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September 14, 2005

Covering for Karl Rove

Thomas Halpenny

      Karl Rove has grown accustomed to controversy following him throughout his political career. During his career, Rove developed a reputation as one of the brightest and most successful political minds in America while also being one of the most ruthless and cutthroat. Although these tactics have served as the basis for much of his political success, they may have also led him into the most precarious position of his career. His role in exposing the identity of former CIA agent Valerie Plame has raised many questions about how the current administration should deal with such a case on a legal and ethical level.

      His involvement in revealing the name and position of an undercover CIA agent has brought much unwanted and poorly timed attention to an administration that is facing its most significant patch of turmoil to date. Karl Rove exposed the identity and, subsequently, ruined the active career of a CIA agent and many of her colleagues, as retaliation against what was seen by the Bush Administration as liberal attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the claims for war against Iraq. The story begins just over three years ago.

      In February of 2002 the CIA sent Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband, career diplomat, and former Ambassador to Gabon, on a fact-finding mission to the African country of Niger. His goal was to obtain intelligence on possible uranium ore purchases made by Iraq during the 1990's from western African nations, specifically Niger. The Bush Administration hoped to find possible sources of uranium that Iraq may have been using to build its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Proof of Iraqi solicitation of such resources would be vital in any argument made by the White House in favor of going to war in Iraq.

      Wilson returned from his trip to Niger with a report claiming there was insufficient evidence of any significant uranium transactions between Niger and Iraq. The Bush Administration disregarded the report and even went as far as to include in his State of the Union address a sixteen word passage that claimed western Africa was indeed a source of uranium for Iraq. George Bush continued in the same speech to say that the Iraqi purchase of materials like uranium was evidence of their intention to construct weapons of mass destruction.

      In July of 2003, Wilson wrote an editorial piece in the New York Times suggesting that the Bush Administration misrepresented his intelligence reports in order to justify the war in Iraq. Wilson also went on in the same piece to say that the US ambassador to Niger had also "debunked claims of uranium sales between Iraq and Niger" in her intelligence reports to Washington.

      Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was then an undercover agent working for the CIA in the Middle East. It was her identity and that of her cover company that was revealed during an interview between Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time, and Karl Rove. In addition to exposing Plame's identity, Rove and other Republican politicians and activists began a smear campaign against both Wilson and his wife in an attempt to undermine their credibility and the credibility of his accusations against the Bush Administration. Conservatives asserted through various media outlets that the Wilson report was set up as a "boondoggle" by Wilson's wife and called into question the validity of the selection process that was used in appointing Wilson for the investigation in Africa.

      Matthew Cooper released an article in Time in July 2003 titled "A War on Wilson?" in which he discussed the report made by Wilson to the Bush Administration and the subsequent dismissal of the report in the build up to the war. His article identified Valerie Plame by name and position and divulged her role as an undercover agent working in the Middle East. The source of his information would soon become a heated point of contention.

      Following the release of the Cooper article and other related reports through various news organizations, the White House opened an investigation into where the leak came from. George Bush claimed that the source of the leak would be "dealt with accordingly" and that "no one who would leak such classified information would still be a part of the current administration." After narrowing the search down to two possible informants, one of whom was Karl Rove, the Bush Administration appointed Attorney General John Ashcroft as the special investigator on the case. This is the same John Ashcroft who paid Karl Rove over $750,000 as a consultant on his most recent political campaigns.

      Following a long investigation and many hearings before a grand jury, Matthew Cooper revealed his source despite his ethical objections as a reporter. Cooper claimed that a last minute clearance from his source was the reason he revealed his name. This source was Karl Rove. In the months during the investigation, Rove had vehemently denied playing any role in the leak and the Administration had openly defended their under fire employee.

      The question is no longer who leaked the classified information, but what the Bush Administration is going to do about it? George Bush and his staff have prided themselves on being honest and direct. Their stance has always been that they stick by their word, they do not waiver. Then how does the current administration deal with the Rove issue? Many analysts argue that Bush claimed anyone found to have "committed a criminal act in disclosing classified information" would be removed from the Administration and tried accordingly based on the law. Bush may not have to deal with the problem of keeping his word and firing Rove, if Rove is not found guilty in a criminal case or if that case does not actually come to a conclusion before the end of his term.

      The issue of what happens to Karl Rove is far less important than the recognition that the current administration is far less honest and direct than they would like people to believe. While George Bush may have found a way out of firing his most influential advisor, he cannot avoid the fact that his grounds for the current war in Iraq were based on misinformed intelligence and the misguided interpretation of intelligence reports like those authored by Joseph Wilson. It is also important that people understand the ghastly effects of such underhanded political tactics. In an attempt to discredit an opposing point of view, Karl Rove and other conservatives have ruined the careers of numerous CIA agents and reporters who were unwilling themselves to compromise their integrity.

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