September 29, 2003

Scott McClellan Says George W. Bush Knows Who the Felons Are

The sharp-eyed Billmon notes a piece of a Washington Post story in which Press Secretary Scott McClellan says that George W. Bush knows which of his aides go around leaking the identity of American intelligence agents:

Whiskey Bar: The Butler Did It:

White House: President Knows Rove Not Involved in Revealing Identity :

"[Karl Rove] wasn't involved," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of Rove. "The president knows he wasn't involved. ... It's simply not true."

Of course, the only way Shrub could know that Rove was not involved is if he already knows who wasinvolved -- which would make him (at a minimum) an accessory after the fact.

The unasked followup question: "How long has George W. Bush known that Karl Rove was not involved--and thus also known who was involved? Days? Weeks? Months?"

Posted by DeLong at September 29, 2003 09:37 AM | TrackBack

Comments

not so hard to wriggle out of:

"POTUS knows that Rove isn't involved bc Rove assured POTUS that Rove wasn't involved."

we need something stickier.

Posted by: jb on September 29, 2003 09:56 AM

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"not so hard to wriggle out of:

'POTUS knows that Rove isn't involved bc Rove assured POTUS that Rove wasn't involved.'"

It might help in terms of media spin, but in legal terms this won't do. If Karl Rove has assured Bush that he wasn't involved, then Bush can declare that he is, say, "confident that Rove wasn't involved" or that he has every good reason to "believe that Rove wasn't involved." But he can't actually _know_ that Rove wasn't involved unless and until he knows who *was* involved.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct on September 29, 2003 10:20 AM

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oh, so "know" is a legally binding term?

does mcclellen speak for bush in such legally binding terms? new wriggle: "i told scotty i 'was confident' but he reported it to the press as 'POTUS _knew_'."

just playin' devils advocate (although obviously i lack the JD to be properly declared as an 'advocate')

Posted by: jb on September 29, 2003 10:28 AM

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See Talking Points Memo for full transcript of McClellan's pathetic attemps to respond:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/sept0304.html#0929031203pm

If Rove is so brilliant, why haven't they worked out a defense in the 3 months they've had?

Does that mean Rove is a principal in the deed?

Posted by: David Finley on September 29, 2003 10:41 AM

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From listening briefly to the press secretary this morning, the president had time to figure out that Rove and Cheney weren't involved, but didn't have time or the curiosity to find out just who was. Apparently there are only about a dozen or so "senior WH officials" that could have leaked the information. Seems like a president who was really concerned about this would be able to tell his Chief of Staff to find out who leaked the information, fire those idividuals involved, turn over information to the justice department for criminal prosecution, and get on to the next round of tax cuts, all before suppertime.
harv

Posted by: Ken Harvey on September 29, 2003 10:41 AM

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Let's not get carried away. It's perfectly possible to know that one person didn't do something w/o knowing who did. This story is important and damning; overstatements are not helpful.

Posted by: Sam Penrose on September 29, 2003 10:48 AM

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"But he can't actually _know_ that Rove wasn't involved unless and until he knows who *was* involved."

That's simply not true. Surely you realize this, don't you? For example, I know that Abraham Lincoln wasn't involved without knowing who was. He could "know" that Rove wasn't involved because Rove told him so. Taking Rove's word for it isn't "knowing", you say? Well, then, should he take the word of those who do admit to it when they do? Or a third party telling Bush who was involved? This is probably the standard of "knowing" you're assuming. If you're going to insist upon the most restrictive sense of the word "know", then in these sorts of matters very few people ever know anything.

I think it's a bit silly to read into Mclellan's statement that Bush "knows" Rove wasn't involved the assumption that he knows who was. It doesn't logically follow; and it's a stretch of an assumption in practical terms.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 29, 2003 10:49 AM

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It is an understatement to say, as Sam does, that "overstatements are not helpful." Overstatements are downright detrimental. They allow the apologists to divert attention from the real issue to a quibble about the flaws of the overstatement.

Posted by: joe on September 29, 2003 10:54 AM

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Brad DeLong writes:
>
> The sharp-eyed Billmon notes a piece of a Washington
> Post story in which Press Secretary Scott McClellan says
> that George W. Bush knows which of his aides go around
> leaking the identity of American intelligence agents:

Sorry, but this is not a valid deduction given the premise:

Scott McClellan says "The president knows Rove was not involved."

