There's still a lot we don't know about the unmasking of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, by two "senior administration officials." But we're learning a lot now, very quickly, and none of it looks good for President Bush.
Here's what Larry Johnson, a former CIA and State Department counter-terrorism official said on PBS' Newshour today (link via Atrios):
"This not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been under cover for three decades. She is not as Bob Novak [the columnist who first published her name] suggested a 'CIA analyst.' Given that, I was a CIA analyst for 4 years. I was under cover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the CIA until I left the Intelligence Agency on Sept. 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it. The fact that she was under cover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous.
"She was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she works with overseas could be compromised...
"For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal... and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that, well, this was just an analyst. Fine. Let them go undercover. Let's put them go overseas. Let's out them and see how they like it...
"I say this as a registered Republican. I am on record giving contributions to the George Bush campaign. This is not about partisan politics. This is about a betrayal, a political smear, of an individual who had no relevance to the story. Publishing her name in that story added nothing to it because the entire intent was, correctly as Ambassador Wilson noted, to intimidate, to suggest that there was some impropriety that somehow his wife was in a decision-making position to influence his ability to go over and savage a stupid policy, an erroneous policy, and frankly what was a false policy of suggesting that there was nuclear material in Iraq that required this war. This was about a political attack. To pretend it was something else, to get into this parsing of words.
"I tell you, it sickens me to be a Republican to see this."
Then there's this, from Brad DeLong's blog. DeLong is a former Clinton administration official, so you can take that into account when you read what he has to say. But he was an insider and it shows here: this is the best analysis I've seen yet about why the CIA decided to take on the White House in so direct a fashion.
"The fact that [Director of Central Intelligence George] Tenet has moved on this -- has requested the Justice Department to investigate -- means that he or that large factions within his agency are truly angry and very upset at what the White House has done," DeLong says. "Even so, it is never good for Directors or Deputy Directors or Assistant Directors of Central Intelligence to be perceived inside the White House as having launched an unsuccessful bureaucratic war at those whom the president trusts -- if, that is, they are still trusted when the process unwinds to its end. There must be people inside the CIA who are highly confident that this will end very badly for the guilty parties inside the White House, or the CIA would have found reasons to avoid the referral."
After you read that piece, check DeLong's more recent entries. Its devastating stuff.
If you want to stay on top of this story, these are the links to follow:
Mark A.R. Kleiman
Talking Points Memo
And let's not forget the guy who broke this story, David Corn of The Nation.
Also, check back here -- I'm doing my best.
If you want explanations that support the administration in any meaningful way, you'll have to do your own looking. I haven't found any yet.
Update: The right blogosphere is still in deep denial this morning, but Tom Maguire does denial better than most of them. He has the best case so far for the administration's point of view. He spends a lot of time trying to make the case that disclosing Plame's probably wasn't such a big deal:
"... I am not saying I don't care," Maguire says. "I am saying it is far from clear that her 'outing' was the blow to national security that partisan critics would like to imagine."
Well, none of us knows at this stage what actual damage it caused, but the fact that the CIA clearly is pushing this case argues that it was substantial or that it fears the Bush administration may continue this kind of conduct, which would, ultimately, endanger national security.