Monday, October 31, 2005

All the Vice President's Men

For those of you who are interested in the whole Valerie Plame affair, the forming of the case for war in Iraq, and the abnormally significant role of "the Veep" in both, Juan Cole, professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, has a refreshingly complete and detailed piece in Salon.com on the subject. Here's the link (nota bene: to get into Salon, you have to watch a quick ad, but once you're in you can look around all you want). The Joe Conason article is pretty good, too.

And of course, you should take a gander at the indictment itself; there's a lot of myth-busting that takes place in the first 5 or so paragraphs, but if you have time then you really should read the whole thing. Don't rely on what the pundits are saying as to whether or not the charges are technicalities or whether Fitzgerald has a strong case or whatever. Read the indictment for yourself and tell me what you think. Me, I think Libby is SCREWED.

And by the way, Josh Marshall found this AP article that identifies "Official A" in the indictment as Karl Rove.

Speaking of Plame, I want to take a second to talk about some stuff from CBS News that I saw today, specifically about why this is a big deal, despite what shills of the Rush Limbaugh variety may claim. Let's start with the obvious: Valerie Plame was a covert agent for the CIA (as the Fitzgerald investigation has stated as fact), so blowing her cover mid-assignment could have jeopardized her safety. It most certainly ended her career. It also prematurely ended that assignment, and seeing as how she worked in weapons of mass destruction that assignment was probably pretty damn important (one would think especially to an administration so obsessed with WMDs).

But just how important was she, her career, and her assignment, you might ask? A brief explanation of the nature of her job is necessary. The CIA uses two kinds of agents: OCs and NOCs. OCs, or those with "official cover," are attached to an embassy or the State Dept. and have diplomatic immunity. The worst case scenario for them is they get caught and deported. NOCs, or those with "non-official cover" are unaffiliated with any government body. Like James Bond, if NOCs get caught, officially neither the State Dept. nor the CIA have ever heard of them, so their jobs are much more dangerous. Thus, an NOC's identity is an extremely closely guarded secret, and leaking it can be disastrous for that person and for others who associated with them, even those who never knew that person was CIA. There is an understanding between these operatives and the government, that if they're doing this incredibly dangerous work, that the least the government can do is protect their identities to the best of its ability. Ya think it might be a bad thing if other operatives out there see what happened to Plame and have second thoughts about their career choices?

Due to that lack of a direct connection, however, they can get into places OCs can't, and therefore end up with the more important missions. Such an assignment requires creating a whole other life in a sense; you have to get a job (or in Plame's case, build a network of contacts who knew her only as an ambassador's wife) at whatever place you're spying on, work your way up to where you can get the information and be trusted by the people there, make friends, etc., so it takes an average of 10-15 years just to cultivate a single one of these assignments. They then serve as our eyes and ears out in places to which no one else can get. Thus it's a huge loss for the intelligence community, and for our national security, when one of these is wiped out.

These losses are potentially compounded by the fact that Bob Novak, the columnist who first published Plame's identity, also published the name of her fictitious CIA-front employer. It is likely that a number of NOCs used that front as a current or past employer; they may have put that employer on their business card or resume. Now they're outed, too.

It also gives the world a glimpse at how the CIA operates. For instance, now everyone knows that they have on at least one occasion used an ambassador's wife as an NOC; do you really think Plame was the only one of those, and if she wasn't the only one, that the others aren't also suddenly being watched and probably investigated?

5 comments:

TioChuy said...

Well at least everyone in the "ministration" has a good heart.

Doke said...

Hey nick! I think you need to give us a little "Vietnam" story!

havent heard one since back in 1989.

TioChuy said...

Check out my blog, it's Chuy's place Derek has a link on here. I'll get a little Vietnam action going.

El Ranchero said...

Yes, Nick, the preznit looked into their souls!

TioChuy said...

That's got to be scary I wonder if there is some weird ritual in the basement of the White House for that. I'd be scared out of my mind. "Mr. Ervin, the President will now look into your soul."