I have watched during the last week as bloggers and the MSM have finally started to focus on the real story in the case involving the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name; the fact that there is a rogue faction at the CIA who opposed the policies of the President of the United States and tried to defeat those policies by selectively leaking classified information to friendly reporters.
This is the dirty business of government being exposed to the light of day. On the one hand, you have the White House with a President duly elected that has made the tough decision to go to war. On the other side, you have a political faction at the CIA who can justify their opposition to the Administration by chalking it up as differences in policy. The amazing number of selective leaks prior to the election that constantly put the administration on the defensive with regards to what they knew about WMD before the war was another manifestation of the partisanship of this faction. Given the mountains of intelligence analyses prior to the Iraq war on WMD, to cherry pick opposing views and then leak them to the press was an outrageously partisan attempt to discredit the President.
If Joe Wilson could sit by a pool sipping mint tea and talk with a few officials, why couldnâ€™t such an inquiry be handled by agency personnel already in country? Why a â€œspecial mission?â€
The answer is that the CIA wanted to make sure they got the right answers from the â€œinvestigation.â€ So they send glory boy Wilson on a made up errand to insure that the intelligence is â€œfixedâ€ to absolve the Niger government of colluding with the Iraqis in what two separate inquiries have concluded was a real attempt to circumvent sanctions to purchase uranium. And to obscure that fact, Wilson has to make it appear that his talent and contacts alone were the reason he was sent to Niger not that his wife was part of a faction out to discredit the Administrationâ€™s WMD claims prior to going to war with Iraq.
This may in fact be the real cover-up. What started as a policy dispute between WMD experts at CIA and the â€œNeoconsâ€ in the Bush Administration may have escalated to include the CIA selective leaking of classified information in order to swing an election. And right in the middle of this cover up may be the Wilson-Plame connection regarding the Niger mission.
On August 2nd, I covered more selective leaking from the CIA for The American Thinker. This time it was a National Intelligence Estimate with regards to Iran’s nuclear ambitions:
The point is that regardless of recent steps to reform our intelligence capability, it appears that weâ€™re still working with a dysfunctional system where agency personnel feel perfectly comfortable with leaking classified information in a bid to influence both Administration policy and the political process. No one expects everybody to agree on everything. But the American people have a right to expect that the unelected bureaucrats who work at the CIA allow policy making to reside with those we have entrusted for the task â€“ the elected representatives of the people.
Now we have a host of bloggers and mainstream media columnists calling for an investigation of the CIA. Victoria Toensing:
“The CIA conduct in this matter is either a brilliant covert action against the White House or inept intelligence tradecraft. It is up to Congress to decide which.”
Having Wilson go public was very useful to the CIA, especially the division where his wife worked â€” because it served to shift blame for failed “slam dunk” intelligence claims away from the agency. To say that Bush “twisted” intelligence was to presume â€” falsely â€” that the CIA had gotten it right.
When the White House ineptly tried to counter Wilson’s tall tales by revealing that he wasn’t an expert and his wife set up the trip, the CIA demanded a criminal probe â€” and then itself broke the law by leaking that news
We believe that someone needs to answer the questions raised recently by Joseph F. DiGenova, a former federal prosecutor and independent counsel:
Was there a covert operation against the president?
If so, who was behind it?
These aren’t the musings of the tinfoil-hat brigade. A sober-minded case can be made that at least some people in the CIA may have acted inappropriately to discredit the administration as a way of salvaging their own reputations after the intelligence debacles of 9-11 and Iraqi WMD.
But the Agency’s double-dealing on evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction begs another question: Was the CIA an honest broker of information that seemed, early on, to link Iraq to the 9/11 attacks?
Then there are bloggers like Michael Barone, Mark Noonan, and Scott Johnson who are calling for an investigation of the CIA. While I wholeheartedly endorse such a probe, the question is how focused could such an investigation get?
The wide range of malfeasance on the part of the CIA has been breathtaking. Their leaking of classified information has encompassed so many aspects of American policy all over the world that it must be the work of some very senior intelligence officials. Only top level officials would be in a position to gather and collate such wide ranging intel to be put in regular briefings for policy makers or be the ones giving the briefings themselves. The latter is less likely but not out of the realm of possibility. In short, we aren’t just looking at the kind of leaking done by low-level analysts who may be disgruntled with the way the Administration used a specific bit of intelligence. We are talking about people at the highest levels of the Agency who are in a position to decide what intelligence is passed on to policy makers and what intelligence is withheld.
And no investigation would be complete without hauling before the Committee members of VIPS - the so-called “Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity” whose membership includes some of the most radical left wing Democratic party partisans working today. Did members of this group act as conduits between their friends still working at the Agency and national security columnists like Walter Pincus and Nick Kristoff? Inquiring minds want to know, indeed.
The last major Congressional investigation of CIA activities was the Church Committee. Most inside observers at the Agency claim that the revelations and subsequent fall out from the Committee’s hearings nearly destroyed the CIA. Morale hit rock bottom when Admiral Stansfield Turner became the DCIA under President Carter. Turner dismantled our human intelligence capability (HUMINT) and stressed the gathering of intel by so-called “National Technical Means.” We found out to our detriment on 9/11 how vitally important HUMINT is to the overall picture intelligence analysts try to draw for policy makers.
The satellites and other technical means we have at our disposal to gather and analyze intelligence are the most closely guarded secrets in America. By leaking some of the classified intelligence about Saddam’s capabilities and intentions prior to the war, the leakers have given our enemies hints as to what we can see, what we can hear, and what we can read from nations and individuals that try and hide these things from prying eyes. In short, leaking by Agency partisans did far more damage to national security than the “outing” of an Agency staffer whose husband apparently bragged about her CIA employment to anyone and everyone who he met.
So any investigation of the CIA must be done with considerable care. It cannot be a scattershot fishing expedition. Too much is at stake to cripple the work done by the CIA in this time of war. But an investigation must be done in order to rid the Agency once and for all of people who place partisan or career considerations above the good of the nation.