Friday, July 22, 2005

The Daily Howler on Joe Wilson

Bob Somerby of The Daily Howler continues his one-dem assault on Joe Wilson's credibility (see my last post on this: "The Iraq/Niger Claims") which seems to be based mostly on a bipartisan Senate report, released on July 7th, 2004 ("U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq" table of contents and 500 page pdf file).

But was the "debunking" of Wilson's claims a bipartisan consensus? Perhaps Wilson detractors on the left like Bob Somerby should take the time to read the Additional Views part of the report, especially the one written by Chairman Pat Roberts, joined by Senator Christopher S.Bond, and Senator Orrin G.Hatch (all Republicans):

"Despite our hard and successful work to deliver a unanimous report, however, there were two issues on which the Republicans and Democrats could not agree: 1) whether the Committee should conclude that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s public statements were not based on knowledge he actually possessed, and 2) whether the Committee should conclude that it was the former ambassador’s wife who recommended him for his trip to Niger."

On Wednesday, Bob Somerby criticized Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times - directly - and Atrios - non-directly - for linking to an article that was posted at Washington Monthly. Somerby objected to one paragraph in Hiltzik's article (that Atrios hadn't quoted from) and he highlighted the "tangy words" that he took issue with:

"Matt Cooper wrote over the weekend that one reason he made his fateful call to Rove was to learn why the administration (i.e., Rove) was smearing Wilson. Under the cover of anonymity, Rove then proceeded to smear Wilson. What did Cooper gain from this conversation that warranted bestowing the journalist’s most precious gift, the promise of confidentiality? (He certainly didn’t get an answer to his question.) Sure, if not for “double super secret backround” Rove would not have taken the call. With all we know now, we can ask, So what? Rove used the gift to point Cooper down a road that led, inevitably, to a lie."

Somerby believes that Hiltzik "spun [Matt Cooper's] language up for him." Perhaps. Matt Cooper certainly hasn't used those exact words, and he's even backtracked a little bit on whether or not Rove outed a CIA operative since he filed his recent Time story.

I can't speak for Michael Hiltzik and explain why he used those words, but I have no problem at all using those same words myself to describe what Karl Rove engaged in.

Karl Rove did smear Joe Wilson and it has led to a lie (or two or three).

Joe Wilson wrote a letter to the Senate last year which addressed many of the so-called inconsistencies in his op-ed article for The New York Times and numerous media interviews compared to the evidence contained in the Senate Report, and just as it was ignored by the Senate it's also been ignored by his detractors.

Excerpts from Joe Wilson's letter to the Senate (Alternet):

"I read with great surprise and consternation the Niger portion of Senators Roberts, Bond and Hatch "additional comments to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Assessment on Iraq. I am taking this opportunity to clarify some of the issues raised in these comments."

"First conclusion: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."

"That is not true. The conclusion is apparently based on one anodyne quote from a memo Valerie Plame, my wife sent to her superiors that says "my husband has good relations with the PM (prime minister) and the former Minister of Mines, (not to mention lots of French contacts) both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." There is no suggestion or recommendation in that statement that I be sent on the trip. Indeed, it is little more than a recitation of my contacts and bona fides. The conclusion is reinforced by comments in the body of the report that a CPD reports officer stated the "the former ambassador's wife 'offered up his name'" (page 39) and a State Department Intelligence and Research officer that the "meeting was 'apparently convened by [the former ambassador's] wife who had the idea to dispatch him to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue."

"In fact, Valerie was not in the meeting at which the subject of my trip was raised. Neither was the CPD Reports officer. After having escorted me into the room, she departed the meeting to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. It was at that meeting where the question of my traveling to Niger was broached with me for the first time and came only after a thorough discussion of what the participants did and did not know about the subject. My bona fides justifying the invitation to the meeting were the trip I had previously taken to Niger to look at other uranium related questions as well as 20 years living and working in Africa, and personal contacts throughout the Niger government. Neither the CPD reports officer nor the State analyst were in the chain of command to know who, or how, the decision was made. The interpretations attributed to them are not the full story. In fact, it is my understanding that the Reports Officer has a different conclusion about Valerie's role than the one offered in the "additional comments.' I urge the committee to re-interview the officer and publicly publish his statement."

Wilson also cites an article written by Tim Phelps and Knut Royce for Newsday in July of 2003 and a report by CNN correspondent David Ensor on July 13th, 2004 which quote unnamed senior CIA officials who insist that Plame "did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment." More on this can be found in former CIA agent Larry Johnson's testimony before a joint session of congressional Democrats held earlier today which The Raw Story and others have posted transcripts from (Larry C. Johnson also served as "Deputy Director in the U.S. State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism" from 1989-1993):

"The decision to send Joe Wilson on the mission to Niger was made by Valerie's bosses. She did not have the authority to sign travel vouchers, issue travel orders, or expend one dime of U.S. taxpayer dollars on her own. Yet, she has been singled out by the Republican National Committee and its partisans as a legitimate target of attack."

