May 29, 2008

McClellan's Losing Campaign - Part II

Hatched by Dafydd

Scott McClellan's pathetic campaign against George W. Bush -- hence for the election of Barack Obama -- continues apace; he keeps talking about more snippets from the book in interviews.

Today, McClellan bores deep into the Plame name blame game, which he sees as a "turning point" in his relationship with the president. But here is an oddity: It was clear to everyone from at least October 28th, 2005 -- the day that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted "Scooter" Libby -- that it was not true that Libby was uninvolved in the inadvertent leak of Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation; and it was also well known by then that Karl Rove had testified five times to Fitzgerald's grand jury, correcting some of his testimony. As I recall, we already knew at that time that the correction involved a conversation Rove had with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine... which clearly implied that Rove, too, had inadvertently revealed Plame's employment.

So by late October, 2005, Scott McClellan already knew that what he told reporters in 2003 was wrong. This was the moral "turning point," he now says.

Yet he continued in his White House employment, after Libby's indictment, for six more months; he did not resign until late April, 2006 -- when he was ousted by new White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Some "turning point!"

And once again, not a single charge of McClellan's is backed up by any evidence so far released... and much of it is in fact contradicted by strong, available documentation. (And this complete lack of evidence does indeed make McClellan, as Rove put it, sound like a "liberal blogger!")

Not only that, but McClellan and his new allies in the elite media (didn't they used to despise him?) now stoop to deliberate obscurantism to hide the absurdity of what they're claiming. Viz:

[McClellan] was ordered to say from the press room podium that White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were not involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Later a criminal investigation revealed that they were.

Revealed that they were "involved," yes; revealed that they were criminally culpable? No.

In fact, neither I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, nor Karl Rove, then Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy, was ever indicted for leaking Plame's name or CIA affiliation: Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and Rove was never indicted for anything at all.

("Involved" -- what a weasel word! For that matter, Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, and Tim Russert were also "involved," weren't they?)

During the investigation, Richard Armitage, then Deputy Secretary of State to Secretary of State Colin Powell, admitted that he was the first to inadvertently leak to reporter Robert Novak the fact that Lyin' Joe Wilson's wife was in the CIA; Armitage was also never indicted on any charge. Had the leak been intentional, the leaker would almost certainly have been indicted; thus it's a pretty fair conclusion that the Special Counsel believed the leaks were unintentional and inadvertent. (Particularly so since Armitage, like his boss Colin Powell, opposed the Iraq war... so why would be try to "discredit" the guy who was trying to prevent it?)

So yes, Libby and Rove were "involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press;" but AP (and McClellan, so far as they report) fail to mention that they were both exonerated of the accusation that they did so deliberately in order to discredit Wilson.

You would think that would be an important part of the story.

Here's another wonderful bit of half-truth misdirection from AP, which they save to the end as the supposed killer-anecdote that demonstrates, to everyone who already suffers from BDS, what a liar and hypocrite is George W. Bush:

And [McClellan] recalled a day in April 2006, when the unfolding perjury case against Libby had revealed that Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war. High-profile criticism was coming from Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, in those days before the war. [Take note that AP doesn't reveal what this "declassified" intelligence report was; but I'll let the beans out of the bag in a moment.]

The president was leaving an event in North Carolina, McClellan recalled, and as they walked to Air Force One a reporter shouted a question: Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?

McClellan took the question to the president, telling Bush: "He's saying you yourself were the one that authorized the leaking of this information."

"And he said, 'Yeah, I did.' And I was kind of taken aback," McClellan said.

"For me I came to the decision that at that point I needed to look for a way to move on, because it had undermined, I think, a lot of what we had said."

Really? Let's stick a few particulars into that vague and smelly indictment...

First, anytime an administrative official speaks to a news source off the record -- even if fully authorized -- that could be called "leaking." As McClellan himself has done this many times (along with every other White House Press Secretary), he should not feign such horror.

Second, let's clarify what "intelligence report" Bush "declassified" in 2003 or 2004 (not 2006). There are only two possibilities that McClellan could be referencing, and the first is easily dismissed:

  • The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate;
  • Or the 2002 intelligence report on the debriefing of a certain former ambassador who was recommended by his CIA wife to be sent to a certain African country.

