Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A NOC at the Door

[Welcome folks from Cannonfire and Newshog]

Updated below.

After RAW STORY had initially reported that now outed CIA NOC, Valerie Plame, had been working on "an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran," MSNBC's David Shuster, appearing on Hardball, just confirmed this. The Hardball transcript goes on,
While not really news to those of us not embedded in the White House administration, this MSM confirmation of Raw Story's report from nearly three months ago is certainly progress in demonstrating the depravity of the Cheney cabal in the White House.

When initial news broke of Plame's role in nuclear non-proliferation efforts with respect to Iran, speculation was abound that this was a deliberate move designed specifically to allow the administration to avoid any confrontation from the CIA about White House claims of Iranian nuclear weapons programs, or lack thereof. The White House would certainly not want another Niger debacle on their hands and it is easily imagined that blowing cover on CIA efforts in Iran would be a sure way to remove CIA resistance to the administration's trumped up claims. In fact, that Plame was Joe Wilson's wife seems almost like a convenience in this regard, deflecting attention from the true reason for the outing and onto the "revenge" tack, which everyone was forced to gobble up because, well, no one knew what Plame actually did at the time -- she was a spy. Not that revenge wasn't wanted, but the confluence of the White House-directed attack on Wilson and Plame's work on Iranian nuclear plans certainly appears like a wonderful coincidence.

But the speculation goes further than just Plame's Iranian work, with connections spanning large swaths of the Middle East. Chris Deliso relates that the Turkish paper, Hurriyet, reported that Plame had been in Turkey on several occasions, where she conducted meetings with various dignitaries and with scientists in Turkey. Disenfranchised FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower, Sibel Edmonds, confirmed that Plame, working under her CIA front company, Brewster Jennings & Associates, was very active in Turkey up through the time of her outing, tracking a multinational network of nuclear technology trafficking that involved not only Turkey but Pakistan, Dubai, Spain, South Africa and others. Turkey, however, appears to have not only been a significant international distribution center for contraband nuclear technology but also had suspected designs on nuclear weapons itself:
Evidence of nuclear smuggling based in Turkey, and Turkey's push for its own nuclear fuel capability and indigenous reactor design, all pointed to possible nuclear weapons development. The support of prominent Turkish citizens for nuclear weapons development has leant credence to this evidence.
In the year 2001, 104 attempts to smuggle nuclear materials into Turkey were recorded by the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority. It was this network, centered in Turkey, that Plame was investigating.

Why is this significant? The Turkish government had been courted by the Bush administration to support the invasion of Iraq and to provide use of Turkish air bases to US forces. And while the president supported this, the Turkish public was adamantly against the invasion and Turkish parliamentarians, not so callous as our own shameless members of the US Congress, chose to heed public sentiment and voted to disallow US forces to station in their country. Recently, US officials, including Secretary of State Rice, CIA head Porter Goss and FBI Director Mueller have been paying a number of visits to Ankara, ostensibly to address an array of issues. Though unstated, appeals to stage US forces in that country can be expected to be raised again. And this is where Plame comes in.

The notion that Iran would be a target of White House aggression has always been "on the table" ever since Bush declared Iran to be part of the "axis of evil" in 2002. The problem here was that not only was the CIA tracking nuclear materials through Turkey under Plame's CIA front, the FBI was investigating this as well, as one of the players, Gizi Technologies, was based in Secaucus, N.J.. But this investigation would cause havoc because it was suspected that the US ambassador to Turkey, Marc Grossman, was deeply involved in this nuclear arms network, possibly with a direction of covertly or passively arming Turkey with nuclear weapons while providing diplomatic cover as an incentive to join with the US in support of the nascent efforts against Iran.

The outing of Valerie Plame certainly is taking on the appearances that it was an act designed to halt at least two activities. It clearly halted the CIA's investigation of actual Iranian nuclear capability, something that could only be thrown back at the White House during their claims of a nuclear weapons program and it also stopped an investigation that would have implicated the White House in a scheme to violate the NPT. And, in what now seems to be an utter and convenient accident, the exposure of Plame could be played down as a simple and childish act of revenge, while other more nefarious actions remained protected. That the MSM is now confirming Plame's connection to the Iranian nuclear program is simply further proof that there is much more to the Plame story than the terribly convenient fact that she was, and is, "Joe Wilson's wife."

