ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Times Chicago Tribune: All the News that's Fit to Print

Interesting article in the Chicago Tribune... This is one of the few stories that I've seen looking into the fundamental question as to whether Plame was actually undercover, given her daily trips to Langley, her assignment to an embassy, etc.

Plame's identity, if truly a secret, was thinly veiled

BY JOHN CREWDSON
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON - The question of whether Valerie Plame's employment by the Central Intelligence Agency was a secret is the key issue in the two-year investigation to determine if someone broke the law by leaking her CIA affiliation to the news media.

Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald contends that Plame's friends "had no idea she had another life." But Plame's secret life could be easily penetrated with the right computer sleuthing and an understanding of how the CIA's covert employees work.

When the Chicago Tribune searched for Plame on an Internet service that sells public information about private individuals to its subscribers, it got a report of more than 7,600 words. Included was the fact that in the early 1990s her address was "AMERICAN EMBASSY ATHENS ST, APO NEW YORK NY 09255."
[...]
According to CIA veterans, U.S. intelligence officers working in American embassies under "diplomatic cover" are almost invariably known to friendly and opposition intelligence services alike.

"If you were in an embassy," said a former CIA officer who posed as a U.S. diplomat in several countries, "you could count 100 percent on the Soviets knowing."

Plame's true function likely would have been known to friendly intelligence agencies as well. The former senior diplomat recalled, for example, that she served as one of the "control officers" coordinating the visit of President George H.W. Bush to Greece and Turkey in July 1991.
[...]
Two years later, when Plame made a $1,000 contribution to Vice President Al Gore, she listed her employer as Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a Boston company apparently set up by the CIA to provide "commercial cover" for some of its operatives.

Brewster-Jennings was not a terribly convincing cover. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the company, created in 1994, is a "legal services office" grossing $60,000 a year and headed by a chief executive named Victor Brewster. Commercial databases accessible by the Tribune contain no indication that such a person exists.

Another sign of Brewster-Jennings' link to the CIA came from the online resume of a Washington attorney, who until last week claimed to have been employed by Brewster-Jennings as an "engineering consultant" from 1985 to 1989 and to have served from 1989 to 1995 as a CIA "case officer," the agency's term for field operatives who collect information from paid informants.
[...]
After Plame left her diplomatic post and joined Brewster-Jennings, she became what is known in CIA parlance as an "NOC," shorthand for an intelligence officer working under "non-official cover." But several CIA veterans questioned how someone with an embassy background could have successfully passed herself off as a private-sector consultant with no government connections.

Genuine NOCs, a CIA veteran said, "never use an official address. If she had (a diplomatic) address, her whole cover's completely phony. I used to run NOCs. I was in an embassy. I'd go out and meet them, clandestine meetings. I'd pay them cash to run assets or take trips. I'd give them a big bundle of cash. But they could never use an embassy address, ever."

Another CIA veteran with 20 years of service agreed that "the key is the (embassy) address. That is completely unacceptable for an NOC. She wasn't an NOC, period."

After Plame was transferred back to CIA headquarters in the mid-1990s, she continued to pass herself off as a private energy consultant. But the first CIA veteran noted: "You never let a true NOC go into an official facility. You don't drive into headquarters with your car, ever."

I think it's clear that her "undercover" status is probably more of a technicality than an actual status. In all likelihood, given the Walter Mitty mindset of her husband, she liked playing the role of an undercover. I think it's interesting that the Chicago Tribune is the first paper (that I'm aware of) to actively find out information about Plame from public sources, instead of simply accepting the assertions of Amb. Wilson.

Interesting that she donated to Algore's campaign... I wonder if that had anything to do with her trying to discredit the Niger story by sending her incompetent husband to look into the matter?

I'm sure ARC:Brian will want to comment, since he's been on top of this story since its inception.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler