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Saturday, 16 August 2003
Preventive War 'The Supreme Crime'

08/11/03: SEPTEMBER 2002 was marked by three events of considerable importance, closely related. The United States , the most powerful state in history, announced a new national security strategy asserting that it will maintain global hegemony permanently. Any challenge will be blocked by force, the dimension in which the US reigns supreme. At the same time, the war drums began to beat to mobilise the population for an invasion of Iraq . And the campaign opened for the mid-term congressional elections, which would determine whether the administration would be able to carry forward its radical international and domestic agenda.

The new "imperial grand strategy", as it was termed at once by John Ikenberry writing in the leading establishment journal, presents the US as "a revisionist state seeking to parlay its moment ary advantages into a world order in which it runs the show", a unipolar world in which "no state or coalition could ever challenge it as global leader, protector, and enforcer" (1). These policies are fraught with danger even for the US itself, Ikenberry warned, joining many others in the foreign policy elite.

What is to be protected is US power and the interests it represents, not the world, which vigorously opposed the concept. Within a few months studies revealed that fear of the US had reached remarkable heights, along with distrust of the political leadership. An international Gallup poll in December, which was barely noticed in the US, found almost no support for Washington's announced plans for a war in Iraq carried out unilaterally by America and its allies - in effect, the US-United Kingdom coalition.

Washington told the United Nations that it could be relevant by endorsing US plans, or it could be a debating society. The US had the "sovereign right to take military action", the administration's moderate Colin Powell told the World Economic Forum, which also vigorously opposed the war plans: "When we feel strongly about something we will lead, even if no one is following us" (2).

President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair underscored their contempt for international law and institutions at their Azores summit meeting on the eve of the invasion. They issued an ultimatum, not to Iraq , but to the Security Council: capitulate, or we will invade without your meaningless seal of approval. And we will do so whether or not Saddam Hussein and his family leave the country (3). The crucial principle is that the US must effectively rule Iraq .

President Bush declared that the US "has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security", threatened by Iraq with or without Saddam, according to the Bush doctrine. The US will be happy to establish an Arab facade, to borrow the term of the British during their days in the sun, while US power is firmly implanted at the heart of the world's major energy-producing region. Formal democracy will be fine, but only if it is of a submissive kind accepted in the US 's backyard, at least if history and current practice are any guide.

The grand strategy authorises the US to carry out preventive war: preventive, not pre-emptive. Whatever the justifications for pre-emptive war might be, they do not hold for preventive war, particularly as that concept is interpreted by its current enthusiasts: the use of military force to eliminate an invented or imagined threat, so that even the term "preventive" is too charitable. Preventive war is, very simply, the supreme crime that was condemned at Nuremberg .

That was understood by those with some concern for their country. As the US invaded Iraq , the historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote that Bush's grand strategy was "alarmingly similar to the policy that imperial Japan employed at the time of Pearl Harbor , on a date which, as an earlier American president [Franklin D Roosevelt] said it would, lives in infamy". It was no surprise, added Schlesinger, that "the global wave of sympathy that engulfed the US after 9/11 has given way to a global wave of hatred of American arrogance and militarism" and the belief that Bush was "a greater threat to peace than Saddam Hussein" (4).

For the political leadership, mostly recycled from the more reactionary sectors of the Reagan-Bush Senior administrations, the global wave of hatred is not a particular problem. They want to be feared, not loved. It is natural for the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, to quote the words of Chicago gangster Al Capone: "You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone." They understand just as well as their establishment critics that their actions increase the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and terror. But that too is not a major problem. Far higher in the scale of their priorities are the goals of establishing global hegemony and implementing their domestic agenda, which is to dismantle the progressive achievements that have been won by popular struggle over the past century, and to institutionalise their radical changes so that recovering the achievements will be no easy task.

It is not enough for a hegemonic power to declare an official policy. It must establish it as a new norm of international law by exemplary action. Distinguished commentators may then explain that the law is a flexible living instrument, so that the new norm is now available as a guide to action. It is understood that only those with the guns can establish norms and modify international law.