The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate

President Bush relied upon this estimate, compiled by the CIA, in his decision to ask Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force; an AUMF is the legal equivalent of a declaration of war.

By mid-2003, with the war in full swing, the elite media was abuzz with claims that the 2002 NIE had said that Iraq had no WMD and was not even trying to develop any. In particular, these many stories claimed that the idea that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain Uranium had been "debunked" by the CIA before the war -- and that the war was therefore entirely predicated on a lie.

It turns out that all these stories had a single source: Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who had been sent to Niger by the CIA in response to his CIA wife's nagging of the Agency.

It was absurd that the CIA accepted Plame's suggestion of her husband for the trip. Its purpose was ostensibly to determine whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy Uranium yellowcake, yet Wilson had no expertise whatsoever in nuclear or WMD investigations. He did, however, have one indispensible qualification: He already believed the story was a fairy tale, even before he left for Africa.

When he returned, and after he was debriefed by his CIA handlers (see below), he covertly went to numerous elite-media sources and told them that he had found that the idea that Hussein was trying to acquire Uranium yellowcake was bunk. Later, he published an op-ed in the New York Times (July 6th, 2003) titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," in which he peddled the same claim.

As more and more people came to believe, because of this disinformation campaign, that the administration had "lied us into war" (a cherished Democratic mantra), the president decided to declassify parts of the NIE on which he had relied. Not the whole thing, as that would reveal sources and methods; just the "key judgments" that the CIA presented the White House. He did so with great fanfare on July 18th, 2003... the day after Scott McClellan was named White House Press Secretary. This is an important point: McClellan was already the presidential spokesman when Bush announced the declassification of parts of the NIE and distributed it to reporters; and even prior to his promotion, he was the Deputy Press Secretary to Ari Fleischer.

Therefore, I suggest that the NIE cannot be the "2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities" that Bush "declassified," which McClellan now says he first found out about in April of 2006. Obviously, McClellan knew about the declassification of portions of the 2002 NIE way back in 2003... when the rest of the civilized world found out about it.

So this cannot possibly be what AP means above, unless Scott McCellan is dumber than a box of Barbara's boxers. That leaves only one other reasonable possibility:

The 2002 intelligence report on Joe Wilson's debriefing by the CIA

On July 7th, 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a document titled Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. In the section titled "Niger," there is a chapter tantalizingly called "the Former Ambassador." It includes the following summary of the previously classified CIA debriefing of "the former ambassador" -- that is, of Lyin' Joe Wilson -- when he returned from the trip to the African nation of Niger that his CIA wife, Valerlie Plame, wangled for him. The briefing was included in an intelligence report disseminated within intelligence-community circles on March 8, 2002.

When the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to publish their report, they asked the president to declassify any intelligence in the report that was still classified. Bush complied; we don't know whether Wilson's debriefing was declassified at that point or before, but I don't recall anybody writing about it until after the report came out.

I strongly believe that this is what AP means when they write "Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war." I can think of no other 2002 intelligence report that has made its way into the unclass information world besides these two... and it cannot possibly be the NIE for reasons elucidated above.

But why did this declassification so enrage the Left -- and so horrify Scott McClellan, becoming one of his "turning points?" Let's see what, exactly, former Ambassador Joe Wilson did tell his CIA handlers when he returned. In this case, speculation is unnecessary, because we know exactly what information Wilson gave them from his little Nigerien adventure. From that same chapter linked above:

The intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip was disseminated on March 8, 2002. The report did not identify the former ambassador by name or as a former ambassador, but described him as "a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record." The report also indicted that the "subsources of the following information knew their remarks could reach the U.S. government and may have intended to influence as well as inform." DO officials told Committee staff that this type of description was routine and was done in order to protect the former ambassador as the source of the information, which they had told him they would do. DO officials also said they alerted WINPAC analysts when the report was being disseminated because they knew the "high priority of the issue." The report was widely distributed in routine channels.

(Redacted) The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, (Redacted) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."

And there you have it: In setting straight the record of prewar intelligence on Iraq, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee had to note that former Ambassador Joe Wilson (husband of former CIA employee Valerie Plame) told his CIA handlers that the former prime minister of Niger revealed that an Iraqi delegation tried to meet with him to discuss "expanding commercial relations," which the former prime minister believed was an attempt to purchase Uranium.