Even given the truth of the (necessary in this case) conditional: "If Scott McCellan says something, then that thing is true."

And, for that matter, you would have to decide that "knows" is not synonymous with "strongly believes", which I think is a stretch in most people's dialect of English. If Bush only has a strong belief, it could easily be based on facts such as Bush not believing that Rove would lie to him (although Rove does lie to others), and Rove lying to him about his involvement anyway.

If Bush's expression of knowledge is just his expression of belief, then you don't have to assume that he has identified the complete set of individuals who were responsible (a set which he believes does not include Rove) to know what he knows.

That said, you may or may not believe McClellan's statement, whether Bush's belief is well-founded or even sincere, whether Rove is telling Bush the truth, whether Rove was involved, or what the meaning of "involved" really is here.

The fun thing about politics is that there are so many entertaining possible ways to interpret every utterance. The fun thing about the criminal justice system is that we get to find out which possible interpretation is the one we know to be true beyond the reasonable doubt of a jury.

Posted by: Jonathan King on September 29, 2003 10:59 AM

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then again...if, as the story progresses, Rove turns out to be the culprit, Bushie's either a) lying, or b) too incompetant to know what's going on in his own backyard.

the legendary WH leak discipline would be demolished. good job, MBA president.

Posted by: jb on September 29, 2003 11:10 AM

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jb - do you think that a) lying and b) incompetent are mutually exclusive?

Posted by: joe on September 29, 2003 11:18 AM

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Why didn't the White House started its own investigation months ago when this came out?

Why no strong condemnations of anyone leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent?

Bob Novak clearly didn't invent his column from thin air.

They fire Lindsay for telling the truth about the cost of the Iraq adventure but don't care about a violation of law of this magnitude?

Their nonchanlance about this is astounding.

Posted by: richard on September 29, 2003 11:21 AM

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I have a different question. Brad obviously would used logic, inference to come to his conclusions in his econmic findings. How do you know he (or any economic guru out there) doesn't make a mistake like the one above by stating that b followed a while a and b are 2 different entities not neccesarily following each other, considering his economic subjects are much tougher to discuss than those simple statements above?
Disclaimer: It's not a disrepect question here for Brad.

Posted by: Lan Nguyen on September 29, 2003 11:45 AM

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Lan - everybody makes mistakes. Why can we trust the analyses of some? Peer review.

Posted by: joe on September 29, 2003 11:54 AM

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Maybe POTUS "learned it from the British?"

Posted by: BillR on September 29, 2003 11:57 AM

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"That's simply not true. Surely you realize this, don't you? For example, I know that Abraham Lincoln wasn't involved without knowing who was."

Abraham Lincoln, eh? This must come from the Lionel Hutz school of legal defence. But the argument is a non sequitur. The fact that you can know that Lincoln didn't do it without knowing who *did* does not allow you to make the inference that you can know that Rove didn't do it without knowing who did. Lincoln has already been eliminated because Lincoln is dead. Since Rove is very much alive and among the relatively short list of possible suspects (which list, it goes without saying, does not include any dead people), the only way to know with certainly that he didn't do it is to know who did.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct on September 29, 2003 12:04 PM

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Adjunct, my example was intended to disprove your categorical assertion, which it did. You write: "the only way to know with certainly that he didn't do it is to know who did." But, again, this statement simply isn't true. One only needs to know that Rove didn't do it. His being dead is a good disqualifier. But there are others. That's just an extreme along a continuum.

I know that you--"Invisible Adjunct"--are not my best friend, or my father. There are a number of other people I know that are not you. Yet, oddly, I don't know who you are. Isn't that something?

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 29, 2003 12:14 PM

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Can you say "misprision of felony"? Bush knows the law was broken (or at least he should). And he knows it was one of a small number of his staffers. No one else fits the description of Novak's source. He can be prosecuted for this. It was one of the things Nixon had to be pardoned for.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan on September 29, 2003 12:17 PM

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I should add, lest you push the "certainty" qualifier, that I know *with certainty* that you are not me. Yet, I don't know who you are. QED.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 29, 2003 12:18 PM

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joe-

lying and incompetance certainly aren't mutually exclusive (i'd argue that, esp in the context of the bush admin, they're bedfellows) but i phrase it that way to highlight the dilemma the bushies'd find themselves in.

