From David Kelly to Valerie Plame
Mon Nov 17 03:10:46 2003
From David Kelly to Valerie Plame
Already facing accusations that they overstated the case for war, Bush and Blair
are now facing serious political challenges at home, says Mohamed Sid-Ahmed
Mohamed Sid-Ahmed With Bush and Blair gearing up for upcoming elections in their
respective countries, Middle East watchers are giving serious consideration to
the possibility that neither man will be reelected. In addition to the growing
belief among their constituents that they overstated the immediacy of the threat
posed by Saddam Hussein to justify their preemptive war on Iraq, both men are
now embroiled in scandals. The Bush administration is accused of illegally
leaking the name of an undercover CIA agent, while the Blair government is
accused of hounding weapons expert David Kelly to death. It is of course too
early to predict the results of the forthcoming elections, but opinion polls
indicate a growing scepticism in both America and Britain about the
justification for going to war, and that many believe their decision-makers
involved them in an unnecessary war in search of weapons that did not exist.
As recently as last April, Bush seemed invincible. But his bid for a second term
in office is already running into difficulties. The much-touted "leadership
qualities" he was credited with showing in the wake of 9/11 are no longer
sufficient to shield him from any criticism, and both his domestic and foreign
policies are coming increasingly under attack. His handling of the economy,
which is blamed for the high unemployment rate, has eroded confidence in his
leadership abilities, as has his involvement in a war that has turned out to be
costlier than Americans were led to believe. Bush's popularity rating, which
stood at 70 per cent at the time the war against Iraq was launched, has slid
down to 50 per cent.
National security is no longer a taboo subject. Democratic presidential
candidates are now openly criticising Bush's foreign policy. His recent request
for 87 billion dollars to finance military operations and reconstruction in Iraq
and Afghanistan prompted them to accuse the Republican administration of not
having planning properly for the post-war situation. Two of these candidates
have called for the resignation of Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.
Traditionally, American voters are less interested in foreign policy issues than
in domestic problems, particularly the economy. However, the Iraqi dossier could
have an unexpected impact, at least as far as the president's integrity and
ability to lead are concerned. These qualities are now being challenged by the
Democrats, who accuse his administration of ethical misconduct in the Valerie
Plame affair. Plame, the wife of former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson, has been
named as an undercover CIA operative. Divulging such highly classified
information is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and a
wide majority of American take it as a very serious offence.
Prominent members of the Democratic Party have called for an independent inquiry
into the exposure of Plame as a CIA operative. The source of the leak is said to
be a top advisor to the president, in an apparent effort to punish Plame's
husband for discrediting the administration's arguments for going to war against
Iraq. According to well- informed media sources in Washington, the opponents of
the American president believe this is a serious political indiscretion that
could seriously tarnish the image of the White House. Howard Dean and Wolsey
Clark, both Democratic candidates for the presidency, are demanding that a
special prosecutor, and not the Justice Department, be placed in charge of the
investigation into the news leak. The White House had no choice but to declare
its readiness to cooperate in the inquiry and to release all the necessary
documents. However, it has denied that any of Bush's aides are involved in the
affair, and presidential Spokesman Scott McClellan told journalists that there
are no plans to launch a separate inquiry and that the Justice Department is the
proper body to deal with the issue.
The story begins with the decision by US intelligence to send Joseph Wilson to
Africa in February 2002 to investigate whether Iraq sought to purchase uranium
from Niger. Although Wilson reported back that there was no evidence to support
the allegation, Bush cited the alleged Niger deal as justifying the war on Iraq
in his State of the Union address last January. In an article in the New York
Times, Wilson accused the White House of ignoring his report and asked it to
recognise its mistake. Shortly after Wilson's article appeared, Robert Novak
wrote an article in the Washington Post reporting that members of Bush's inner
circle had disclosed Victoria Plame's CIA connection in order to discredit her
husband's vocal criticism of the Iraq war.
Across the Atlantic, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in an even tighter
corner. After 22 days of hearings, the inquiry into David Kelly's tragic suicide
has come to an end. Seventy-five witnesses were heard during the independent
inquiry, which stretched over six weeks this summer. Although this extended
exercise in transparency, which included many of Britain's most prominent
political figures, including the prime minister himself, cast light on the more
shadowy aspects of British political life, it is a tribute to British democracy.
But it will have a lasting effect on the collective memory of the British
Over the last six months, Blair has invoked the English saying, "wait and see",
in response to charges that his government doctored intelligence to win support
for an unpopular war, charges that are gaining ground in the light of the
failure to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Blair's credibility has
been dealt an even more severe blow with the recent publication of a book
entitled "Point of Departure", based on the diaries of his former foreign
secretary, Robin Cook.
One year ago, Blair based his case for war in the House of Commons on an
intelligence report claiming that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce
chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, and that these could be
deployed within 45 minutes. He also declared that Saddam was furnishing all
possible efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. According to Cook, the prime
minister told him two weeks before combat began that Iraq did not have quickly
deployable WMDs, and that he did not believe Saddam posed a "real and present
danger" to Britain. Cook's account, excerpts of which were published in The
Sunday Times, is sure to adversely affect Blair's popularity, which has already
slumped to its lowest point since he took office in 1997. At any rate, Blair no
longer claims that Saddam was capable of producing, let alone deploying, WMDs.
