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Friday, July 29, 2005

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Is Bill Frist really that dumb or is he trying to paralyse Democrats with laughter ?
Via Hunter at the Daily Kos. Rather than allow votes on amendments to, among other things, ban torture Bill Frist pulled the defence spending bill- The Senate should get back to it in September, but, for now will consider a bill protecting hand gun manufacturers from lawsuits. Frist claims this is a way to support the troops in Iraq

And linking the bill to the war in Iraq, Frist said that Beretta, the manufacturer of pistols to U.S. forces in Iraq, warned that it may go bankrupt if the lawsuits are not stopped.

"These frivolous suits threaten a domestic industry that is critical to our national defense," Frist said. "Given the profusion of litigation, the Department of Defense faces the very real prospect of outsourcing sidearms for our soldiers to foreign manufacturers."

Beretta, as the name suggests, is an old Italian family firm. Frist should know about rich families no ? I'd say quite a few transplanted hearts skipped a beat as their current bearers learned that they had been transplanted by a total idiot.

Beretta has only been making guns in Italy since 1562 so I guess Frist hasn't gotten the word.

Or maybe it's all a trick. Hunter is already disabled by laughter and unable to point out the Italianess of Beretta. I will see if humor deprived commenters have managed to resist and respond to Frists total idiocy strategy.
The Hill claims that the President accused moveon dot something of unfairly competing with the sugar industry "The president told the assembled guests that “groups like MoveOn-dot-something” have been attending congressional town-hall meetings and “raising cane” about Social Security reform." You never know with the pres but he probably said "raising Cain" you know Cain the brother of able.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mista Kurtz he read ?

Good article In the Washington Post On Plame blame. I notice that "staff writer" Howard Kurtz contributed and it contains a sloppy sloppy review of what has been published in other papers recently (must be a coincidence). "Rove testified early in the investigation that his information about Plame came from Novak, his attorney said. " in the Post. "Mr. Rove has said he learned her name from Mr. Novak." in the Times. Thats a huge difference.

Now maybe Luskin got sloppy (again) and claimed that Rove got all his info from Novak and not just proper names improperly leaked.

However, I ask again -- Mistah Kurtz he read ?
Ari is the main character in this story in the New York Times yesterday

The key sentence and a half "Among those asked if he had seen the memo was Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, who was on Air Force One with Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell during the Africa trip. Mr. Fleischer told the grand jury that he never saw the document, a person familiar with the testimony said," states that Fleischer's testimony contradicts the assertion of a high former Bush administration official (named Colin Powell). Bet a lot of guys are wishing they hadn't been so mean to Colin. The man is a dangerous enemy. This has been noted by Thinkprogress, Atrios and Hunter at the Daily Kos.

I was more puzzled by the following sentence "Mr. Rove has said he learned her name from Mr. Novak." Huh ? I thought that Novak and Rove agreed that, at the time (July 8 2003) Rove said something like "I heard something like that too" confirming Novak's story (which he got from Libby). Now Rove could claim that he lied to Novak, and that, in fact, he had heard nothing about the memo on Air Force one Perused by Ari Fleischer. Still the claim "I'm a liar" does not strike me as an ideal defence against perjury charges. Hmm what is going on ? Did the (many) Times reporters make a boo boo ? No the same thing is a Bloomberg via Think Progress

Hmm let me read that again "Mr. Rove has said he learned her name from Mr. Novak." ohhhhhhhh it's that again. Rove told that to the grand jury and will now claim he meant that he first learned the name "Plame" from Novak. He might go for the full name and say that neither Ari nor that former Bush administration official told him the name "Valerie" either. A Rove with any other name would smell as foul, but parsing is a very good anti perjury defence.

Finally I'd like to suggest that Robert is trying hard for the stupidest Luskin title. The whole point of nominating Roberts was to get Rove out of the papers, but Robert Luskin (obviously) just has to leak, hoping that his pathetic effort at spin will balance the bad publicity. In this case, "People who have been briefed on the case discussed this critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson," The claim that any and all evidence demonstrate that Rove was "not involved in an orchestrated scheme to ... disclose the undercover status of ... Valerie Wilson" is, by now, virtually Luskin's byline. I don't think it is good strategy to make papers print, again and again, slight variants on 'an orchestrated scheme to disclose the undercover status of Valerie Wilson,' yet this is clearly part of the deal Luskin drives.

Of course the fact that Rove and Libby were working on Nigerien Uranium at the time does not cast doubt on the very solid theory that, after Wilson's op ed they "were ... involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson." Further it shows that the DCI's discussion of intelligence was, as long suspected, scripted by a political operative. Once this would have been shocking. Finally, and importantly, it makes it even more difficult (if possible) to believe that Rove and Libby heard about Valerie Wilson's job from journalists. If they are working on Nigerien Uranium and facts about Nigerien Uranium are on Air Force One, then they must have been told about them.

This is important for two reasons. It makes it clearer than ever that they got the information about Valerie Wilson's true employer through official channels, which is required for conviction under the IIPA. Second it is hard to believe that the person (cough cough Ari Fleischer) who told them about the memo neglected to mention that the information was marked top secret. Knowledge of that is also needed for conviction under the IIPA.

Finally the clear indication of top secret status seems to me to answer a question Billmon keeps asking. Why is Fitzgerald so interested in the memo on Air Force One ?
Isn't it likely that Rove and Libby knew about Valerie Plame before July 7 2003 ? For one thing someone leaked her maiden name which was not on the memo. I think it is now clear that the reason that the memo is key is that it made her covert status clear destroying the ignorance defence.

My guess is that Ari is not going to jail, because I bet a prosecutor is willing to offer him a deal. I sure wouldn't want to be my freedom on Fleischer's integrity.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Does the Washington Post Editorial Board Read the Washington Post ?

Many bloggers have suggested buying a subcription to the Wall Street Journal for the members of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board. They will have to reach down deeping into their pockets, because the Washington Post Editorial Board seems unable to keep up with news reported in the Washington Post.