Posted by: jb on September 29, 2003 12:40 PM

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http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=514&u=/ap/20030929/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/iraq_uranium_22

White House Denies Leaking CIA Identity

17 minutes ago Add Top Stories - AP to My Yahoo!

DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The White House on Monday denied that President Bush (news - web sites)'s chief political strategist was involved in revealing the identity of a CIA (news - web sites) operative, in possible violation of the law. A Democratic senator has asked Justice Department (news - web sites) to appoint a special counsel to probe the matter.
The naming of the intelligence officer's identity by syndicated columnist Robert Novak came shortly after her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, undermined Bush's claim that Iraq (news - web sites) had tried to buy uranium in Africa.

Wilson has publicly blamed Karl Rove, Bush's top political adviser, for the leak, although Wilson did say Monday he did not know whether Rove personally was the source of Novak's information, only that he thought Rove had "condoned it."

"He wasn't involved," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of Rove. "The president knows he wasn't involved. ... It's simply not true."

McClellan urged anyone with information about the alleged leak to contact with Justice Department. "The president expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct," McClellan said. "No one would be authorized to do such a thing."

The letter was sent from the CIA's Office of General Counsel to the Department of Justice (news - web sites) in late July. It noted a violation of the law had apparently occurred when someone provided Novak with the name of the CIA officer. The letter was not signed by CIA Director George Tenet and did not call for a specific investigation

Posted by: Barry Ritholtz on September 29, 2003 12:52 PM

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How about the possibility that Bush knows that Rove did not have the information, and thus could not have leaked it?

Posted by: jens on September 29, 2003 01:02 PM

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How about the possibility that Bush knows that Rove did not have the information, and thus could not have leaked it?

Posted by: jens on September 29, 2003 01:03 PM

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How about the possibility that Bush knows that Rove did not have the information, and thus could not have leaked it?

Posted by: jens on September 29, 2003 01:03 PM

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Bush isn't worried about this. Someone will take care of it. Someone always has....for George...

He should worry.

Posted by: section321 on September 29, 2003 01:10 PM

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Invisible Adjunct, I admit I'm stumped by what you say. Let's take some prosaic counter-examples--so prosaic there's some chance they've happened: Rove's phone logs have been searched and show no calls to Robert Novak around the date of Novak's article. Or, Rove has signed an affidavit attesting that he did not call any journalists and reveal the identity and occupation of Valerie Plame (that, I think, would allow GWB to reasonably say he "knows").

Seeing Rove's phone logs or reading his affidavit would allow GWB to rule out Rove without determining who did in fact make the calls. Maybe you're pushing hard on "know" and "certainty," but 1) I don't think certainty need be the criterion for using "know"--certainly not through an intermediary in a press conference and 2) what's the standard of certainty that doesn't rule out Rove but will let us say definitively who *did* do it?

Posted by: ogged on September 29, 2003 01:14 PM

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I can't think of anyone in the WH besides Rove whom Bush would not have thrown to the wolves by now. Reason being, I can't think of anyone else Bush has such reason to fear. After all, if Rove turned against him ...

Posted by: buce on September 29, 2003 01:42 PM

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>>if Rove turned against him ...

No way. Rove expects a big payoff for his efforts. And he remembers Vince Foster (:-))

Posted by: richard on September 29, 2003 01:51 PM

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The entire Beltway press corps knows who leaked the story!

Maybe it's time to bring back The Spanish Inquisition.

Put them on the rack and get some answers!

Posted by: David Ehrenstein on September 29, 2003 02:14 PM

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"We need something stickier"

Probably not.

True that if Bush trusts Rove absolutely, then all that could have happened is that Bush asked Rove, "Did you do it?" and Rove responded, "No"

Bush then asserts that he knows Rove wasn't responsible.

All good and well, but one would think that any man worthy of holding the office of President of the United States would then go on to request that Rove and/or some other member of the administration immediately discover who is indeed responsible.

That this hasn't been done is, in itself, bordering on aiding and abbetting treason.

An intersting aside.....the situation of the reporters resembles a prisoners' dilema, no?

Seven reporters (and most likely their editors) know who contacted them. By remaining silent they are in accord with 4th estate confidentiality ethics and they maintain the status quo relationship between journalists and sources (very important to the industry).

However, who ever breaks the story first gets a hell of a front pager and some huge short term gains.

