“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Welcome Back to Washington.

Valerie Wilson. I watched her. I watched the Democrats question her. Henry Waxman led the party. I guess when separated by time and distance you forget how bad they can be. Some of the prize members of the Congressional Black Caucus, were truly exceptional, one even a trained spy and ex-diplomat, undercover herself. mmm, mmmm, mm.

I don't know what I think about Valerie. I do know what I think of the leadership of a nominal Republican Administration that so dropped the ball that they brought the Democrats back in force. mmm, mmmm, mm.With a phalanx of cameras awaiting her entrance, Valerie Wilson stepped out of the shadows of the spy world and into the spotlight. Here is how the left leaning San Fransisco Chronicle sees it.

For nearly four years, Wilson had been a silent figure at the center of one of Washington's most consuming scandals. Her unmasking as a CIA officer became a case study of the brutal politics of the Iraq war and launched a criminal probe that led to the conviction of a top White House official.

On Friday, Wilson finally offered her inside account, testifying before a congressional committee that she felt like she had been "hit in the gut" when her once-secret identity appeared in the media, and accusing the Bush administration of "recklessly" blowing her cover.

She answered lingering questions about her husband's role in investigating one of the Bush administration's most alarming pre-war claims about Iraq and provided new details on the maneuvering between the White House and the CIA in the run-up to the war.

But spectacle often trumped specifics. When Wilson emerged from a doorway at the corner of the committee chambers, dozens of camera lenses swung in unison to catch her entrance.

At one point, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., alluded to the flashbulb atmosphere as well as the oddity of publicly questioning a woman who spent the bulk of her career hiding her identity.

"I've never questioned a spy before," Westmoreland said.

"I've never testified under oath before," Wilson shot back.

In her opening statement, Wilson made clear she has been waiting for a chance to confront critics. At one point, she said her identity was not "common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit," as some have whispered in Washington in an attempt to discount the damage of the disclosure of her identity.

She said she has been on secret foreign missions within the past five years and was undercover when her name appeared in a newspaper column in 2003.

Wilson also came prepared to settle scores with the Bush administration, which carried out a campaign to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after he surfaced as a potent critic of the case for war in Iraq.

"We in the CIA always know we might be exposed by foreign enemies," she said. "It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover."

Friday's hearing, held by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, was ostensibly designed to assist lawmakers in drafting improved procedures for safeguarding classified information. But the unacknowledged purpose was to give a platform to someone who had been a mystery figure in a scandal bearing her name.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, chairman of the committee, said the panel had negotiated ground rules for the hearing with the CIA to prevent the disclosure of classified information, including details of Valerie Wilson's background. As a result, Wilson, 43, offered only a general outline of her 20-year career at the agency, saying she was working in the counterproliferation division of the agency -- a branch devoted to tracking the global spread of illicit weapons -- when her identity was exposed.

But for the first time, she offered her version of the chronology leading up to that breach.

In early 2002, Wilson said, she was approached by "a young junior officer" who was "very upset" after getting a phone call from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney asking about a report that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger.

Wilson characterized the call as part of a broader campaign by Cheney to pressure the CIA, a charge that Cheney, as well as senior CIA officials who were present at the agency at the time, have denied.

Bush administration officials later alleged that Wilson had proposed sending her husband to Niger to investigate, casting the trip as a boondoggle. But Wilson, who is also known by her maiden name, Plame, insisted that was not the case.

"No. I did not recommend him, I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved," she said. Wilson said the idea was proposed by another officer in her division.

"I was somewhat ambivalent at the time," she said. "We had 2-year-old twins at home, and all I could envision was me by myself at bedtime with a couple of 2-year-olds. So I wasn't overjoyed with this idea."

Joseph Wilson traveled to Niger and returned to file a report with the CIA saying he had found no evidence backing up the uranium claim. Nevertheless, the allegation was included in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.

After the U.S. invasion, when it became evident that Iraq had no banned weapons, Joseph Wilson came forward publicly to accuse the White House of twisting the pre-war intelligence, prompting a White House campaign to discredit him.

Valerie Wilson said she was at home when she learned her name had been published in a column by Robert Novak. She said her husband threw a copy of the newspaper on the bed and said, "He did it," meaning Novak had printed her name.

"I felt like I had been hit in the gut," she said.

Wilson also said she immediately recognized -- and was subsequently informed by a superior at the agency -- that her clandestine career was over.

Wilson was able to testify in part because the criminal investigation of the leak ended earlier this month, when Lewis "Scooter" Libby, formerly Cheney's chief of staff, was convicted on four felony counts of lying to investigators. Neither Libby nor any other government official has been charged with leaking Wilson's identity.

Even so, Waxman said CIA Director Michael Hayden had informed the committee that at the time Wilson's identity was exposed, she was an undercover officer, and any disclosure of her employment status with the agency was prohibited by executive order.


