Friday, March 16, 2007

David Corn on Plame's Testimony

David Corn of The Nation writes about Valerie Plame Wilson's testimony today before a Congressional Committee hearing spearheaded by Henry Waxman:

Anyone who has read Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by Michael Isikoff and me, would know (as we disclosed for the first time) that Valerie Wilson was the undercover operations chief for the Joint Task Force on Iraq of the Counterproliferation Division, a unit of the agency's clandestine operations directorate. (See my piece, "What Valerie Plame Really Did at the CIA," here.) Both the book and the article reported that she had traveled overseas--undercover--within the five years before her name appeared in the Novak column. There was other evidence--official evidence--that she had been a covert officer at the CIA. When special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Libby in October 2005, he said that Valerie Wilson's employment at the CIA was classified information. (He repeated that at the trial.) And in a January 2004 letter to Democratic Representative John Conyers, the CIA noted that the Valerie Wilson's CIA employment status was "classified information."

Now comes the victim of the leak. Testifying to the committee, Valerie Wilson reported that the CIA still prohibits her from saying much about her CIA career. (The agency has held up the publication of her memoirs, claiming at one point that she cannot acknowledge working for the CIA prior to 2002.) But Plame was able to tell the committee, "I was a covert officer." She said she helped to "manage and run operations." She noted that prior to the Iraq war she had "raced to discover intelligence" on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions," she said under oath, "to find vital intelligence." She said these trips had occurred within the past five years. She added that she could "count on one hand" the number of people outside the CIA who knew of her employment at the agency: "It was not common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit." She also explained that a covert officer at the CIA is "just like a general" who may spend time commanding troops in Afghanistan and then return to the Pentagon before heading off to another theater: "Covert operations officers, when they rotate back for temporary assignment in Washington, are still covert."

Before she testified, Representative Henry Waxman, the committee chairman, read an opening statement in which he said that Valerie Wilson had been a "covert" officer" who had "served at various times overseas" and "worked on the prevention of the development and use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States." Waxman noted that the CIA had cleared this statement. And during the questioning period, Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings reported that General Michael Hayden, the CIA director, had told him, "Ms. Wilson was covert."

When the White House engaged in the leaking of Plame Wilson's identity as CIA, it was done with full knowledge that she was a covert operative. It had to be; Cheney's office was in charge of the operation run by Joe Wilson's wife, they went looking for her when her husband went public with what he knew about the Iraq-Niger lie, and someone undoubtedly would have discovered her covert status upon learning she was CIA. Thus the crime of knowingly revealing Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA officer is itself proven--if only in the court of public opinion. Congress must issue subpeonas and hear testimony under oath, with charges of perjury and obstruction of justice preceeding impeachment or other sanctions for those caught lying under oath.

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