Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Weisberg: I'm a dumbass

Oh, I'm sorry, that should read 'I'm a contrarian'.

Weisberg, unbelievably, makes the argument in Slate that there's no big deal with the Plame outing, and that the law is bad, and no malice was intended, and that liberals are foolish to want to see Rove prosecuted.

It's amazing on how many counts he's wrong!

For starters, there's the issue of whether a crime has been committed. Fitzgerald, a career prosecutor who has taken on Al Qaeda, the Gambino family, and the Daley family in his past, may or may not think that a crime has been committed. We don't know yet! But by appearances, this is the case. Weisberg's argument appears to come down to "Jack Shafer says so."
Weisberg bases his argument on a faulty reading of the IIPA, and also of Shafer, who relays the (fairly obvious) possibility that other laws may come into play. Weisberg appears to be passing on RNC talking points here.

Weisberg moves forward straight into the realm of speculation.

"But in the hands of a relentless and ambitious prosecutor like Fitzgerald, the absence of evidence that you've broken a law just becomes an invitation to develop a case based on other possible crimes, especially those committed in the course of defending yourself, like obstruction of justice and making false statements."

Excuse me, but what the f*ck are you talking about? What 'absence of evidence'? At what point, Mr. Weisberg, did you become privy to the grand jury proceedings? How much do you know about Fitzgerald's case? Nothing? That's what I thought. Sit down and shut up.

"Already, Fitzgerald's investigation has proved a disaster for freedom of the press and freedom of information."

At what point does the phrase 'classified information' become relevant, Mr. Weisberg? Either the government should have the power to keep some information or it shouldn't. The general consensus is that there is a need for this kind of secrecy from time to time. Certainly a person working on the proliferation of WMDs would occasionally need this kind of cover. Right?

So, now that we're stipulating that it's reasonable for some people to have non-official covers, let's ask what should happen if somebody breaks that cover. Well, that would appear to be a case where the law has been broken. Right? Certainly the CIA thinks so, or they would not have referred the matter to DoJ.

So, what 'freedom of press' has been broached here? I'm not seeing it. Apparently the freedom to reveal state secrets qualifies?

"Should Fitzgerald win convictions under the espionage law or Section 641, any conversations between officials and journalists touching on classified information could come become prosecutable offenses."

Uh, duh. That's why it's called classified information, moron! Jesus Christ, this is a stupid argument. Are people inherently so stupid when their own profession is brought into line?

"Why did the Times make this mistake, especially after criticizing the out-of-control independent counsels who went after Henry Cisneros, Bruce Babbitt, and Bill Clinton?"

Is Mr. Weisberg advancing the argument that prosecutors are no longer needed? That, because of the abuses of a number of prosecutors, no crimes should ever be investigated?

"In that context, Libby's comments don't look anything like retaliation against Joe Wilson—especially now that we know that Libby first mentioned Wilson and his wife to Judith Miller three weeks before Wilson went public with his op-ed piece. As for Rove, so far as we know, he spoke to only a single journalist—Matthew Cooper of Time. According to Cooper, Rove didn't even know Plame's name. If that's a White House smear campaign, Rove's skills are getting pretty rusty."

Weisberg is making the classic fallacicious mistake of equation "what we know" with "what is". We "know" somebody was talking to a lot of members of the press. We have been told that more than one person talked to Novak. Do we know who those people are? Curiously, no. We know that Rove talked to Matt Cooper on the very same topic. The argument 'Rove didn't even know Plame's name' seems be be the usual canard of finding some escape from guilt by saying 'Wilson's wife' is somehow a less guilt-worthy phrase than 'Valerie Plame'.

Whether the revelation of the name was a smear calculated to destroy Plame's career really isn't the issue. I've always thought it was mentioned more to discredit Wilson than anything else. In the macho world of Bush, Cheney and co., relying on a wife for a favor is very emasculating. The fact remains that these people broke the law. For that, they should face the wrath of the prosecutor, no?

What is the #1 threat to American security? Here's a hint: it's not a oil-rich gulf state in the Middle East. Another hint: think 9/11. Right, you've got it. Nuclear terrorism. WMD proliferation is the single most important thing that our intelligence services need to work on. So, what does the Bush administration do? They compromise the secrecy of an agent for political purposes. So let's talk about chilling effects for a second here.

There's one chilling effect in the press, when classified sources dry up. There's an opposite chilling effect when classified sources start getting identified in the mainstream press. Namely, potential sources become less likely to talk to American operatives.

Why on Earth doesn't Weisberg understand this?? Blowing Plame's cover not only exposes any people she's had dealings with, but it also makes it that much harder for the US to find new sources in this vital field.

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