  1. "Even so, Waxman said CIA Director Michael Hayden had informed the committee that at the time Wilson's identity was exposed, she was an undercover officer, and any disclosure of her employment status with the agency was prohibited by executive order."

    That's what Waxman made it sound like, but listening or reading carefully, it is NOT accurate.

    Money Quote:
    WAXMAN: I'm trying to say as carefully as I can. He reviewed my statement, and my statement was that she was a covert agent.

    Trial in Error - Victoria Toensing

    WAXMAN: I am stunned, Ms. Toensing, that you would come here with absolute conclusions that she was not a covert agent; the White House did not leak it; no one seemed to know in advance that she was a CIA agent. Do you know those facts for your own firsthand knowledge?

    TOENSING: Well, lets just take those one by one. As I said, I was there. I was the chief drafter for chairman --

    WAXMAN: I'm not asking for your credentials. I'm asking how you reached those conclusions. Do you --

    TOENSING: That's part of my credentials is because I know what the intent of the act was.

    WAXMAN: I'm not asking what the intent of the act was.

    TOENSING: Well that’s the question.

    WAXMAN: Do you know that she was not a covert agent?

    TOENSING: She is not a covert agent under the act.

    WAXMAN: Okay, so --

    TOENSING: You can call anybody anything you want to in the halls of the CIA.

    WAXMAN: General Hayden! General Hayden, head of the CIA, told me personally that she was. If I said that she was a covert agent, it wouldn't be an incorrect statement?

    TOENSING: Does he want to swear that she was a covert agent under the act?

    WAXMAN: I'm trying to say as carefully as I can. He reviewed my statement, and my statement was that she was a covert agent.

    TOENSING: Well, he didn't say it was under the act.

    WAXMAN: Okay, so you're trying to define it exactly under the act.

    TOENSING: That's important.

    WAXMAN: No, no, no, no, no, no. I'm not giving you -- I'm not yielding my time to you.

  2. THIS GRAND JURY CHARGES RICHARD L. ARMITAGE with intentionally keeping silent about being the first person to reveal Plame's identity to reporters and with falsely telling the public that he did so at Fitzgerald's request because he did not want to be publicly embarrassed.
    · Armitage attributed his more than three years of silence to Fitzgerald's request that he not discuss the matter with anyone. But Fitzgerald was not appointed until Dec. 30, 2003, three months after Armitage now says he realized that he was Novak's source.

    · Despite Armitage's claim as to why he kept silent, he yakked to his subordinate Marc Grossman about what he had said in his FBI interview -- conveniently, the night before Grossman's own FBI interview.

  3. ARMITAGE and POWELL let Scooter twist in the wind when the truth would have set him free.
    They ALSO allowed the Admin and the country to be distracted and diminished in Wartime by this folly>

    My Gut has yet to be proved wrong about Powell being a low-life backstabber.

  4. WASHINGTON (Associated Press) --
    The White House dropped its contention Friday that former Counsel Harriet Miers first raised the idea of firing U.S. attorneys, blaming "hazy memories" as e-mails shed new light on Karl Rove's role. Support eroded further for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

    Presidential press secretary Tony Snow previously had asserted Miers was the person who came up with the idea, but he said Friday, "I don't want to try to vouch for origination." He said, "At this juncture, people have hazy memories."

    The White House also said it needed more time before deciding whether Miers, political strategist Rove and other presidential advisers would testify before Congress and whether the White House would release documents to lawmakers.

    "Given the importance of the issues under consideration and the presidential principles involved, we need more time to resolve them," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. She said White House Counsel Fred Fielding suggested to the House Judiciary Committee that he get back to members on Tuesday.

    "At this juncture, people have hazy memories."

    When will they ever learn?
    The Bush Whte House has no learning curve, even after the Scooter meltdown?

    The White House may invoke Executive Privilage to keep Mr Rove from Capital Hill?

    That'll fly like a lead balloon

    Snow said it was not immediately clear who first floated the more dramatic idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys shortly after President Bush was re-elected to a second term.

    "This is as far as we can go: We know that Karl recollects Harriet having raised it and his recollection is that he dismissed it as not a good idea," Snow told reporters. "That's what we know. We don't know motivations. ... I don't think it's safe to go any further than that."

    Asked if Bush himself might have suggested the firings, Snow said, "Anything's possible ... but I don't think so." He said Bush "certainly has no recollection of any such thing. I can't speak for the attorney general."

    "I want you to be clear here: Don't be dropping it at the president's door," Snow said.

    The "buck" doesn't stop at the Oval Office, not this term.

  5. The firings should have been a non-issue.
    ...if POTUS was a leader that simply asserted the facts.
    Fact being in this case is that it is the President's perogative.
    FUBAR enveloped the place some time back, and it now seems like everything is just a playing out of W's pathologies.
    Not an ideal agenda.

