Dennis Hans: Bob Woodward is Valerie Plame…
Bob Woodward Is Valerie Plame
Insights On The Naming Of CIA Analysts)
By Dennis Hans
Bob Woodward is Valerie Plame.
Granted, he has a few more lines in his face and a less captivating hairdo, but in one very important sense he is indeed she: Both have job classifications or titles, or perceived job titles, that have little to do with their actual work, and this has led to a great deal of confusion among the news media and citizenry.
Bob Woodward is an “assistant managing editor” of the Washington Post who rarely assists, manages or edits. It’s a left-over job title from earlier times, when he first served as Metro section editor — helping the Post and Janet Cooke earn a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for her fairy tale about Jimmy the imaginary eight-year-old junkie — and later headed up a dynamic investigative unit. But that was long ago.
These days, Woodward writes an occasional news story for the Post, but most of his time is devoted to long-term book projects, not daily journalism. The Post would help Woodward and the rest of us if it simply gave him a job title that matches his persona and duties:
“Establishment-friendly book author and famous alum who shows up once in a while and files a timely story once in a blue moon.”
With that job title, Woodward wouldn’t be taking so much flak for what he failed to do in mid-June 2003: promptly publish in the Post what an anonymous senior administration official told him about Valerie Plame. Or for committing a daily-reporter no-no by taking a strong PUBLIC stand on an important issue. Few would be bothered if “book author and administration-confidante Bob Woodward” denounced Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation as much ado about nothing. But the same comments from someone introduced to the audience as “famous Washington Post reporter and editor Bob Woodward” rightly creates a firestorm.
Some Post staffers ( http://washingtonian.com/inwashington/buzz/2005/1116.html) as well as national commentators and critics grumble about two sets of rules at the Post — one for Woodward and one for everyone else. But the grumblers are confusing his false job title with his actual job. Unless Woodward tells his source otherwise, that source understands from his ongoing relationship with Woodward that he’s not being interviewed for a story in tomorrow’s Post; rather, it’s for a book to be published months or years down the road. Yes, excerpts will run in the Post, but not until the book hits the stores.
On the other hand, if Walter Pincus calls a source at the White House or CIA, that source knows that Pincus is calling in conjunction with his work for a daily newspaper.
When Woodward was told that Valerie Plame is a CIA “analyst” on WMD ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/), he was not at liberty to print that in the Post without the source’s permission. It seems Woodward didn’t seek it and the source didn’t offer it. That latter point, incidentally, strongly suggests that the source was not involved in a leaking strategy. A “leak” that MIGHT turn up in a book a year later hardly helps the Bush administration deal with an immediate credibility crisis.
Plame Back In The Day And Today
As for Plame, Woodward’s 2003 source was describing what she DOES at the agency, irrespective of the department in which she works, the job title she holds, what she used to do at the agency, or whether or not her identity and job title are classified information.
On the other hand, much of the news media continue to describe Plame as a “covert agent,” “covert operative” or “agency operative” who was “outed” by vicious or careless Bush administration officials. The problem with such descriptions is that in 2003 Plame was no more a covert agent than Woodward was an “assistant managing editor.”
Through no fault of her own, Plame was forced to abandon — or at least put on indefinite hold — her career as a clandestine agent shortly after the 1994 defection of Aldrich Ames to the Soviet Union. The agency feared that Plame was among the far-flung CIA officers about whom Ames spilled the beans, and so it wisely went into damage-control mode.
As for the fallout from Plame being named by Robert Novak in July 2003, here’s what the Los Angles Times reported on July 16, 2005:
“Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said it was unlikely Plame was in danger as a result of being identified. An internal CIA review concluded that her exposure caused minimal damage, mainly because she had been working at headquarters for years, former officials familiar with the review said.” http://www.latimes.com/
Here’s how Plame was described back on October 8, 2003 ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/ ), by two careful, capable Washington Post reporters, Dana Priest (who recently broke the big story about CIA-run prisons in distant lands) and Richard Leiby:
“For the past several years, she has served as an operations officer working as a weapons proliferation analyst.”
That’s “analyst,” not “covert operator.”
I asked Priest and Leiby if “operations officer” was an official job title or just a generic description of someone employed by the action side of the CIA, the “Directorate of Operations,” or DO. I also asked if DO “analysts” have an official job title such as “operations analyst.”
Here is Priest’s email reply (which Leiby endorsed); her initial comment addresses the “operations officer” question:
“It's not an official title, per say. To describe someone who was trained and worked in the DO, you have several choices: ‘case officer’ which is too jargony, but is what the agency calls their DO people, or ‘operations officer,’ which is slightly more generic and acceptable to all involved (many loath ‘operative’ because it's too James Bond-like). As far as I know, there would not be ‘DO analysts,’ as a career path, although there would be people trained as analysts (through the DI track [DI is the Directorate of Intelligence, where most but not all of the analytical work is done], versus the DO track of training) who are assigned to work in the DO. And more so after 9-11 when they moved a bunch of analysts into the Counterterrorist Center and into the field to better help the DO officers.”