From the Washington Post Editorial

At the same time, Mr. Rove and other administration officials had a legitimate interest in rebutting Mr. Wilson's inflated claims -- including the notion that he had been dispatched to Niger at Mr. Cheney's behest.

From the Washington Post's news Pages

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 12, 2003; Page A01
The CIA's decision to send an emissary to Niger was triggered by questions raised by an aide to Vice President Cheney during an agency briefing on intelligence circulating about the purported Iraqi efforts to acquire the uranium, according to the senior officials.

I dunno maybe Walter Pincus doesn't count, because, you know, he is a CIA loving pinko or something.

Now it is a bit hard to get information about Wilson's mission to Niger, because the web is full of information on the investiagation of the outing of Plame. Also, I'm not sure it helped to restrict my search to In fact, I admit that it took me all of 12 minutes to find an article in the Washington Post which contradicts the absurd assertion in the Washington Post editorial (megablush 12 minutes and I wasn't even playing solitaire on the side). Finally finally I got the right search string (key key word "investigate" who would have thunk). I mean 12 whole minutes to find an article in the Washington Post which contradicts a vaguely slanderous claim in a Washington Post Editorial is disgraceful.

When wingnuts and the Washington Post Editorial board began raising doubts abut Cheney's role in the Mission to Niamey, I had the vague sence that it had been agreed long long ago that Cheney's office did indeed express curiousity about Nigerien Uranium and Iraq. Like the fact that Valerie Plame was covert, this was a point which had been agreed years ago. The agreement ceased to be operative when the anonymous leakers turned out to include Karl Rove.

I could have cheated and linked to this very much stronger evidence found by Digby (who also read the editorial so I didn't have to) but I decided that, to be fair to the Washington Post Editorial Board, I would just use google. Also meet the Press is such an obscure show, and the Vice Presidency is such and obscure office that you can't expect people to know what the Vice President said on Meet the Press.

Recall Wilson has only claimed that he was told at the CIA that the Vice President's office had expressed interest in learning more about Iraq and Nigerien Uranium. He never said or suggested that the Vice President had recommended him or even that the Vice President had suggested sending an unpaid volunteer or anything. In fact he specifically said that Cheney did not know he was in Niger (in the very interview edited by the RNC to make it seem that he was saying the exact opposite of what he said).

The editorial concludes by conflating "misconduct" with "crime". It is true that it is far from proven that Rove committed a crime, basically because it is not proven that he knew Plame was covert. He may have failed to check on that before talking about her to reporters. That would not be a crime, but it would be misconduct. If the distinction between "crime" and "misconduct" means anything at all, it is, because in cases like this, it is not clear that blatant misconduct constituted a crime.

I can think of two explanations. There are wing nuts on the board which, I guess, decides issues by compromise (as opposed to say voting on whether to write some nonsense they come up with). It is also possible that even non idiot non wing nuts on the board feel a need for balance and have to just forget what was written in their own paper when the facts are as grossly unfairly unbalances as they are in this case.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Out Roving Rove. I have argued below that any possible arguably legitimate purpose of Rove's leak to Cooper could have been achieved equally well if Rove had not identified the career CIA employee who, he alleged, proposed Wilson for the mission to Niger as Wilson's wife. Now I realise that the illegitimate purpose of smearing Wilson could have been achieved as well (that's not saying much) if not much much better without identifying that employee as Wilson's wife.

Rove could have told Cooper "Wilson was just sent to Niger because of a recommendation by a career CIA employee who has been sleeping with him for years."

Now that would be a real Catch 22. It would tend to suggest that Wilson was having an extra marital affair (and not the gender of that CIA employee is not specified mmmmm).
Of course the sleeping arrangements of Plame and Wilson are strictly intramarital, but Wilson couldn't point that out without blowing Plame's cover. I mean what is he supposed to say "it wasn't a woman I have been sleeping with it was my wife" ?

Now I am reasonably confident that "a person who has been sleeping with Joe Wilson for years" is a unique identifier (and if not it is none of my business) but the Rober Luskin like violation of Gricean attribution would throw foreign intelligence services off the scent of a woman who happens to be married to Joseph Wilson.

Such a statement by Rove would be neither a crime nor a lie. I guess that's why he didn't say it.

nonupdate post script: Gricean attribution theory (explained to me by my friend, the spooky genius, Ehud Reiter) is a rule for guessing things which are not literally implied by the definitions of words combined with logic. It is a major challenge for computer scientists who like major challenges (like Ehud) to program computers so that they can tell why Luskin is weird. The idea, If I recall correctly and understood in the first place, is that there are conventional ways of phrasing things. These conventions are useful in understanding what people say, because they are normally violated only when they must be. For example (Ehud's example) if someone says "I saw an animal on your front yard" it is normal to assume that this animal is not a dog. The reason is that, if it is possible to use the word "dog" not the word "animal" then people normally use the word "dog". The simplest level of Gricean attribution thery is that there are words which are used a lot (first order words or something) and other words which are only used when there is not (first order word or something) which fits. The favored words are typically very short (one syllable) and, of course, often used. The theory goes on and on. Basically conventions for how we phrase things which can be phrased in different ways are useful, because it is possible to interpret things people say using the rule that, if it were possible to say something with the same meaning a more conventional way, the speaker would have done so. Thus we can assume that the intended meaning of a statement is not one which could have been stated in a simpler or more conventional or preferred way.

Robert Luskin freaks people (including me) out, because he says things which are technically true but misleading. They are misleading because the correct interpretation of his statements has a meaning which could be expressed more simply (in a more conventional way, in a preferred way).

The use of "a CIA employee who has been sleeping with Joe Wilson for years" for "A CIA employee who is married to Joe Wilson" for "Velerie Plame" uses such weirdness for a patriotic sliming purpose. Patriotic, because foreign intelligence service employees will have difficulty fighting the assumption that this CIA employee is not Wilson's wife. Slimy because it insinuates that Wilson if fooling around in a way which he can not refute without blowing his wife's cover and breaking the law.
Out Luskining Luskin ?

Today I read in the NY Times (and the WaPo) that Rove was Novak's second source.

