Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 28, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

PAT ROBERTS UPDATE....There's been a bit of skepticism in the online community about my theory that Kansas Senator Pat Roberts isn't planning an honest inquiry into how best to protect covert CIA agents. How do I know what Roberts is up to? What do I think I am, a mind reader?

Nope. Just a blogger trying to figure out why Pat Roberts is suddenly interested in the issue of covert CIA operatives at this particular moment in time. Is it because there's been a rash of exposures of undercover agents? Not that I've heard. Is it because he's concerned about the outing of Valerie Plame? That happened two years ago.

No, the only thing that's happened recently has been the disclosure that Karl Rove did indeed mention Plame's CIA status to two different reporters in 2003. That has the Republican party engaged in a panic stricken frenzy to convince the world that Plame wasn't really covert and therefore Rove did nothing wrong even if he did expose her identity.

This gives us two options to choose from. First, Roberts is genuinely offended both by Rove's actions and his fellow Republicans' defense of it, and intends to use his hearings to hold the Bush administration's feet to the fire over it. I realize opinions may differ on this, but since Roberts has never held this administration's feet to the fire over anything, I have my doubts that he's suddenly gotten religion in the past couple of weeks. The second option is that he intends to use the hearings to help the administration cover its tracks. This is the theory I favor.

Still, this is just speculation. So let's go to the tape. Alan Bjerga of the Wichita Eagle caught up with Roberts on Wednesday and asked him what he had in mind. Here's what he said:

"We need to look at the role of cover, and how to best protect people who are operating in a covert fashion," he said.

Hmmm. That doesn't sound so bad. Maybe I'm being too harsh on Roberts. But wait there's also this:

Roberts said that Plame, along with several other cases, points to problems related to how the intelligence community protects its officers and to ambiguities in the definition of who has cover and what levels of cover exist.

Ah. So apparently Roberts is mainly concerned with disparaging the intelligence community after all. According to Bjerga, Roberts thinks there's a "problem" with the way they protect their officers. What's more, there are "ambiguities" in how they define who's undercover and who isn't. And keep in mind that this comes after Roberts' Late Edition comment that although outing a covert agent is "generically" a serious matter, he personally doubts that Valerie Plame was really covert. "From a common sense standpoint," he said, "driving back and forth to work to the CIA headquarters, I don't know if that really qualifies as being, you know, covert."

Roberts could hardly be more transparent in his intentions if he hired a skywriter to advertise them. If the CIA isn't protecting its officers very well, and if they do a lousy job of defining who's undercover and who's merely "undercover" well, then, poor old Karl Rove can hardly be blamed for accidentally stepping over the line, can he?

When one speculates, one always runs the risk of being wrong. So maybe I'm wrong. But let's face it: the dots are all pointing in the same direction here. Roberts is a loyal water carrier for the Bush administration and that's what he's doing here: carrying their water. His goal is to protect the White House, not to mount serious hearings about protecting the CIA's covert agents.

Kevin Drum 1:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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