If you have something nasty to say about Karl Rove, please don’t keep it to yourself. Until last week, the public was barely aware that Rove even existed. While “Bush’s brain” lurked in some dark corner of the White House plotting his next hatchet job and composing talking points for right wing media pundits -- most Americans had no clue he was a major force in their lives. So, now is a very good time to let off a little steam and nail him to the wall. So, go ahead and get nasty. At least, a few more people might recognize the object of your wrath.
When Ambassador Wilson exposed the yellow cake uranium scam -- 200 American soldiers had already died in Bush’s war of choice. At the time, the Iraqi insurgency was in its early stages and Rumsfeld was dismissing the insurgents as dead-enders who would be quickly taken care of in a mop up operation. The invasion was still supported by the vast majority of Americans and the fiction about Saddam’s WMD stockpiles was still considered credible.
In this environment, an unknown ex-ambassador emerged with a compelling story. In an article in the New York Times, he claimed that some of the intelligence used to justify the Iraq war was exaggerated. Within a few days, his wife Valerie Plame was outed as a covert CIA agent by Bob Novak who claimed he got his information from two administration insiders.
From the start, it was evident that those who exposed Plame were targeting Wilson for daring to speak truth to power. Instead of responding to the ambassador’s accusations -- Rove and company launched a counter attack to smear the ambassador and question his qualifications. To a large extent, the plan worked then and continues to perform its magic today. Wilson’s character and credibility continues to be viciously attacked by Murdoch’s rat pack at FOX and by other journalists of the same pedigree. Their argument is that Wilson was unqualified to uncover the Niger hoax which Cheney and his merry band of neo-cons depended on to substantiate the false claim that Iraq had “reconstituted” a nuclear weapons program. According to that line of reasoning, someone more qualified than Wilson might have “verified” Cheney’s fantasies.
As of this week, Rove’s role in the Plame scandal has been confirmed. It doesn’t seem to matter that Wilson had specifically pointed the finger at Rove two years ago. He was right again but probably “unqualified” to make such a judgment -- since he has no background in law enforcement. The pundits involved in this smear campaign appear to believe that Ambassador Wilson is unqualified to pick lottery numbers. But, given his track record, I would still like to consult him on how to pick my numbers.
The mainstream press is now focused on Rove. Did he commit a crime or was it just a bad case of judgment? Should Bush fire him? Did he know Plame’s name and does that matter? What did Bush know and when did he forget it?
For some reason, there is a curious lack of interest in the identity of the second or perhaps third administration source that exposed Plame’s identity. Two years after the scandal, little progress was made in the case until Rove waived the promise of confidentiality that prevented a number of journalists from revealing the substance of their “super secret double background conversations” with “Bush’s Brain.” Let’s hope it doesn’t take another two years to identify the second culprit.
Meanwhile, Judith Miller insists on doing time to protect Rove. Even after the waiver of confidentiality, Miller is sticking to her guns. So is Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times. On July 14, 2005, in its lead editorial The Times wrote: “Until this week, the administration had deflected attention onto journalists by producing documents that officials had been compelled to sign to supposedly waive any promise of confidentiality. Our colleague Judith Miller, unjustly jailed for protecting the identity of confidential sources, was right to view these so-called waivers as meaningless.”
Get this. Sulzberger hired a legion of lawyers and delayed progress in the Plame scandal for more than a year just to avoid “meaningless waivers.” See, he and Miller are certain that defenseless administration insiders like Karl Rove were coerced into signing these waivers. To avoid Miller’s testimony -- which would expose these vulnerable sources -- Sulzberger has exhausted legal remedies all the way up to the Supreme Court. Even after a ruling from the highest legal authorities in the land, he is willing to pay fines and have his WMD expert rot in jail to safeguard the right of future generations of journalists to out CIA agents. In essence, The Times is now contending that Miller is just a strong woman taking a stand for the administration wimps that succumbed to coercion and gave her the go ahead to testify.
The fact is that Judith Miller didn’t need information from Rove about Wilson’s wife. America’s “Doctor Germ” worked very closely with the Office of Special Plans to market the WMD scam to an unsuspecting American public. It is worthwhile to keep in mind the central mission of the neo-cons who staffed the OSP. Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith set up this Pentagon intelligence operation to take a more aggressive approach to uncovering alleged Iraqi links to 9/11 and to “prove” that Saddam had WMD arsenals. The OSP was tasked with reviewing the work of “timid” CIA analysts to see if they had “missed” anything. It stands to reason that the neo-cons at the OSP were familiar with the work of Valerie Plame -- an undercover agent specializing in combating the proliferation of WMDs. Agents like Plame were instrumental in exposing the Pakistani role in exporting nuclear technology to Libya.
So, who would know more about Valerie Plame? Karl Rove or Judith Miller and her neo-con pals at the OSP? Did Rove leak on Miller or did Miller leak on Rove? Why would a hatchet man and a publicist like Rove be privy to the identity of an undercover Pentagon agent? Rove is a prankster and a world-class expert in orchestrating smear campaigns. But Miller is The New York Times expert on WMDs who spent years sleeping with the OSP and Ahmed Chalabi. The OSP actually used to cite Miller’s articles as reliable sources of information on Iraq’s weapons programs. She was, after all, the expert who authored Germs -- a bible whose passages were regularly cited as gospel truth by the neo-con War Party.
