instead it was busy chasing the White House spin that Plame was not a covert agent. It was crucial to the White House that Plame's job description be fogged up. Even on the right, there was speculation that this was one scandal from which the Bush administration would not recover.
Playing hardball with critics like Joe Wilson, Plame's husband, was one thing. Exposing an undercover informant network was another. Although many details about Plame's career are still classified, we know her job consisted mainly of detecting the movement of weapons of mass destruction. If she was only a bureaucrat, why would a Special Forces Colonel, Middle East specialist, and professor of Arabic like Lang sit before a committee and say that Plame's unmasking was an "assault" on our ability to prevent terrorist attack?
So how about a replay of that scrimmage? After all, it only involves our safety from attack, according to Colonel Lang. The focus in the Plame Affair was always political payback to Wilson and all the Nigerian yellowcake stuff. So what? This is Washington. Payback is everything. The focus was never how, within hours of her exposure, every hostile intelligence service in the world had run Plame's name through its databases. That would include Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, which we know is shot through with Al Qaeda sympathizers.
The snap! Plame betrayed by someone in Cheney's office, maybe on orders from Cheney, as payback to Wilson for exposing a lie. Fumble: Plame's job turns out to be weapons of mass destruction. Spread the word that Wilson gave John Kerry a campaign donation, and that Plame had an office at CIA headquarters. She was a paper pusher! At all costs make people forget she spent nearly 30 years as the most secret kind of operative, a non-official cover (NOC), which basically means the government can deny your existence if you are killed.
Recovery. That was very, very close.
The White House spin machine is good at seizing on something which, in logic, is called "irrelevant." Like a campaign donation to Kerry, and building it into something that has nothing to do with the price of eggs in China. Why are we talking about John Kerry? Did Plame have undercover networks, yes or no?
Special Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald referred to "national security" no less than three times in his first press conference on Plame. Inexplicably, he settled on the lower charge of violation of the Intelligence Identity Act, rather than the higher charge of treason.
Colonel Lang spoke of a violation of "trust" which spread like a "shockwave" among the foreigners who had worked with Plame. When she was exposed, they were exposed too. The message to those who would help us against our enemies was: the Americans cannot be trusted to protect their informants. How can you help people like these?
Bush's pardon of Libby sent the bigger message: partisan politics trumps everything for Americans. It even trumps their own safety. The Founders pondered outlawing political parties. They feared that parties could blind people to the difference between what's good for the party, and what's good for the country.
The pardon of Libby means old Scooter has no incentive to talk about really happened, to save his own rear end.
Now that powerful Florida congressman Robert Wexler has called for impeachment hearings to begin "immediately" against Cheney, let's hope people start to see the difference between party and country. And that Cheney's chickens have come home to roost. By its inaction on impeachment, Congress is rapidly becoming complicit in the crimes of Dick Cheney.