Thursday, November 3, 2005

The smell at CIA

Victoria Toensing, a former chief counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, yesterday called on Congress to investigate the CIA’s role in the “outing” of agency employee Valerie Plame.

“In a surprise, closed-door debate, Senate Democrats demanded an investigation of pre-Iraq War intelligence. Here’s an issue for them: Assess the validity of the claim that Valerie Plame’s status was ‘covert,’ or even properly classified, given the wretched tradecraft by the Central Intelligence Agency throughout the entire episode,” Mrs. Toensing wrote yesterday on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

“It was, after all, the CIA that requested the ‘leak’ investigation, alleging that one of its agents had been outed in Bob Novak’s July 14, 2002, column. Yet it was the CIA’s bizarre conduct that led inexorably to Ms. Plame’s unveiling.”

The CIA, “either purposely or with gross negligence, made a series of decisions that led to Ms. Plame becoming a household name,” Mrs. Toensing said.

She added: “The CIA conduct in this matter is either a brilliant covert action against the White House or inept intelligence tradecraft. It is up to Congress to decide which.”

CIA ‘dirty tricks’

“No one seems to care that our intelligence agency has crippled our president,” former Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, wrote yesterday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, referring to an apparent CIA plot to use Democratic partisan Joseph C. Wilson IV to undermine President Bush.

“Certainly not the media. They are determined to make Wilson a hero. Recall the dozens of times The Washington Post and the New York Times carried his lies on the front page, above the fold. The conclusive story discrediting Wilson was buried 6 feet deep, back by the obituaries,” Mr. Miller said.

“To the media, it doesn’t matter that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence says Wilson lied about what he did and with whom he met while investigating Iraqi attempts to purchase ‘yellowcake’ uranium.

“To the media, it doesn’t matter that the CIA says what Wilson did actually find supported that Iraq was attempting to buy the uranium — a direct contradiction to Wilson’s public claims.

“Some absurdly claim that [CIA employee []Valerie

B] Plame had nothing to do with her husband’s political activities against President Bush. But let it be clear. Plame could not have done what Wilson did and gotten away with it. Wilson could not have done what he did without Plame giving him a way to do it.”

He concludes: “We need a Plame rule. Any family member of a CIA agent tapped to help out must live by the same rules regarding information disclosure and domestic political manipulations as those imposed on the agent. If the family member fails to live by those rules, the agent is terminated.

Bork’s blessing

“It is premature to pronounce the job completed, but with the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for a seat on the Supreme Court, George Bush has substantially narrowed the rift with his conservative base he created with his nomination of Harriet Miers,” Robert H. Bork writes at National Review Online (

“Ms. Miers, a woman of many fine qualities, was perceived as simply lacking the constitutional sophistication to withstand the pressures of a liberal Court majority and its allies in the academy and the media sufficiently to help bring the court back from its self-assumed role as a political rather than a legal institution. Everything we know about Judge Alito, which, admittedly, is not all there is to know, indicates that he is the man to do just that,” Mr. Bork said.

“He has certainly said the right things: ‘Judges should be judges. They shouldn’t be legislators, they shouldn’t be administrators.’ That that should be refreshing, that it should even need saying, shows how far sunk in activism our courts, and particularly the Supreme Court, have become.”

Judging the judges

Two days after Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, won a fight to get a new judge in his case, prosecutors yesterday succeeded in ousting the Republican responsible for selecting the new judge.

Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub withdrew after District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed a request to have him removed.

Judge Schraub said he will ask the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court — a Republican — to name a judge to preside over Mr. DeLay’s conspiracy and money-laundering trial.

On Tuesday, District Judge Bob Perkins, a Democrat, was removed from Mr. DeLay’s case at the lawmaker’s request because of his contributions to Democrats.

The district attorney argued that Judge Schraub was objectionable, too, because he has made several contributions to Republican candidates, including Gov. Rick Perry, a DeLay ally.

Domain doubt

The House overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday to block the court-approved seizure of private property for use by developers, the Associated Press reports, in a slap at a Supreme Court that lawmakers said has undermined a pillar of American society, the sanctity of the home.

The bill, passed 376-38, would withhold federal money from state and local governments that use powers of eminent domain to force homeowners to give up their property for commercial uses.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in June, recognized the power of local governments to seize property needed for private development projects that generate tax revenue. The decision drew criticism from private property, civil rights, farm and religious groups that said it was an abuse of the Fifth Amendment’s “takings clause.”

The bill, said Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners in the Kelo v. New London case before the Supreme Court, “highlights the fact that this nation’s eminent domain and urban renewal laws need serious and substantial changes.”

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Dems fishing

Three Democratic lawmakers yesterday asked Vice President Dick Cheney to testify on Capitol Hill about the disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity, saying, “There are many wide-ranging questions about your involvement.”

Reps. Maurice D. Hinchey of New York, Henry A. Waxman of California and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan asked why Mr. Cheney’s office was gathering information about Valerie Plame; whether the vice president directed his top aide, the now-indicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, to speak to the news media about Mrs. Plame; and whether Mr. Cheney knew Mr. Libby was doing so.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride said the vice president would cooperate with the Justice Department as the criminal investigation of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald moves forward. Mr. Cheney said last week that comment in the case would be inappropriate.

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or

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