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Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Woolsey on the Leak

By Steven Taylor @ 4:09 pm

Via CNN, here is part of a transcript from an interview with former CIA Director, James Woolsey. The first snip underscores what I said in a comments section a little earlier today: leakers are rarely caught:

WOOLSEY: […] CIA refers crimes report over about once a week to the Department of Justice whenever there’s a leak or any other potential violation of law that they come across.

And it’s relatively routine thing. These leaks get investigated all the time. Occasionally somebody gets caught, but it’s pretty rare. It’s a lot rarer any directors of Central Intelligence would wish.

HEMMER: Listening to your answer there, it appears that you’re throwing water on to this story. Are you?

WOOLSEY: No, not necessarily. It was a bad thing to identify an agent, an asset, an officer actually who is identified as a CIA officer. And whoever did it ought to be caught and punished. It’s just that it rarely happens.

Also of interest:

HEMMER: What does it mean if she’s an analyst or operative and not a spy? Is that less serious? Is that the suggestion?

WOOLSEY: Well, most of the time in the business, people don’t really use the word “operative.” Analyst would normally mean - if that’s true - that she worked usually in Washington, that she would be able to admit to people that she worked at the CIA. And it would not be nearly so serious a thing.

If she was a clandestine service officer, an officer who worked in the field, recruiting informants, spies, or undertaking covert action, then naming her really would be a serious matter. And we apparently have a factual dispute, from what Mr. Novak said there, about whether she was a clandestine service officer or not.

Filed under: US Politics

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7 Comments»

  1. Okay, this is just getting plain weird. First, I’m sure that the CIA passing along requests to investigate what they believe are leaks are quite frequent. Government is a sieve in a democracy and it takes constant effort to keep it from spilling everything.

    But to quote this WaPo article, “An obscure law that could come into play in an investigation of alleged leaks by the Bush administration has rarely, if ever, been used to prosecute someone for the unauthorized disclosure of a covert U.S. agent’s name, people familiar with the law said yesterday.” So, quite frankly, all talk along the lines of your first quote - i.e., this is a routine CIA/Justice dept. interaction - seems really, really weak. Just spin. Even if it’s ex CIA chief spin.

    Second, the CIA knows whether or not Valerie Plame was covert or not, and whether she falls under the aegis of this law. If they are doing so by some stretch of a technical classification of Plame, then they’re going to be laughed out of Washington. Really.

    So one really has to think they have something here - given what they already know - or they’re really the stupidest people on earth.

    I mean, who in their right mind would buck this administration without a very big bat? True, they’re vulnerable - a bit. But these guys are animals. Ruthless political operatives with big, vicious teeth that can do ever lasting damage to anyone’s career they choose to. And they have very long memories.

    So while I will dutifully stand with my jaw on the floor if this turns out to be some ridiculous partisan effort by miffed political hacks. I’ll worship at the feet of the right-punditry - well, for a post or two.

    But I personally think this is just the opening shot of a very vindictive organization who’s job it is to take down governments. That’s what they do.

    Again, just my naive viewpoint. What the heck do I know?

    Comment by JohnC — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 7:05 pm

  2. Right you are, John C.

    There’s some pretty heavy damage control being done right now. Woolsey’s doing some but can’t go too far; ergo, the “it’s a bad thing” money quote.

    Here’s another CIA agent, Larry Johnson:

    This not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been under cover for three decades. She is not as Bob Novak suggested a “CIA analyst.” Given that, i was a CIA analyst for 4 years. I was under cover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the CIA unti I left the Intelligence Agency on Sept. 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it. The fact that she was under cover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous. She was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she works with overseas could be compromised…

    For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal… and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that, well, this was just an analyst. Fine. Let them go undercover. Let’s put them go overseas. Let’s out them and see how they like it…

    I say this as a registered Republican. I am on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear, of an individual who had no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it because the entire intent was, correctly as Amb. Wilson noted, to intimidate, to suggest taht there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision-making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy, and frankly what was a false policy of suggesting that there was nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend it was something else, to get into this parsing of words.

    I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this.

    Comment by JadeGold — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 7:23 pm

  3. Are you serious? You actually gave to Bush?

    Weird.

    Comment by JohnC — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 8:05 pm

  4. BTW, do you have a source for the Larry Johnson quote?

    Comment by JohnC — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 8:12 pm

  5. John C:

    There’s a link to the RealAudio file from PBS’ NewsHour at Eschaton.

    Comment by JadeGold — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 8:36 pm

  6. Thanks.

    Comment by JohnC — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 10:27 pm

  7. Oh, and I assume you can see why I was confused. Sorry ’bout that.

    Comment by JohnC — Tuesday, September 30, 2003 @ 10:29 pm

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