I’m going to weigh i…
I’m going to weigh in on the issue of the alleged leak of a CIA undercover operative by Bush administration officials to columnist Robert Novak, but first a few things need to be made clear.

According to Novak, he was told by the CIA that Mrs. Wilson (or Ms. Plame, depending on who you read) was simply an analyst at the agency. She is not an “agent” (BBC) nor a “covert agent” (CNN, quoting Charles Shumer) nor an “undercover operative” (The Age), nor an “undercover CIA officer” (NY Times). (Thank you, unbiased media.)

Novak himself has said, “According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operative and not in charge of undercover operators.”

The biggest deal in this whole issue is that it has livened up the Washington scene. As MSNBC puts the question, “The sudden excitement in Washington came down to question of: Which would you read first, a 150-page ‘whodunit’ or a 2,000-page treatise on politics?” But it’s more than that for Democrats who’ve been so eager to smell blood in the water since W took office. Joseph Wilson, the retired diplomat whose wife is at the center of this issue, has chummed the waters by calling out names.

It’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words.

So he said on August 21st. A little more than a month later, on September 29th, he said on “Good Morning, America”,

In one speech I gave out in Seattle not too long ago, I mentioned the name Karl Rove. I think I was probably carried away by the spirit of the moment. I don’t have any knowledge that Karl Rove himself was either the leaker or the authorizer of the leak.

So much for “measured” words.

Then what do we have here? Another tempest-in-a-teapot, oddly enough related to the previous “Niger uranium” tempest. Novak did not get the impression from the CIA that giving out her name would endanger anyone in general or Mrs. Wilson in particular, and I believe he wouldn’t have mentioned her name if he thought it would have. He’s stated that the administration official simply noted that the trip to Niger was “inspired by his wife”.

So my take is…>yawn< Given the best information we have (from Novak, not the un-measured words of Mr. Wilson), this is no big deal. I’m sure the CIA would like to know who’s giving out names of its analysts, to just make sure that the names of operatives aren’t handed out by the same source, and that’s certainly a legitimate concern. But this name in this circumstance is going to be just another mean-spirited attempt by Democrats to smear Bush’s image. That’s the best they can do.

UPDATE: The AP is still calling Mrs. Wilson “an undercover CIA officer”. The only credible source I’ve heard for what her job title is has been Mr. Novak, who, as I said, calls her position an “analyst” as per his CIA contact. But still the media continues to hype this story as some sort of outing of an American James Bond, yet never say by what authority they know that she was “undercover”, or even if she was any sort of field operative at all. This is over-the-top hype at best, and liberal bias at worst, and from a news agency that feeds so many other news organizations.

UPDATE #2: Former CIA Director James Woolsey was interviewed this morning by CNN. Here’s a piece of what he said, responding to what I quoted Novak saying:

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.

Actually, the only dispute, so far as I can see at this point, is that Mr. Novak has a CIA source to back up his description, while the media is grabbing titles out of thin air. If Novak’s wrong, there are some heads that need to roll at the CIA as well as the White House. If he’s right, which I suspect he is, it supports my tempest-in-a-teapot description of the whole thing. And Woolsey would agree.

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