Sloppy Intelligence Trade Craft
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman)
by Jim Grichar
recent flap in Washington over public disclosure of the name of
former Ambassador Joseph Wilsonís wife, reportedly a CIA employee
who worked under non-official cover (known as a "NOC"),
has caused loads of recriminations, including a search for the "leakers"
and possible prosecution for violating a federal law that prohibits
such disclosures. Thus far, the press and Washington pundits have
ignored the most important question of all, namely how did any senior
administration officials get the name of his wife?
who visited the Niger on an official mission of trying to discover
whether or not Saddam Hussein had purchased high-grade uranium from
that country, subsequently went public in a New York Times
Op-Ed piece with his findings, namely that Niger did not sell such
uranium to Iraq and that, therefore, Iraq was unlikely to have been
able to manufacture nuclear weapons. President Bush had mentioned
the strong likelihood that Iraq had, or would soon have, nuclear
weapons in making his pitch for the U.S. to attack Iraq. The disclosure
by Wilson was a major embarrassment to the Bush Administration,
suggesting that it had lied to the American public in order to get
support for the preemptive war.
Wilsonís article, veteran reporter and columnist Robert Novak began
to dig into the issue. In talking to a source within the Bush Administration,
Novak found out that Wilson, who served on the Clinton Administrationís
National Security Council and who contributed to Democratic presidential
candidates, had been promoted for this mission by none other than
his wife, who was an employee with the CIA. Novak published an article
last July in which he named Wilsonís wife, Valerie Plame, as being
an "operative" with the CIA who had experience in the
area of weapons of mass destruction. Novak has since stated that
his source did not tell him that Plame was under cover let alone
the fact that she was a NOC, which is supposed to be the deepest
stink about disclosure of her true identity got larger as a press
report from the Washington Post indicated that several high administration
sources tried to get other reporters to divulge her name as a way
of getting back at Wilson for his embarrassment and exposure of
the Bush Administration. Some have suggested that George Bushís
political guru, Karl Rove, tried to plant the story. With this big
stink, a formal investigation, required under the law, was started.
as of the close of business on Tuesday, October 7, all files, email
records, and other information pertinent to the investigation are
to be turned over to the FBI.
Real $64,000 Question
are a number of serious implications regarding the use of spies
who are not under diplomatic cover. (For those interested in a little
more background on the question of cover at the CIA, check out a
short article by Ed Finn that appeared on Slate
last week.) Suffice it to say that anyone under non-official cover,
if caught in an act of espionage by a foreign government, is totally
on their own, with little or no chance of getting help from the
U.S. government. The U.S. government will not even acknowledge that
a NOC is working for it. That is one reason why keeping oneís identity
secret is most important for a NOC.
second reason is that once a NOC has been "burned," that
is, either caught in the act of espionage or revealed as being a
spy, he or she is finished in that end of the intelligence business.
And in the last few days, Wilson himself has publicly expressed
fear for his wifeís safety, as terrorists may now target her, although
that is always a risk, even for those under diplomatic cover.
every foreign country to which Valerie Plame traveled will now conduct
an investigation regarding whom she met, with all her contacts placed
under suspicion of being clandestine agents for the U.S. It is possible
that some of these people, if the offense was considered serious,
might be executed for treason by their countries.
all of the above are serious and are reasons for conducting the
so-called investigation of the leaks, the Washington media, being
who they are, have totally missed out on asking the real $64,000
question of this flap, namely, how on earth did the name of a CIA
NOC, supposedly under the deepest possible cover, get known to anyone
high in the Administration other than CIA Director George Tenet?
Joseph Wilson, no one outside the CIA should have known that his
wife was a NOC, and darned few CIA people should have even known
her real name or even have ever set eyes on her.
she was practicing what is known as good intelligence trade craft
(using proper procedures to protect her true identity), she would
never set foot in CIA headquarters. She would have been careful
with whom she was associated, particularly regarding a spouse who
had public visibility. From published reports, Wilson a former
U.S. Ambassador and former official at the National Security Council
listed Valerie Plame as his wife in publicly available documents.
If Wilson had been thinking, he would have listed her as Valerie
Wilson or just not given out the name of his wife.
maintain her cover, she would have worked extremely long hours,
actually working at a real job and undertaking her clandestine assignments
at appropriate times under that cover.
other CIA spies, she would have had to collect information from
her sources and prepared and filed in a much more circumspect
and clandestine manner reports containing information desired
by her bosses and the senior officials in the U.S. national security
apparatus. Even if senior administration officials got a look at
the raw reports she prepared, they would not have known her name.
If they were given her name by anyone from the CIA, then that person
or persons ought to be fired. And that includes the CIA Director,
if he was the one to reveal her name to a senior administration
official, but the chances of Bush firing Tenet over this are close
Wilson or Plame herself have revealed her true identity? I doubt
it, but I do not know their life style. He or she might have done
or said something which inadvertently gave away her identity at
some Washington social function or other venue where administration
officials or members of the press might have been present. Washington
being Washington, gossip spreads faster than a wildfire, so rumors
or news of her true identity could have spread quickly, particularly
among those with some links to national security matters.
either case, the fact that her name was disclosed reflects sloppy
intelligence trade craft, either by other CIA employees or by Wilson
and Plame herself.
I have stated in earlier articles about the intelligence apparatus
of the U.S. government, it needs to be slimmed down drastically,
focused on legitimate threats to the U.S. homeland, and staffed
with fewer, but more intelligent and resourceful, professionals
who would practice proper intelligence trade craft.
Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send
him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government,
writes to "un-spin" the federal government's attempt to con the
teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides
economic consulting services to the private sector.
© 2003 LewRockwell.com