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October 3, 2003, 9:10 P.M.

Blast from the past: John W. Dean, of Watergate fame, surfaces to give some unsolicited advice to Mr. and Mrs. Wilson in this Salon piece today. He suggests that the Wilsons sue the Bush administration, starting with Karl Rove, on the grounds that a subpoena is harder to ignore than an FBI agent. He describes a lawsuit brought by the Democratic National Committee against the Committee to Re-elect the President that caused a lot of anxiety in Nixon's White House. But most importantly, he sees many similarities between the Bush administration and the Nixon White House. He should know.

October 2, 2003, 10:10 A.M.

Have a look at Michael Moran’s article on today’s MSNBC, “The Risk of a Tet In Iraq?”. He predicts that plans are being hatched within Iraq for attacks on U.S. troops or Iraqi civilian “soft” targets to deal the final blow to U.S. occupation by destroying support for the war here at home. For an excellent history, read “After Tet: The Bloodiest Year in Viet Nam by Ronald Spector.

October 1, 2003, 12:45 P.M.

Read this excellent analysis by Richard Wolffe, “Credibility Gap,” from today’s MSNBC on why the Niger story persists and how it poses a threat to the White House.

September 29, 2003, 3:15 P.M.

I wouldn't want to be the President’s Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, this week. The President and Karl Rove put him in the unenviable position of being pressed to deny something that he has taken great pains to know nothing about.

I’ve just read the transcript of McClellan’s White House press briefing on Monday morning, and I can almost feel his discomfort. The subject of Monday’s briefing was possible White House’s involvement in the outing of the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame, as a CIA covert agent by “senior administration officials.” Sunday’s Washington Post contains an excellent account of this story, which has been developing since July. You may recall that former Ambassor Joseph Wilson, who was dispatched to Niger to investigate claims of Iraq trying to purchase yellowcake (uranium ore) from that African nation, and who concluded after his visit in February 2002 that there was no evidence to support such a claim. Despite Wilson’s investigation, President Bush referred to the uranium from Africa claim in those infamous “16 words” in his State of the Union speech. Wilson published a piece in the New York Times on July 7, 2003, entitled, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” in which he set the record straight about the yellowcake claims and concluded that the administration had been playing fast and loose with intelligence to push us into war with Iraq.

According to Sunday’s article in the Washington Post, as well as in a much earlier piece by Josh Marshall in The Hill, “two senior administration officials” then picked up the phone and called several journalists, including Robert Novak, to identify Wilson’s wife, Valerie, as a CIA covert operative, and imply that nepotism was the reason that Wilson was sent on the mission to Niger, in order to discredit him and his findings. The motivation was purely spite. Novak dutifully reported all of this in his column of July 14, 2003, including the identity of Wilson’s wife, and blew her cover as an unofficial covert CIA operative, putting the lives of her contacts at risk.

Wilson, reacting angrily, was quoted as saying, “"At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." Although people who make a living thinking about these things seem to doubt that Karl Rove made these calls personally, it is interesting to note that Rove has not, even through McClellan, denied doing so.

People who reveal the identity of undercover CIA operatives go to prison. In the words of George Bush’s father, who was the head of the CIA before he became president, at the dedication of the CIA headquarters that bear his name, “I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors.”

Of course, Washington is now beside itself with anticipation, and the parlor game du jour is trying to guess who the “two senior administration officials” might be. McClellan was repeatedly asked at Monday’s briefing whether or not he could deny that Karl Rove made the telephone calls to the journalists, or whether he or the President had any knowledge of whether anyone in the White House made the calls. He tried to say in separate sentences, that (1) he had in fact spoken to Karl Rove, many times about many things; and (2) that Rove had failed to mention any knowledge of the telephone calls to him. Even under the most intense questioning, McClellan would not say whether he had actually asked Rove whether he made the calls, or if he knew who did. Moreover, McClellan explained to the reporters that the President had no intention of asking any of his staff whether they were Novak’s sources, and referred the matter in its entirety to the Department of Justice. To Attorney General Ashcroft. Who was appointed by President Bush. And no, the White House has no plans to ask for an independent counsel.

This is a story to keep your eye on.


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