Plamegate

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"Plame's identity, if truly a secret, was thinly veiled," reads the headline on a story by John Crewdson in Saturday's Chicago Tribune.

When the Tribune searched for Plame on an Internet service that sells public information about private individuals to its subscribers, it got a report of more than 7,600 words. Included was the fact that in the early 1990s her address was "AMERICAN EMBASSY ATHENS ST, APO NEW YORK NY 09255." . . . .

According to CIA veterans, U.S. intelligence officers working in American embassies under "diplomatic cover" are almost invariably known to friendly and opposition intelligence services alike.

"If you were in an embassy," said a former CIA officer who posed as a U.S. diplomat in several countries, "you could count 100 percent on the Soviets knowing." . . . .

Two years later, when Plame made a $1,000 contribution to Vice President Al Gore, she listed her employer as Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a Boston company apparently set up by the CIA to provide "commercial cover" for some of its operatives.

Brewster-Jennings was not a terribly convincing cover. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the company, created in 1994, is a "legal services office" grossing $60,000 a year and headed by a chief executive named Victor Brewster. Commercial databases accessible by the Tribune contain no indication that such a person exists.

Another sign of Brewster-Jennings' link to the CIA came from the online résumé of a Washington attorney, who until last week claimed to have been employed by Brewster-Jennings as an "engineering consultant" from 1985 to 1989 and to have served from 1989 to 1995 as a CIA "case officer," the agency's term for field operatives who collect information from paid informants. . . .

After Plame left her diplomatic post and joined Brewster-Jennings, she became what is known in CIA parlance as an "NOC," shorthand for an intelligence officer working under "non-official cover." But several CIA veterans questioned how someone with an embassy background could have successfully passed herself off as a private-sector consultant with no government connections.

Genuine NOCs, a CIA veteran said, "never use an official address. If she had [a diplomatic] address, her whole cover's completely phony. I used to run NOCs. I was in an embassy. I'd go out and meet them, clandestine meetings. I'd pay them cash to run assets or take trips. I'd give them a big bundle of cash. But they could never use an embassy address, ever."

Another CIA veteran with 20 years of service agreed that "the key is the [embassy] address. That is completely unacceptable for an NOC. She wasn't an NOC, period."

So much for the howling media mob that insisted that disclosing Valerie Plame's identity was a serious breach of national security. If Crewdson is right, she wasn't an undercover agent at any time, much less during the five-year period before the disclosure of her name in 2003. And we know that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicted no one under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which prohibits knowing disclosure of the names of those who have been undercover agents within the preceding five years. Plamegate (continued)

Who did leak Plame's name? Matt Drudge reports that in next month's Vanity Fair, Marie Brenner writes:

Woodward was in a tricky position. People close to him believe that he had learned about Plame from his friend Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's former deputy, who has been known to be critical of the administration and who has a blunt way of speaking. "That Armitage is the likely source is a fair assumption," former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee said.

Of course, "is the likely source is a fair assumption" is not the same as "is." In this morning's Washington Post, reporter Jim Vandehei quotes Bradlee as follows:

In an interview yesterday, Bradlee said he does know the identity of Woodward's source and does not recall making that precise statement to a Vanity Fair reporter. He said he has no interest in unmasking the official who first told Woodward about Plame in June 2003.

"I don't think I said it," Bradlee said. "I know who his source is, and I don't want to get into it. . . . I have not told a soul who it is."

I think when Bradlee said "fair assumption" he got it exactly right. It's a fair assumption—but not certain—that Armitage was Woodward's source. It's plain from Woodward's writings on this administration that Armitage was a prime source of his. Blogger Tom Maguire sets out the evidence for all to see.

Of course if Armitage was the source who gave Woodward and other reporters Valerie Plame's name, it explodes the left's and the insider-CIA-get-Bush crowd's theory that the outing of Plame was a neocon plot to discredit the ravings of Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson. Armitage was not a neocon and was known to be in strong disagreement with the Cheney-Rumsfeld wing of the administration on Iraq and other issues. Then why would Armitage leak names? Maybe just because he's a person of integrity, that he knew that Wilson had not definitively negated all reports of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Africa (remember that Wilson's oral report covered only one country, Niger, and that the CIA concluded that his report strengthened rather than weakened the argument that Iraq was seeking uranium), that he didn't want lies muddying the air, that he didn't want an administration he served (though he disagreed with it on some important policies) discredited by lies.