From the very beginning of the Plame scandal, The New York Times has been taking suspicious defensive actions. Consider their pompous self-serving NYT editorial (10/3/2003): “As members of a profession that relies heavily on the willingness of government officials to defy their bosses and give the public vital information, we oppose ‘leak investigations’ in principle. There is [sic] important First Amendment issues at play. But in writing this law, Congress specifically barred prosecuting a journalist who got the name of a covert operative from a government official. Consistent with that, the Bush administration should not use the serious purpose of this inquiry to turn it into an investigation of Mr. Novak or any other journalist, or to attempt to compel any journalists to reveal their sources. The Justice Department should focus its attention on the White House, not on journalists.”
After reading that editorial, most people would be excused for concluding that Sulzberger and his editorial staff were standing shoulder to shoulder with Novak and the Washington Post in their never ending battle to protect the First Amendment. But the critical words here are “any other journalist.” It is now obvious that the “other” journalist they were trying to protect was Judith Miller. Or should we now believe that Karl Rove and other administration officials were “defying their bosses” to expose an undercover CIA agent. If these felons were not defying their bosses -- Bush might go down as the first president to conspire in committing a national security crime.
A little over a year ago, when it became absolutely clear that Iraq had no WMDs, The Times wrote an apologia about their coverage that omitted mentioning the journalist who wrote most of the discredited articles -- Judith Miller. Sulzberger’s lads decided that it was “past time we turned the light on ourselves.” Just to demonstrate how serious they were -- they used a 3-watt bulb -- to save energy so we would never again have to go to war for oil.
After congratulating himself on the “enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of” -- Sulzberger put the blame on Ahmed Chalabi and the administration -- claiming his journalists were duped. The editorial never once mentioned Judith Miller by name even though she wrote ten of the twelve bylines that Sulzberger admitted were way off the mark. The “paper of record” claimed that their unnamed reporters were taken in by “a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on regime change in Iraq.” Not only that, but poor Judith was also misled by government officials. “Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources.”
It just so happens that The New York Times was also “convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq.” And it just so happens that Judith Miller must have been fully aware that the neo-cons at the OSP depended on suspect intelligence from Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. And yet, she used Chalabi to confirm OSP “findings” and vice versa. The OSP returned the favor by citing Miller’s WMD reporting to back up its own claims.
Unwittingly, The Times editorial implied that the United States officials who gave Judith Miller the WMD “scoops” were deliberately involved in spreading propaganda to make a case for war. Which means that Miller passively or actively assisted the OSP in committing a serious crime -- long before assuming her role in outing Valerie Plame. The OSP, with the assistance of Miller, violated Title 50, Chapter 15, Section 413b (f) of the US CODE, which prohibits covert actions intended to influence United States political processes. One doesn't have to be a lawyer to understand this legislation which reads “No covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, policies, or media.” While the OSP and other intelligence outfits reserve for themselves the right to spread propaganda in foreign lands, they are explicitly prohibited from disseminating misinformation to Americans.
Long before the Plame case, Judith Miller had track record of conspiring with government officials to manufacture and leak the intelligence that paved the path to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. She had a motive for exposing Valerie Plame and initiating a smear campaign against Wilson – to protect herself and her buddies at the OSP from charges of “fixing” intelligence. Because much of their work centered on reviewing the work of WMD analysts at the CIA, the OSP must have had access to Plame’s file. Who else would have known that Plame put in a good word for Wilson? In short, Miller had the means and the motives. The fact that she didn’t write about Plame also makes sense. If Plame’s outing had come from Miller -- there would have been immediate confirmation that she got her information from her collaborators at the OSP.
Sulzberger and his media empire have a lot to hide -- and jail might be the perfect place to conceal Judith Miller.
At this stage, both the administration and The New York Times are playing a game of chicken. Sulzberger is hoping that Bush will fire Karl Rove or that Rove will suddenly resign to spend more quality time with his family -- like George Tenet. In which case, maybe the mass media press will conveniently put the whole case on the back burner for a few more years. And both Judith Miller and her paper will emerge as heroes who fought the good fight against the evil ones -- Patrick Fitzgerald and the Supreme Court -- who had nothing better to do with their time than to shred the First Amendment and throw journalists in jail.
Rove’s resignation might also work for Bush. Then again, maybe Rove being Rove will take the occasion of his departure to give Sulzberger a permanent black eye and out Miller as a fraud and the mastermind behind the Plame games. This might suit the Bush administration’s conservative domestic agenda. Sulzberger and Bush might have teamed up to go to war -- but they definitely have their differences on Supreme Court nominees, social security and a host of other issues. Maybe before dumping Rove, Bush will throw the neo-cons to the lions and put the word out that Rove was a victim of the OSP, Miller and Sulzberger.
To prevent such a rosy outcome, we need to know the identity of the other administration officials involved in the Plame scandal. Apparently, Patrick Fitzgerald already knows and if he continues to live up to his reputation -- the Plame games will go on.
If we are very lucky, maybe some honest journalist at The Times will “defy his bosses” and expose Arthur Sulzberger and Judith Miller. It’s just too bad we can’t pump Miller with truth serum while she is safely in captivity.
Plame Games Originated with Judith Miller
Other Articles by Ahmed Amr
Plame Games Originated with Judith Miller