The source of this information is a lawyer who is trying to help Rove "The person discussed the matter in the belief that Mr. Rove was truthful in saying that he had not disclosed Ms. Wilson's identity."

I strongly suspect that Robert Luskin has out done himself. That he is the lawyer who leaked this devastating information.

The idea seems to be to stress that Novak already knew about Plame from his first source (cough cough scooter) and that, therefore, Rove did indeed learn about Plame from Novak (honestly lying when he told Novak that he had heard about it already).

Rove discussed Plame with Novak on July 8 2003. Rove says he learned Plame's name from Novak. Rove says he didn't know Plame's name on July 11 2003 ... well actually he said that he didn't know her name, but he didn't say that he didn't know her name in July 2003. It would be well up to Rove's highest standard of honesty, if what he meant was that he didn't know her name on July 11 1993 say.

From The New York Times

The person who has been briefed on the matter said Mr. Rove neither knew Ms. Wilson's name nor that she was a covert officer.

[big snip]

Mr. Novak began his conversation with Mr. Rove by asking about the promotion of Frances Fragos Townsend [snip]

Mr. Novak then turned to the subject of Ms. Wilson, identifying her by name, the person said.

The person who said that Novak told Rove Plame's name is the same person who said Rove didn't know her name. This is relevant only if Rove didn't know her name when talking to reporters including Cooper on the 11th as well as Novak on the 8th. The person in question is contradicting himself unless he is using strangely narrow referents for words (in this case didn't know means didn't know until July 8th not didn't know until it became public).

I find it really really hard to doubt that "the person" is not named Robert Luskin. I mean the weird use of language is not a unique identifier like say "Joe Wilson's wife" but it is damn close.
Totally pointless post on Plame and Wilson

Ted at Crooked Timber is convinced that Joe Wilson told a lie. Like Ted I don't think this matters at all. Like Ted I will blog on the issue.

Ted wrote

I was convinced by Tom Maguire that Wilson had misrepresented his wife’s role after she was exposed. I can’t reconcile this statement:

Apart from being the conduit of a message from a colleague in her office asking if I would be willing to have a conversation about Niger’s uranium industry, Valerie had had nothing to do with the matter. (from Joe Wilson’s book)

with this:

On February 12, 2002, the former ambassador’s wife sent a memorandum to a Deputy Chief of a division in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations which said, “[m]y husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.” (from the Republican addendum to the Senate report.)

I don’t think that she did anything wrong by suggesting him, but I’m convinced that she did, in fact, suggest him.

Now those two passages do, indeed, seem to be hard to reconcile. Never one to pass up a pointless challenge, I commented

Now when I recommend my spouse as expert on a matter, I don’t always tell her. Plame might perfectly well have neglected to tell Wilson about the memorandum at the time either because it was boring or because she wished to give him the impression that someone else remembered and valued his qualifications (spouses do stuff like that).

Of course, I have to argue that Plame did not proofread Wilson’s book. Now I personally sure find that plausible, but my personal spouse has never written about me in a book (she promises me that the husband character in her short story is completely fictional and I trust her enough that I will never ever read it).

I mean you shouldn’t assume that a husband knows what his wife is saying about him or that a wife knows what her husband is writing about her.

Or maybe Plame forgot about the memo she had written over a year earlier (it happens). I mean Ted do you remember every blog post you wrote 12 months ago ? I’ve read things that I have written and said something like “damn that hits the nail on the head” then blushed when it was explained that I was the author.

My guess, like Ted’s, is that it would be odd if Plame had no input on the choice of Wilson and that Wilson lied to make her seem even more of an innocent bystander than she is. Like Ted, I don’t think this matters at all.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Melma means Slime in Italian so Ken Mehlma means Ken Slimeman
Nomnia sunt consequentia rerum.
Valerie Plame and "Valerie Plame"

Turns out that Robert Lusking and Matt Yglesias went to the same college. However, Matt seems to have studied the use mention distinction more.

Luskin tried to give the impression that he was claiming that Karl Rove didn't out Plame by saying "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA."
This was a lie. It would not have been a lie if Luskin had said "he did not tell any reporter 'Valerie Plame works for the CIA.'" However an indirect quotation remains accurate when a noun form "Valerie Plame" is replaced with another noun form with the same referent "Joe Wilson's wife."

Of course the accurate but intentinoally misleading statement would not have misled anyone. It is not normal to use a direct quote when denying that someone said something just exactly because it makes Luskin's attempted trick easy. Thus the listener would have guessed that Rove said something equivalent using different words.

The use of the indirect quote made the deception effective. However, it is clearly a lie. It is easy to deceive if one is willing to lie.

Now maybe Luskin flashed air quotes (two fingers up on either side of his head) whenever he said Valerie Plame. This would make him honest but really really weird.

In any case, Ryan Lizza notes that Luskin slipped from time to time saying "Karl didn't disclose Valerie Plame's identity to Mr. Cooper or anybody else. ... Who outed this woman? ... It wasn't Karl." I suppose a learned lawyer could discourse on the exact meaning of "outed" but, in context, it means that Luskin claims that Rove did not enable Cooper to figure out that Plame was a CIA agent, since Cooper as an MSM journalist would never think of googling "Joeseph Wilson" and reading Valerie Plame on his web page.

I wouldn't put it past Luskin to argue that he was just saying that Rove never revealed that Plame is a lesbian, and that given as how neither she nor Joe Wilson have detected this fact, why would anyone trust them to find out about Saddam's yellowcake purchase.
From Comments:
I'm picturing the dialogue.

Rove: Believe me, Cheney didn't ask Wilson to go to Niger.

Cooper: You say that, but how do I know it's true?

Rove: But Wilson himself doesn't say that Cheney sent him!

Cooper: Well, no. But what he said could be misinterpreted to mean that. How do I know the misinterpretation isn't true?

Rove: Go ahead and ask him.

Cooper: He's hard to reach. And anyway, maybe he is covering up.

Rove: Then let me tell you this, strictly off the record -- it was a CIA executive who recommended Wilson, not Cheney.

Cooper: You say that, but how do I know it's true? It still might have been Cheney.

