Tuesday 25 October 2005

Why the Furore over Valerie Plame's Outing

by Trowbridge H. Ford

Whenever a major covert operation goes terribly wrong - what happens more often than not - its operatives immediately take drastic steps to stem the danger of disastrous consequences, believing that they may well distract the media and the public from learning what really was being attempted. In these cases, any false explanation is far better than being forced to admit what really happened. While people who have never been in intelligence work, or disinforming sources always claim reassuringly that disclosing the truth from the outset will largely defuse the scandal, they, either diliberately or ignorantly, don't know what they are talking about. Claims of another cock-up are always better than an admission of another reckless plot having gone wrong.

For example, when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas - the plotters hoping to connect the murder by means of Lee Harvey Oswald's going to Cuba afterwards to Fidel Castro - the elaborate conspiracy was ruined by one small oversight - the failing to test fire the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle which was purchased, and placed in the Texas School Book Despository where Oswald worked by persons feigning to be he or an apparent alias, especially Jack Ruby's helper Larry Crafard. Consequently, when it seems Richard Cain - a corrupt policeman connected to Chicago Mafioso Sam 'Momo' Giancana, and brought into the plot by Ruby - used the rifle to kill JFK, he almost killed Texas Governor John B. Connally because he had no way of knowing that it fired high and to the right of the intended target.

The foul-up was well demonstrated when Connally belatedly discovered that he too had been hit, exclaiming: "Oh, no, no, no. My God, they are going to kill us all." (Hearings before the President's Commission..., vol. IV, p. 133) There probably would have been no unexpected hiccup to the plot if this had turned out to be true - as the Governor would have been in no position to make a fuss - but Connally managed to survive, threatening to get those who had apparently double-crossed him.

This caused the immediate arrest of LHO at the Texas Theater, and the attempt by Ruby during the District Attorney's press conference to connect him to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, only to discover that Oswald had an alibi for the shootings - he was standing in front of the Despository building when the shots were fired in Dealey Plaza. When the AP photographer James Altgens' photo of the shooting appeared in newspapers the next day - Director Hoover concluding that there was no chance of convicting him of the assassination - Ruby, feigning distress over the assassination, was belatedly obliged to shoot him, causing the cover up to begin in earnest, totally at Oswald's expense.

Its agenda was to suggest that the guilty Oswald was still part of a plot, a rabid anti-communist one - what New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison suggested Clay Shaw aka Clay Bertrand had arranged within the city's anti-Castro Cubans with help from renegade elements of the CIA. Director Hoover dissuaded Garrison from going further with his investigation while he made it look as if the Bureau was deeply involved in the murder. All the while, the Agency was keeping quiet about its role in the assassination, and destroying all evidence implicating it in it. By the time the Warren Commission started its investigation, the trail of the assassins was so muddied up that no one could sort it out.

Another conspiracy - the plot to eliminate Iraq's President, Saddan Hussein - was obliged to take a completely unexpected course in order to prevent similar blowback. Of course, the plot to ouster the Iraqi dictator, unlike the JFK one, was not criminal according to any domestic law, either American or British, and the plan certainly did not seem immoral, given the character of Saddam's regime, and its potential threat to its neighbors, and beyond, If, in fact, Saddam was rearming with weapons of mass destruction to settle scores with those powers which had frustrated his attempt to take over Kuwait, the elimination of his regime seemed in the interest of everyone.

In the build-up of intelligence to justify the removal, the findings and its assessment by Dr. David
Kelly had been paramount. Kelly had joined the MOD's facility at Proton Down in 1984 as its chief microbiologist after having worked for several years at Oxford's NERC Institute of Virology. While there, he grew to have the gravest suspicions of what Iraqi scientists, especially Dr. Rihad Taha, were doing at British research facilities, and knew from on site inspections in Iraq and Russia, and his dealings with other scientists just what Saddam had attempted before, and what, it seems, he was again capable of. In his work and travels as an UNSCOM inspector, Kelly developed close relations with many reporters, especially the BBC's Tom Mangold, Judith Miller of The New York Times, and investigative journalist Gordon Thomas.

When the Iraqi dictator refused the let UNSCOM back into the country in 1997, and Clinton started the bombing campaign to degrade Iraq's alleged biological weapons program (Operation Desert Fox), Kelly became the authoritative, secret source for these writers and others in their work on Iraq's WMD.

Mangold, in Plague Wars, showed that Kelly - who had taught him everything he ever learned about biological warfare, and was confident that he could solve the problem of the unpaid national debt if only given the job - was the driving force behind Washington's attempt to stop the terrorists, especially biological ones, before they killed the President and millions of Americans in horrible deaths. In the beginning of the book, Mangold proclaimed: "Iraq is fully capable of producing terrorist quantities of biological agents on demand." (For more on this, see my article "Only Iraq Can Deny Bush Re-election" in the Trowbridge Archive.)

