Thursday, July 24, 2003

Now They Are Fighting Dirty

Paul Krugman wrote a good editorial piece in Tuesday's The New York Times swatting the nutbars of the rightwing punditry who accuse people who've been asking questions about Iraq, WMDs, Security Issues, etc. of "aiding the enemy". Now Krugman's ostensible purpose in the piece is all well and good, and at the expense of deserving targets, but what was especially interesting (and legitimate news, at least to me) was his parting shot :

"Well, if we're going to talk about aiding the enemy: By cooking intelligence to promote a war that wasn't urgent, the administration has squandered our military strength. This provides a lot of aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden — who really did attack America — and Kim Jong Il — who really is building nukes.

And while we're on the subject of patriotism, let's talk about the affair of Joseph Wilson's wife. Mr. Wilson is the former ambassador who was sent to Niger by the C.I.A. to investigate reports of attempted Iraqi uranium purchases and who recently went public with his findings. Since then administration allies have sought to discredit him — it's unpleasant stuff. But here's the kicker: both the columnist Robert Novak and Time magazine say that administration officials told them that they believed that Mr. Wilson had been chosen through the influence of his wife, whom they identified as a C.I.A. operative.

Think about that: if their characterization of Mr. Wilson's wife is true (he refuses to confirm or deny it), Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative. That happens to be a criminal act; it's also definitely unpatriotic.

So why would they do such a thing? Partly, perhaps, to punish Mr. Wilson, but also to send a message.

And that should alarm us.

Damn right it should alarm us. As far as I know, outing spooks (aside double agents), as an act of political vindictiveness, is an altogether new low for any Presidential Adminstration. It's also stupid -- this earns the enmity of every CIA agent, retired or active. Do they really want to make enemies of people who presumably have ample inflammable information which could then be handed to the press? Blowing the cover of agents gets agents killed. It's also damaging to National Security, something the Bush Administration is supposedly a great supporter of, though apparently only when such issues may thoroughly trample the Bill of Rights.

This thing reminded me of an old interview I read of Watergate felon G. Gordon Liddy. Liddy conspired to kill journalist Jack Anderson, after one of Anderson's scoops supposedly "outed" an agent. Of course Anderson also exposed the massive crimes, American and International, of Liddy's boss, Richard Milhous Nixon, and so one may presume a bit of a conflicted interest other than the professed patriotism and comradery. Liddy also said that he would gladly take the job of assassinating author and former CIA agent Philip Agee, who exposed an agent working with the Greek Junta. The agent was killed due to Agee's whistle-blowing. So when is "outing" an agent "good"? I'd say when the agent is a criminal. Doing business in the School Of Americas-style with fascist Greek Juntas deserves an outing; being the wife of a former Ambassador who merely fact-checked cooked intelligence does not. Outing an agent is dead serious business; this is dirty pool indeed.