Priest and Leiby also reported that, in the previous few years prior to being named, Plame had been quite busy at home with a pregnancy, then caring for her infant twins while battling a severe case of postpartem depression, then counseling other moms fighting the same battle. Does that sound like someone who could function — at that very time — as an overseas undercover agent? How can you be in two places at once?
A new job title for Plame
Let’s do for Plame what we did for Woodward and give her a job title that fits her duties of the past several years: “Langley-based WMD analyst whose former undercover work on WMD issues gives her a perspective that enriches DO’s analytic capabilities.”
Time will tell if that is too flattering, but it appears that her department, the DO’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD), and the DO generally, did a somewhat better job analyzing Iraq’s alleged WMD programs and weapons than the CPD’s dreadful counterpart inside the Directorate of Intelligence — the Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center, or WINPAC. If so, perhaps Plame deserves some of the credit, even if she’s not at liberty to toot her horn: the CIA has graciously placed her under a gag order.
The recent Los Angeles Times blockbuster story ( http://www.latimes.com/) on “Curveball,” the Iraqi defector in the custody of German intelligence who spun tales of mobile bioweapons labs, recounts a bitter struggle between the DO and WINPAC.
The DO’s chief, James Pavitt, and its head of spying in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, tried hard to get the rest of the CIA to accept what Drumheller had learned from Germany’s senior spook in Washington: that Curveball was “crazy” and “probably a fabricator.” But WINPAC’s bioweapons expert stuck by Curveball, in part because “she had confirmed on the Internet many of the details he cited." To that, a senior DO official retorted, "Exactly, it's on the Internet! That's where he got it too.”
The clown who pushed the aluminum tubes canard, a guy identified in the Post simply as “Joe,” works for WINPAC. Judging from the 2004 bipartisan report of the Senate’s intelligence committee, “Joe” was worse than an incompetent bumbler; he was deceitful. So were a number of WINPAC higher-ups. The Senate report portrays Alan Foley, the recently retired director of WINPAC, as a dumb guy with a really bad memory who invariably saw Iraq’s empty WMD glass as 99 percent full.
The case for “outing” CIA analysts and their theories
In an essay ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/) recounting his testimony to Patrick Fitzgerald, Woodward described the context in which he learnedthat Plame was a CIA “analyst.” He said the reference to Plame seemed “casual and offhand” and neither “classified or sensitive.” It was his understanding that “an analyst in the CIA is not normally an undercover position.”
That latter understanding is correct, but Woodward’s reasonable assumption that Plame’s name and position with the CIA was not “classified” turned out to be wrong. Plame, in fact, is not the only agency analyst whose name is classified.
We still don’t know the last name of analyst “Joe,” or even if “Joe” is his real first name. Nor do we know the name of the WINPAC analyst who backed Curveball.
I share Woodward’s apparent belief that the news media should be free — except in cases of GENUINE risk to national security — to name CIA analysts, interview them and report on their work. In the case of Iraq’s alleged WMD, such openness would have abetted democratic debate AND served the national security — if we define that much-abused term as the safety and security of the citizenry, soldiers included.
We could have spared ourselves and the Iraqi people a whole lot of grief if journalists or government whistleblowers had shined a spotlight on three WINPAC analysts: “Joe,” director Alan Foley and Curveball’s protector. This trio, and the dubious claims they promoted, should have been fair game for public discussion back in 2001 and 2002.
If, for example, the real nuclear experts at the Department of Energy had “outed” and PUBLICLY debated pseudo-expert “Joe” back in 2001, no way in hell would the Bush team have been able to use those aluminum tubes as part of its nuclear case.
If Pavitt and Drumheller had introduced Robert Novak — who, believe it or not, lascerated Bush-team propaganda themes about Iraqi WMD and links to al Qaeda and 9-11 long before the start of war, as I have documented [ http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0310/S00085.htm] — to Curveball’s WINPAC protector and invited Novak to watch them debate her, Novak might have penned a column or two that would have blown up those mobile labs before they could be falsely presented as established facts by Bush and Powell.
The Iraq “threat” would have been exposed as a sham before the October 2002 congressional vote, there would have been no war, and Plame would never have crossed Woodward or Novak’s radar screen. Not that there’s anything wrong with naming a Directorate of Operations analyst who might well have an analytical record of which she can be proud.
©2005 by Dennis Hans
Bio: Dennis Hans is a freelance writer who has taught courses in mass communications and American foreign policy at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg; he’s also a basketball shooting instructor. Prior to the Iraq war, Hans penned the prescient essays “Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His ‘Techniques of Deceit’” ( http://www.democraticunderground.com/articles/03/02/12_lying.html) and “The Disinformation Age” ( http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0303/S00011.htm). He can be reached at HANS_D@popmail.firn.edu