He now justifies the war as necessary because Saddam violated UN resolutions!
Despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered, Blair
still believes that his intervention in Iraq was justified, at least from the
viewpoint of international law.
But such legal arguments have not convinced the majority of the British people
that his decision to go to war was sound. According to a poll published by the
Guardian a few days ago, 53 per cent of Britons consider the war against Iraq
unjustified, while only 38 per cent consider it justified. In another poll
published by The Times, 61 per cent of the British electorate do not trust their
Actually, Tony Blair stands to lose more than Bush. Unlike the American
president, whose grand objective in going to war was to bring about "regime
change" and "liberate the Iraqi people", the British prime minister has all
along maintained that his only aim in going to war was to destroy Saddam's
arsenal of banned weapons, not to topple his regime. At last month's Labour
Party Conference in Bournmouth, Blair adopted a defensive posture, telling
furious anti-war members of his party who objected to his decision to keep Iraq
off the agenda of the conference, to "Imagine yourselves in the position of the
prime minister. You get information, not only about Iraq but also about the
illegal trade in weapons of mass destruction. What do you do? I get this
information. Can I discard it on the grounds that it is false?"
Blair is implying that the mistake is not his, but that of some of his
subordinates. According to Kelly's family lawyer, the government used him as a
tool in its battle with the BBC. Kelly was interrogated twice and, until the
end, was not told he would be considered responsible for informing the BBC that
the danger that Saddam represented and his ability to rapidly deploy his alleged
arsenal of WMD had been exaggerated. It could be argued that Blair dealt with
Kelly in a more humane manner than others did. But, in the final analysis, the
prime minister is politically responsible for the entire operation, including
its more cloudy aspects.
Searched the web for IRAQ WMD "David Kelly" "JOSEPH WILSON" CIA LEAK.
Outing a CIA Operative
A Special Prosecutor is Required
By Rep. JOHN CONYERS, Jr.
Sorely missing in the myriad of public debate concerning the need for a special
counsel to investigate the leaked name of a CIA operative is one simple fact:
It's required by the law.
Although the independent counsel law expired in 1999, the Justice Department
promulgated regulations that require the appointment of a special counsel under
specified circumstances. Under the regulations, the attorney general is required
to appoint a special counsel when:
(1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted,"
(2) the investigation "would present a conflict of interest for the Department"
(3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside special counsel to
All three factors are present here.
The Justice Department has already answered the first question for us -- they
have opened a criminal investigation into charges of disclosing the name of a
Second, there is a clear conflict of interest. The Justice Department
investigation is focused largely on the White House, which has already been
directed to preserve all relevant records. The trail may lead to Karl Rove, who
is reported to be responsible for John Ashcroft's very appointment and was a
consultant to his political campaigns. Or it may involve someone else on the
White House staff.
Either way, it is inconceivable that such an investigation of the office that
heads our entire government could not present a conflict for a subordinate
Third, it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.
This investigation goes to the very integrity of our federal government. If it
is true that the White House condoned the outing of a CIA operative -- the wife
of Joseph Wilson, former acting ambassador to Iraq -- in order to embarrass
Wilson, this would undermine the justification for the Iraq war and create a
Only an independent probe conducted by an individual of unimpeachable
credentials can assure the public that the investigation is not biased. An
administration that promised "to change the tone" in Washington should not be
solely concerned with whether a crime has been committed but also about the
unseemly appearance of White House attempts to smear truth-telling critics.
For those who argue the "career" people can conduct the investigation, I invite
them to read the various safeguards built into the special counsel regulations.
They require that the prosecutor be an outside person with a "reputation for
integrity"; can seek whatever resources are necessary to pursue the case; and is
not subject to the day-to-day supervision of the Department of Justice. He or
she can only be fired for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity or other
good cause. Moreover, when the prosecutor completes his investigation, the
attorney general is required to provide a written explanation of why any action
proposed by the special counsel was not pursued. None of these procedural
safeguards are available to protect the career employees pursuing the CIA leak
absent the appointment of a special counsel.
It is also asserted that cries for special prosecutors are mere politics. But it
was none other than then-Sen. John Ashcroft who in 1997 declared, "A single
allegation can be most worthy of a special prosecutor. If you're abusing
government property, if you're abusing your status in office, it can be a single
fact that makes the difference on that."
When it comes to ethics, this is an administration that has gone to extremes to
avoid independent scrutiny. Whether it is investigating the president's good
friend Ken Lay or former Army Secretary Thomas White in the Enron scandal, Vice
President Dick Cheney in the Halliburton case or the involvement of top
Republican legislators in trading campaign contributions for legislative favors
on behalf of Westar, Attorney General Ashcroft has not seen fit to open a single
If the president is really serious about cracking down on leaks within the White
House, I would urge him to personally ask the attorney general to appoint a
special counsel. There is precedent for the president himself to take such
Indeed, when charges were made concerning President Bill Clinton's involvement
in the Whitewater land deal in 1993, he asked Attorney General Janet Reno to
appoint a special prosecutor, and she complied.
Here the charge -- outing a CIA operative -- is far more serious. The law
mandates no less.
U.S. REP. JOHN CONYERS JR., D-Detroit, who represents the 14th District, is
ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. Write to him at 2426 Rayburn
House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515.
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