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Valerie Plame and the AIPAC Spies

Valerie Plame and the AIPAC Spies

I apologize if this is repetition, but I have been away for five days
and don’t know what has been circulated in email. Two things struck me
in the news last week.
The first was the revelation that Richard Armitage had been the original
source for Robert Novak’s outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA employee who
had allegedly arranged the great reward for her husband, Joe Wilson, of
a trip to Niger to look into the allegation that Saddam had sought to
obtain some yellow cake from that country. I guess if one is thoroughly
bored with life a trip to Niger might sound appealing, but I’m sure Joe
had better things to do with his time. If you’ve ever been to Niger you
know what I mean.
The Bush-protecting press headed by the Washington Post jumped all over
this story, claiming that Armitage had simply been engaging in gossip, a
respectable Washington activity among the elite of this town, and that
no malice was intended toward Plame, Wilson, or anyone else. The
mainstream media furthermore argued that because this was just well
known gossip there was really no conspiracy by the administration to
discredit Joe Wilson because he had challenged a basic argument for the
invasion of Iraq.
But buried in the article reporting this news was a startling fact: that
Armitage had learned about Plame’s employment from a memo circulated by
Scooter Libby to key administration officials. What was that memo all
about? Clearly, it was part of Libby’s effort, ordered by Cheney, to
attack Wilson and discredit him as a critic of the administration. In
other words, there was a campaign, with Libby in charge, to do just
that, by planting this charge against Plame-Wilson in the press, and
Armitage became an instrument of it, among a number of others who talked
to the press with people other than Novak.
The most despicable manifestation of this “revelation” was the editorial
published by the Washington Post on 9/1/06. It is so bad that I will
circulate the full text in a following email. For the moment it will
suffice that I give you the final paragraph of the editorial, in which
the Post blames Wilson for the whole affair, and even accuses him of
claiming “falsely” that he had debunked reports of Iraqi
uranium-shopping in Niger. His charge was accurate and the Post owes him
an apology, if not a whole lot more. Here is the paragraph, which
follows the statement that Libby and Cheney “were careless about
handling information that was classified”:
QUOTE
Nevertheless, it now appears that the person most responsible for the
end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go
public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out
-- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and
that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He
ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as
Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on
such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted
responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that
President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy.
It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
END QUOTE
Disgusting. But while we are on the subject of disclosing classified
material, what about the case against the former AIPAC officials, who
are being prosecuted under the long-ago Espionage Act? The mainstream
press has been all over this case, trying to argue that it is a First
Amendment issue, that it will inhibit the press from doing its duty in a
democracy, that it will prevent journalists from protecting their
sources, that it will set a precedent that might even topple the
republic. This frenzy of commentary has been as much about protecting
our sacred media as it has been about protecting the Bush administration
from a serious embarrassment (not to mention Israel, of course). The
press has focused on the fact (assuming it is one) that the two
lobbyists talked to press people about certain classified matters that
they had picked up,
which the press argued was an absolutely normal activity among press and
lobbyist circles in Washington. True enough. But that is not all that
happened.
The two AIPAC operatives’ agent at the Pentagon, Larry Franklin, has
pleaded guilty to passing classified information to unauthorized persons
(the AIPAC guys), and is cooperating. That much is proved. But the AIPAC
defendants are being prosecuted for passing on that information—not to
journalists alone—but to the Embassy of Israel in Washington. So far as
we know Israel is a foreign country, and passing classified information
to a foreign country is a crime under the Espionage Act that is being
used in this case by the prosecution. There is no First Amendment
protection for spies, and that is what the AIPAC operatives were and
are. It doesn’t matter whether the foreign country is friendly or an
ally, it only has to be foreign. It is well known that Israel conducts
espionage against this country (Jonathan Pollack anyone?).
AIPAC fired the two guys, supposedly because they had exceeded their
mandate. More likely they were fired for getting caught and causing
embarrassment, a hideous crime. The fact is AIPAC should be required to
register as an agent of a foreign country. We should, I think, also be
lenient with the two guys; they were only doing what they were paid to
do by AIPAC.

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Robert V. Keeley
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