The selected target must meet several conditions. It must be defenceless, important enough to be worth the trouble, an imminent threat to our survival and an ultimate evil. Iraq qualified on all counts. The first two conditions are obvious. For the third, it suffices to repeat the orations of Bush, Blair, and their colleagues: the dictator "is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons [in order to] dominate, intimidate or attack"; and he "has already used them on whole villages leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or transfigured. If this is not evil then evil has no meaning." Bush's eloquent denunciation surely rings true. And those who contributed to enhancing evil should certainly not enjoy impunity: among them, the speaker of these lofty words and his current associates, and all those who joined them in the years when they were supporting that man of ultimate evil, Saddam Hussein, long after he had committed these terrible crimes, and after the first war with Iraq. Supported him because of our duty to help US exporters, the Bush Senior administration explained.

It is impressive to see how easy it is for polit ical leaders, while recounting Saddam the monster's worst crimes, to suppress the crucial words "with our help, because we don't care about such matters". Support shifted to denunciation as soon as their friend Saddam committed his first authentic crime, which was disobeying (or perhaps misunderstanding) orders, by invading Kuwait . Punishment was severe - for his subjects. The tyrant escaped unscathed, and was further strengthened by the sanctions regime then imposed by his former allies.

Also easy to suppress are the reasons why the US returned to support Saddam immediately after the Gulf war, as he crushed rebellions that might have overthrown him. The chief diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, explained that the best of all worlds for the US would be "an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein", but since that goal seemed unattainable, we would have to be satisfied with second best (5). The rebels failed because the US and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous view [that] whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression" (6).

All of this was suppressed in the commentary on the mass graves of the victims of the US- authorised paroxysm of terror of Saddam Hussein, which commentary was offered as a justification for the war on "moral grounds". It was all known in 1991, but ignored for reasons of state.

A reluctant US population had to be whipped to a proper mood of war fever. From September grim warnings were issued about the dire threat that Saddam posed to the US and his links to al-Qaida, with broad hints that he had been involved in the 9/11 attacks. Many of the charges that had been "dangled in front of [the media] failed the laugh test," commented the editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, "but the more ridiculous [they were,] the more the media strove to make whole-hearted swallowing of them a test of patriotism" (7). The propaganda assault had its effects. Within weeks, a majority of Americans came to regard Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the US . Soon almost half believed that Iraq was behind the 9/11 terror. Support for the war correlated with these beliefs. The propaganda campaign was just enough to give the administration a bare majority in the mid-term elections, as voters put aside their immediate concerns and huddled under the umbrella of power in fear of a demonic enemy.

The brilliant success of public diplomacy was revealed when Bush, in the words of one commentator, "provided a powerful Reaganesque finale to a six-week war on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on 1 May". This reference is presumably to President Ronald Reagan's proud declaration that America was "standing tall" after conquering Grenada , the nutmeg cap ital of the world, in 1983, preventing the Russians from using it to bomb the US . Bush, as Reagan's mimic, was free to declare - without concern for sceptical comment at home - that he had won a "victory in a war on terror [by having] removed an ally of al-Qaida" (8). It has been immaterial that no credible evidence was provided for the alleged link between Saddam Hussein and his bitter enemy Osama bin Laden and that the charge was dismissed by competent observers. Also immaterial was the only known connection between the victory and terror: the invasion appears to have been "a huge setback in the war on terror" by sharply increasing al-Qaida recruitment, as US officials concede (9).

The Wall Street Journal recognised that Bush's carefully staged aircraft carrier extravaganza "marks the beginning of his 2004 re-election campaign" which the White House hopes "will be built as much as possible around national-security themes". The electoral campaign will focus on "the battle of Iraq , not the war", chief Republican political strategist Karl Rove explained : the war must continue, if only to control the population at home (10).