Each oulet knows the others are faced with the same decision making criteria........to be the first to break the story or not.

My guess is that at least one media outlet is working on fleshing out the story right now.

I think we'll soon know who's responsible for the security break.

I'll bet that

Posted by: E. Avedisian on September 29, 2003 02:24 PM

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I agree with Ehrenstein, this whole thing is ridiculous. I hate it when the media knows what the hell is going on, and then pretends like it has no clue because it's protecting sources. There are at least six people in the media (and likely many more) who know exactly who leaked this information. And yet, in many cases, these very same people are likely telling us how we don't know who these "senior white house officials" are. Well, we don't, because the media doesn't choose to tell us. This kind of story is a joke!

In any case, Mr. McClellan relieved all those journalists of their duty to protect their sources when he said: "Do you have something to bring to our attention? I mean, let me make clear, if anyone has information about this leak of classified information, they need to report it to the Department of Justice -- anyone," and "Well, do you have any information to bring to our attention, Paula? Do you have any information to bring to our attention? If you have any information, that should be reported to the Department of Justice, and they need to pursue this to the fullest."

Right?

Posted by: John on September 29, 2003 02:26 PM

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"We need something stickier"

Probably not.

True that if Bush trusts Rove absolutely, then all that could have happened is that Bush asked Rove, "Did you do it?" and Rove responded, "No"

Bush then asserts that he knows Rove wasn't responsible.

All good and well, but one would think that any man worthy of holding the office of President of the United States would then go on to request that Rove and/or some other member of the administration immediately discover who is indeed responsible.

That this hasn't been done is, in itself, bordering on aiding and abbetting treason.

An intersting aside.....the situation of the reporters resembles a prisoners' dilema, no?

Seven reporters (and most likely their editors) know who contacted them. By remaining silent they are in accord with 4th estate confidentiality ethics and they maintain the status quo relationship between journalists and sources (very important to the industry).

However, who ever breaks the story first gets a hell of a front pager and some huge short term gains.

Each oulet knows the others are faced with the same decision making criteria........to be the first to break the story or not.

My guess is that at least one media outlet is working on fleshing out the story right now.

I think we'll soon know who's responsible for the security break.

I'll bet that

Posted by: E. Avedisian on September 29, 2003 02:29 PM

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Novak has just said on Crossfire that it *wasn't* White House officials that contacted him. I want to disbelieve him, but I'm having a bit of trouble understanding why he would expect to get away with lying about this. I have to admit that if he's telling the truth, it would explain a few things that have remained inexplicable...

..like why none of the other reporters who actually know who the leakers are have figured out a way to "out" them. Or why this story was quiescent. Or why the administration was so unprepared to answer questions about it.

But Wilson has said that he was told by other journalists that it was the White House that contacted them. And didn't Andrea Mitchell today admit that she was one of those contacted?

I suppose Novak could be lying through his teeth out of panic.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 29, 2003 02:33 PM

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"We need something stickier"

Probably not.

True that if Bush trusts Rove absolutely, then all that could have happened is that Bush asked Rove, "Did you do it?" and Rove responded, "No"

Bush then asserts that he knows Rove wasn't responsible.

All good and well, but one would think that any man worthy of holding the office of President of the United States would then go on to request that Rove and/or some other member of the administration immediately discover who is indeed responsible.

That this hasn't been done is, in itself, bordering on aiding and abbetting treason.

An intersting aside.....the situation of the reporters resembles a prisoners' dilema, no?

Seven reporters (and most likely their editors) know who contacted them. By remaining silent they are in accord with 4th estate confidentiality ethics and they maintain the status quo relationship between journalists and sources (very important to the industry).

However, who ever breaks the story first gets a hell of a front pager and some huge short term gains.

Each oulet knows the others are faced with the same decision making criteria........to be the first to break the story or not.

My guess is that at least one media outlet is working on fleshing out the story right now.

I think we'll soon know who's responsible for the security break.

I'll bet that

Posted by: E. Avedisian on September 29, 2003 02:35 PM

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apologies for the triple post.

I got the message that transmission failed, then tried again. I have no clue about how the third post happened.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on September 29, 2003 02:38 PM

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Billmon apparently wrote, "Of course, the only way Shrub could know that Rove was not involved is if he already knows who was involved -- which would make him (at a minimum) an accessory after the fact."

