Connecting Some Dots in Plamegate
Speculation is mounting (except, of course, among the 'professional' press), as to the identities of six of the eight individuals included in the Libby subpoena to The New York Times (see Clarice Feldman's piece here). The Times deemed the identities of only two of the parties worthy of release, former CIA director George Tenet and former White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer. The names of the other six remain elusive.
The Times is proving to be very reticent about the release of the other individuals' names, but few following the matter would be shocked if they were to include Larry C. Johnson, devoted Bush critic for many years and the media's go--to--guy on Wilson--Plame cheerleading and evident Kristof source. The inclusion of Brent Scowcroft's name would raise more than a few eyebrows but there is reason to believe that he could well be among those individual's of whom Libby's team seeks any 'notes and records' generated by Mr. Kristof.
A bit of background is necessary in order to understand why Johnson and Scowcroft would be on the list.
In the spring of 2003, Mr. Kristof wrote two pieces that provide that special light in which Joseph C. Wilson's subsequent 'heroic' acts are to be viewed by a credulous audience. The first was an article entitled "Save Our Spooks" published in the Times on Friday, May 30, 2003, some five weeks before the appearance of Ambassador Wilson's account of his odyssey to Niamey in search of good mint tea.
From the Kristof article:
..."I've never heard this level of alarm before," said Larry Johnson, who used to work in the C.I.A. and State Department. "It is a misuse and abuse of intelligence. The president was being misled. He was ill served by the folks who are supposed to protect him on this. Whether this was witting or unwitting, I don't know, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt....
...The C.I.A. is now examining its own record, and that's welcome. But the atmosphere within the intelligence community is so poisonous, and the stakes are so high -- for the credibility of America's word and the soundness of information on which we base American foreign policy -- that an outside examination is essential.
Congress must provide greater oversight, and President Bush should invite Brent Scowcroft, the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a man trusted by all sides, to lead an inquiry and, in a public report, suggest steps to restore integrity to America's intelligence agencies...
The second Kristof article appeared in the Times a week later June 6 and was entitled "Cloaks And Daggers."
The piece started with a charming knife in Judith Miller's back:
On Day 78 of the Search for Iraqi W.M.D., yesterday, once again nothing turned up.
Spooks are spitting mad at the way their work was manipulated to exaggerate the Iraqi threat, and they are thus surprisingly loquacious (delighting those of us in journalism). They emphasize that even if weapons of mass destruction still turn up, there is a fundamental problem --not within the intelligence community itself, but with senior administration officials -- particularly in the Pentagon...
... A commission led by Brent Scowcroft suggested two years ago that intelligence functions be consolidated under the director of central intelligence. It was an excellent idea -- killed by, among others, Mr. Rumsfeld....
..."Tenet sided with the D.O.D. crowd and cut the legs out from under his own analysts," said Larry Johnson, a retired C.I.A. analyst.
Both pieces must be read in conjunction with Mr. Kristof's
"May 6 article "Missing in Action: Truth' piece and his June 13 piece "White House in Denial" -- all stories containing a similar narrative and all with two individuals who came to be known as being closely affiliated with Wilson and his 'cause', Larry Johnson and Brent Scowcroft.
Scooter Libby included the phrase "Those aspen trees. I hear they're all connected at the root. They all turn together" in his letter confirming his release of Judith Miller to testify before the grand jury. A very curious passage unless one is aware of its broader context.
Nicholas Kristof belongs to an association known as the 'Aspen Strategy Group' of the Aspen Institute, a leadership and foreign policy think tank. It is a virtual Who's Who in politics, journalism and beltway insiders with other members such as, interestingly enough, Richard Armitage and Judith Miller.
The reference in the Libby/Miller letter caused many to speculate that some kind of coded message was being transmitted. One might wonder if perhaps Judy Miller did speak with then--Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, the person suspected to be both Bob Woodward and Bob Novak's source. Further, had the reference been scrutinized completely and impartially, the 'press' might have noted that the chairman of Aspen Strategy Group was Brent Scowcroft.
Ambassador Wilson has as much as admitted that it was Scowcroft who urged him to go public. Brent Scowcroft was at that time the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Wilson has stated that Scowcroft asked Wilson if he could take Wilson's San Jose Mercury News editorial to the White House. He told Wilson it would be good for people in the White House to see this from someone who had been in Iraq. Mr. Scowcroft holds views which are described as 'realist' but can also be described as Arabist in the sense that they conform to a reality that the Arab oil princes hope to maintain.
Another person thought to be a 'probable' name on the Libby subpoena is Marc Grossman. AJ Strata does a thorough exploration of the links between Wilson, Plame and Grossman.
Kristof and the Times have been remarkably shy about reporting Johnson and Wilson's role as advisors to the Kerry campaign. The shyness is understandable if one reads Kristof's 'reporting' from the beginning. The orchestration of Wilson's elevation to sainted whistleblower status might be construed by the Federal Election Commission as a donation to the Democratic Party and be required to be reported as such.
Mr. Ballard is a contributor to the website YARGB