Before the 2002 elections Rove had instructed party activists to stress security issues, diverting attention from unpopular Republican domestic policies. All of this is second-nature to the re cycled Reaganites now in office. That is how they held on to political power during their first tenure in office. They regularly pushed the panic button to avoid public opposition to the policies that had left Reagan as the most disliked living president by 1992, by which time he may have ranked even lower than Richard Nixon.

Despite its narrow successes, the intensive propaganda campaign left the public unswayed in fundamental respects. Most continue to prefer UN rather than US leadership in international crises, and by two to one prefer that the UN, rather than the US , should direct reconstruction in Iraq (11).

When the occupying coalition army failed to discover WMD, the US administration's stance shifted from absolute certainty that Iraq possessed WMD to the position that the accusations were "justified by the discovery of equipment that potentially could be used to produce weapons" (12). Senior officials then suggested a refinement in the concept of preventive war, to entitle the US to attack a country that has "deadly weapons in mass quantities". The revision "suggests that the administration will act against a hostile regime that has nothing more than the intent and ability to develop WMD" (13). Lowering the criteria for a resort to force is the most significant consequence of the collapse of the proclaimed argument for the invasion.

Perhaps the most spectacular propaganda achievement was the praising of Bush's vision to bring democracy to the Middle East in the midst of an extraordinary display of hatred and contempt for democracy. This was illustrated by the distinction that was made by Washington between Old and New Europe, the former being reviled and the latter hailed for its courage. The criterion was sharp: Old Europe consists of governments that took the same position over the war on Iraq as most of their populations; while the heroes of New Europe followed orders from Crawford , Texas , disregarding, in most cases, an even larger majority of citizens who were against the war. Political commentators ranted about disobedient Old Europe and its psychic maladies, while Congress descended to low comedy.

At the liberal end of the spectrum, the former US ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, stressed the "very important point" that the population of the eight original members of New Europe is larger than that of Old Europe, which proves that France and Germany are "isolated". So it does, unless we succumb to the radical-left heresy that the public might have some role in a democracy. Thomas Friedman then urged that France be removed from the permanent members of the Security Council, because it is "in kindergarten, and does not play well with others". It follows that the population of New Europe must still be in nursery school, at least judging by the polls (14).

Turkey was a particularly instructive case. Its government resisted the heavy pressure from the US to prove its democratic credentials by following US orders and overruling 95% of its population. Turkey did not cooperate. US commentators were infuriated by this lesson in democracy, so much so that some even reported Turkey's crimes against the Kurds in the 1990s, previously a taboo topic because of the crucial US role in what happened, although that was still carefully concealed in the lamentations.

The crucial point was expressed by the deputy Secretary of Defence, Paul Wolfowitz, who condemned the Turkish military because they "did not play the strong leadership role that we would have expected" - that is they did not intervene to prevent the Turkish government from honouring near-unanimous public opinion. Turkey had therefore to step up and say, "We made a mistake - let's figure out how we can be as helpful as possible to the Americans" (15). Wolfowitz's stand was particularly informative because he had been portrayed as the leading figure in the administration's crusade to democratise the Middle East .

Anger at Old Europe has much deeper roots than just contempt for democracy. The US has always regarded European unification with some ambivalence. In his Year of Europe address 30 years ago, Henry Kissinger advised Europeans to keep to their regional responsibilities within the "overall framework of order managed by the US ". Europe must not pursue its own independent course, based on its Franco-German industrial and financial heartland.

The US administration's concerns now extend as well to Northeast Asia, the world's most dynamic economic region, with ample resources and advanced industrial economies, a potentially integrated region that might also flirt with challenging the overall framework of world order, which is to be maintained permanently, by force if necessary, Washington has declared. ________________________________________________________

* Noam Chomsky is professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

(1) John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs, Sept.-Oct. 2002.

(2) Wall Street Journal, 27 January 2003.

(3) Michael Gordon, The New York Times, 18 March 2003.

(4) Los Angeles Times, 23 March 2003.

(5) The New York Times, 7 June 1991. Alan Cowell, The New York Times, 11 April 1991.

(6) The New York Times, 4 June 2003.

(7) Linda Rothstein, editor, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July 2003.

(8) Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times, 2 May 2003; transcript, 2 May 2003.

(9) Jason Burke, The Observer, London 18 May 2003.

(10) Jeanne Cummings and Greg Hite, Wall Street Journal, 2 May 2003. Francis Clines, The New York Times, 10 May 2003.

(11) Program on International Policy Attitudes, University of Maryland , April 18-22.

(12) Dana Milbank , Washington Post, 1 June 2003

(13) Guy Dinmore and James Harding, Financial Times, 3/4 May 2003.

(14) Lee Michael Katz, National Journal, 8 February 2003; Friedman, The New York Times, 9 February 2003.

(15) Marc Lacey, The New York Times, 7/8 May 2003.

(Le Monde diplomatique)

Posted by blog/unfitnews at 10:22 PM CDT
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Israeli Center Opened In Baghdad
By Kamel al-Sharqi, IOL Correspondent

BAGHDAD, August 16 ( – An Israeli center said to be specialized in Mid Eastern studies was opened in the occupied Iraqi capital Baghdad, in a provocative move seen by Iraqi academics as the beginning of an Israeli scheme to infiltrate the Iraqi society.

"Israel opened its center on August 1 at a large rented building in Abu Nawaas St. overlooking The Tigris river," they told Friday, August 15.

The sources, who requested anonymity, said the center has already started operation, noting that it was the first Israeli center operating publicly in Baghdad since its downfall on April 9.

The heavily-guarded building, they said, obtained work permits from the U.S. occupation authority in Iraq and the Pentagon.

The Iraqis sources said the center is affiliated to the Washington-based MEMRI (short for the Middle East Media Research Institute), an Israeli association set up five years ago, with offshoots in London, Berlin and West Jerusalem.

"Superficially, the center follows up Arab newspapers in the Arab world and Europe, particularly London, translates key articles into Hebrew, English, German, French and Italian and circulate them among subscribers, not to mention state-run Israelis institutions," they clarified.

The sources put at 35,000 the number of subscribers, who receive MEMRI's services on a daily basis, adding that it is a non-profitable organization and employs dozens in its different offshoots.

"MEMRI receives donations from Jewish and Zionist institutions from all over the world," they averred.

Brian Whitaker, a Guardian writer, has investigated whether the 'independent' MEMRI is quite what it seems.

He wrote on August 12, 2002, that MEMRI is "rather a mysterious organization. Its website does not give the names of any people to contact, not even an office address."

Whitaker attributed "Memri's air of secrecy" to those who run it, noting that its co-founder, president and registered owner of its website, "is an Israeli called Yigal Carmon."

"Mr - or rather, Colonel - Carmon spent 22 years in Israeli military intelligence and later served as counter-terrorism adviser to two Israeli prime ministers, Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin."

The Guardian writer said that based on a retrieved now-deleted page from MEMRI’s website archives, he came across the names of six people, "three - including Col Carmon - are described as having worked for Israeli intelligence."

He added that another staff "served in the Israeli army's Northern Command Ordnance Corps."

According to Whitaker MEMRI’s co-founder is "Meyrav Wurmser, who is also director of the center for Middle East policy at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute.

He noted, in this respect that the "ubiquitous Richard Perle, (former) chairman of the Pentagon's defense policy board, recently joined Hudson's board of trustees."

Judging from the e-mails he receives from MEMRI, the Guardian writer concluded that "the stories selected by Memri for translation follow a familiar pattern: either they reflect badly on the character of Arabs or they in some way further the political agenda of Israel. I am not alone in this unease."

He recalled that Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Washington Times: "Memri's intent is to find the worst possible quotes from the Muslim world and disseminate them as widely as possible."

Whitaker also challenged MEMRI’s "claims that it does provide translations from Hebrew media, I can't recall receiving any."

