Bush v Tenet: Blaming the CIA

Ever have a Eureka!-moment in the middle of the night, one of those blinding flashes of insight or dawning ideas that you suddenly realize is totally original? And then you wake up in the morning, excited by your own brilliance and eager to share it with the world only to discover that somebody’s been there before you?

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Even though I spent half the day yesterday on the Fable (or Fairy Tale, if you’d prefer), it didn’t occur to me until last night what else the report meant–that George Tenet, who was supposedly so loyal to Junior that he fell on his sword for him over the Niger thing, was finally fighting back. After his sacrifice, the callous outing of one of his undercover ops (and the consequent destruction of who-knows-how-many on-going operations and current agents) for nothing more than a little political revenge must have hurt, but following close on the heels of that indignity came nearly 2 months of listening to the Bushies blame the CIA for the mess in Iraq and claim it was the CIA who fed them all those lies, and how were they supposed to know if the Company said everything was copacetic?

And now this morning, I check the invaluable Digby over at Hullabaloo (which I do every day more or less because she’s always worth reading; you’ll find a link to her site on the side of this page), and what do I find? Yessir, Digby’s already been there (scroll down until you see the title “Angry Spooks”):

The bigger issue, it seems to me, is the ongoing war between the CIA and the administration. It is clear that the administration “sexed-up” the intelligence and is now trying to shift the blame to the CIA for it. When the administration stupidly attempted to make Tenet take the fall for the Niger flap the battle was drawn. The CIA is fighting back. They were used and brow beaten into making assessments that fit the agenda of a bunch of neocon radicals. The assessments have been proven spectacularly wrong, and the CIA is left holding the bag. The congress is issuing reports that they provided lousy intelligence which means that they are going to have to defend themselves against charges of incompetence.

This is a very dangerous situation for the administration; the CIA is not the institution you want to make your enemy. The Plame affair is really only the first shot across the bow.

As usual, I think he’s hit the nail on the head–the CIA is in a position to toast their corns for them and is turning up the heat. I suggested a long time ago (on a BBS, before I started this blog) that George Tenet, while not the cleverest CIA Director we’ve ever had (no Stansfield Turner or John Deutch, he) is a competent administrator and a long-time insider who knows how to play the game. He’s showing that now, and there will be more to come.

See, the far-right neocons got the impression from the Church Committee in the 70’s that the CIA were a bunch of clowns and cowboys not to be taken seriously and they’ve never gotten over it. But today’s CIA is a world-and-time away from those days, as they are about, I think, to discover. Tenet doesn’t want to bring down the Bush Regime (though he could if he wanted to), but he will if that’s the only way to protect his people. He can’t let the Plame thing go–and he obviously isn’t–without sending a message to the troops that they’re vulnerable cannon-fodder, dispensable if they cross a Bushie political agenda, and that’s simply not acceptable.

Digby called this “a shot across the bow”, but it’s more than that–it’s a direct hit below the waterline. The sea is filling a hold and Tenet has their range. He’s is smart enough to know that John Ashcroft’s so-called “Justice” Dept is going to whitewash these charges one way or another–probably either through a speedy “investigation” that will insist the leak didn’t come from the Bush Admin and suggesting we all “move on”, or by dragging out the investigation for so many weeks (or months) that it gets to be old news and they can drop it quietly without anyone noticing (on a Friday afternoon, perhaps). It’s a tactic they’ve used before, often, and it usually works.

Tenet can’t let that happen. He has to keep the pressure on if he’s going to clear the reputation of his agency. He will undoubtedly have a new move waiting in the wings for when Ashcroft decides to bail, and it won’t be pretty. If the Plame thing catches on (as it should and it’s looking like it might), he’ll let the press take the heat up front while he helps from deep background. But if the press decides to drop the ball, he’ll have a new cannon already aimed and ready to fire, and this time he’ll probably take the mast.

This could get ugly, don’t kid yourself.

Incidentally, Digby’s the only one I’ve seen with the balls to name names. After quoting a Newsweek article on the Admin’s PR band from a year ago, she concludes:

This group is a foreign policy spin operation comprised of veterans of the dirtiest elements of the Bush 2000 campaign. It is the nexus of politics and policy on the Iraq war in the Bush administration.I believe that [Dan] Bartlett is one of the senior administration officials who dropped the dime on Plame. I don’t know who the other was, but it doesn’t really matter. They do not operate alone; they are entrenched within the hierarchy. These guys answer the highest reaches of the White House and the White House uses them for what they were hired to do. Lie, spin and intimidate on matters of national security.

There is a fast moving malignancy in the Bush White House. It metastisized from Campaign 2000 to Rove’s and Cheney’s office to the NSC and the political foreign policy spin operation. It is deadly.

My candidate for the second, assuming that Digby is right about Bartlett, is Jim Wilkinson, Dick Armey’s ex-hatchetman, a political op who’s never seen a line he wouldn’t be willing to cross.

(For the rest of Digby’s piece, scroll down to “Cancer Warning”.)

Addendum: There’s a lot of talk about Karl Rove being responsible for the Plame outing and a lot of barely-contained glee at the prospect that we may be seeing his downfall any day now. At a meeting hosted by Demo Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, Wilson put it this way (quoted in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial):

“It’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove (Bush’s top political operative) frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs,” Wilson said.

One can appreciate the sentiment but one shouldn’t get one’s hopes up. Rove will be protected no matter who else has to be sacrificed because without him Junior would implode, collapse in on himself like the empty shell he is. So I should have mentioned a 3rd possible out for Ashcroft: The Designated Fall-Guy(s). They can afford to throw one or more sacrificial lambs to the wolves in order to save Karl’s butt.

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