Rove: It was his wife. She's a CIA agent.

Cooper: With hard evidence like that, I can't help but be convinced.

# posted by Alan : 9:17 PM

Sounds realistic to me
Leak investigation leak in the Post

Several people familiar with the investigation said they expect Fitzgerald to indict, or at least force a plea agreement with, at least one individual for leaking Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003.

Not clearly separate from the bla bla comments by uninformed analysts, but clearly different. I assume Jim VandeHei and Carol Leonnig are competent and that this means that Fitzgerald has the goods on someone.
This isn't shooting fish in a barrel. Bob Somerby argues there is something to the Luskin/Mehlman defence of Rove. I am not convinced.
Mainly, I agree with Billmon that he "proves it really is possible to be even handed to a fault".

As always, Somerby is amazingly up on the details. In this case, I think he neglects the fundamental absurdity of the argument.

I will argue that the defence of Rove is absurd, then quote a lot from Somerby.

The claim, largely based on a creative reading of Cooper's e-mail to his editor, is that Rove was just trying to warn Cooper not to write that Cheney had sent Wilson to Niger. This is supposed to be the reason Rove said that Wilson was recommended by Plame.

Now, as I have noted before, this allegedly legitimate reason to talk about Wilson's trip did not give Rove a reason to say that Wilson's wife worked for the agency. It would have been equally useful, for that alleged purpose, to say that Wilson was recommended by a career CIA operative without identifying that operative. The the explanation does not explain (let alone justify) the possibly criminal act.

On the issue addressed by Somerby it simply does not make any possible sense for a statement about Plame's role in sending Wilson to be related to an effort to clarify (or spin) Cheney's role. No one could possibly ever have imagined that Cheney did what Plame allegedly did (she denies it). Plame's role was, certainly, to take the message home that the agency wanted to ask a favor of Wilson and, allegedly, to propose Wilson's name.

Cheney's role was, allegedly, to ask the CIA to look into the issue. It is impossible that Rove thought or hoped to convince Cooper that the whole mission was Plame's idea. It is even more absurd to imagine that anyone might have thought that Cheney came up with the name Wilson. Wilson's original op. ed. is (as noted by Somerby) clear on this point. Also it is obvious that the Vice President doesn't propose specific volunteer consultants to the CIA. No one could mix up the roles of Cheney and Plame and thus no mention of Plame could possibly clarify Cheney's role.

The various references, noted by Somerby, to the CIA sending Wilson on Cheney's request don't explicitly explain that they mean that Cheney asked the CIA to look into the matter and did not specifically say "send Joe Wilson" but this is just because the hypothetical confused listener who would imagine that Cheney came up with the name Wilson clearly does not exist. I mean the same shows didn't explain that Wilson is from planet Earth, because few listeners would otherwise imagine that he is from Mars. The point which Luskin claims Rove was trying to clarify is totally obvious. This is why it was explicitly stated in only some of the reports (including Wilson's original Op Ed and the interview edited by Mehlmen to delete Wilson saying the opposite of what the remaining fragments make him appear to say).

I'd like to ask Somerby if he really thinks there is any chance at all that Rove said that Wilson's wife apparently works for the agency in order to clarify (or spin) impressions on Cheney's role in the mission to Niger. I think the answer is no. Thus I think the facts he notes in the part of his post quoted below are not relevant to the question of whether Rove committed a crime or even to the question of why Rove committed the possibly criminal act.

Consider Josh Marshall’s misleading post about a current dispute. Question: Is it possible that Rove was trying to debunk a false story when he spoke to Matt Cooper that day? Marshall, throwing feed to the herd, says that he is shooting down “egregious mumbojumbo” about that. But uh-oh! The alleged “mumbojumbo” isn’t so bad—and Marshall’s claims are misleading and wrong. It’s hard to do, but Josh is spinning so hard he makes Orin seem right by comparison!

Could Rove have had a reasonable motive when he spoke to Cooper that day? Marshall quotes this passage from an AP report about RNC chairman Ken Mehlman:

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (7/12/05): Rove "was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise," said Mehlman. Cooper's e-mail says that Rove warned him away from the idea that Wilson's trip had been authorized by CIA Director George Tenet or Vice President Dick Cheney.

According to Marshall, Mehlman’s claim is “egregious mumbo-jumbo.” Here’s his response to that quoted passage:

MARSHALL: The argument, as elaborated by others, is that Rove was warning Cooper off Wilson's phoney story because it was about to be debunked by a soon-to-be-released statement George Tenet.

A great argument. Only Wilson never said that. He said that the CIA, following up on a query from the vice president, sent him on a fact-finding mission to Niger.

Was Rove warning Cooper about a bum story—about the claim that Cheney authorized Wilson’s trip? “Wilson never said that,” Marshall says. But uh-oh! That statement by Marshall isn’t quite true. And it’s irrelevant any way.

In his post, Marshall quotes Wilson’s 7/6/03 op-ed, in which Wilson doesn’t exactly claim that Cheney authorized his trip. But Wilson did stress the alleged involvement of Cheney’s office—and you know how that Washington press corps can be! By the time of that evening’s World News Tonight, ABC’s Geoff Morrell was saying this:

MORRELL (7/6/03): Ambassador Joe Wilson says, at the request of Vice President Cheney's office, the CIA sent him to Niger in February 2002. He spent eight days there investigating a British intelligence report that Iraq tried to obtain from Niger yellowcake uranium, which can be used to build a nuclear weapon.

It wasn’t exactly Wilson’s fault. But viewers might start to believe something false; they might start to believe that Cheney’s office sent Wilson off to Niger. And the following morning, Wilson’s juices were clearly flowing when he glad-handed (and semi-misstated) on CNN’s American Morning:

BILL HEMMER (7/7/03): Ambassador Joseph Wilson is back with us here on American Morning live in D.C. Good to have you back! Good morning to you!

WILSON: Hi, Bill, and welcome to Soledad [O’Brien].

HEMMER: Well, it's great to have her.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Appreciate that.

HEMMER: It's a wonderful day for us here at American Morning! You went to Niger several years ago. You concluded essentially that Iraq could not buy this uranium from that country. Why not?