Foul Play

A sample of Israeli-made products now invading Iraqi markets

Dr. Anwar Abdu Aziz, professor of political sciences in Baghdad University, charged that MEMRI and its offshoots have sinister objectives.

"Israel's underground goals in the Middle East are not a secret; this center is, in effect, a façade for intelligence and security bodies orchestrated by the Mossad (Israel's intelligence service)," he stressed.

The academic urged the U.S.-handpicked interim Iraqi Governing Council to immediately shut down the Israeli center in Baghdad "because it will penetrate our security."

For her part, Dr. Soad Bahudin al-Mousli from Al-Rafeden University, said Iraqis have never pronounced the word "Israel" and always referred to it as "the Zionist enemy."

She wondered: "Who would have imagined that Baghdad would someday host a center serving Israeli plots and schemes?"

Before the ouster of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, Iraq was the only country in the Arab world – if not in the entire world – to sentence anyone who imported Israeli products to capital punishment.

"This is the product of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and reaffirms out conviction that Israel and the United States are two sides of the same coin," Dr. Mousli underlined.

She further exhorted Iraqis to stand up to this Israeli infiltration, which runs counter to the interests of the Arab nations.

"Arab intelligentsia should expose all hostile Israeli practices," she said, charging that the U.S. occupation is Israel in disguise.

Famed Palestinian journalist Mohammad Samara regretted the existence of such a center in Baghdad.

"It is breaking our hearts to see the Israeli Mossad in Bahdad, the citadel of Arabs," Samara lamented.

Retaining some optimism, he said: "We still pin our high hopes on the brave people of Iraq to resist.

"Iraqis and Palestinians will continue to hold the Arab torch of struggle against powers of evil.

"Israel will never fulfill its much-pursued dream of establishing a (Jewish) state from the Euphrates to the River Nile as long as the Arab nation continues to give birth to heroes every day," Samara said.

Posted by blog/unfitnews at 9:48 PM CDT
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WMD's for Beverley Hills
U.S. Forces Detain Dozens Of Iraqi ScientistsBy Aus Al-Sharqi, IOL Baghdad Correspondent
BAGHDAD, August 16 ( & News Agencies)

– Baghdad University rector Dr. Samy Ahmed Al-Mozaffer declared that the U.S. Occupation forces detained tens of Iraqi scientists, including a number of senior university professors from Baghdad, Mustansiriya and the Technological universities.
“There is something fishy behind such detentions, as interviews are held with university professors in secret and we don’t know what is happening during them,” Al-Mozaffer said in statements he made to reporters Friday, August 15.
“We drew the professors’ attention to the necessity of avoiding any dialogue with foreign bodies that have intentions and targets to the detriment of the interests of the country,” he added.
Al-Mozaffer pointed out that the U.S. occupation forces detained Dr. Alice Krikour, professor of Bacteriology, then released her in 10 days. They have also detained Dr. Hazem Mohamed Ali of the faculty of medicine, without releasing him so far.
“We asked them [the scientists who have been detained then released] about the investigations but got no accurate information. Some said: The questions were about the past armament program,” Mozaffer said.
Replying a question posed by about the measures taken by the university president in this regard, Dr. Mozaffer said, “I’ve talked with all parties concerned, I sent a list of the names of those detained professors to the head of the civil administration. Yet, the problem persists.”
Immigration To The States
Commenting on this news, Mohammed Majid, a holder of an MD in life sciences, said, “I think the Americans try to persuade those scientists to immigrate to the U.S.. They aim to allure those scientists to travel to the states in return for some privileges. They also try to rob Iraq out of its scientific minds to make it a consumer country only.”
Majid pointed out that the U.S. “has tried through investigation committees to persuade several scientists to work abroad following the previous deposed regime.”
On his part, Hamid Hashim Al-Amery, a lecturer in the Technological University, said, “Education sector suffered a lot during the pre-war era and was exposed to huge pressures under the deposed President’s regime. This has led to the immigration of Iraqi scientists.”
“My father is a scientist who is specialized in the chemical field. He was summoned by the investigation committees before the war. Four days ago, a friend of his called and suggested to immigrate to the states to live a better life and obtain the U.S. nationality but my father categorically refused,” Soad Abdel Karim, an Iraqi citizen, said.

