Thursday, July 14, 2005


I’d hoped to avoid the depression, bewilderment and rage that usually accompanies reading Wall Street Journal editorials, but yesterday’s “Karl Rove, whistleblower: He told the truth about Joe Wilson” is too big to ignore. The Journal also tends to be a leader in legitimizing crackpot conservative themes, so it’s worth the suffering just to know how the other side thinks.

The gist is that Rove, top political adviser and deputy chief of staff to President Bush, inadvertently leaked the identity of an undercover Central Intelligence Agency worker in warning a Time reporter that a source — Joe Wilson — couldn’t be trusted. The undercover agent was Wilson’s wife, and the intimation is that she got Wilson sent to Niger to check out information about Iraq’s pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. This is somehow supposed to invalidate his findings and the universally supportive findings since.

The editorial is packed with nonsense, including Wilson saying Vice President Cheney chose him for Niger (Wilson never said it) and that a year-old report by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee has found Wilson’s rejection of the Iraq-Niger claim to be undermined by the information he gathered. In other words, that Wilson is lying through creative interpretation (his findings represent a slight degree of ambiguity). (Here’s another good summary of the problems with the Journal editorial and those using the same talking points.)

Showing just how cracked the editorial is, though, requires only a single sentence:

The same bipartisan report also pointed out that the forged documents Mr. Wilson claimed to have discredited hadn’t even entered intelligence channels until eight months after his trip.

Note the stress on the word “after.” Readers may wonder why Wilson went to Niger, what he reported back on and what the controversy is about if there were no documents to investigate, especially since the sentence comes nine paragraphs into a 13-paragraph editorial and well after this bit of Journal exposition:

Media chants aside, there’s no evidence that Mr. Rove broke any laws in telling reporters that [Wilson’s wife] may have played a role in her husband’s selection for a 2002 mission to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium ore in Niger.

How can the Journal say that Wilson went to Niger to “investigate reports” that “hadn’t even entered intelligence channels” until months later?

The Journal is apparently drawing an absurd, distracting and meaningless distinction between actual documents and intelligence-agency summaries of those documents.

The Niger documents, which were forged, were bought and held by Italy’s Military Intelligence and Security Service, which supplied British and U.S. intelligence with summaries, not the documents themselves or copies of the documents. It is “standard practice to seldom pass on either details of how the information was obtained or actual copies of the raw documents,” writes James Bamford in “A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies” (Anchor Books, 2005). “The documents themselves, and how they were obtained, may reveal the source, something that most intelligence professionals are extremely careful about.”

The Journal’s thinking is that Wilson’s research is invalid because the actual documents weren’t seen until eight months after his travels, even though the substance of the documents differed not at all from the summaries from which Wilson (and the entire U.S. and British intelligence community) worked.

Looking at the actual documents, though, hints that Wilson’s trip was unnecessary, not that his research was shoddy or conclusions faked. This is because the forgeries are unbelievably bad. Here’s Bamford’s description:

A letter dated July 30, 1999, actually refers in the past tense to supposed deals agreed to in Niamey a year later, on June 29, 2000. And the October 10 letter had the heading “Conseil Militaire Supreme,” an organization that went out of existence in May 1989. The signature was that of Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Habibou, who held the post from 1988 to 1989 and and had been out of office for more than a decade. And finally, while the letter was dated October 10, it was supposedly stamped as received in Rome on September 28 — thus, it was received about two weeks before it was ever sent, another form of magic.

Also, the agreement signed by President Mamadou says the transaction was approved under the May 12, 1965, constitution, but a new constitution was promulgated on August 9, 1999, and the presidential signature bore little resemblance to that of the real Tandja Mamadou. At the same time, the forger used an inaccurate representation of the national emblem.

And a September 3, 2001, document attempting to show a connection to the attacks appears identical to the document outlining the ambassador’s previous 1999 trip — same flight and time. The only thing that was changed was the date at the top of the page. Also, by September 4, 2001, al-Zahawiah was no longer ambassador, a slight problem.


Brian Wanamaker said...

For what it is worth, I have been hoping for some time that Bush Jr. gets sideswiped by a Watergate style scandal that ends his term, and preferably implicates Cheney and Rummy as well. I would probably be willing to settle for just seeing Rove led to a policecar in handcuffs, and the subsequent demoralizationg of this little coup-originated regime.

eric said...

Marc: Quit sounding so much like a journalist! :) --e

Scape7 said...

If all goes well, I'll sound like one more and more.

eric said...

You editor, you.

Seriously...I think this thing is going to implode on the Ds.

I hate to say it, but all the Rs involved are actually pretty damn politically smart. Some of them are even smart, in general. (Insert spine shiver here.)

It's actually kind of awesome, in a twisted sort of way, how smart some of them are.

Scape7 said...

I'm not sure it's how smart the Republicans are as how continually the Democrats fail to truly grasp how low their opponents will stoop.

This is a kind of "Jackass" governing, wherein a select group keeps proving it will do anything — anything — to achieve its goals, with peers goading the members on, breathless and envious at their audacity, rewarding their daring. The behavior isn't good, sensible or healthy, and it shouldn't be acceptable, but the audience is so amused and dazzled that the stunts seem like breaking ground rather than breaking a covenant.

Unfortunately, someone almost always gets hurt.