  6. It became an issue when they began to lie about it, doug.

    The "cover up" is always more of an "issue" than the crime.

    Clinton fired ALL the attorneys, and faded some GOP heat, but soldiered on, regardless. The Bush Team lies and dissembles when there is no reason to. It's become just another habit for them, now.

    Oh what tangled webs they weave
    when first they practice to decieve.

  7. Yep, if lying when there is no reason to is not pathological, I don't know what is.

    Blogs can top the Press

    Copeland said the relatively small world of left-of-center political blogs now receives an estimated 160 million page views a month, in the same ballpark as some major newspapers and far more than any opinion magazine.

  8. The big problem facing Gonzales, and the White House in general, is that with a Democratic majority wielding subpoena power, he and others are likely to be spending some time under oath. The rules for that kind of party are that you have to tell the truth, something which has not always been easy this administration.

    "When an attorney general lies to a United States senator, I think it is time for that attorney general to go," Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor said Thursday. "He did not only lie to me as a person, but when he lied to me, he lied to the Senate and to the people I represent."

    It is one thing for a Democratic Senator to take that line, but when the GOP begins to crack, like this:
    "It is ultimately the president's decision, but perhaps it would benefit this administration if the attorney general was replaced with someone with a more professional focus rather than personal loyalty," said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. He complained of "a pattern of arrogance in this administration."

    Now Congressman Rohrabacher is from the Left Coast so perhaps he be a closet leftist BDSer, but that does not explain this:

    Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Judiciary Committee member, said Gonzales should go if it is proved he misled Congress.

    "I've not joined in a call for his resignation, but when a top official in a department is inaccurate in their testimony, we're going to have a look at it," Sessions told National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program. "That's just the way it is. And I hope that he will be able to answer that convincingly, that there is no ethical or other malintent in misleading Congress. If he did, I think he will be out of there."

    Republican Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire has already called for Bush to replace Gonzales, ...

    Left out the unnamed source that said that he'll come out next week and call for Gonzo's resignation. We seem to have names enough willing to take such a stand.

    I guess that the GOPers did not get the e-mail, the one stating that in politics, like war, deception is paramount, when dealing with the US public.

    The memo writers forget, there is a difference between tactical deceptions and strategic ones.

    Strategic deception erodes your base, proof's in the pudding.

  9. It's 20 or so blocks up town to the heart of the media establishment, the Midtown towers that house the big newspaper, magazine and book publishers. And yet it was here in a neighborhood of bodegas and floral wholesalers that, over the last two months, one of the biggest news stories in the country — the Bush administration's firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was pieced together by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.

    The bloggers used the usual tools of good journalists everywhere — determination, insight, ingenuity — plus a powerful new force that was not available to reporters until blogging came along: the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with readers via the Internet and to deputize those readers as editorial researchers, in effect multiplying the reporting power by an order of magnitude.

  10. Rohrabacher is more upset than anyone about busting the 2 border agents.

  11. Well, doug, it's just another symptom of BDS, to support those Border Patrolmen.

    It is Mr Bush's Justice Department that prosecuted them. To stand with the Border Patrolmen is to stand against the Administration.
    Plain as Day.

    That Congressman must be mentally deranged, no?

  12. I'll bet the families of those agents are whiners too.

  13. It is one thing for the leftists to suffer from BDS, but when the conservatives find themselves with the symptoms, well it seems as if the Syndrome is spreading.

    Rufus's link yesterday indicated the entire US is in the throes of it. Only a pocket or two of sanity left, that writer, Mazzula: Writing at Kudlow's, believed.

    Well, he thinks we are all foolish and Mr Bush wise. Mazzula sees the benefits of democracy in Iraq, but not the US, strange indeed.

  14. Accordingly, the spread of the BDS pandemic is all to be dropped at Dan Rather's doorstep.
    Certainly not, as Mr Snow tells US, at Mr Bush's.

  15. Desert Rat: I guess that the GOPers did not get the e-mail, the one stating that in politics, like war, deception is paramount, when dealing with the US public.

    Honest Abe: "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

  16. First, I must admit, my trusty macpro laptop is not with me. I am using a hotel windows based machine, and I am somewhat lame with it.

    I will be back in business on Sunday. I do reccomend you see that hearing under Mr. Waxman. Some of the dumbest people on the planet are on that select committee.

  17. Deuce,

    The President is that rare individual made large by comparison.

  18. Mazzula sees the benefits of democracy in Iraq, but not the US, strange indeed--desert rat

    It hadn't occured to me that somebody would take my dissent from a US democratic result to be evidence that I disagreed with the concept of democracy as beneficial for the US.

    In any case, it isn't a fair assessment of my views. I view dissent and criticism as a part of the democratic process. I don't see anything anti-democratic about it.