Wilson then went to the elite media and lied through his teeth... covertly, at first; but when that failed to bring down the Bush regime, overtly in an op-ed in the NYT. Thus, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report exposed Lyin' Joe Wilson as exactly what he was; and for that, the Left will never forgive either the president who declassified the debriefing or the committee that revealed Joe Wilson to the world.

For reference, here is what President Bush said in his January, 2003 State of the Union address... the very "sixteen words" that Wilson flatly claimed in his op-ed "was not borne out by the facts as I understood them."

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Sounds like an excellent summary of what former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki told former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.

Selective declassification vs. selective leaking

The elite media and its new sock puppet Scott McClellan make much to-do out of this final point, as if it were the synecdoche that encapsulates McClellan's entire charge:

Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?

Once again, vagueness to the rescue! There are two ways to "selective[ly] release" classified information; one is completely legal, the other criminal, despicable, and a gross and offensive betrayal of the United States of America:

  1. The president or some Congressional committees can legally declassify specific information, in consultation with the agency that classified it, and release it to the general public, including the news media;
  2. A disgruntled government employee, fighting against the express policy of the elected government, can criminally "leak" the classified information to individual elite reporters he believes are friendly to his cause, in an effort to destroy whatever legal intelligence program he dislikes.

AP is correct: The president has on many occasions decried a "selective release of secret intelligence" of Type 2, such as the leak of details about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (the NSA al-Qaeda telephone intercepts) or our perfectly legal -- nobody even denies this -- voluntary surveillance of the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system, part of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program to find and interdict terrorists' money transfers.

This sort of "selective release" does incalculable damage to our intelligence-gathering capabilities, puts human sources at risk, and alerts death-cult terrorists that they should change their modus operandi to avoid detection by intelligence and law-enforcement agents. Such leaks kill good people and aid and abet al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other evildoers.

But that's not what McClellan is whining about. He was so shocked and horrified that he "came to the decision that at that point [he] needed to look for a way to move on" because the president made no attempt to conceal the fact that he had engaged in a perfectly legal Type 1 "selective release of secret information": He formally declassified part of a CIA debriefing, after consultation with the CIA, possibly even at the request of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee.

Are you able to detect the subtle, miniscule difference between some low-level toady in the NSA leaking details of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, thus shutting off the flow of information about potential al-Qaeda cells in the United States -- and the president declassifying a summary of a debriefing that the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to release as part of a report on pre-war intelligence, more than a year after the debriefing was conducted?

If so, then you're one up on both the former White House Press Secretary and the elite media!

What McClellan didn't prove in his book

I'm sorry that so many folks are shocked to learn that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is a liar; but it's hardly the president's job to keep old intelligence documents classified -- even when the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to publish parts of them -- just to preserve Wilson's reputation... so he can continue to accuse President Bush of lying, when in fact the evidence indicates that all along, the liar was Wilson himself.

And I note, once again, that all of this was printed not only in the Senate report on July 7th, 2004; it was also discussed extensively -- and put into the context of debunking Joe Wilson's lies -- in a July 12th, 2004 column in the National Review by Clifford May. I myself was late to the game; I didn't start blogging (on Patterico's Pontifications) until May of 2005. But by October of that year, I was already posting about this on Big Lizards.

Where the hell was Scott McClellan that he wasn't already aware of this until sometime in April of 2006? The rest of us knew it eight months earlier.

More and more, the evidence indicates that McClellan's faux horror and his "turning points" are entirely fabricated after the fact... and the only two reasons I can imagine are (1) to sell more copies of his book, and (2) to set himself up for a position in the fantasized administration of President Barack Obama.

The saddest part is that even if Obama were elected, then just as with David Brock (anyone remember him?), he would no more give a job to a betrayer like Scott McClellan than he would pluck somebody else's used Kleenex out of the rubbish and blow his own nose into it.

McClellan is burning all his former friends and colleagues for nothing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 29, 2008, at the time of 6:41 PM

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Tracked on August 21, 2009 10:20 PM


The following hissed in response by: cdquarles


Excellent post, par usual. One minor editorial quibble. I don't know a Robert Novac being a major player in this kerfuffle, but I do remember a Robert Novak, who worked with Rowland Evans for many years (Evans & Novak columns from the days of yore).

