Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2003 / 8 Kislev, 5764

Jonathan Gurwitz

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Want fair, balanced? Separate intelligence, politics | In a July 14 column, syndicated journalist Robert Novak wrote about an obscure mission to Africa in February 2002, made by Ambassador Joseph Wilson at the behest of the CIA. Wilson, who had held diplomatic posts in the region, was charged with investigating reports that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.

Novak wrote: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger." From these two sentences began what has come to be known as the Plame Affair.

Wilson accused the White House of leaking his wife's name — a possible felony — to punish him for criticizing President Bush's policies on Iraq.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the Senate Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, called the disclosure of Plame's identity "vile" and "highly dishonorable."

"Retribution is their (the Bush administration's) method," Rockefeller said. "They go after the people they don't like."

"This is an extremely serious situation," added Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., also a member of the Intelligence Committee. "In their effort to seek political revenge against Ambassador Wilson they are now attacking him and his wife and doing it in a fashion that is not only unacceptable, but may be criminal."

By the end of September, television commentators, editorial pages across the country and Democratic leaders in Congress were calling for an independent counsel to investigate who leaked Plame's name and why. Lost in the rush to pin the scandal on the White House was the question of nepotism and the propriety of a CIA employee vouching her husband for an assignment.

The FBI consequently opened a full-scale criminal investigation into whether Plame's name was illegally leaked. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered White House employees to preserve all documents and correspondence related in any way to the Niger investigation, Wilson and Plame.

"If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it and we'll take the appropriate action," Bush told the press.

No issue in Washington has engendered greater bipartisan consensus than the belief that intelligence and the people who gather it should be immune from politicization. For nearly three decades, the Senate Intelligence Committee has embodied this belief and the principle that partisan differences on national security end at the water's edge.

Or so we believed.

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Last month, a leaked memorandum written by a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee's Democratic staff revealed a cynical, partisan plan to help unseat Bush. The memo lays out a strategy to launch an independent investigation into prewar intelligence about Iraq "when it becomes clear we have exhausted the opportunity to usefully collaborate with the (Republican) majority. We can pull the trigger on an independent investigation of the administration's use of intelligence at any time — but we can only do so once. The best time to do so will probably be next year," closer to the presidential election, for maximum political impact.

Rockefeller was unapologetic, dismissing the significance of the memo and expressing frustration with the White House. Durbin said the memo "frankly speaks to real feelings."

If Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee believe that the Bush administration misrepresented or misused intelligence in a rush to war in Iraq, then they owe it to the American people to "pull the trigger" on Bush now, as American soldiers are being killed, not in 10 months when it might be more politically expedient.

And if the mainstream media wants the American people to believe that it is truly fair and balanced, then it must demonstrate a single standard when it comes to political scandals and the partisan uses of intelligence.

"If what has happened here is not treason, it is its first cousin," Sen. Zell Miller, D-Ga., said. "Of all the committees, this is the one single committee that should unquestionably be above partisan politics." Miller's fellow Democrats in the Senate know this, and so do their silent accomplices in the media.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Gurwitz, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, is a co-founder and twice served as Director General of the Future Leaders of the Alliance program at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. In 1986 he was placed on the Foreign Service Register of the U.S. State Department. Comment by clicking here.


08/12/03: N. Korea, Iran paradox to anti-war crowd
06/29/03: Real sports heroes don't make headlines
06/26/03: Strange bedfellows are a sure sign of rocky times
06/26/03: What Einstein taught Bush
06/26/03: JFK's message of struggle for freedom still stands
06/19/03: Most Americans understand this cynical equation
04/22/03: War opponents share burden of guilt
04/10/03: Iraqis get liberation and respect
03/28/03: Constitutionally protected SOBs
03/25/03: Morality changes with the times
03/12/03: Will all of those, ahem, "sincere" peace activists remember the Iraqis tomorrow?
02/27/03: Blood already on UN inspectors' hands

© 2003, Jonathan Gurwitz