Update: It is fascinating watching the collective adherence to the White House talking points about Plame on the right side of the bloggydom. Arguments against Shuster's statements on Hardball amount to nothing other than the usual denials that Plame was anything special, that blowing her cover was no big deal, that those damnable leakers in the CIA and the media hacks who serve them ought to be strung up (Glenn Greenwald has a post about the Shuster story and the expected righty reaction to it). Though I won't link to the ranter, one frantic fellow, who goes by AJ Strata, is cited by Greenwald:
What a joke! Valerie was the only analyst who cold track Iran’s ambitions? This is the reason I think this was a canary trap. Only a reporter would be so naive and gullible at the same time!
Now, there are several problems here, not the least of which is the denigration of Plame's operation and her importance to it. Unfortunately, it is Strata who seems to be either naive, ignorant of the known facts or willing to lie about them. Often with these guys, one just never knows.

Plame's outing not only exposed her as a CIA NOC, it exposed everyone she worked with. It also blew the cover of the CIA front company, Brewter Jennings & Associates, the company's identity having also been exposed by Robert Novak in a follow up column after his initial cover-blowing column that exposed Plame. The real damage, though, came with the initial Plame exposure. While the cover of any associates was gone, anyone whom she may have been investigating would have known immediately that BJ&A was a front, effectively ending the usefulness of the operation.

But it appears to be the case that BJ&A was a much larger operation than just a front for Plame's group. Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story, who first reported the Plame-Iran connection (interviewed by Luke Ryland), indicates that BJ&A was a front for several CIA operations. Details, of course, are unknown, but the exposure of Plame apparently led to the shuttering of at least a few other CIA operations, as well. Frantic Bush supporters who claim that it was only Plame who was exposed and, therefore, no big deal have their heads up their asses.

The even more bizarre claim is that the exposure of Plame was a "canary trap," a trap that has now led to looking for the canary in the White House and the indictment of Lewis Libby. While an amusing notion, this silly idea is belied by the fact that the CIA had specifically requested, more than once, that Novak not reveal Plame's identity. After Fitzgerald's numerous filings, it hardly appears that Plame's identity was dangled in front of the White House as some tantalizing morsel of revenge against Wilson. Cheney, Libby, Rove went out of their way to find out this information.

Bush-supporters, a group of people from whom I get the distinct impression were likely supportive of CIA-funded death squads and other unsavoury practices, now seem to be paranoid of the CIA. This leads them to view the Agency as some rogue operation and has also led them to a weirdly conflicted opinion regarding 'national security." When Bush speaks of national security, anything he or his administration does is good. While they have never explained how the leak of a CIA NOC benefits national security, they appear content to simply dismiss it as "no big deal." But in more soft and heated minds, the CIA leak becomes a trap to scuttle the Bush administration. Such a leak, in more normative times ( i.e. some other time than the terms of George Bush), would have been viewed as a breach of national security. Not anymore, though, because Bush's White House did it and the CIA are now a bunch of raging lefties bent on undermining the president.

I recommend former under-cover CIA agent, Larry Johnson's piece on what Plame's cover was and what the exposure did.


Blogger lukery said...

theBhc - good post. (i came here from canon's place).

i interviewedlarisa about these very issues recently.

She seems to think that the Plame/Turkey link isnt quite as it appears. She seems to think that Plame's work was focussed on Iran - but she is careful to note that Brewster Jennings was the front company for a number of different teams, and that Plame's team was just one part of BJ - and she implies that there were other parts of BJ that were looking at Turkey.

I'll also note that you didn't mention drugs in your post - I think that's a big part of the story too (and i'd always pegged Grossman's involvement as being on the drug side - but perhaps both).

(you might also be interested in my sibel stuff - particularly the 'summary' and the interview - the links are on my front page)

cheers - and good work

3:19 AM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Hi Lukery,

thanks. In fact, I had not seen anything about drugs as far as Grossman was concerned, though I didn't really look into him too much. Deliso has information on a number of neo con side kicks, like Grossman,called Lesser Neocons of L'Affaire Plame, which gives more few details about him as far as Plame goes, but no beyond that.


7:33 AM  
Anonymous Kewalo said...

Excellent analysis. I got here from Cannonfire and I'm delighted I followed the link.

I'm constantly surprised at how the tightie-righties minimize the outing of a CIA agent and the closing of a front company. God willing I will never wear blinders like that.

Keep up the good work. I'm putting you on my list to check back. Thanks for the good writing.

8:38 PM  
Blogger lukery said...

one other thing to remember is that larisa repeatedly, pointedly, refers to 'to and from iran' - perhaps the nukes are going overland from pakistan into iran and then on to turkey (and elsewhere?)

11:22 PM  

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