Murkier and murkier in the Plame Game. A very odd and poorly written article in the New York Times presents the Rove countergame for us. I had to read it umpteen times and I'm still not sure what the article is saying. This is very odd, given that the Times can pick the best of all the political writers (though it doesn't, of course, as Tierney and Brooks are in its stable). In any case, it seems, perhaps, that Rove's defense is that he didn't actually give the information about Plane to Novak but just agreed to whatever Novak told him already. This I do not believe. Rove is an excellent political operative, and he would never slip like that unless it was for purpose. Wheels within wheels.
Add to all that the legal questions about hairsplitting and so on, and I really don't know what to say. The Washington Post published an article which tries to clarify the Times message, but it's based on the same information so doesn't help very much. Or maybe I'm just a little bit tired of all this maneuvring.
I mentioned earlier that the Downing Street Memo affair is linked to the Plame Game through all sorts of unethical connections. Juan Cole notes that these connections can go even deeper and may have caused incredible harm:
The question is whether Bush played politics with terror around the time of the Democratic National Convention in late July, 2004. Jim Lobe reminded us at the time that ' The New Republic weekly quoted Pakistani intelligence officials as saying the White House had asked them to announce the arrest or killing of any "high-value [al-Qaeda] target" any time between July 26 and 28, the first three days of the Democratic Convention. At the time, former CIA officer Robert Baer said the announcement made "no sense." "To keep these guys off-balance, a lot of this stuff should be kept in secret. You get no benefit from announcing an arrest like this." '
In response to White House pressure, the Pakistanis were in fact able to make an arrest, which was announced during the Democratic National Convention. That arrest, of a Tanzanian named Ahmad Khalfan Gheilani, in turn led to the capture of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a young computer expert who had old al-Qaeda documents on his laptop as well as a more recent archive of email correspondence with al-Qaeda in the UK. Among the old data were pre-9/11 plans for attacks in New York and elsewhere.
The announcement set off a frenzy of press interest in the basis for then Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge's alarm. Either from a Bush administration source or from a Pakistani one (each government blames the other), they came up with the name of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a recently arrested al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan, and published it. But it turns out that the Pakistanis and the UK had "turned" Khan and were having him be in active email contact with the al-Qaeda network in the UK so as to track them down.
On August 3, the Bush administration released the name of Abu Eisa Khan, a suspected al-Qaeda operative in the UK who had been arrested. The motive for this shocking lapse in security procedure appears to have been the desire to trumpet a specific arrest.
All of these public pronouncements by the Americans infuriated the Pakistani and British police.
For the sake of three year old intelligence, the Bush administration had helped blow the first inside double agent the Pakistanis and the British had ever developed. The British had been preparing a set of indictments and pursuing the investigation, in part by using Khan. They were forced to move before they were ready. Some suspects escaped on hearing Naeem Noor Khan's in the media. Of those who were arrested, several had to be released for lack of evidence against them.
Muhammad Sadique Khan, one of the July 7 bombers, was apparently connected to one of the suspects under surveillance in early August, 2004.
If politics indeed was played here the pattern is the same as in the Plame Game. But it isn't a game, of course. Not for us ordinary people who just might end up dead in a subway car or an airplane because of such games.