Posted by blog/unfitnews at 9:46 PM CDT
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The Story With Legs
On July 14, in his syndicated column, Chicago Sun-Times journalist Robert Novak reported that Valerie Plame Wilson - the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, and mother of three-year-old twins - was a covert CIA agent. (She had been known to her friends as an "energy analyst at a private firm.")

Why was Novak able to learn this highly secret information? It turns out that he didn't have to dig for it. Rather, he has said, the "two senior Administration officials" he had cited as sources sought him out, eager to let him know. And in journalism, that phrase is a term of art reserved for a vice president, cabinet officers, and top White House officials.

On July 17, Time magazine published the same story, attributing it to "government officials." And on July 22, Newsday's Washington Bureau confirmed "that Valerie Plame ... works at the agency [CIA] on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity." More specifically, according to a "senior intelligence official," Newsday reported, she worked in the "Directorate of Operations [as an] undercover officer."

In other words, Wilson is/was a spy involved in the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence, covert operations and espionage. She is/was part of a elite corps, the best and brightest, and among those willing to take great risk for their country. Now she has herself been placed at great - and needless - risk.

Why is the Administration so avidly leaking this information? The answer is clear. Former ambassador Wilson is famous, lately, for telling the truth about the Bush Administration's bogus claim that Niger uranium had gone to Saddam Hussein. And the Bush Administration is punishing Wilson by targeting his wife. It is also sending a message to others who might dare to defy it, and reveal the truth.

No doubt the CIA, and Mrs. Wilson, have many years, and much effort, invested in her career and skills. Her future, if not her safety, are now in jeopardy.

After reading Novak's column, The Nation's Washington Editor, David Corn, asked, "Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?"

The answer is plainly yes. Now the question is, will they get away with it?

Bits and pieces of information have emerged, but the story is far from complete. Nonetheless, what has surfaced is repulsive. If I thought I had seen dirty political tricks as nasty and vile as they could get at the Nixon White House, I was wrong. The American Prospect's observation that "we are very much into Nixon territory here" with this story is an understatement.

Indeed, this is arguably worse. Nixon never set up a hit on one of his enemies' wives.

Leaking the Name of a CIA Agent Is a Crime

On July 22, Ambassador Wilson appeared on the Today show. Katie Couric asked him about his wife: "How damaging would this be to your wife's work?"

Wilson - who, not surprisingly, has refused to confirm or deny that his wife was a CIA operative - answered Katie "hypothetically." He explained, "it would be damaging not just to her career, since she's been married to me, but since they mentioned her by her maiden name, to her entire career. So it would be her entire network that she may have established, any operations, any programs or projects she was working on. It's a--it's a breach of national security. My understanding is it may, in fact, be a violation of American law."

And, indeed, it is.

The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act of 1982 may both apply. Given the scant facts, it is difficult to know which might be more applicable. But as Senator Schumer (D.NY) said, in calling for an FBI investigation, if the reported facts are true, there has been a crime. The only question is: Whodunit?

The Espionage Act of 1917

The Reagan Administration effectively used the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute a leak - to the horror of the news media. It was a case that was instituted to make a point, and establish the law, and it did just that in spades.

In July 1984, Samuel Morrison - the grandson of the eminent naval historian with the same name - leaked three classified photos to Jane's Defense Weekly. The photos were of the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which had been taken by a U.S. spy satellite.

Although the photos compromised no national security secrets, and were not given to enemy agents, the Reagan Administration prosecuted the leak. That raised the question: Must the leaker have an evil purpose to be prosecuted?