As others have pointed out, this statement is not necessarily true. For example, presumably G.W. Bush knows *he* didn't do the leaking. But that does not mean he knows who *did* the leaking.

By the way, in case "Billmon" hadn't heard--or had been persuaded otherwise, as noted in my postscript--people in this country are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Courts *ought* to look with disfavor when a President declares someone to have committed a crime, before a trial has even been held.

***P.S. Perhaps Billmon has been negatively influenced by Bush's irresponsible cowboy mentality, which proclaims "We know he's guilty"--e.g., regarding Osama bin Laden's *alleged* involvement in 9/11--before a trial has even been held.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 29, 2003 02:42 PM

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Heck, perhaps they've already investigated a number of people internally including Rove and therefore "know" that it wasn't him.

Not that I particularly care for defending Bush or Rove but it's not that much of a stretch.

Posted by: Unseelie on September 29, 2003 02:48 PM

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Is it possible that there's a linguistic loophole that McClellan is slipping through here? Novak's original story cited "two senior administration officials," while the Time story cited "government officials." Are "administration officials" and "government officials" synonymous with "White House officials"? In other words, if people at Justice or Defense or the CIA (all obviously unlikely, to be sure) talked to Novak and Time, would that mean that there was "White House involvement"?

Jesuitical, no doubt. But throughout McClellan's press conference this afternoon, what he kept coming back to was whether there was evidence "to suggest any White House involvement." Now, he obviously knows someone in the government talked to Novak, which makes his denials seem ridiculous, unless he's drawing this distinction between the WH and the rest of the government.

Posted by: James Surowiecki on September 29, 2003 02:56 PM

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"Seven reporters (and most likely their editors) know who contacted them. By remaining silent they are in accord with 4th estate confidentiality ethics and they maintain the status quo relationship between journalists and sources (very important to the industry)."

And WHY is it important?

Beacause reporters and their editors are lazy pigs, that's why!

There is NO need for anonymous sourcing for any reporter willing and able to do some hard, honest WORK.

Have these people ever HEARD of work? I doubt it.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein on September 29, 2003 03:09 PM

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http://talkingpointsmemo.com/sept0304.html#0929031203pm

Scott McClellan is a real pro. And reporters are funny!

Mr. McClellan has it absolutely right: "Talk to Justice."

And the reporters' nonsense about "Can't Bush 'smoke them out?'" is hilarious.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 29, 2003 03:56 PM

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David, have you considered that the 6(or 7?) reporters not divulging names could be PARTISAN HACKS? Perhaps those picked for the tip-off were the most loyal to the administration?

All this is a distraction to the FACT that a CIA operatives cover was blown. If Robert Novak did actually get this information from somebody in the White House, why can't the President take action to root out the Treasonous Traitor?

rbb

p.s. Perhaps there was no crime at all. Maybe the President signed a secret executive order to remove the CIA operative from service, so no cover was actually blown. And maybe pigs will fly?

Posted by: Mobius Klein on September 29, 2003 04:04 PM

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James S,

This is no time for attacks on the Jesuits.

From what I gather, the answer to your question--"if people at Justice or Defense or the CIA ... talked to Novak and Time, would that mean that there was "White House involvement"?"--is no. In fact, it was my understanding that even "government officials" and "administration officials" are not synonymous--with "administration" implying "White House."

Posted by: ogged on September 29, 2003 04:32 PM

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"David, have you considered that the 6(or 7?) reporters not divulging names could be PARTISAN HACKS? Perhaps those picked for the tip-off were the most loyal to the administration?"

As far as I know the ONLY Beltway reporter not slavishly loyal to the administration is Helen Thomas.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein on September 29, 2003 04:54 PM

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Novak did indeed say the White House didn't contact him. He then went on to say that he was told about Plame in an interview he was conducting.

Posted by: cafl on September 29, 2003 05:08 PM

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As an aside, it's fun to note that Mrs Alan Greenspan (aka Andrea Mitchell) has acknowledged being one of the six reporters who was provided with the secret information by our unnamed White House operative(s). Maybe Mrs Greenspan will feel sufficiently personally and financially secure to retire on an up note, and end her career by revealing her sources. There's a good chance it would be a service to her country.

Posted by: prstein on September 29, 2003 05:20 PM

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It's finally happened. The usual suspects have collectively blown a molehill into a mountain in such an hysterical fashion that the Academy has decided to establish the Semi-Daily Journal Dumbassy.