Miller - who, along with Stephen Engelberger and William Broad, also of The New York Times, wrote Germs: The Ultimate Weapon - put America's problems much more clearly in Saddam's court, claiming that he, thanks to intelligence from Kelly, was only feigning to go along with wholesale disarmmament demanded by the armistice concluded at the end of the Gulf War. Iraq still had 150 bombs and warheads, filled with chemical and biological agents, from before the war, Kelly contended, which could be made operational within 45 minutes, and were capable of striking with prohibited missiles all its neighbors, especially Israel. The threat was made most convincing by SOD William Cohen claiming at a press conference that five pounds of anthrax spores could wipe out half Washington's population if properly delivered.

Little wonder that when Washington and London decided to take out the Iraqi regime - after the 9/11 attacks which were coupled with the delivery of anthrax letters to several members of Congress, and killed several postal workers in the process - that Miller's services were much in demand by the White House, especially given the hiatus of reliable intelligence from the country because of the departure of the UNSCOM inspectors. The NYT reporter joined NSA Condi Rice, her deputy Stephen Hadley, White House insiders Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, and many others in the newly formed White House Iraq Group (WHIG) whose duty was to find evidence of Saddam's WMD, and see that it was disseminated to the public in order to justify the preemptive war against Iraq.

And Miller did not disappoint it in performing her role, as Franklin Foer has described in his June 2004 article, "The Source of the Trouble," for New York Magazine, though the title itself leaves much to be desired, being the source of subsequent problems. In her articles for the paper, she supplied grim confirmation of what the Iraqi Dossier was claiming - Saddam had drones which could spray enough anthrax to kill a million people in a city under the right conditions, probably gained possession of a virulent strain of smallpox from the defunct USSR, maintained
storage and transport facilities to provide reagents wherever and whenever required, provided antidotes for sarin and VX gases to his own population in case of a dirty war, and was looking again to gain a nuclear capability by obtaining alumimum tubes for the diffusion of Niger uranium ore - what Cheney claimed most excitedly on Meet the Press proved that Iraq was not disarming.

Washington and London kept up their drum beat for war, though there was no new intelligence to support its claims. Former ambassador Joe Wilson, a Poppy Bush appointee, had been sent to Niger by DCI George Tenet in February 2002 to check on claims that it was helping Iraq gain a nuclear capability, but he came up with nothing. The Bush and Blair administrations, though,
ignored his report. Of course, Saddam had let the inspectors back into Iraq by then, but they continued to find nothing positive to confirm the claims of the Iraq Dossier - only stating that Iraq could not establish what had happened to missing material. Iraq itself supplied vast material, trying to allay Anglo-American fears about its WMD, but it too was dismissed as totally unreliable.

The status of Anglo-American intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs was well demonstrated when Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered his address in February 2003 before the Security Council, calling for Iraq to cough up the known material or face it being done by force. While the resolution failed to pass - thanks to the disclosure that Washington and London had bugged the UN deliberations of the waverers in the hope of manipulating them into acquiescence - Powell reiterated for those assembled what Judy Miller had itemized in her columns for The Times. The most persuasive moment in his presentation - what he later admitted was the worst one of his whole career - was when he held up the test tube, filled with a white powder - reminiscent of what the legislators had been sent back in September 2001, allegedly from Al-Qaeda - stating that such a small amount in the hands of Iraqi terrrorists could kill tens of thousands of people.

No sooner had the dust from the war settled than Miller was embedded with the Pentagon's top-secret Mobile Exploitation Team (MET) in Iraq to find the suspected WMD but it too came up with nothing, as did subsequent investigating teams. She even sat in on the initial debriefing of Jamal Sultan Tikriti, a relative of Saddam's, but nothing telling resulted. Still WHIG and a similar group in Downing Street kept up the pressure that the missing weapons would ultimately be found.

These officials had the greatest confidence that the key to unlocking the secrets rested with the capture of Dr. Taha, or as Kelly chose to call her "Dr. Germ", the link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. Gordon Thomas wrote a series of articles, notably "Dr. Germ and the Poisons of Death," tying up Saddam's biological weapons program with intelligence from the CIA, MI6 and the Mossad which corroborated everything Kelly had feared and suspected.

Then Kelly, much like Oswald back in New Orleans during the summer of 1963, realized vaguely that he was being set up to take the fall for the Iraqi misadventure. While the ex-Marine had been most eager to go to the USSR as a Manchurian Candidate to decapitate the Soviet leadership, especially Nikita Khrushchev, he was not prepared to turn on JFK, his President, when his minders decided that he was the source of the problem - as was demonstrated when Oswald refused to be rapidly hyponzied to assassinate him by Dr. George White in New Orleans. (For details, see John Marks, The Search for the 'Manchurian Candidate', pp. 202-3, and note at the bottom of p. 244.) While Kelly, a similarly dedicated but more important civil servant, was willing to do whatever was necessary to get rid of the rogue Saddam, he still most unwilling to be misused by his superiors for whatever they saw fit, especially if it were at the expense of his knowledge and competence.