The Administration argued that the answer was no. As with Britain's Official Secrets Acts, the leak of classified material alone was enough to trigger imprisonment for up to ten years and fines. And the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed. It held that the such a leak might be prompted by "the most laudable motives, or any motive at all," and it would still be a crime. As a result, Morrison went to jail.

The Espionage Act, though thrice amended since then, continues to criminalize leaks of classified information, regardless of the reason for the leak. Accordingly, the "two senior administration officials" who leaked the classified information of Mrs. Wilson's work at the CIA to Robert Novak (and, it seems, others) have committed a federal crime.

The Intelligence Identities and Protection Act

Another applicable criminal statute is the Intelligence Identities Act, enacted in 1982. The law has been employed in the past. For instance, a low-level CIA clerk was convicted for sharing the identify of CIA employees with her boyfriend, when she was stationed in Ghana. She pled guilty and received a two-year jail sentence. (Other have also been charged with violations, but have pleaded to unrelated counts of the indictment.)

The Act reaches outsiders who engage in "a pattern of activities" intended to reveal the identities of covert operatives (assuming such identities are not public information, which is virtually always the case).

But so far, there is no evidence that any journalist has engaged in such a pattern. Accepting Administration leaks - even repeatedly - should not count as a violation, for First Amendment reasons.

The Act primarily reaches insiders with classified intelligence, those privy to the identity of covert agents. It addresses two kinds of insiders.

First, there are those with direct access to the classified information about the "covert agents." who leak it. These insiders - including persons in the CIA - may serve up to ten years in jail for leaking this information.

Second, there are those who are authorized to have classified information and learn it, and then leak it. These insiders - including persons in, say, the White House or Defense Department - can be sentenced to up to five years in jail for such leaks.

The statute also has additional requirements before the leak of the identity of a "covert agent" is deemed criminal. But it appears they are all satisfied here.

First, the leak must be to a person "not authorized to receive classified information." Any journalist - including Novak and Time - plainly fits.

Second, the insider must know that the information being disclosed identifies a "covert agent." In this case, that's obvious, since Novak was told this fact.

Third, the insider must know that the U.S. government is "taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States." For persons with Top Secret security clearances, that's a no-brainer: They have been briefed, and have signed pledges of secrecy, and it is widely known by senior officials that the CIA goes to great effort to keep the names of its agents secret.

A final requirement relates to the "covert agent" herself. She must either be serving outside the United States, or have served outside the United States in the last five years. It seems very likely that Mrs. Wilson fulfills the latter condition - but the specific facts on this point have not yet been reported.

How the Law Protects Covert Agents' Identities

What is not in doubt, is that Mrs. Wilson's identity was classified, and no one in the government had the right to reveal it.

Virtually all the names of covert agents in the CIA are classified, and the CIA goes to some effort to keep them classified. They refuse all Freedom of Information Act requests, they refuse (and courts uphold) to provide such information in discovery connected to lawsuits.

Broadly speaking, covert agents (and their informants) fall under the State Secrets privilege. A federal statute requires that "the Director of Central Intelligence shall be responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure." It is not, in other words, an option for the CIA to decide to reveal an agent's activities.

And of course, there's are many good reasons for this - relating not only to the agent, but also to national security. As CIA Director Turner explained in a lawsuit in 1982, shortly after the Intelligence Identities Act became law, "In the case of persons acting in the employ of CIA, once their identity is discerned further damage will likely result from the exposure of other intelligence collection efforts for which they were used."

The White House's Unusual Stonewalling About an Obvious Leak

In the past, Bush and Cheney have gone ballistic when national security information leaked. But this leak - though it came from "two senior administration officials" - has been different. And that, in itself, speaks volumes.

On July 22, White House press secretary Scott McClellan was asked about the Novak column. Offering only a murky, non-answer, he claimed that neither "this President or this White House operates" in such a fashion. He added, "there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step."

So was McClellan saying that Novak was lying - and his sources were not, in fact, "two senior administration officials"? McClellan dodged, kept repeating his mantra, and refused to respond.

