This is the second half of my summary with copious quotes of the Plame hearing on Friday.
At this point, all the ex-CIA members had testified except one. The rest is selected from the questions and answers.
David McMichael, former CIA case officer and frequent critic of U.S. intelligence operations, spoke briefly. After concurring with the previous speakers, he added: “And at bottom, I think what we are dealing with today, as Larry Johnson has pointed out, in the whole buildup to the current war in which we are, there has been, let us say, less than complete regard for the truth, for delivering that truth to the American people by the administration. And at bottom, I think that is what we are all concerned with.”
Larry Johnson was answering a question from Senator Dorgan when Dorgan interrupted him to find out from security whether in fact the building was being evacuated. It wasn’t, but Johnson’s answer may have been lost in the shuffle. But it was on point:
In response to a question from Rep. Waxman, Marcinkowski emphasized that President Bush’s new standard of not taking action unless an aide is convicted of a crime was in itself a damaging message to those who might otherwise help U.S. intelligence.
Col. Lang also spoke to the problems posed by not taking immediate and dramatic action to show that the U.S. keeps its confidences. He referred to movie scenarios showing foreign agents being recruited through bribery and intimidation, commenting, “that’s all a lot of nonsense, in my opinion. In fact, all the really good recruitments I ever saw were done on the basis of this kind of deep, empathic relationship and very, very profound trust. And it has nothing to do with legality, legalisms. Nothing at all. This is a human phenomenon of deep relationships and trust.” Doing what has so far been done in this case, he concluded, damages the security of the United States.
Several of the Members of Congress concluded that this testimony revealed even to them that the problem is worse than they previously thought. Rep. Slaughter asked Larry Johnson, “in all your years of experience, have you ever had anything like this where it appeared that someone from the White House had outed an agent of the intelligence agency?”
“No, ma’am,” Johnson replied. “It’s never happened. I mean, this is unprecedented.”
Could it have happened accidentally? Rep. Slaughter asked if officials like Rove and Libby were briefed on the meaning of secrecy.
“If they’re given access to classified information, there is a briefing that they receive and there is nondisclosure agreements that they’re required to sign committing themselves not to disclose the information that’s put under their care,” Johnson replied.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) asked: “If you had a message for Congress then, how should we prevent something like this from ever happening again, what would be called for?”
“Look, let me just say something about this,” Col. Lang said. In the past, a junior officer in some setting who broke an intelligence person’s operational cover would be punished administratively. The mechanism is there for doing this. This is an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. And if you didn’t choose to deal with it yourself, as Marcinkowski said, you could get him punished. But the problem is, when you get to this kind of level, you know, things stop being unauthorized disclosures in reality and become press releases. And that has to — what has to be stopped. There has to be a way, in fact, to discipline people who are closer to the center of power. Otherwise, I suspect that the temptation to deal with your enemies in ways like this may be overwhelming for a number of people. And it’s a really despicable thing to do, really.”
Rep. Waxman asked several questions about GOP talking points. Can you be covert and work at the CIA offices?
“…of course,you’re covert and you can be inside the CIA headquarters,” Marcinkowski said, ” because countries all over the world don’t have the capability like the former Soviet Union to put surveillance on the local areas here, those kinds of things, so there’s no harm to that person’s cover when they go back and forth out of the CIA facility. So it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. Of course, there’s covert people there.”
Asked about the talking point that suggests the White House did not leak Plame’s name but only confirmed it to reporters, Larry Johnson said: “Well, the 1982 law and Section A stipulates that anyone who provides, the phrase is “any information identifying.” So when you say “Joe Wilson’s wife,” that falls under that “any information identified,” because that allows you to identify Joe Wilson’s wife is a covert operator. And so, again, it’s — the sloppiness of the Republican National Committee — you know, apparently they didn’t even take time to read the law before they issued those talking points, because if they’d read the law, they’d recognize that, that was just complete utter fabrication on their part, that this was an out.”
Marcinkowski elaborated: if the press gets information, “They have to have it confirmed. If they’re not going to print it unless you get confirmation, doesn’t that, in fact, make the confirmation more important than the information?
Everybody understands that. So the confirmation is equally liable in this case, if not more so.
“So they manipulated the evidence that turned out to be not evidence at all, but based on a hoax. And that’s what Ambassador Wilson revealed. and that’s why they have such a venomous anger at him that they’re willing to jeopardize — his wife, obviously, they don’t care about — but our whole national security as a result.”
“Now, that seems to me the most disturbing aspect of all of this. There’s not just a Republican motive to gain an advantage, but an opportunity for them to
blur any responsibility or accountability for how we got into war and why we’re in Iraq now and what’s happening that goes on every day, and a difficult situation we have whether to leave or not to leave or when to leave, and how many more lives do we throw away if we’re there for some ill-conceived reason or now must sacrifice because our national stature and reputation is on the line and we can’t just walk away. As Secretary Powell said, because we broke it, we own it. Partisan politics should stop when you’ve got a war going on.”
“But it seems to me that the basic tenet of patriotism is not to mouth the words “We support our troops,” “We support America,” but to really be there to support all of the people who are on the line for our country.”
In an exchange with Rep. Inslee, Col. Lang added this:
“I mean, look, there’s a real intimidation factor out there. It would be one thing if the incident and the outing of Valerie Plame was isolated and it was unique. But when you go back and you look at the efforts of Undersecretary Bolton at the Department of State, where he tried to fire both an intelligence analyst at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, as well as remove a senior intelligence officer at the National Intelligence Council because he said that he had doubts about that individual – this intimidation process of the intelligence community is out there and it’s had a chilling effect.”
Referring to the open letter sent to the congressional leadership about the Plame affair, Lang said, “There are two individuals who declined to put their name to the letter that we sent to Congress because those individuals still do work with the Central Intelligence Agency. And one of the individuals, in particular, had received some direct questioning and pressure about, “Why are you signing or even thinking about signing such a letter?” So the intimidation factor is out there.”