WILSON: Well, I went in, actually in February of 2002 was my most recent trip there—at the request, I was told, of the office of the vice president, which had seen a report in intelligence channels about this purported memorandum of agreement on uranium sales from Niger to Iraq.

Was Wilson trying to mislead viewers? We wouldn’t make that charge, but Republicans had every right to correct a misimpression that clearly was out there—the misimpression that Cheney’s office had sent Wilson off to Niger. ABC made the claim that Sunday night—and Wilson seemed to say it the next morning.

Dumb and Dumber

I hate to disagree with Brad DeLong but I'm not sure that Donald Luskin is the stupidest man alive. I'm not sure he's even the stupidest Luskin alive.

Karl Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin seems to have been hit over the head with a gold bar. Either that or he is so inspired by public spirit that he is doing everything he can to get Rove indicted.

Check out the latest at ThinkProgress

Rove’s Lawyer Falsely Smeared Matt Cooper

Luskin tried to embarrass Time reporter Matt Cooper in the New York Times by claiming Cooper never got an “express person release”:

[Cooper] told Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the Federal District Court in Washington that he had received “an express personal release from my source.” That statement surprised Mr. Luskin, Mr. Rove’s lawyer. Mr. Luskin said he had only reaffirmed the blanket waiver, in response to a request from Mr. Fitzgerald.

He essentially got a whole story on the front page of the New York Times based on that claim. In fact, Cooper did get an “express personal release.” And it was in written form. Cooper’s lawyer read it to the press corps this afternoon:

Consistent with his written waiver of confidentiality he previously executed, Mr. Rove affirms his waiver of any claim of confidentiality he may have concerning any conversation he may have had with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine during the month of July 2003.

Isn’t it time to stop smearing people and start telling the truth.

First Luskin released Matt Cooper from his promise of confidentiality. Then he lied and denied it. It is not bright to insult the witness who has the goods on your client. It is beyond stupid to lie in order to insult that witness. Lying about a written document in the posession of that witness's lawyer is ... well beyond my vocabulary anyway.

As with Donald on April Fools day "What's the upside for Luskin here?"

Dear namesake slime and defend you know slime and defend

Update: Ryan Lizza doesn't think so highly of Robert Luskin either. He reports that (blush) Luskin went to Harvard.
The MSM are such mushmouthed sissy munchkins.

Take this Op Ed in the WAPO By Harold Meyerson

You can go pretty far with this kind of modus operandi, particularly if the press is complaisant. Sometimes, you can go too far, as Joe McCarthy discovered when he leveled his woozy allegations against the Army. As Karl Rove is discovering, with ever clearer indications that in his zeal to bring down Wilson he went after a CIA agent, too.

Come on Harold, tell us what you really think.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dan Froomkin asks a question

"Here are some questions for my fellow journalists:


· Will any of you ever grant Karl Rove confidentiality again?"

Josh Marshall answers it.

"Everyone I hear from today says that the White House is going after Joe Wilson hard in their background conversations with reporters. Apparently Karl Rove himself"

The self debasement of the White House press corps knows no limits.
Shooting a fish in a barrel

It doesn't need doing and has been done many times already (see here and here) but I can't resist

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman:

"It's disappointing that once again, so many Democrat leaders are taking their political cues from the far-left, Moveon wing of the party. The bottom line is Karl Rove was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise and the Democrats are engaging in blatant partisan political attacks."

Mehlman's claim evidently is that Rove had to tell Cooper that Wilson's wife (Valery Plame) worked for the CIA in order to convince Cooper not to write that Cheney and/or Tenet had not personally chosen Wilson to go to Niger and that Cooper had not reported directly to Cheney. This argument is so absurd on so many levels that no elected Republican is willing to make it in public. Mehlman is the only Republican in such a vulnerable position that he will defend outing a CIA agent.

It is hard to focus when responding to such a false argument (and I have no intention of keeping focused). However, a very simple refutation is possible. Any arguably legal and legitimate purpose of the conversation between Rove and Cooper would have been equally well served if Rove had said that Wilson's name was put forward by "a mid level career CIA employee." The true and allegedly relevant point that the Vice President didn't tell the CIA exactly who to send did not require adding the identifying detail that the CIA employee in question was married to Wilson. It is stating that fact, which was totally irrelevant to Rove's alleged legitimate purpose, which would be a crime if Rove learned she was a covert operative using his official security clearance.

Many have noted that Luskin (Rove's lawyer) declined to assert that Rove did not know that Plame was covert. This explains the utter feebleness of the defence. It also means that Rove might really be indicted.

OK enough focus. the Mehlman Luskin line is absurd for many reasons other than the fact that it provides no defence at all for the apparently criminal act of saying Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. They also must argue that stopping an innaccurate news story justifies outing a CIA agent. There is no such clause in the law. A false story can be corrected, a blown cover can not be replaced. There is no evidence that Cooper or any other reporter believed, or thought of writing, that Wilson was chosen directly by the Vice President or the DCI. They have pointed to no one who wrote or said that (and Rove didn't tell every reporter in DC that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA). It would be very strange for the VP to tell the CIA who to send (although this VP did strange things at Langley). No one ever suggested that Wilson reported directly to Cheney. Again this would have been very strange stove piping even by the very strange standards of the Bush administration.

In contrast Rove's claim that Plame proposed Wilson is contested by the CIA. Mehlman and Luskin have presented no evidence of speculation about who proposed Wilson except for speculation by Rove and Novak's un-named sources. The question was first publicly raised by Novak. The claim that Plame proposed Wilson is controversial being denied by everyone who was present at the event. The question of who proposed Wilson was raised only by Republican operatives and hacks.