Like its sister award, the sci.econ dumbassy, SDJDA is only given to the truly deserving. Those who make statements so weird, so totally out of proportion to the facts, that a normal person (or one restored to his medication?) would, if he ever realized how stupendously ridiculous he is being, be too embarrassed to come out in public for a year.

The inaugural award, in the category, The Paranoid Can Have Enemies Just Like Real Spooks, Ya Know, goes to this gem:

" All this is a distraction to the FACT that a CIA operatives cover was blown. If Robert Novak did actually get this information from somebody in the White House, why can't the President take action to root out the Treasonous Traitor? "

Since it appears that all Robert Novak did was to report an entirely pedestrian conversation with two CIA officials about how a flaky Clinton Administration ambassador ever got an assignment with the Bush team. In which, the unremarkable fact, that his wife was employed in Langley, Virginia by the CIA as some kind of "analyst". That is, someone who doesn't have "a cover" in the first place, but has been watching too many Maxwell Smart reruns.

Congratulations, have that tuxedo sent out for a cleaning, and remember to keep your acceptance speech to the length of, "You like me? You really like me?"

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on September 29, 2003 05:27 PM

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Now Robert Novak is trying to deny this leak came from the White House. His townhall oped was a pathetic piece of cooperation with treason borne out of partisan fevor. Novak lately wrote a Creators Syndicate oped that condemned the outing (without saying he was part of it). Now he tries to excuse it. Odd, the archives of Creators Syndicate (and www.cnn.com where the oped also appeared) don't go back that far. Anyone know how one might find Novak's second spin on this. It would seem such a discover would undercut his spin on this today. But rest assured, this White House will try to block any real investigation of this treason.

Posted by: Hal McClure on September 29, 2003 05:34 PM

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Uh, Patrick, to quote the Post today: "She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents." Which, of course, is why the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate that "entirely pedestrian conversation" in the first place, and why that "high Administration official" then contacted the Post to raise hell.

As for Wilson being "a flaky Clinton Administration ambassador": he was also a Bush Sr. Administration ambassador for several years. All of which just further confirms that it's a striking exercise in modesty for you not to nominate yourself for the SDJDA Award, given your long-running performance as a top contender.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on September 29, 2003 05:51 PM

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In real-world terms I think Billmon is right. In the present situation, how many ways would it be possible for Bush to know that Rove was not responsible?

Billmon's conjecture -- that Bush knew who did it, but it wasn't Rove -- is the most likely. One alternative proposed -- that a thorough investigation had exonerated Rove without finding the real culprit -- seems highly unlikely. Partly this is because it's hard to believe that Bush had a thorough investigation done, and partly because it would be extremely unlikely for an investigation to be able to prove that Rove had not had a three-minute conversation with Novak at one time or another.

Another possible answer, of course, is that Bush **doesn't** know that Rove was not involved; another possibility is that he knows that Rove **was** involved -- and is lying (through McClelland).

Awhile back we had a long thread about the differences between the "implication" of natural language and the "implication" of formal logic. We're dealing with natural language logic here, not formal logic. Keith Ellis's contributions also show the problems involved in the analytic-philosophy approach generally -- first he translates what's in question into a formalized hypothetical question, and then he does his operations on it, ending up with "I know that you are not my father, or at the very least, I know that you are not me, and furthermore we know that Abraham Lincoln did not leak to Novakula."

In doing so he may or may not have produced an interesting meta-critique of I.A.'s argument, but he contributed nothing but confusion to our discussion of the case here in question.

Awhile back Rorty bemusedly wondered why philosophers are not asked to sit on blue-ribbon commissions investigation policy questions. I immediately imagined Year Three of the welfare reform panel finally deciding that in fact other minds **do** exist, and moving on the the question of **how we know** that they exist.

Mark Bahner, as always, provides his own unique brand of red herring. I don't see what's laughable about the idea that Bush could find out which of the small number of subordinates he sees every day was the one who talked to Novakula. He's supposed to be their boss, you know. It's only ridiculous if you assume that Bush is a co-conspirator -- as I do and Bahner presumably doesn't.

And of course, we're not asking Bush to judge Rove guilty either. We're just asking him to speak to the facts of the case -- to tell us, if he knows, whether Rove talked to Novak. There's no indictment in play yet.