Consequently, Kelly - stung by the indication that he was the source of the exaggerated intelligence to suit his alleged Coalition employers, especially Israel - started speaking out boldly to reporters Andrew Gilligan and Susan Watts of the BBC. On May 22, 2003, he met Gilligan at the Charing Cross Hotel, and disclosed that the 45-minute claim about Iraq's ability to launch a strategic WMD attack was a gross mispresentation of the time required and the kind of attack which could occur - a 'sexing' up of the intelligence, Kelly claimed, by Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell. By the time Gilligan was obliged to testify before the Commons' Select Committee on Foreign Affairs four weeks later, there had been so many claims and counterclaims about the source that there was no longer any doubt that it was Kelly.

Four days after Gilligan testified, on June 23rd, and the transcript of the hearing had been published, Miller had a surprise meeting with Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, and they discussed apparently how to minimize the damage he could cause. Until Kelly was finally outed by the MOD, Miller would keep track to Kelly's movements, and let Libby know what was in the offing.

During the next two weeks, Kelly admitted to his line manager that he had talked to Gilligan on May 22nd, and a week later, after the former inspector had been twice interviewed by him and the MOD's Personnel Director, his name was indirectly leaked to the press, causing Kelly to flee to the West Country in search of security.

The outing of Kelly provided Miller and the White House with a way of diverting the media and the public from what was really happening while a permanent solution to the Kelly problem was being achieved. On July 6th, former Ambassador Wilson managed to have his complaints about the Niger claims, "What I Didn't Find in Niger," published in The Times - denouncing the whole search as a fraud, based upon lies.

Then Miller met Libby twice, hitting upon the idea of outing Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative who had gone out of her way to see that Wilson was given the task, and that the administration had outed her in order to get back at Wilson for his scathing report. Miller then told the story to Robert Novak who published it on July 14th, but it was already making the rounds in Washington, thanks particularly to the efforts by Kove and Time reporter Matt Cooper, obliging Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney in Chicago, to be appointed as a special prosecutor to seek the prosecution of the leakers of Plame's identity - a felony.

While America was completely absorbed in this process, Kelly was murdered, thanks, in part, to more input by Miller. She learned that Kelly was planning to quit his job at the MOD, return to Iraq for more research into its alleged WMD, and write a book for an Oxford publisher about the whole scandal. Kelly, in telling her so, was completely oblivious of the fact that she was his greatest nemesis.

Later the same day, Kelly was bushwhacked by a gang, apparently a Mossad kidon, when he
went for a walk in Oxfordshire, and on July 18th his body was found, all battered and bruised because of the struggle he had put up. Five days later, Miller wrote an obituary of Kelly for The Times, "Scientist Was the 'Bane of Proliferator'," failing to make mention of how well she knew him, and of his warning her of the "many dark actors" threatening him as he set out on his final walk.

Since then, the cover ups have gathered apace, with the British public being subjected to the Hutton Inquiry's whitewash of Kelly's murder, and the Butler Inquiry just obfuscating the scandal further. Kelly's killing for alleged purposes of national security was never even considered, much less investigated because of its international dimensions and possible repercussions In America, inquiries have followed a similar course. Instead of inquiries investigating how officials, particularly Libby, Rove, Cheney and possibly even the President, aided and abetted an assassination, they settled for making it a battle between press freedom and national security - what Miller ably assisted by refusing to hand over to the Special Prosecutor the notes of her meetings with Libby.

After Miller had spent 85 days in jail in the name of press freedom, she agreed to hand them over to Fitzgerald, provided he limited his inquiries to what they had discussed - a demand he incredibly agreed to. It was only thanks to the log of people who entered the Executive Office Building, where Libby's office is, that the Secret Service was able to establish the Miller had met with him on June 23rd - what neither Miller nor Libby had mentioned to the FBI or the Special Prosecutor's grand jury. Miller then produced her alleged notes of the meeting - what understandably contained no mention of Kelly and what they were thinking of doing to him.

At this point, it seems that Libby will probably be indicted for perjury, obstruction of justice, and the like in the investigation of the outing of Plame - forcing him to resign from office - and then he might be joined by former CIA operatives Duane 'Dewey' Clarridge, Alan Wolfe, Michael Ledeen and others for passing along Ahmed Chalabi's convenient fabrications about Iraq's WMD, especially the forged report that the Italian secuirty service had put together about Niger supplying Saddam with 'yellow cake'.

Rest assured, there will be no mention of Kelly in any of this, and the blowback will go no higher than Libby.