Tuesday, January 16, 2007

CIA Leak case takes center stage again

Trial begins:
"The trial of I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby on charges of lying about the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity opened this morning, with the prosecutor and defense attorneys for Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff questioning potential jurors about their views of the Bush administration, the Iraq war and the fallibility of human memory."
Remember what this is all about:
Libby, the first sitting senior White House official to be indicted in recent history,faces five felony counts stemming from a federal investigation into Bush aides' leak of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame in 2003. Her name was published in a syndicated column days after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly criticized one of the administration's central rationales for the war in Iraq.

Libby, 56, has not been accused of the leak itself. He has been charged with two counts of making false statements to FBI officers, two counts of perjury before a grand jury and one count of obstructing justice. Legal experts have estimated that, if convicted on all charges, Libby could face up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.
And just why is it so important that Valerie Wilson was outed? A career spent with the CIA and at the end, tracking Iraq's weapons proliferations was obliterated by the Bush administration:
Valerie Plame was recruited into the CIA in 1985, straight out of Pennsylvania State University. After two years of training to be a covert case officer, she served a stint on the Greece desk, according to Fred Rustmann, a former CIA official who supervised her then. Next she was posted to Athens and posed as a State Department employee. Her job was to spot and recruit agents for the agency. In the early 1990s, she became what's known as a nonofficial cover officer. NOCs are the most clandestine of the CIA's frontline officers. They do not pretend to work for the US government; they do not have the protection of diplomatic immunity. They might claim to be a businessperson. She told people she was with an energy firm. Her main mission remained the same: to gather agents for the CIA.

In 1997 she returned to CIA headquarters and joined the Counterproliferation Division. (About this time, she moved in with Joseph Wilson; they later married.) She was eventually given a choice: North Korea or Iraq. She selected the latter. Come the spring of 2001, she was in the CPD's modest Iraq branch. But that summer--before 9/11--word came down from the brass: We're ramping up on Iraq. Her unit was expanded and renamed the Joint Task Force on Iraq. Within months of 9/11, the JTFI grew to fifty or so employees. Valerie Wilson was placed in charge of its operations group.
When the Novak column ran, Valerie Wilson was in the process of changing her clandestine status from NOC to official cover, as she prepared for a new job in personnel management. Her aim, she told colleagues, was to put in time as an administrator--to rise up a notch or two--and then return to secret operations. But with her cover blown, she could never be undercover again.
Rove and Libby played fast and loose with her status by talking to reporters about it, Armitage was negligent about it. This trial is a welcome rebuke to these incompetents.