...Even more egregious, though perhaps less surprising, is Robert Kuttner's column in today's Boston Globe. Kuttner, an editor of The American Prospect, is a lefty, so his anti-Bush prejudice is no secret. Kuttner not only gets the facts wrong, he offers a conspiracy theory that makes no sense. Kuttner retails the myth of the heroic Joe Wilson, adding some embellishments of his own:
Plame's husband is former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, who had undertaken a secret mission at the request of the CIA to investigate what proved to be a fake story about the government of Niger providing nuclear material to Saddam Hussein. The Niger story figured prominently in Bush's justification for war and his disparagement of UN weapons inspectors, even though it had already been disproven by Wilson's mission. Wilson, now retired, was so appalled at the administration's misuse of a discredited story that he went public with his information.
Just about every word of this paragraph is false, as the Intelligence Committee's report shows. But liberals seldom let the facts get in the way of a good story.
The administration's leak to Novak, ''outing" Wilson's wife, Plame, was part of a clumsy campaign to discredit and punish Wilson. The administration line was that Plame supposedly suggested Wilson for the Niger assignment, though that allegation has never been confirmed.
Wrong again. The Intelligence Committee report confirmed that Valerie Plame did indeed--contrary to Joe Wilson's denials--recommend her husband for the Niger assignment. The report quotes Plame's memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations dated February 12, 2002, which said that her husband "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." Why do prominent newspapers like the Boston Globe print op-eds by writers who don't know any facts?
Kuttner says "the administration" leaked Plame's name to Robert Novak as "part of a clumsy campaign to discredit and punish Wilson." This is dumb. First of all, Novak has already explained the context of the "leak." Many people wondered why the CIA sent such an unsuitable person as Joe Wilson on the Niger mission; someone in the administration explained to Novak that Wilson was selected because his wife worked for the Agency. Which, of course, turned out to be true.
But, in any event, why would that "discredit and punish Wilson"? The fact that his wife is a CIA employee doesn't discredit Wilson in the least. And her employment status is anything but a deep dark secret, as her subsequent Vanity Fair photo shoot demonstrated.
Kuttner now makes the real point of his column, titled "Politics Taints Probe of CIA Leak." His purpose is to libel U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald:
After Novak's column was published, Democrats in Congress demanded and got the administration to name a special counsel to investigate the leak. Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself. His deputy named Chicago US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, supposedly a man of high principle and unblemished reputation.
"Supposedly," indeed. Read Kuttner's diatribe carefully and see if you can spot any actual evidence supporting his libels of Fitzgerald.
One leading suspect of having leaked Plame's identity is the president's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. Given how utterly Machiavellian Rove is, readers who take press reports of Fitzgerald's pristine independence at face value are touchingly naïve.
"Leading suspect"? Really? Based on what? No evidence is forthcoming. Then note the non sequitur. Rove's supposed "Machiavellian" nature shows that Fitzgerald can't be independent. Huh?
Given the stakes, do you really think this administration would let a Justice Department official just pick some highly independent prosecutor to launch a wide ranging probe -- one that could net Novak, a reliable administration toady, and the chummy high officials Novak talks to, say, Rove or Vice President Dick Cheney?
More slander, still no evidence. And, by the way, Novak is a frequent critic of the administration. And how in the world did Dick Cheney come into the picture? Kuttner is just making this stuff up as he goes along.
Nor is it an accident that this investigation, rather than fingering whoever inside the administration broke the law by outing Valerie Plame, is instead putting the squeeze on two news organizations that just happen to have been critical of the Bush administration, Time magazine and The New York Times, and by extension the entire press corps.
If you're going to serve up a conspiracy theory--without any evidence, of course--shouldn't the theory at least make some kind of sense? Kuttner's theory makes none. It is almost certain that no crime was committed by whoever told Novak (and, apparently, other reporters) that Plame works for the CIA. (Kuttner misstates the law, too.) No administration official has been fingered for talking to reporters. Fitzgerald has said that he is ready to wrap up his investigation, but for getting evidence from the two reporters. Let's suppose that it really was Karl Rove who told Novak that Plame was a CIA employee. Why would the administration want Fitzgerald to send reporters to jail to force them to reveal that fact? If the administration were pursuing its political interests, it would want the whole affair to die, and it would side with the reporters who want to take their "secret" to the grave. If Fitzgerald were serving the administration's political interests, he would defer to the reporters' assertion of privilege and conclude his investigation without identifying their sources.
All of this seems so obvious that one can only wonder what standards of evidence, logic and common sense the Boston Globe applies to its columnists.