My previous two diaries presented extensive excerpts from Friday’s congressional forum on the meaning and ramifications of the White House exposing the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson.  

This much shorter diary outlines my selection of the themes that emerged I believe are most useful to exposing the truth of this affair, its relationship to Iraq, and how Democrats who voted for the war can retain credibility on this issue.  

The goal I have in mind is to focus this debate so that it directly leads to neutralizing the power of the neocons and others within the Bush administration who are simultaneously creating a police state in America while engaging in reckless violence in the world that also severely damages the U.S. future.

Crossposted at dkos.  

My specific aim here is to find the most succinct and effective themes.  That’s a creative process, and one that often takes some refining.  So this is a first step.  

The theme that runs through the testimony of  the witnesses–all with personal and extensive experience in the CIA, and often in other security agencies and law enforcement-was TRUST, and the violation of trust.  Some variation on the theme of trust, who can be trusted with our national security and with our future, I believe is central.

Republicans have traditionally won in the polls on this issue.  But Democrats can use this issue to begin to turn this around.  It may well be a potent issue for the next election cycle.  

But to make that case-that the Bush administration and the Republicans cannot be trusted—requires that this particular violation of trust be clearly articulated in two ways:

First, on principle.  The witnesses hammered at this point.  A covert agent being outed, however it happened, is a serious breach of trust that devastates this nation’s ability to gather intelligence, and it puts lives at risk.

Second, a direct connection to the war on terror.  This is perhaps the most potent point and it needs to be emphasized much more clearly than it has been.

Any covert agent being outed is a serious breach of trust that devastates this nation’s ability to gather intelligence in the war on terror.  

It is especially crucial (as witnesses noted) because human intelligence is indispensable in preventing terrorist attacks.  Terrorists don’t have missile bases and truck convoys to monitor from satellites.  The very dangerous person-to-person gathering of information is the most effective method in the war on terror, and recruiting people overseas to risk their lives in order to give the US the information it needs can easily be made impossible if the US can’t be trusted to protect those identities.

The failure here was not only to expose the identity of a covert agent.  It was and is the ongoing failure to find, banish and punish those responsible.  

This specific situation is even more serious, and more directly related to the war on terror, because of what Valerie Plame Wilson did.  She was a key part of an effort to learn of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons threats to the US.  There could not be a more essential intelligence operation than this.  And exposing her name, and the information that followed from that exposure, destroyed that particular effort.

A covert agent’s name, contained in a secret document, was exposed, for apparent political purposes.  For political purposes, the president has not banished or punished those responsible.  The theme here was best expressed by one of the witnesses on Friday, which I would restate as: In the Bush administration, politics trumps national security.

In short, this breach of trust, the exposure of a covert agent in the war on terror, must be positioned as a serious matter of national security.

This might be characterized as the “Plame” side of the issue.  The “Wilson” side is just as important, meaning the reason that a covert agent’s name was exposed was to attack the credibility of Joseph Wilson, with the goal of covering up the Bush administration’s deliberate deceptions that led America into a devastating war.

The Bush administration handling of the war in Iraq is very unpopular right now, and more than ever the American public is more open to the idea that they were deceived into it.

This is the key issue as it affects policy.  It is the issue that more than any other, except perhaps the basic issue of trust, that could and should bring down the Bush administration, at least to the extent of ridding it of dominance by the neocons and their agenda.

I will highlight just a few themes that a couple of Democrats sounded in their opening remarks at Friday’s forum.

First is on the scope of the scandal.  Americans, and probably much of the world, thinks of Watergate as the benchmark for a serious scandal that in that case brought down a president and his administration.  

This scandal is at least as serious, and at least in one very graphic way it is more serious.  The line that says this best was delivered by Rep. Jay Inslee, to open his remarks:

“Nobody died in Watergate.”

He  went on to say:
“And over 1,750 of our sons and daughters are dead in the sands of Iraq. And I have come here to show my respect for our intelligence covert agents and Foreign Service officers who risk their lives to get the truth to the American people.”

 Some believe that there is potential difficulty for some congressional Democrats in discussing Iraq, if they voted for the war.  That appeared to be a problem for John Kerry.  But those members of Congress have even more credibility on this issue than those who voted against the war, because the voters who supported the war can empathize with them and their outrage, IF the issue is expressed as:  We believed the president, and his administration lied to us.  They lied us into this war.

That was precisely the theme that Rep. Henry Waxman sounded in his opening remarks and later in the hearing.

And it is an issue deeply personal to me. One of the hardest votes that I cast was to authorize the war in Iraq. Like many others, I was torn. But in the end, I sided with the president because of the administration’s insistence that Iraq was on the verge of nuclear capability. Today, we know the truth. I was misled, as were the American people. And it was Valerie Plame Wilson’s husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who helped expose what really happened.”

Where do we go from here?  I believe Waxman also presented the theme for that goal: a full congressional investigation.  A relentless call for full congressional investigation, with people like Rove and Libby compelled to testify, would make it impossible for the mainstream media to ignore this issue.

Even the calls for those hearings, on the basis of NATIONAL SECURITY and BREACH OF TRUST and damaging the war on terror,  would elevate the issue to an appropriate level.  Democrats united in calling for the hearings would create the kind of conflict that news organizations are used to and understand.  And even given their corporate bias, they see ratings in covering conflict.

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