Because someone had leaked the highly classified information from the NSA intercepts, Cheney warned Graham, the Bush administration was considering ending all cooperation with the joint inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence committees on the government's failure to predict and prevent the September 11 attacks. Classified records would no longer be turned over to the Hill, the vice president threatened, and administration witnesses would not be available for interviews or testimony.
Having your elected representives overseeing the intelligence hijinks of the Executive Branch is UnAmerican, or Communism, errr...umm..feminism? gay marriage?
On that morning in June 2002, Cheney could not have known that his complaints to Graham about the leaking of classified information would help set events in motion that eventually would lead to the prosecution of his own chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as the result of a separate leak investigation.
Waas goes on to detail how Cheney and his cronies maneuvered Congress into allowing an FBI investigation into the NSA leak. That investigation eventually settled on ranking member of the Committee at the time, Republican Senator Richard Shelby. But, by making such a huge stink about the leaks, they maneuvered themselves into a place where they were forced to accept a similar investigation into their own leaks. An investigation that is on the verge of sending a senior Cheney staffer to prison, and lays suspicion bordering on near certainty, that Vice President Cheney himself ordered the leak. I know it's an apriori assumption among the editors and readers of this blog that this Administration makes the character of the Sopranos look like the Von Trapp family singers, but sometimes the depths of their venality defies augury.
This is yet another Maybery Machiavelli scheme, this time to end in any practical sense the oversight of Congress on the intelligence machinations of the Executive Branch. The timing was well played, the political landscape, shaped by the 9/11 attacks and the grotesquely obsequious press corp in the Beltway made the Vice Presidents threat a plausible one. I cannot imagine a more terrible notion than to allow national intelligence services to be free of oversight, even the sometimes problematic oversight of the American Congress. Props to the Vice President and the Imperial Officer Corps at the Naval Observatory for cooking this one up. It also seems to me that this scheme worked. Oversight of the intelligence agencies has been compromised to the point of absurdity.
But wait, it gets better. It is gospel in the right wing media, indeed in much of the regular media that; A) Plame was not covert and therefore the IIPA investigation was a witch hunt, B) Plames lack of covert status means the national security implications are inconsequential. We can find factual rebuttals to those claims in the Waas story, and in the Sidney Blumental column from today in Salon.
First, in regards to Plames status we find this fact in regards to Plames status from Blumenthals description from Armitages leak of Plames name to Bob Woodward
Armitage had learned of Plame from reading a State Department memo that conspicuously marked an "S" next to her name, indicating that her identity was top secret
Her identity of course was Top Secret because of her work in the Counter-Proliferation bureau of the CIA. Something that was the responsibility of Cheney and the arrogant pricks that worked for him to know before they started leaking her name and employment around to reporters for publication. I find it appalling, but not surprising, that The Vice President has not been excoriated by every pundit and columinst in America for the betrayal of a CIA agent by her senior leadership for cheap political payback.
Next, the oft made claim leaking Plames identity was inconsequential. From Murray Waas again:
Craig Schmall, who was a CIA briefing officer for both Cheney and Libby, has testified at Libby's trial that on the morning of July 14, 2003, when journalist Robert Novak outed Plame's covert identity in his newspaper column, Schmall commented to Cheney and Libby, "I thought there was a grave danger leaking the name of a CIA officer. Foreign intelligence services where she served now have the opportunity to investigate everyone whom she had come in contact with. They could be arrested, tortured, or killed."
You Think?? This was a golden opportunity by foreign intelligence services to crack open the CIA's CPD operations. Something further abetted by Robert Novaks unfathomable followup column to his Plame story where he disclosed the name of the cover business Plame AND her fellow agents were "employed" by in order to give them a plausible cover. Nice work Bob, you made it easier for America's enemies to figure out who Plames contacts and fellow agents were so they could be spaced out the nearest airlock.
I truly believed a few short weeks ago I had seen it all from these people. I thought writing future Mojowires would be difficult, because we clearly had figured out the depths these people had sunk too.
Thank you Bush Administration! For making my job as a Mojowire editor that much easier. You people absolutely RULE!