Christopher Hitchen's takes on Michael Isikoff and David Corn in today's Slate. His conclusion? They are idiots. (actually He didn't say that I am paraphrasing but that's the tone)
I had a feeling that I might slightly regret the title ("Case Closed") of my July 25 column on the Niger uranium story. I have now presented thousands of words of evidence and argument to the effect that, yes, the Saddam Hussein regime did send an important Iraqi nuclear diplomat to Niger in early 1999. And I have not so far received any rebuttal from any source on this crucial point of contention. Butthere was always another layer to the Joseph Wilson fantasy. Easy enough as it was to prove that he had completely missed the West African evidence that was staring him in the face, there remained the charge that his nonreport on a real threat had led to a government-sponsored vendetta against him and his wife, Valerie Plame.
In his July 12 column in the Washington Post, Robert Novak had already partly exposed this paranoid myth by stating plainly that nobody had leaked anything, or outed anyone, to him. On the contrary, it was he who approached sources within the administration and the CIA and not the other way around. But now we have the final word on who did disclose the name and occupation of Valerie Plame, and it turns out to be someone whose opposition to the Bush policy in Iraq has—like Robert Novak's—long been a byword in Washington. It is particularly satisfying that this admission comes from two of the journalists—Michael Isikoff and David Corn—who did the most to get the story wrong in the first place and the most to keep it going long beyond the span of its natural life.
As most of us have long suspected, the man who told Novak about Valerie Plame was Richard Armitage, Colin Powell's deputy at the State Department and, with his boss, an assiduous underminer of the president's war policy. (His and Powell's—and George Tenet's—fingerprints are all over Bob Woodward's "insider" accounts of post-9/11 policy planning, which helps clear up another nonmystery: Woodward's revelation several months ago that he had known all along about the Wilson-Plame connection and considered it to be no big deal.) The Isikoff-Corn book, which is amusingly titled Hubris, solves this impossible problem of its authors' original "theory" by restating it in a passive voice:
The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone.
In the stylistic world where disclosures are gleaned and ironies underscored, the nullity of the prose obscures the fact that any irony here is only at the authors' expense. It was Corn in particular who asserted—in a July 16, 2003, blog post credited with starting the entire distraction—that:
The Wilson smear was a thuggish act. Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score. It is a sign that with this gang politics trumps national security.
There is more at Slate.com, but that I think is the most important point. A reporter started a scandal with sensationalist reporting and now is trying to walk away from it by downplaying his part. I wish I had remembered this when I posted about Isikoff and Corn on Sunday. Oh Well, this is why Hitchens makes the big bucks.
Since I anticipate Plamegate heating up again I thought I would go back through my old posts on this:
When I did I found this article by Isikoff and others attempting to place responsibility for the Plame leak on Vice President Cheney. So maybe I am not completely worthless.
Looking back I would say that I am hitting about 60% on the Plame stuff. Some of my observations were just wrong, some were superceded as new facts came out. I think I am about a 100% on the Larry C. Johnson stuff though.
Also just an interesting little tidbit about 5% of my total posts have been on this subject. Scary huh?
Wizbang, Flopping Aces, The Jawa Report, Sister Toldjah and Just One Minute have more.
Update 8/30/2006 0116: The New York Times is reporting that Richard Armitage has admitted his role in revealing Valerie Plame's identity to Robert Novak.
Mr. Armitage did not return calls for comment. But the lawyer and other associates of Mr. Armitage have said he has confirmed that he was the initial and primary source for the columnist, Robert D. Novak, whose column of July 14, 2003, identified Valerie Wilson as a Central Intelligence Agency officer.
However the root cause of the problem according to the NY Times was still I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, who had requested the information, which generated the memo, which Armitage read, which revealed Plame's identity. (Man, was that hard to write)
In a further stunning plot twist the administration didn't know who the Ambassador discussed in a 6 May 2003 OP-Ed article by Nicholas Kristoff, was, but they knew his wife was Valerie Plame and they wanted to know how much she had influenced the choice of Joseph Wilson for the Niger trip.
Mr. Grossman had taken up the task of finding out about Ms. Wilson after an inquiry from I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Libby’s inquiry was prompted by an Op-Ed article on May 6, 2003, in The New York Times by Nicholas D. Kristof and an article on June 12, 2003, in The Washington Post by Walter Pincus.
The two articles reported on a trip by a former ambassador to Africa sponsored by the C.I.A. to check reports that Iraq was seeking enriched uranium to help with its nuclear arms program.
Neither article identified the ambassador, but it was known inside the government that he was Joseph C. Wilson IV, Ms. Wilson’s husband. White House officials wanted to know how much of a role she had in selecting him for the assignment.
Unfortunately that timeline doesn't fit with the Libby Indictment, which has Libby first finding out that Wilson was the ambassador in question in late May or Early June and that Plame worked for the CIA on 11 or 12 June 2003. In other words Libby didn't know who Plame was until after the memo was written, so the memo was not written to identify Plame's role in her husbands selection as the article implies. It was written to provide the background context to Wilson's Niger trip.
(I guess it could be argued that since the CIA and State Department knew who both Wilson and Plame were that "it was known inside the governemnt", but it wasn't known to the administration which is where the controversy starts.)
The article also refers to Plame as covert which is still in question.
Just One Minute tears this article apart.
Update 8/30/2006: Experimenting with tags. In addition to Technorati, there are now del.icio,us tags on this post.