Who proposed Wilson is and was irrelevant. Two other investigations (by the US embassy in Gabaroné and by a Marine Corps general) reached the same conclusion. Panorama magazine considered the story too implausible to print (Italians who have read Panorama tend to explode in laughter when I mention that point). By July 11 2003 the invasion and preliminary coalition search for any sign of an active nuclear weapons program had made it clear that Wilson et al were right. The White House had conceded that the 16 words in the State of the Union Address were a mistake. The evidence in support of the Nigerien Uranium hypothesis was a very obvious forgery and had been identified as such by the CIA and the IAEA. There is not need to trust Wilson at all to know that the Bush administration distorted the evidence on Uranium from Niger. That was clear by July 11 2003. The only thing special about Wilson is that he was the first US government actor (not an employee a volunteer) to go public. The only advantages that a rational actor could see in the the slime and defend campaign were retaliation and intimidation. For those purposes it was useful to Rove to blow Plame's cover. Otherwise there would be no rational reason to mention the critical fact that the person who, Rove claims, proposed Wilson is also married to Wilson.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Fonts again !

Accusations against the Bush administration require us to consider fonts again.

In TPM café Paul Lukasiak attempts to read "Niemanwatch" and quotes exactly using cut and paste

ALthough most of us have been following the Cooper revelations with regard to Karl Rove, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has also spilled some beans. And the beans he spilled strongly suggest that the effort to discredit Wilson via his wife was not the result of Wilson's disclosing his trip in a NY Times column, but was being done in 2002 in order to discredit his reporting, and "fix the facts and intelligence" around the policy.

Jul 10, 2005 -- 09:59:28 AM EST
Here is the key quote from the Pincus piece in Niemanwatch...

On July 12, 2003,

How did Lukasiak read July 12 2003 (two days before the Novak op ed which outed Plame) as falling "in 2002" ?

It's all about fonts. Look at the NiemanWatchdog site. They use micro type illegible to anyone over 25. This is an odd choice for an organization which should be familiar with nitty gritty issues in journalism like how its good if people can actually read what you write.

Also their kerning is atrocious.
A quick leak of Cooper's e-mail about what Rove told him about "Joseph Wilson's Wife"
via Atrios, of course.

Michael Isikoff describes a Cooper e-mail which has been handed over to the grand jury

Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a "big warning" not to "get too far out on Wilson. Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by "DCIA"—CIA Director George Tenet—or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip." Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent

I wonder if the e-mail is an illegal insta leak of grand jury evidence or a leak from Time to Newsweek. In either case it is a bit shocking that it got out just now.

I have two serious questions. Is there now proof that Karl Rove committed a felony ?
If not, will this proof of his violation of the spirit of the law be seriously politically damaging ?

I think the answer to the second question is no. People who follow the news already know that Karl Rove is ruthless and unprincipled. Most people don't know who he is. Short of an indictment, I suspect that the new Cooper Rove news will have an impact similar to the first few weeks of impact of the Downing Street minutes. People who like to think they are in the know (as in all reporters) will say that there is nothing new here and so they will not bother the public with vitally important facts which they never bothered the public much about before.

Thus I focus on whether Rove can now be indicted.

Can the e-mail be authenticated ?

An un authenticated e-mail might actually be too little to enable a prosecutor to convince a grand jury, since most people assume, as I do, that hackers can do all sorts of things. Isikoff claims that he has a solid source who authenticates the e-mail and Cooper is talking. I assume for the sake of speculation, that Isikoff got this one right and that the e-mail will be confirmed by Cooper.

Is the e-mail proof that Rove violated the letter of the "Stop Phillip Agee forever" act ?

Clearly no. As noted by Isikoff there is no proof that Rove knew that Plame was covert. Nor is there proof that Rove learned about her as part of his official duties (if Rove got the story from Judith Miller he did not violate that particular law).

It is even possible that Rove did not deliberately violate the spirit of that law. He might have been attempting to undermine Wilson's credibility (clearly legal) not get Valery Plame's true occupation reported in order to intimidate and retaliate.

I'm sure Rove violated the spirit of the law. I am working partly on prejudice, but I guess that Rove carefully stayed just inside the letter of the law, while trying to make sure that Plame's cover was blown. Rove told Cooper not to identify him even as a White House source. He suggested that Cooper check with the CIA (therefore making trouble not only for Plame and Wilson but also for innocent CIA officials who might slip and end up sentenced to 10 years in prison). Rove talked to Cooper very briefly while leaving town. I suspect that Rove scheduled a very brief interview so that Cooper would not have time to ask questions the answers to which would be felonies.

The defence of Rove (by an anonymous source) is absurdly implausible.

A source close to Rove, who declined to be identified because he did not wish to run afoul of the prosecutor or government investigators, added that there was "absolutely no inconsistency" between Cooper's e-mail and what Rove has testified to during his three grand-jury appearances in the case. "A fair reading of the e-mail makes clear that the information conveyed was not part of an organized effort to disclose Plame's identity, but was an effort to discourage Time from publishing things that turned out to be false," the source said, referring to claims in circulation at the time that Cheney and high-level CIA officials arranged for Wilson's trip to Africa.

Come on guy, you can do better than that. The idea is that Rove was concerned that reporters might write that Richard Cheney came up with the name Joseph Wilson ? The relatively innocent explanations for blowing Plame's cover have always been absurd. If Rove's defence were that an unpaid trip to gabarone was a junket and that Wilson is not qualified to investigate, then he would be spending time in prison. However, his real defence is that he was playing hardest of hard ball but was clever enough to stay inside the letter of the law.

I'm sure he did when leaking. It is still possible that he committed perjury in front of the grand jury. In particular there have been many reports that he claimed he talked about Plame only after July 14 2003 when Novak's story was published. Given the memo, he would have to have phrased his claims very carefully to avoid a perjury charge. These claims were in front of the grand jury where he could be cross examined and couldn't run off to catch a plane. Rove might have decided his best option was to count on Time and Cooper to keep secrets.

I have one alarming thought as to how Fitzgerald might hope to nail Rove (hence his extreme act of asking a judge to jail Miller) and might find nabbing Rove as hard as nabbign a greased pig. Rove might have claimed that he learned about "Wilson's wife" from journalist(s). This might seem to be a claim that he learned about it reading the Novak, but it would be true if Miller told him.

