Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Unraveling the Thread

Here's what Karl Rove actually said to Matt Cooper of Time, according to Cooper's email:

"it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip"

In other words, the intent of Rove's conversation with Cooper was to downplay the significance of Wilson's discrediting of Iraq's intention to get uranium and wmd (the administration's theory for the war). He wanted Time to downplay the significance of Wilson's story by in effect saying that the trip was on behest of his wife, not at the direction of the head of the CIA.

What's undecipherable here from this email alone is Rove's intent. Was his intent merely to have Time downplay the Wilson story? Or was there a more sinister intent to in effect "smear" Wilson by "outing" his wife as a CIA agent? In order to answer this question you would need basically answer this question: did Rove know that Wilson's wife's activities for the CIA were meant to be covert?

Let's look at the facts. Rove peddled his story to three reporters: Cooper, Miller, and Novak. Only Novak bit the story and went on to spin it into a report that focused on "outing" Valerie Plame. We don't know what Rove actually said to Novak or why - but clearly, a fact was disclosed that Novak (rightly) perceived to be covert information and worthy of a story.

Let's first give Rove the benefit of the doubt and see where this goes. If Rove did not know that Plame's identity was covert, then the point he is trying to make is that apparently the fact that Plame was Wilson's wife somehow discredits the trip, and discredits Wilson's report. The trip was authorized...why? Because of personal relationship? But in this view, I'm having real trouble understanding what Rove is trying to achieve with this tidbit. That because the trip came out of a personal relationship, we should not believe it, or reporters should not discuss it? I don't really see how this makes Wilson's report any less valid. Sure, the internal process of the CIA might be a bit sloppy, but how does this fact serve to disuade reporters (or the public) from believing Wilson's report?

Now, let's say that Rove *did* know that he was disclosing a secret identity. Then this would change Rove's motive - not so much to discredit Wilson's report, but to exact a kind of revenge. Rove pitched the idea to three reporters, and only the most conservative one "bought" the pitch and disclosed Plame's identity. This logic makes perfect sense as it was effective and in fact what happened - Plame's identity was compromised, and Wilson "suffered" for his contradiction of the White House.

But this also leads to another question. If Rove disclosed this information *intentionally* to exact revenge on someone contradicting the White House propaganda on Iraq...one asks, why? The only reason would be to strike fear into other possible sources of contradiction, and pre-empt further scruitiny of the Iraq-wmd scenario (as this contradiction was already out of the bag). But if this is the case, then one must seriously ask - did Rove do this entirely on his own? Even if one credits Rove with being smart enough to leave Bush with plausible deniability, one must imagine at least a conversation like this: Bush to Rove: You have me standing up and saying that Iraq has WMDs. That Wilson guy is going to make me look like a fool. Rove to Bush: You're right. I'll take care of it. We'll have no more contradictions like that.

So it seems to me that if the question here is proving Rove's intentions, when one looks at plausible motivations, the burden seems to be to seriously be on Rove to come up with some convincing reason why he would push a story about Wilson's wife's involvement in his trip if the motive wasn't to "reveal" her status. And if he can't do that, then one must ask who else in the Administration - and even if Bush himself - might have been involved in compromising American security in order to insure their lie about why we were going to war.

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