Wednesday, July 27, 2005

That Hyman . . . He's So Hot Right Now.

I’m not sure which is more disturbing, the fact that in his recent commentary on the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame, Mark Hyman ignores the central act of treason in the case in favor of personal attack, or the fact that he takes Owen Wilson’s name in vain.

I love Owen Wilson, but I’m going to go with the treason thing. Discussing the “brouhaha” (one of Hyman’s favorite terms to use in minimizing an issue or controversy) over the demand by a judge that two reporters reveal the source of the Plame leak (a “brouhaha” that has led one reporter to be thrown in jail), Hyman all but ignores the central issue: someone in the White House committed treason.

You’d suppose that someone who wraps himself in the flag as much as Hyman does would be a little concerned if a government official revealed classified information that put an intelligence operative at risk (and thereby put the nation’s security at risk as well). Instead, Hyman spends his time attacking Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson (the guy who revealed documents about Niger’s supposed dealing of yellowcake uranium to Iraq as forgeries), claiming that Owen Wilson would have been more qualified to investigate. Moreover, Hyman says that an exhaustive British report (presumably the Butler Report, although Hyman doesn’t name it) says “their [the British?] yellowcake report was valid.” Finally, Hyman echoes columnist Bob Novak’s insinuation that Wilson was given the assignment to Niger because of his wife’s influence at the CIA.

Hyman’s smokescreen is easily dispersed by a few facts. First, while Wilson was not an authority on Niger or Africa in general, he had significant experience with Iraq, and had received an official commendation from George H.W. Bush for his service. Owen Wilson might be a better candidate to investigate what bark is made of (a little Zoolander reference for you to go along with the title of this particular post), but Wilson was certainly competent to look into affairs involving Iraq.

Secondly, the Butler Report doesn’t negate Wilson’s findings, nor does it say Iraq bought yellowcake uranium from Niger. In fact, the report acknowledges that there were fraudulent documents involved. All it says in terms of mitigating factors is that British intelligence didn’t overtly rely on these forgeries to make their claims about the yellowcake deal and that other evidence suggested this claim was plausible (although, as Joshua Micah Marshall pointed out at the time, even this limited defense of the claim is fishy). Hyman doesn’t refer to the Butler Report by name, probably because he’s afraid viewers might Google it and find out what it actually says about the Niger situation, as well as its scathing indictment of prewar intelligence overall.

Finally, the whole nepotism charge is a red herring. As noted, Wilson was a veteran diplomat who had been praised by Bush I. Moreover, CIA regulations would prohibit Plame from authorizing her own husband’s mission. Finally, even if Plame recommended Wilson, what does it matter? Is this supposed to show that either of them was biased against the Bush administration? Does it somehow call into question the assertions made by Wilson or the facts that back him up? Of course not. Hyman is just playing the same game as Novak and Novak’s source in the White House: using personal smears when the facts are embarrassing.

And speaking of Novak’s source, it wasn’t “the left and its media partners” who asked for an investigation into the leak of Plame’s identity, it was the CIA itself. Why did the agency do this? Because they recognize (as Hyman pretends not to) that the outing of an undercover operative for mere political purposes is a despicable act that endangers the security of all Americans.

“Brouhaha” indeed.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 2.63


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