The above hissed in response by: cdquarles [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 29, 2008 8:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: BarbaraS

I think Scott McClellan was approached by his publisher and was offered cash to allow his story to be ghost written by a liberal writer. This whole book sounds just like the liberal talking points for the last few years. Ignore the facts. Anything to bash Bush and during an election year so much the better. Sounds just like the liberals As far as Scott is concerned I wonder how much his 30 pieces of silver amounted to.

The above hissed in response by: BarbaraS [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 29, 2008 9:36 PM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 05/30/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 30, 2008 8:04 AM

The following hissed in response by: Ken Hahn

There is a good reason Dante put the betrayers at the bottom of Hell.

The above hissed in response by: Ken Hahn [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 30, 2008 11:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Andrew X

Had to chime in -

A huge part of the utterly ridiculous Plame story that gets virtually no play is the Amicus Curie brief filed by news organizations when Judy Miller was in jail for refusing to testify.

This was of HUGE significance to the story for the following reasons:

a) pages xi to xix of the brief which listed almost every primary news organization in the US and Britain as those filing the brief, i.e. making the brief to the court.

b) Their argument stating that Judy Miller should be freed primarily because no crime had been committed in any way! (Said the MEDIA, mind you.) Pages 5-7

c) A primary reason no crime had been committed was (among other things) that the allegedly violated Intelligence Identities Protection Act specifically stated that the US govt must be taking active measures to conceal the identity of the agent (Plame), and that the CIA showed not the slightest interest in concealing her identity at all, except after the fact when the political firestorm erupted. Pages 5-8

Thus, the law was not violated in any way, so let Judy Miller out, went the argument.

Remember, this was the MEDIA's LAWYERS making this argument (including MSNBC, by the way). Were their anchors and pundits saying the same thing that their own lawyers were? Mm hmm.

I was always stunned by the fact that no one seemed to care about this brief when the story was hot, although the incompetence of this administration in relying on all of US to make it's damn case for it over and over again stopped surprising me long ago.

I would post a link to this brief if I could, but I will send an email with the brief to Dafydd and he can post it here if he likes. If Sotty McC and crew are going to drag this embarassingly stupid horse out of the basement to beat it's dusty carcass all over again, then let's get this all-important brief out there as well.

The above hissed in response by: Andrew X [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2008 8:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Andrew X

Re-reading the above, I need to clarify:

RE: "Their argument stating that Judy Miller should be freed primarily because no crime had been committed in any way! (Said the MEDIA, mind you.) Pages 5-7"

Meaning there that no crime had been committed by the administration or it's people. That sentence is not referring at all to Judy Miller. Her charges were contempt of court, and had nothing to do with the case per se.

So the media's lawyers were totally exonerating the Bush administration in the middle of the case, while it's on-air people were doing something quite different.

Just clarifying.

The above hissed in response by: Andrew X [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2008 8:32 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Andrew X:

I will send an email with the brief to Dafydd and he can post it here if he likes.

I'm not really sure how to do that. But you must have gotten it from somewhere online (or else someone e-mailed it to you, and that someone got it from somewhere online!) Can't you link to that URL?


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2008 3:06 AM

The following hissed in response by: Andrew X

Aha! My apologies. I downloaded it long ago, and recently tried to find it but failed, so I assumed it disappeared.

But.... not so. Here is a link that I just managed to dig up.

The above hissed in response by: Andrew X [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2008 8:32 AM

The following hissed in response by: Andrew X

(still figuring out scripts, etc.)

Plame Amicus Curie (friend of the court) Brief

The above hissed in response by: Andrew X [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2008 8:39 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Andrew X:

(still figuring out scripts, etc.)

Aha, but you don't need to remember HTML coding on Big Lizards! That's what those buttons above the text box are for...

  1. Type the text that will serve as the link -- Plame Amicus Curie (friend of the court) Brief, in this case;
  2. Select that text;
  3. Click the button labeled "link"; a javascript box will pop up;
  4. Paste the URL in the box and click OK.

Et voila, the system creates the link code for you.

(You may already realize this, Andrew, but I like to go through the steps every now and again for others who might wonder what the buttons are for.)


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 2, 2008 1:51 PM

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