A journalist leaking to a White House political operative is so strange so totally against journalistic tradition that Fitzgerald might not have thought of the possibility. That this possible slip would lead to the un-necessary incarceration of that journalist would be poetic justice, but, sad to say, Karl Rove is not going to be frog marched out of the White House by poets.

update: name corrected

Update 2: An administration source told this to Walter Pincus on On July 12, 2003. I'm glad that Pincus has already reached a compromise with the grand jury, since this means that Paul Lukasiak has not gotten him into trouble. Pincus has just reported the conversation in Nieman Watchdog. Oddly Pincus writes "I wrote my October story because I did not think the person who spoke to me was committing a criminal act, but only practicing damage control by trying to get me to stop writing about Wilson." I see no contradiction between trying to get him to stop writing about Wilson by saying that Wilson's wife was a CIA employee and committing a criminal act by saying that Wilson's wife was a CIA employee. Damage control can be attempted via criminal means, as it was in this case.

The Niemanwatchdog site uses a microscopic font. It appears that Lukasiak misread the number 2003 as 2002 and concluded that efforts to undermine Wilson started a year earlier than has been reported. In fact, the conversation with Pincus took place the day after Cooper wrote his e-mail. Lukasiak writes (all in readable font)

ALthough most of us have been following the Cooper revelations with regard to Karl Rove, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has also spilled some beans. And the beans he spilled strongly suggest that the effort to discredit Wilson via his wife was not the result of Wilson's disclosing his trip in a NY Times column, but was being done in 2002 in order to discredit his reporting, and "fix the facts and intelligence" around the policy.
Here is the key quote from the Pincus piece in Niemanwatch...

On July 12, 2003, an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Doing the right thing and sending each other to jail.

It would appear that I must conclude that either Judge Hogan or Judith Miller has done something wrong, since the first sent the second to jail. However, I do not think this conclusion really follows. I think it is entirely possible for it to be the right thing to do to send someone to jail for doing the right thing.

I don't really have much to say about the specific case. I have never believed that there should be shield laws for journalists allowing them to protect their sources. I think the current legal system is about right. The principle that it is generally good for journalists to protect sources is currently implemented by standards for prosecutors which tell them not to try to force journalists to reveal sources for other htna compelling reasons and which allow judges to balance the publics interest in the specific information and in investigative journalism.

I admit that my opposition to shield laws is based on irritation with journalists' claims that they are special and deserve more rights than ordinary citizens. However, I claim that this irritation is partly based on a real issue. If journalists are given special rights, it will be necessary to decide who is a journalist. Any procedure for licensing legitimate journalists seems to me to create greater risks for freedom of the press than does an occasional contempt citation.

I admire Miller's willingness to go to jail for a principle. I regret the fact that she is currently in jail.

However, my point, if any, is that it is possible that both Hogan and Miller are doing the right thing. It seems obvious that it can not be just to punish someone for doing what they should do. However, I am a consequentialist, so I think punishment is justified by benefits which follow from the punishment not the imorality of the act being punished.

Consider the case of using torture to find a ticking atomic bomb in New York. One can imagine cases in which torture is morally admissible, indeed in which it is morally obligatory. However, I think that, in such a case, the torturer should be punished all the same. Punished for doing the right thing, because punishment deters similar actions which are almost all wrong and because a failure to punish is a gentle push at the top of a slippery slope.

In this case, the benefits include finding out who the source is (look it's hard to focus on abstract ideas like right, wrong, freedom of the press and equality before the law while daydreaming about Karl Rove doing the perp walk). The more important benefit is to enforce equality before the law. Journalists are not a priviledged caste and it is more importnat to remind ourselves of this even than it is to remind them.

On the other hand the fact that a journalist (even a journalist whose respect for journalistic standards is dubious) is willing to go to jail to protect a source will make people more willing to blow whistles.

I think that both Hogan and Miller are doing the right thing. The fact that he is sending her to jail makes this view is ironic but not, I think, self contradictory.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Will Karl always be allowed to Rove ?

The Washington Post seems to me to be saying "wink wink a nod is as good as a nudge to a blind bat" that everyone knows that Karl Rove committed perjury, but the Post is a responsible journal so their position is that only TIME will tell.

"Time Inc. argued last week to Hogan that Fitzgerald may have evidence that an official perjured himself during the investigation,"

Who could that official be ? No denials of the claim that Cooper's source is Rove in person. I find one last point a further hint.

Compare Somerby's correction of Drum

UPDATE: Via email, Bob Somerby points out that Rove's lawyer told Michael Isikoff that Rove "signed a waiver authorizing reporters to testify about their conversations with him." I missed that. If anything, though, it makes the whole situation even weirder.

with the Fitzgerald's extreme amazement and irritation

In his filings yesterday, Fitzgerald used strong language to complain about the reporters' professed goal of protecting their sources. It would be "pointless" for Cooper to go to jail, he said, because Time effectively identified the source whom Fitzgerald is interested in when it turned over Cooper's notes and e-mails. Cooper's source has also waived Cooper's promise of confidentiality.

Likewise, Fitzgerald has repeatedly said he already knows the identity of Miller's source and that person has relieved Miller of her duty to protect the source's anonymity.

Now many White House Officials have waived anonymity, so this adds little. Still it looks like maybe maybe Rove might be doing the perp walk. Can't hurt to dream.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

I don't think we're in Kansas Totto che visse 2 volte

Sandra Day O'Conner has chosen to make her final act the compromise on monuments to the 10 commandments. I don't think she decided yes on one and no on the other swinging the Supreme Court to an absurdly middling path just to show off her power. Could have been worse. A compromise that its ok to display 5 of the 10 commandments would have been even more absurd (notice I didn't dare mention this possibility while the cases were under consideration).

Over here in Italy we don't have Separation of Church and state. Instead the Constitution contains article 6 which adopts in full the patto latarense, the concordat signed by Pius XII and Mussolini. There is freedom of religion. The Italian compromise implies that parents can decide whether or not their children are taught Catholic doctrine in school. Some schools offer history of religion as an alternative. My daughters have study hall instead. An interesting thing is that almost all parents opt for religious instruction. This is odd in a country where the Communist party has received up to one third of the votes, but basically no Italians, except Pius XII, see a contradiction between being communist and being catholic. I have two catocomunist colleagues with offices on the same corridor as mine. Of course now they are CatoDS. One of them, Giovanni Vecchi, does not actually believe that genuine atheists exist.

