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October 09, 2003

MARK STEYN ON PLAME:

If sending Joseph C. Wilson IV to Niger for a week is the best the world’s only hyperpower can do, that’s a serious problem. If the Company knew it was a joke all along, that’s a worse problem. It means Mr Bush is in the same position with the CIA as General Musharraf is with Pakistan’s ISI: when he makes a routine request, he has to figure out whether they’re going to use it to try and set him up. This is no way to win a terror war.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile Mark Kleiman writes:

If you're used to the idea that the people around George Bush do bad things, then it may be easy for you to swallow burning Valerie Plame as just another bad thing they did. But most of the bad things (bad, that is, in my view) that Bush and his colleagues do don't seem bad to them, or at least seem justified. (Sliming John McCain to win the South Carolina primary? Just politics; too bad, but that's the way the game is played.) From the very beginning, it's been hard for me to see how any of those folks could have talked themselves into an act so appallingly wrong according to their own standards.

It was hard for me to see that, too, but when I pointed it out people were accusing me of shilling for the Administration. Ron Bailey is sounding the same theme over at Reason:

Why would anyone in the White House think revealing that Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife worked under cover for the CIA would "punish" or "intimidate" him for publishing an article critical of the Bush Administration's use of bogus information about supposed Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from the African country of Niger? If disclosing that information was aimed at somehow "discrediting" Wilson, it was just plain stupid. Besides being illegal, it just makes Wilson seem more credible, not less.

Why, yes. That's what I thought, too. As I noted a while back:

But it doesn't make sense to me. First, if you want to "intimidate" someone, committing a felony at which you can be caught -- and which doesn't hurt the target -- doesn't seem to be the way to do it. What possible benefit was there to the Bush Administration in saying that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA? When what they could have said is what the British did say, which is that Wilson was gullible and inept? Had Plame been fired on a pretext, or Wilson's taxes been audited, or some such, then there'd be an "intimidation" argument. But this?

Meanwhile, as Kleiman notes, the "six reporters" to whom the story was allegedly shopped and that we've heard so much about may not even exist -- rather, they may have been contacted after Novak's story. Seems like this case really is complicated, after all. Advantage: InstaPundit!

And I grow steadily more suspicious of the CIA role in this as time goes on. I was already in favor of seeing Tenet fired -- and have been pretty much since 9/11 -- so this isn't exactly a deciding factor for me. But perhaps it should be a deciding factor for President Bush.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roger Simon notes: "I think the great mystery that possibly is underlying the entire Plame/Wilson Affair is why Tenet was not fired in the first place after 9/11."

Well, things are still complicated, so I'm not sure I'll say that it's the mystery underlying Plame. But, to me at least, it's a mystery all its own.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Doug Levene emails:

In addition to your suspicions about CIA treachery afoot, I would add my dismay that Wilson is getting a free ride for perfectly dishonorable behavior, namely writing an Op-Ed about the results of a confidential mission that he undertook for the CIA simply because he was pissed off that the president failed to take his advice. I always thought that if you worked for the CIA, your work product stayed in Langley. That principle applies just as much to a one-time special assignment as to a career employee. Why aren't all the folks so indignant about protecting the sanctity of the CIA concerned about Wilson's breach of his duty of loyalty and confidentiality?

I think that the CIA is in desperate need of some re-engineering, and that Bush has been handed an excuse to do it.

MORE: Donald Sensing says that nobody really wants to expose the leaker, regardless of party, for obvious Washington institutional reasons.

But I do!

STILL MORE: Reader Frank Walters wonders:

Quite aside from alleged White House revenge motiations, nothing else about the Wilson/Plame dust-up makes any sense. Does not the CIA realize that assigning a covert agent's spouse to a special mission doubles the risk to both of exposure should either be revealed (particularly if both relate to WMDs)? I am amazed that they do not have a policy against such paralled missions for spouses. And does not Joseph Wilson have enough experience in public life to realize that stirring up a huge media storm increases whatever danger there is to his wife of being exposed through his mission (even if Novak had revealed her CIA connection earlier)? Finally, was his mission not classified? If so, why is he not in violation of the law by revealing its details? If it was not classified, assigning it to the spouse of a covert CIA agent makes even less sense.

I agree.

MORE STILL: Here.