Later, McClellan was asked, "Would the President support an investigation into the blowing of the cover on an undercover CIA operative?" Again, he refused to acknowledge "that there might be some truth to the matter you're bringing up." When pressed further, he said he would have to look into "whether or not that characterization is accurate when you're talking about someone's cover."

McClellan's statement that he would have to look into the matter was disingenuous at best. This ten-day old column by Novak had not escaped the attention of the White House. Indeed, when the question was first raised, McClellan immediately responded, "Thank you for bringing that up."

As David Corn has pointed out, what McClellan did not say, is even more telling than what he said. He did not say he was trying to get to the bottom of the story and determine if it had any basis in fact. He did not say the president would not tolerate such activities, and was demanding to know what had happened.

Indeed, as Corn points out, McClellan's remarks "hardly covered a message from Bush to his underlings: don't you dare pull crap like this." Indeed, they could even be seen as sending a message that such crimes will be overlooked.

Frankly, I am astounded that the President of the United States - whose father was once Director of the CIA - did not see fit to have his Press Secretary address this story with hard facts. Nor has he apparently called for an investigation - or even given Ambassador and Mrs. Wilson a Secret Service detail, to let the world know they will be protected.

This is the most vicious leak I have seen in over 40 years of government-watching. Failure to act to address it will reek of a cover-up or, at minimum, approval of the leak's occurrence - and an invitation to similar revenge upon Administration critics.

Congressional Calls For Investigation Should Be Heeded

Senator Dick Durbin (D - IL) was the first to react. On July 22, he delivered a lengthy speech about how the Bush Administration was using friendly reporters to attack its enemies. He knew this well, because he was one of those being so attacked.

"Sadly, what we have here," Durbin told his colleagues, "is a continuing pattern by this White House. If any Member of this Senate - Democrat or Republican - takes to the floor, questions this White House policy, raises any questions about the gathering of intelligence information, or the use of it, be prepared for the worst. This White House is going to turn on you and attack you."

After Senator Durbin set forth the evidence that showed the charges of the White House against him were false, he turned to the attacks on Ambassador and Mrs. Wilson. He announced that he was asking the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate this "extremely serious matter."

"In [the Administration's] effort to seek political revenge against Ambassador Wilson," Durbin said, "they are now attacking him and his wife, and doing it in a fashion that is not only unacceptable, it may be criminal. And that, frankly, is as serious as it gets in this town."

The House Intelligence Committee is also going to investigate the Wilson leak. "What happened is very dangerous to a person who may be a CIA operative," Congressman Alcee Hastings (D - FL), a member of the Committee, said. And the committee's chairman, Porter Gross (R- FL), a former CIA agent himself, said an investigation "could be part of a wider" look that his committee is taking at WMD issues.

In a July 24 letter to FBI Director William Mueller, Senator Charles Schumer (D -NY) demanded a criminal investigation of the leak. Schumer's letter stated, "If the facts that have been reported publicly are true, it is clear that a crime was committed. The only questions remaining to be answered are who committed the crime and why?"

The FBI, too, has confirmed that they are undertaking an investigation.

But no one should hold their breath. So far, Congress has treated the Bush Administration with kid gloves. Absent an active investigation by a grand jury, under the direction of a U.S. Attorney or special prosecutor, an FBI investigation is not likely to accomplish anything. After all, the FBI does not have power to compel anyone to talk. And unless the President himself demands a full investigation, the Department of Justice is not going to do anything - unless the Congress uncovers information that embarrasses them into taking action.

While this case is a travesty, it won't be the first one that this administration has managed to get away with. Given the new the nadir of investigative journalism, this administration has been emboldened. And why not? Lately, the mainstream media has seemed more interested in stockholders than readers. If Congress won't meaningfully investigate these crimes - and, indeed, even if it will - it is the press's duty to do so. Let us hope it fulfills that duty. But I am not holding my breath about that, either.

Posted by blog/unfitnews at 1:55 PM CDT
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