On the other hand, Massimo d'Alema (another semi ex communist) said on TV "sono ateo" "I am atheist" before he became prime minister. Fat chance of that happening in the USA. I mean its possible that we will reform the constitution to establish the office of prime minister, but no way will an atheist get the job.

The Totto reference in the title is to a film which was banned for "denying the divine and therefore denying the human". In Italy hard core porn is restricted to people over 18 but basically never banned. The producers of the film were not charged with the crime of Blasphemy, which is theoretically illegal although no one is ever actually convicted.

Kansas refers to the Wizard of Oz and the Kansas school board which is deciding if the theory of natural selection should be balanced with creationism in schools.

Now the real effect of religion in schools in Italy on my family happened in kindergarten. Our younger daughter Kathy was converted to catholicism by her kindergarten teacher who, since there is no curriculum in kindergarten, taught Christianity on her own initiative.

Kathy was inordinately pleased with herself for figuring out that it is perfectly possible to believe in God, the Big Bang and evolution by natural selection (which she called "the monkeys"). She liked to tell me that there was no conflict between my beliefs in the big bang and "the monkeys" and her belief in Jesus Christ. I considered her point to be, perhaps a bit obvious, but, I mean, she was only 5 years old at the time so I can see how it didn't seem absurdly blindingly obvious to her.

What's the matter with Kansas ?

Update: Giovanni Vecchi is not now and has never been a communist.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Technical Illiteracy at the CIA

No wonder they were confused about the aluminum tubes. They aren't comfortable with those little cellular telephonino thingies.

link reciprocity.

I thank various blogs for links. Max Sawicky , Brad, Jim Henley and Nell commenting on Jeanne's post at Body and Soul

I'm embarrassed to admit that I learned from Jeanne that the story broke first in Italy (where I live) here a il Corriere della Sera (the evening courier one of Italies two top morning newspapers). Still I don't feel so bad about not keeping up with Italian papers, since the CIA station chief in Milan seems to have been totally clueless about how the law works in Milan in a way possible only by careful avoidance of Italian newspapers.

The article contains this interesting bit of information on CIA technological ignorance. I shouldn't sneer because it is news to me too, but I don't have a gazillion dollar a year budget to keep up on such things. A cell phone used by one of the kidnappers was later used by someone who works at the US embassy in Rome. Il Corriere doesn't name this person. The mistake was that he changed the little gold card in the phone which determines its number (called a SIM in Italy). However, the cell phone itself has another identifier which it sends when it calls. I didn't know that, and neither, it seems, does the CIA. I'm, sure this will come as a shock to all the Italian guys who have one SIM for family (like their wife) and another for "work".

In questa situazione già delicata, la polizia ha scoperto che il telefonino usato da Harty Benamar, uno degli agenti che hanno eseguito materialmente il sequestro, è tornato a funzionare un anno e mezzo dopo il rapimento, dall’11 al 19 settembre 2004. Il nuovo utilizzatore è un cittadino americano, S. L., che si è limitato a cambiare il numero (scheda «Sim»), ma non l’apparecchio (identificato dal codice «Imei»). Secondo le prime verifiche, L. S. all’epoca lavorava per la diplomazia americana a Roma. In ogni caso con quel telefonino si è agganciato, negli orari d’ufficio, sempre alla stessa «cella radiobase» (l’antenna Tim) di viale Molise 4, che è la più vicina all’Ambasciata americana: circa 100 metri. Ed è questa incauta riattivazione a convincere la polizia che quel telefonino facesse parte di un gruppo di cellulari «in dotazione» all’ambasciata, alla quale alcuni sequestratori li avrebbero restituiti dopo l’uso.

In this already delicate situation, the police discovered that the cell phone used by Harty Benamar, one of the agents who performed the physical kidnapping, began to work again a year and one half after the kidnapping, working from the 11 to the 19th of September 2004. The new user of the cell phone, a US citizen, S. L., just changed the number of the cell phone (changing the SIM card) but not the device itself (identified by the "Imei" code). According to the preliminary investigation, L.S. worked at the US embassy in Rome. In any case, during working hours, that cell phone always linked to the same antenna on viale Molise , which is the closest antenna of that phone company to the US embassy. This incautious reaactivation convinced the police that that cell phone belonged to the embassy to which some of the kidnappers may have returned it after using it.

Very sloppy. Magistrates have easy access to anything of the sort that appears in a phone bill. Carelessness with Cell phones is the basis for one of Berlusconi's convictions (one count overturned on appeal which implied that the statute of limitations had run out as it was the most recent act of bribing the Treasury police, then all counts overturned on the merits by the Cassazione which can do that if the buy who got away because of the statute of limitations asks for a verdict on the merits of the case).

follow up at Il Corriere is mostly he said he said blame shifting. The CIA says the told the Italians what they were up to(il Corriere got that from the Washington Post). Berlusconi says no Italians were told. Now I know many of you have a firm opinion of the CIA but, believe me, nothing Berlusconi says can possibly be true. The problem is that the CIA seems to be such an inept intelligence agency that they don't know what every Italian newspaper reader knows, which is that Berlusconi sure can't control the procura di Milano, which can order arrests, which means a certain CIA ex station chief of Milan (named in the Corriere article) isn't going to live in his house in Italy any time soon. Also Hassan Osama Nasr's family has visited him and he confirms that he was tortured in prison in Egypt, but I'm afraid we basically knew that already.

Of course the most dramatic story involving spies and cell phones is the case of "the engineer" the chief bomb maker for Hamas who answered a cell phone, identified himself and never spoke again because it blew his head off. Mossad had booby trapped a phone so they could remote detonate it and somehow gotten it to him. I often wonder how many such phones they made and where the others ended up. For example the thought comes to mind every time someone talking on a cell phone while driving comes close to killing me (once or twice a day in Italy).