Posted by: Zizka on September 29, 2003 05:57 PM

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Zizka, touche. But the original assertion was expressed, it seemed to me, as a logical argument. And although I wasn't very articulate at it, I tried to address the natural language argument, as well. I'll repeat: Bush can "know" that Rove didn't do it because Rove told him he didn't do it. That may seem weak to us, but if we are going to parse this naturally, then we have to also accept these words in good faith. An example: a friend of mine spent the night with someone he didn't know well. That person then couldn't find their wallet the next day. My friend, whom I trust implicitly, told me he didn't steal the wallet. I mention this example because I mentioned it to my friend today when we discussed this thread. I "know" he didn't steal the wallet. Do I really and truly know? Well, yeah, if I had a press spokesman that was answering the question for me that's what I'd tell him to say.

My point is that logic doesn't demand what Adjunct (and Billmon, and DeLong) insisted....but neither does everyday language. If we're talking probabilities and common sense here, then, again, I think it makes more sense to assume that Bush "knows" that Rove didn't do it without knowing who did. There's a bazillion reasons for this, not the least of which is that it's far more politically convenient for the President to know who didn't do it than it is to know who did.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on September 29, 2003 06:20 PM

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with all the parsing going on here, somehow this one was missed: the White House did not in fact contact Novak if Novak is the one who contacted the White House.

Posted by: julia on September 29, 2003 08:01 PM

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"It's finally happened. The usual suspects have collectively blown a molehill into a mountain in such an hysterical fashion that the Academy has decided to establish the Semi-Daily Journal Dumbassy."

May the gods forgive me, but I have to agree with Sullivan here.

Here we have over 100,000 troops getting shot at daily in Iraq, and what is the intelligensia worked up about? The "possibility" that a right-wing columnist "may" have leaked the identity of a CIA operative!

It may finally wind up on the scale of a third-rate burglary, as in Watergate, but it seems to me that the far, far greater question is how we got involved in this war to begin with.

Most certainly, every justification that was offered for this war has been proven to be bogus.

For anyone with eyes and ears, the reason we got into this war was to try to remake certain parts of the Middle East in our own image; those parts that Israel didn't like.

That is the truth, bluntly.

It was a plan hatched during the candidacy of Benyamin Netahyahu in 1992, by some of the same people who carried it into the US White House in 2001.

And that is also the truth, bluntly.

The only question that remains, it seems to me, is what are we going to do about it?

Posted by: James Hogan on September 29, 2003 08:27 PM

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"In real-world terms I think Billmon is right. In the present situation, how many ways would it be possible for Bush to know that Rove was not responsible?"

I can think of at least one logical reason: Bush knows that Rove doesn't have a security clearance appropriate to knowing the identities of covert CIA operatives.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 30, 2003 09:26 AM

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"In real-world terms I think Billmon is right. In the present situation, how many ways would it be possible for Bush to know that Rove was not responsible?"

I can think of at least one logical reason: Bush knows that Rove doesn't have a security clearance appropriate to knowing the identities of covert CIA operatives.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 30, 2003 09:33 AM

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"In real-world terms I think Billmon is right. In the present situation, how many ways would it be possible for Bush to know that Rove was not responsible?"

I can think of at least one logical reason: Bush knows that Rove doesn't have a security clearance appropriate to knowing the identities of covert CIA operatives.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 30, 2003 09:38 AM

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Question for the lawyers: Where does Novak lie, in the umbra or penumbra or in the bright sunlight of legal responsibility for this?

Posted by: dilbert dogbert on September 30, 2003 10:24 AM

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"Question for the lawyers: Where does Novak lie, in the umbra or penumbra or in the bright sunlight of legal responsibility for this?"

I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it, the crime is if a *government employee* releases a name.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 30, 2003 02:56 PM

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"Question for the lawyers: Where does Novak lie, in the umbra or penumbra or in the bright sunlight of legal responsibility for this?"

I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the crime is for a *government employee* to divulge the identity of a CIA operative.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on September 30, 2003 03:49 PM

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Genius hath electric power which earth can never tame.

Posted by: Bevington Sarah on December 10, 2003 01:01 AM

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Lies are only a problem when you believe them.

Posted by: Beckrich Amy on December 20, 2003 03:10 PM

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Inertia is not limited to matter.

Posted by: Amon Eliza on January 9, 2004 02:44 AM

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