Also, in December of 2003 a Washington Post article written by Mike Allen and Dana Milbank raised some questions about the memo and the agency officer mentioned in the Senate report:

"Sources said the CIA is angry about the circulation of a still-classified document to conservative news outlets suggesting Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Africa for the CIA. The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it."

"CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the INR document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting."

Aside from wrongly asserting that Valerie Plame picked her husband to take the trip to Niger, Karl Rove also told Cooper that Vice President Cheney's office had absolutely nothing to do with the mission and never even heard about it until Wilson went public.

For now, the simple truth is that we don't know for sure whether or not the CIA was acting on a request by Cheney's office. But there have been numerous articles in the media which hint at it, and it has been reported that the State Department had a representative at the CIA meeting in which the trip was proposed.

Somerby uses Matthew Cooper's original article about the Wilson/Plame affair from July 17th, 2003 to attack Hiltzik, so I think I'll use the same piece to attack back ("A War on Wilson?"):

"A source close to the matter says that Wilson was dispatched to Niger because Vice President Dick Cheney had questions about an intelligence report about Iraq seeking uranium and that he asked that the CIA get back to him with answers."

I have absolutely no problem with any pundit - from the right, left, or anywhere else - when it comes to opining about a story such as this when all the facts haven't been presented and unnamed sources and speculation are a big part of the entire affair, but I think pundits like Bob Somerby go too far when they use selected data to attack a person's credibility.

Bob Somerby is wrong to continuously refer to Joe Wilson as a liar, and in my opinion, the only credibility at stake is his.

Afterword or "More Reasons For A-list Bloggers to Hate Me."

Jay Rosen wrote an article last week at Press Think called "Rollback." As usual, it's a great read and an excellent dissection of the ongoing war between the White House and the press (which started well before Bush 43 and will undoubtedly continue through any future Administrations which may or may not include other members of the Bush clan), but I left a comment last weekend complaining about the link to a Daily Howler article about Joe Wilson embedded within these words in paranthesis: "who is no truthtelling hero."

Rosen recommended that I should do a post to refute Somerby's articles, and even offered to add it to his After section. I had already posted one article about this (linked to above), but I've been too busy this week to respond in the comments section, which is now closed.

But this is my last article on Somerby. What's the point? I wrote Somerby months ago respectfully taking him to task for his dismissal of the Jeff Gannon/Talon News investigation, and he never bothered to respond. A month later, I blogged about an unoriginal article that Somerby wrote and Atrios linked to (link), and it's not the only unoriginal article that I've read at The Daily Howler.

Bob Somerby doesn't give a shit what I have to say or report. Neither do any of the circle jerk a-list bloggers who belong to BlogPac who sometimes coordinate their blog posts but neglect to mention their political action committee, and - in my never humble, possibly paranoiac opinion - seem to blacklist bloggers on the left who dare to criticize any of them.

But Jay Rosen is my absolute favorite blogger and someone who has taught me an awful lot over the last few months, plus he isn't afraid to go against the liberal grain (Rosen's left-leaning, for sure, but he's fairer to both sides than nearly any other blogger I can think of) and we've agreed to disagree on certain things in the past so, aside from the two posts I've written, I'd like to respond to this comment Jay left for me:

"Wilson seems to me a very poor choice for lionization, Ron. (This was Somerby's point.) If you're Wilson and you say repeatedly and with great indignation that your wife did not "authorize" your trip or send you to Niger, but then fail to mention that she did in some way recommend you for it, then you're an ass. Wilson knows how the discrediting game works. He should have known his wife's recommendation would come out. What was he thinking? "I know how to stonewall too"? If you have an explanation I would love to hear it."

It's my belief that Wilson failed to mention Plame's bit role in the affair because he refuses to reveal his wife's CIA activities as a whole. So far, most of the known facts show that Plame did not "authorize" the trip, and that the email referred to in the Senate report was written in response to a superior officer's request for her husband's background. Wilson can't speak about his wife's role - however small it is - because it is a sensitive intelligence matter.

Of course, it's possible that Wilson may have told a lie or two. Anything's possible. But it's wrong to insist that that's the case when so much is only half known or not known, at all.

I like Joe Wilson. I think "lionization" is too strong a word to describe my feelings for him (though it might come close to how I feel about Jay Rosen), but I've spent countless days (weeks, months) researching this entire affair, and I've yet to find something that Wilson wrote or said that I would consider unequivocally false.

But I should probably say that my anger at Somerby regarding his Wilson lied posts is more personal than political or blogical.

Joe Wilson has been a good friend to liberal bloggers. And he's been in contact with a few bloggers that I consider good friends, who he has provided exclusives to before he spoke to the mainstream media. I consider Somerby's attacks on Wilson to be an attack on my friends (Somerby's referred to liberals who believe and trust Wilson as "pleasing blowhards" and "happy but dumb") , as well. And I don't take that shit lightly.

To sum it all up. I think Bob Somerby's an ass. Fuck him.


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