I just got around to listening to last week’s episode of Off The Hook, the hacker radio show affiliated with 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, and heard something pretty interesting about the current mess with Valorie Plame, Karl Rove, et al. They played a brief clip from a presentation given by a Robert Steele almost exactly one year ago at the Fifth Hope hacker conference in New York City.
I don’t normally write anything about US politics, and I’m not even going to offer any comments this, aside from the fact that it’s kind of cool. However, I did attend this same conference in the year 2000, where I actually met Robert Steele, so let’s just say this falls under my blanket mission of writing about places where I’ve been.
The July 13, 2005 episode of Off The Hook can be downloaded in mp3 form from their web site. The following transript begins 40 minutes into the show.
Bernie S: You mentioned a while ago the need for a national traitor intelligence system. On that subject, what’s your take on the whole Valeie Plame outing, and who do you think did it?
Robert Steele: I think Scooter Libby in Dick Cheney’s office did it with Karl Rove’s explicit approval and Dick Cheney’s explicit concealment after the fact.
Bernie S: What are your feelings on it?
Robert Steele: I think it has the potential to be Al Capone’s tax return. It really does.
Bernie S: Do you think that this will ever be- where do you think this investigation will lead, regardless of who’s found to have done it?
Robert Steele: Well, part of our problem is that the Republicans control both houses of Congress and the moderate Republicans are being intimidated by the extremist Republicans and the people haven’t spoken. Right now the people don’t care about Valorie Plame’s outing. Inasumch as the vice presiden’t office, in my humble opinion, very flagrantly and deliberately violated a national law, I would like to see them brought to justice. i would like to see Dick Cheney brought to justice for sole-sourcing billions of dollars to Haliburton. you know these guys are bending or breaking every rule they can find. and the outing of Valorie Plame is i think one of the things that George Tenet simply had to be honest about and it let to his eventual resignation.
The man asking the questions is Bernie S, co-host of Off The Hook. Here is his official mini-bio from The Fifth Hope conference web page.
Bernie S. has been hacking computers, phones, radios, and the authorities for over 25 years – sometimes pushing the envelope too far. In 1995 he was imprisoned for one and a half years by the Secret Service for possessing hardware and software they said had the potential for abuse. Later the U.S. government admitted “there were no victims in the offense” and that they were more concerned about his exposing their covert activities. Bernie continues to investigate and report on communications technologies and government activities.
The man giving the talk is Robert Steele. His bio from the same web site reads:
Robert Steele is the author of On Intelligence: Spies and Secrecy in an Open World and The New Craft of Intelligence: Personal, Public, & Political. He is the founder and CEO of OSS.Net, a global intelligence partnership and network that excels at both teaching and performing legal ethical intelligence collection, processing, and analysis. In the course of a 25 year national security career, Robert has served as a Marine Corps infantry officer and service level plans officer; fulfilled clandestine, covert action, and technical collection duties; been responsible for programming funds for overhead reconnaissance capabilities; contributed to strategic signals intelligence operations; managed an offensive counterintelligence program; initiated an advanced information technology project; and been the senior civilian responsible for founding a new national intelligence production facility. He was one of the first clandestine officers assigned the terrorist target on a full time basis in the 1980s and the first person, also in the 1980s, to devise advanced information technology applications relevant to clandestine operations.
Robert Steele’s web page is here.
Robert Steele’s entire presentation, from The Fifth Hope conference, along with those of every other speaker (and there is some great stuff in there), can be found in mp3 format on the web. His presentation is entitled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Spying, 9-11, and Why We Continue to Screw Up” and is well worth a listen.
4 thoughts on “Karl Rove accused one year ago”
I may be a raving liberal, but I still can’t understand how conservatives can back Rove. He’s the one who identified Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent (the reporters already knew her name, they didn’t know she was a covert agent until Rove told them). I don’t know that he had evil intents, or even is incompetent, but I don’t see why conservatives get angry when I suggest he should get up behind the podium in the press room and say “I made a mistake and I’m sorry for the trouble its caused.”
Well, it doesn’t seem that he actually identified her as a covet agent, but rather as a CIA employee but, hey, we’re all dealing with grand jury leaks right now? In any case, seems rather clear that she wasn’t a covert agent, and hadn’t had an overseas posting in six years. Which apparently means that no law had been violated. (See John Tierney’s column in the Times, or any of many other recent articles.)
Interestingly, the legal brief filed by “36 Major Media Organizations” on behalf of Judith Miller, Matt Cooper, et al claims that Valerie Plame’s cover had been exposed in the mid 90s by a Russian spy. (See page 8 of the brief, footnote 7– it’s page 31 of the PDF due to all the intro stuff.) Of course, that’s because while the media would love to get Rove’s scalp, they do want to protect their own right to publish leaks. It’s sort of interesting to watch them call for robust investigations into the leak and get righteous about the idea of a possible leak– while at the same time fighting for their right and defending the decision to publish any information, even that which is harmful. So that brief is full of arguments for why no law was violated in the leak.
It’s certainly plausible that someone in the White House wanted to leak at least the information that Valerie Plame was involved in the decision to select her husband for the trip– which has been proved true, contrary to Ambassador Wilson’s claims in his book and in interviews. A few subseqent reports and articles (which were otherwise quite hostile to the Administration) also made it clear that his reporting and characterization of the actual trip was extremely misleading and fairly inaccurate. Dealing with someone who is being so economical with the truth creates a pretty large temptation to leak useful-but-true information. If the reporters already knew she was CIA– information easy to find out, considering that she worked at CIA HQ and there were several websites with sufficient information– then someone too could have leaked the information on background in an attempt to get the reporters to not run the story. After all, even the one column which started in all, by Bob Novak, didn’t say that she had previously been covert or anything. But people read that article and then dug into her background and came up with it fairly easily. (It was, I believe, a David Corn column attacking Novak and the leaker for revealing the name of a covert operative that first claimed that she was covert.) It can still be a crime in certain circumstances; in this case, there appears to be a technical defense. There are certainly cases where hiding behind the technicalities is shameful, but there is a difference between a CIA agent that everybody knows works there and someone who is actually covert.
See, for example, the Financial Times article, which notes:
Which shoots down comment 1’s theory. It seems that Valarie Plame had covert status officially, but had been working a desk job at CIA HQ in Langley for six years, and hadn’t been an actual covert op since 1997. (And, pursuant the footnote in the media brief above, this may be because her cover had been blown to foreign governments, both Russian and Soviet, in the mid ’90s.)
Actually, I was thinking the “I screwed up” was more in reference to “I tried to discredit your source by asserting an unfounded claim of nepotism because his provably accurate report contradicts our war propaganda, which if nothing else is a blatant abuse of the powers of my office.” But in response to your mention of technical defenses that show why this was entirely legal…. yes there are many for the reporters. Rove, on the other hand, can’t use many of them. There are special provisions under the law for individuals who (like Rove) have top secret security clearance. The laws basically state that it if they identify an agent, and that agent turns out to be part of a covert operation, then he’s automatically liable because his security clearance would’ve allowed him the ability to check first. I’m not trying to say that Karl Rove tried to endanger a covert operation, but depending on what exactly he said (to each reporter, not just Cooper), his security clearance might put him in legal danger. But he’s still a douche for slandering Joe Wilson.
Comments are closed.