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Code Rove

In this complex scandal there's really only one thing to keep in mind: Karl Rove endangered America.
 
 
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Okay, keep your eye on the ball: Karl Rove endangered America .

But, you've been keeping up, reading, watching TV, and you've undoubtedly heard (or will hear) that Karl Rove didn't say the words "Valerie Plame," or he didn't mean to blow her cover -- or was her cover too threadbare to even matter? -- or Joe Wilson's claims weren't true, or else he was trying to save a reporter from printing a false story, or ...

… Hey, look over there: MoveOn.org is unpatriotic!

Confused? Well, that's the plan, anyway. By shattering the story into a dozen shards, defenders of Rove's dangerous abuse of power hope to shift the debate away from the scandalous fact that Karl Rove endangered America by leaking the classified information that Joseph Wilson's wife "works at the agency" (CIA). In fact, the GOP's latest talking points on the Rove scandal focus almost exclusively on smearing Joseph Wilson -- which is ironic, to say the least, given the fact that this whole scandal began with a smear of Joseph Wilson.

Ignore it. Joseph Wilson didn't order Karl Rove to leak the identity of his wife.

Next, lawyers and "experts" will parse the legalese: Here are the A, B and C required to convict Karl Rove of violating the law, they'll say. Again, ignore it. It's not about the letter of the law, it's about two simple facts:

  1. Karl Rove endangered America
  2. Karl Rove retains his security clearance and the trust of President Bush, thus enabling him to do it again.

All the remaining questions being filtered to the media for scripted debate on Hannity and Colmes or Hardball are, to varying degrees, worth debating. Sometime. And in a balanced venue. But right now, the most important strands in this scandal are the two simple, irrefutable facts above.

A 'Treasonous' Action

This is not a partisan issue. Back in October of 2003, shortly after Robert Novak -- over CIA protests -- published Plame's identity, a group of former CIA agents testified before a Senate Democratic Policy Committee on the outing of their colleague. The agents, Larry Johnson, Michael Grimaldi and Brent Cavan, all of whom are Republicans, pulled no punches in their shared statement:

We also want to send a clear message to the political “operatives” responsible for “outing” Mrs. Wilson. Such action was treacherous, if not treasonous. ... Such action has allowed the less attractive aspects of politics to supersede the Government's responsibility to protect the citizens of this nation and the individuals who serve in difficult, dangerous covert capacities. This has set a sickening precedent. The “senior Administration officials” who did this have warned all U.S. intelligence officers and the intelligence community that any one individual may be compromised if providing information or factual analysis the White House does not like.

We now know that the "senior Administration official" referred to in the above testimony is Karl Rove. We know it because his email to Time magazine's Matt Cooper says so (Correction: Rove and Cooper spoke on the phone. Cooper subsequently emailed his editor revealing the contents of their conversation -- ed.) and because Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, all but cemented this fact when he "updated" his public statements from: "[Rove] did not reveal any confidential information," to the more litigation-proof: "[Karl Rove] never knowingly disclosed classified information."

There's a certain irony at work when the president's most trusted adviser, Karl Rove, outs Valerie Plame, a WMD specialist, while waging a war on Iraq which was, publicly at least, about protecting America from WMD.

Outing her not only jeopardized whatever she was working on at the time but, as the Washington Post reported, "Every foreign intelligence service would run Plame's name through its databases within hours of its publication to determine if she had visited their country and to reconstruct her activities."

The article also warned that, "Intelligence officials have said that once Plame's job as an undercover operative was revealed, other agency secrets could be unraveled and her sources might be compromised or endangered."

But let's return to the testimony of the former CIA agents for the specifics:

If left unpunished, this cowardly act [blowing Plame's cover] will not only hinder our efforts to recruit qualified individuals into the clandestine service, but it will have a far-reaching, deleterious effect on our ability to recruit foreign intelligence assets overseas. Who in their right mind would ever agree to become a spy for the United States when we cannot even protect our own undercover officers?

As for assertions that Valerie Plame wasn't " especially well hidden" or that her cover wasn't "double super secret," not only is that not the issue, it's a rather stupid card to whip out in this particular hand. After all, a major part of the legal argument employed by Rove and his lawyer is that Rove didn't "knowingly" expose the classified nature of Valerie Plame's identity.

So which is it? Already a certain amount of digging had to be done for Rove to even come up with the information that Valerie Plame had recommended her husband for the Niger job. In the course of this digging, Rove must have, at a bare minimum, learned that Plame's status was classified. Did he also do enough digging to learn that her front company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, wasn't terribly well hidden? If he came up with that much information, made that great a calculation, doesn't that destroy the ignorance plea that he didn't "knowingly" reveal an agent's identity?

Just after the leak in late September 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan declared, "the president knows" that Rove wasn't involved and that it was "a ridiculous suggestion" that was "simply not true." And: "I've made it very clear, he was not involved, that there's no truth to the suggestion that he was."

A couple weeks later, referring to Rove, Scooter Libby and Elliot Abrams, he was once again very clear: "I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt with that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did."

The fact that McClellan lied in the above statement unleashed a torrent of unusually forceful questions from reporters at Monday's press conference, including this one:

Scott, I think you're [being] barrage[d] today in part because we -- it is now clear that 21 months ago, you were up at this podium saying something that we now know to be demonstrably false. Now, are you concerned that in not setting the record straight today that this could undermine the credibility of the other things you say from the podium?

For its part, the White House has remained mostly silent, preferring instead to let others do the talking -- via its Talking Points, of course. In its stead, the RNC, pundits and the pom-pom squad (blogs like Powerline, Captain's Quarters, Blogs for Bush, Michelle Malkin, etc.) are busy focus-testing these talking points attempting to occupy and divert the press until it gets bored and seizes on the next big issue (the Supreme Court, another hurricane, another celebrity trial).

But that will only divert attention from the facts: Karl Rove endangered America ; the administration's credibility is severely damaged; reporters are questioning whether anything said in press briefings can be trusted.

The final desperate attempt at instant historical revisionism may look like this: Sure, Rove did it and it's good that he did. Valerie Plame wasn't in line with the Bush administration's plans for invading Iraq and so she deserved to be outed. This Soviet mentality has already debuted on Fox ( video here) and you can bet it'll be the tactic of choice should all else fail -- which, from the look of recent press conferences, isn't exactly a pipe dream.

An interesting historical footnote on Rove and his sleazy tactics. Not only does Rove know this dance, but he and his partner have danced it before. A Nov. 9, 2003 Houston Chronicle article by Rick Casey reveals that Rove was fired from Pappy Bush's '92 re-election campaign. The reason: he leaked information intended to smear a political opponent (a fellow Republican) to a national columnist.

That columnist's name was Robert Novak.

It's not bad enough that Karl Rove endangered America . Bush continues to leave this high-risk, one-man sleeper cell positioned to do it again.

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.