It is their
spin, and nothing more, to try to defend themselves by shifting blame to
the anti-Iraq war Armitage, and to the anti-Iraq war State Department,
who they believe "needs an American desk." If Armitage never existed the
leaks would have happened exactly the same way. If the White House-neocon
axis never existed the leaks would never have happened. Whatever the
shortcomings of Armitage and State, the real culpability for the
identity disclosures reside elsewhere and progressives should be very
careful to avoid unknowingly pushing the neocon line.
episode of a political vendetta that involved distorting the debate
about WMD in Iraq and naming intelligence identities is the single most
shameful, unpatriotic, and totally dishonorable business that I have
seen from the moment I first set foot in Washington.
And let me
disclose my one and only bias: to protect the men and women who serve
our country courageously and covertly, and the men and women of foreign
nations who help our country courageously and covertly.
I was in the
core group of writers of the CIA Identities Bill from the beginning,
working for its original sponsor, Senator Bentsen. I was sufficiently
involved to have been commended at the level of Director of Central
Intelligence. There were many others involved in this law, from both
parties. I only state my history to make it clear that my views on this
are not stated casually, offered politically or arrived at recently.
I know a lot
about the covert business on both the policy and operational sides and
this whole business of "naming names" is sickening, nauseating and the
ultimate symbol of how far Washington under George Bush has come from
what used to be the nonpartisan treatment of intelligence and the
traditional standards of honor.
always refused to comment, even in off the record conversations with
journalists, on the legal guilt or innocence of any party in this case.
That is a decision by the legal system, without trial by media, and
without trial by partisans. But this matter affects the core of our
national security, the heart of our decision- making process about going
to war, and the soul of our spirit of patriotism and honor that should
rule out public disclosure of intelligence identities by any person, for
any reason, ever.
most responsible for peddling Plame’s name were the same people peddling
WMD stories to Judy Miller and others.
shamefully, the issue lives. We now have the House Intelligence
Committee issuing a public report attacking Iran-related intel, a move
that is clearly designed to bang the war drums for an attack on Iran,
and to politicize intelligence for ideology and partisanship yet again.
We almost certainly do have shortcomings about intelligence from Iran,
in part caused by the very people who try to manipulate the issue, in
part caused by events and mistakes, but this should not be used and
abused to push yet another rush to another unwise war.
that the neoconservatives and the partisan Right has never understood is
this: when they say don't negotiate with this country or that country,
don't do business with this country or that country, the result is that
major intelligence dries up. That's how it works. On a country by
country basis, sometimes it is best to negotiate, or not; to trade, or
not. But the way intelligence works, much intelligence comes directly or
indirectly from the processes and people of diplomacy and world trade.
disingenuous or dishonest for some to say we should go to war with
everyone, negotiate with no one, have sanctions against everyone, and
then attack the intelligence loss from their very obsessive policies.
And I would repeat my point that those who are universally hostile to
diplomacy and universally favorable to war should be asked: where will
you get the troops, and do you favor a return to the draft?
All of the
pressures, distortions, politicization of intelligence cannot hide or
mask this matter, as we witness today in Iraq, while the drums of war
are being banged again by those who know little about how to fight wars,
how to win wars, or how to exit the wars they rush into.
learn. They should be respecting, not demeaning, the advice of our
military commanders. They should be improving and analyzing the product
of intelligence, not twisting or distorting it, to push a predetermined
policy for yet another war.
business about leaking identities is not only about partisan and
political vendettas. It is about how and when we go to war, how and when
we should not go to war, and why it is so fundamentally important that
intelligence should be based on facts and truth, and not twisted and
distorted for the ideology of going to war, or the partisanship of
wrong in Iraq, is that the democratic process of making the decision to
wage war was corrupted and warped from the beginning.
plenty to blame to be apportioned, on all sides, for that. It is not
partisan. The issue for us, today, is that we not repeat these
corruptions again. Intelligence must be returned to its pre-Bush
nonpartisanship. Intelligence must be used objectively, to help us
achieve the most acceptable outcome in Iraq, and to avoid repeating the
In my view,
whatever the legalities, there is a special place in hell on this issue
for Bob Novak, who named the name, and for the Washington Post Editorial
Page, which then published the name, and for Bob Woodward, who attacked
the prosecutor without disclosing to his readers or the nation his
private interest in the case. Though I will give Woodward credit for
this: he never published the Plame story, and neither did Judy Miller,
by the way.
episode demonstrates how far from traditional moral and patriotic
bearing Washington has come, during what historians will call, not
fondly, the Bush years. In this environment anything goes, and insiders,
surrounded by courtiers, substitute politics and spin for honesty and
truth even on the matter of going to war.
legal outcome, on fundamental issues of patriotism, morality and honor
there is a higher standard for those of us who know how the real world
works, on these matters.
Bob Novak is
a smart guy who has been around this town for decades. The Washington
Post is the paper of record for the national security establishment in
Washington and knows exactly how real world intelligence works. These
are people who chortled when Bill Clinton defined what is, is, and now
they chortle playing word games with what "covert" is.
getting into details, right now, today, as you read these words there
are brave and courageous Americans working under cover, risking their
lives, often giving their lives, to defend our security. Right now,
today, as you read these words there are brave and equally courageous
foreigners working with our people, some for ulterior motives, others
are authentic freedom and democracy fighters in their native lands.
can help us avoid wars; intelligence can help us minimize casualties of
wars; and intelligence can help us avoid obsessive and disastrously
planned wars. Had this been applied before Iraq, we would not be in the
mess. If this is applied going forward, we can avoid a future mess at a
time when some seem to want war, everywhere.
identity is published, by any party, for any reason, at any time, every
single one of them is disserved. The message goes out, we cannot be
trusted with secrets. Some new information goes out, which can be traced
back to our people, or our friends. Our communities are endangered and
the terrorists and hostile governments are helped.
people who bang the drums of war the loudest, are helping our enemies,
by disclosing names. They are hurting our troops, by distorting our
intelligence that is so essential to knowing when to wage war and how to
wage it, when we must, and why to avoid it, when we can.
courts decide the law, but those who do these dirty deeds deserve a
special place in hell, and those who never risked their lives for our
country themselves, and endanger the lives of covert people who risk
their lives every day, and endanger the lives of troops who go to war
with politically distorted intelligence, deserve the hottest place of
Let the courts decide the law,
but I guarantee that when the sun has set on the Administration now in
power, those who did these dirty deeds will be indicted by the court of
history, while others will have to clean up the mess they leave.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence
issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when
he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..