Karl Rove, Leaks, and Intelligence Fabrications

10-15-05, 9:26 am

Under the cloud of a possible indictment, Bush's top adviser Karl Rove returned yesterday to the grand jury investigating which member of the Bush White House leaked the identity of a CIA agent.

The entire case exposes a lot of contradictions and hypocrisy in Washington. Right-wing defenders of Rove are crying foul. Patrick Fitzgerald, the Republican prosecutor investigating the case, they say, is over-reaching his authority.

Ultra right TV personality Tucker Carlson even made a comparison to the prosecution of former Clinton cabinet member Henry Cisneros. Tucker insincerely expressed sympathy for Cisneros, suggesting that Fitzgerald has gone too far. Carlson also avoided elaborating on the real issue of a national security crime by weakly smearing the victims of the apparent Rove/Libby conspiracy.

Carlson went on to agree with many on the left who believe that leaking national secrets sometimes is beneficial as it exposes crimes. I suspect, however, that Carlson’s new found radicalism is really reserved for the occasions that right-wingers are in trouble for leaking.

At the time Cisneros was discovered to have paid some money to a friend inappropriately, the right wing, of course, raised a hue and cry about corruption and demanded that the full weight of the law be brought against him. No sympathy then.

When ultra right special prosecutor Kenneth Starr went from dead-end investigations of Clinton White House travel office dealings to questionable real estate transactions and finally ended up on the former president’s sexual peccadilloes, the pious Republicans demanded Clinton’s head, and nearly got it.

Sexual indiscretions tainted the White House, they moaned. But a lie, the real 'crime,' is a lie, they said.

In contrast, they wail, DeLay is a victim, and Rove – well, its all a misunderstanding, blown out of proportion by a conspiracy of the liberal media.

Now what do we have here? Karl Rove and 'Scooter' Libby work out a scheme to publicize the name of a CIA agent because they wanted to try to discredit her husband for criticizing one of the Bush administration's justifications for war. They apparently used the power appointed to them to violate laws that are designed to protect the lives of CIA agents in order to push along a political agenda.

I am no fan of the CIA. It is in dire need of deep and far-reaching reforms, if not elimination. The decision to hand over more spying powers to the CIA recently may have been a political bone from the Bush administration to calm rough relations with the spy agency, but it is a major mistake and doesn’t address the errors, mistakes, fabrications, and bad intelligence gathering around 9/11 and the lead-up to the war in Iraq.

I do favor national security and a partially clandestine organization to pursue it. But we all know that the vast majority of what the CIA does has little to do with national security and more to do with achieving foreign policy goals.

The CIA's involvement in such distasteful and egregious affairs as the overthrow of progressive governments such as the Jacobo Arbenz presidency in Guatemala in 1953 and Mohammad Mossadeq in Iran the following year, and assassinations of elected leaders like Patrice Lumumba of the Congo and Salvador Allende of Chile in 1972 are only four well-known examples. The CIA has a history of providing aid for the rise of thugs like the murderous and corrupt Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Augusto Pinochet, the mujahideen (leading to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980s), and an endless list of dictators, mass murders, human rights violators who had nothing to do with US national security.

If the Bush administration’s foreign policy has done anything, it has made as plain as the nose on your face that most US foreign policy has more to do with business interests, controlling natural resources, dominating economically strategic regions, and imposing US hegemony. Halliburton, ChevronTexaco, and Raytheon are not profiting in the billions just by happy accident.

Threats to national security occur because of this cynical and anti-democratic relationship of foreign policy to big business, not the other way around. In the old days, they called it imperialism.

Mired in secrecy – even from civilian political leadership – and abused as a weapon for politics, the CIA isn't about national security.

The bogeyman of national security and the threat of terror are a powerful tool. The Bush administration uses it like a handkerchief, probably doing more to break down readiness against disaster and threats than to strengthen it. How many terror hoaxes and meaningless threat level rises can we endure?

Yes, we should be concerned about protecting lives and knowing about and preventing legitimate threats.

Unfortunately, this is not what Karl and Scooter were doing when they exposed Valerie Plame to the world.

Valerie's husband, former diplomat Joe Wilson, had been asked to travel to Niger to investigate the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium products from that country.

Bush used this claim in nationally televised speeches, stump speeches, communications with Congress and more to pressure Congress into supporting the call for an invasion of Iraq and to build public support for war.

In early 2003, there was widespread and vocal opposition to an invasion. Polls even indicated that Bush needed more proof before the public would endorse it.

Wilson went to Niger – whether at the behest of his wife or not makes little difference – and found out that no, Iraq hadn't tried to buy uranium and that documents used as proof were forged. He quietly leaked this info to the press, but it didn't get much play, and Bush's fabrication won the day.

By July, however, over two months after Bush declared victory, Wilson went public with the full story. Importantly, and this is a fact you won’t hear form Tucker Carlson’s lips or any other right-wing media personality, Wilson’s assessment that Bush and company had, at best, used obviously faulty intelligence or, at worst, had made things up turned out to be true. There were no WMD in Iraq.

But instead of demanding an investigation into where the forgeries came from and who had fabricated intelligence – a real, vital concern if one is indeed worried about national security – the White House, presumably at the direction of Rove and Libby, went after Wilson.

They put politics above national security. Not just by exposing an agent who might have been involved in sensitive cases related to national security, but, and more importantly, by failing to address the real problem: who forged the documents? Who deceived them into believing bad intelligence? Who and how did they get tricked into an adventure that costs lives and billions?

But they weren’t tricked, it seems. When the Karl Rove/Valerie Plame affair is coupled with several British government documents (referred to as the Downing Street Memo and other documents) that revealed that the administration had been pushing for war – despite its public claims otherwise – as early as the spring of 2002 and that it planned to justify that war on evidence that was thin and lacked credibility, and that it would 'fix' intelligence to fit its agenda, the picture of the abuse of national security gets uglier.

Unfortunately, media reports claiming to have the inside scoop on the leak investigation, if they are to be believed, suggest that Fitzgerald's investigation has focused only on the CIA aspect. It hasn't examined the underlying motive, the need to smear and undermine a political opponent who had exposed their justification for war and their fabrication and manipulation of intelligence to start that war.

This, in my view, is the real issue at stake. Certainly, if Rove and Libby and Judith Miller, for that matter, broke the law, they should be punished. But will that bring us closer to the truth about how this quagmire of a war got started? Will it bring out into the open those who fabricated intelligence, lied to the public, manipulated Congress to start a war that has cost 1,970 US soldiers' lives?

My instinct says no. But I also have faith that the public can put pressure on political leaders and institutions to do the right thing. How are you, dear Reader, going to act to help shine a light on the truth?

Click here to find ways to take action.

--Reach Joel Wendland at jwendland@politicalaffairs.net.