BLITZER: Turning now to our security council. Tomorrow the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to make an announcement on whether or not there will be indictments in the CIA leak case. But how much damage was actually done to U.S. intelligence by the outing of the CIA operative Valerie Plame?
Joining us now, retired U.S. Army Colonel Pat Lang, a former chief analyst for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency and head of the Defense HUMINT Service, and our own national security correspondent David Ensor. Two guys who know this subject well.
How much damage do you believe was actually done as a result of her name being released?
COL. WALTER "PAT" LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET): I think quite a lot. She actually was functioning in a covered status in which she remained covered so that when she went overseas to meet people in conjunction, the operation would be secure. And the things that she was running were blown away by this disclosure.
But, I think the larger issue is that the very fact that the U.S. government seems to have in fact disclosed the identity of one of its covert officers would cause people around the world to think that we have no credibility and that we could not be trusted to protect their identities if they cooperated with us.
BLITZER: We’re seeing some pictures, by the way, as we speak, of the president down in south Florida. He’s touring some of the areas damaged and devastated, if you will, some of the people suffering as a result of Hurricane Wilma. We’ll show those pictures from time to time as they are available. Some members of the staff there with the president.
As far as you know, David, there was no postmortem official that was document submitted to the Senate or House Intelligence Committee outlining what they believe was the damage?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, that’s right. There will be once all of the judicial matters — all the trials or plea bargains or whatever we’re going have next are over with. There will be a complete damage assessment done.
But there was a quick, first, sort of operations check. And as Pat said, there clearly was damage. Her past career, any sources she may have drawn, the current career, those people who were in real trouble. Any future work she might have been able to do as a 20-year veteran, very experienced, is lost. Plus, and most importantly, all around the world anybody who is thinking of working for U.S. intelligence as a spy now sees that from time to time, at least, the U.S. hurts the home team and that’s not good.
BLITZER: Her husband is the former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson who wrote about his trip on behalf of the CIA to Niger to check out these reports whether or not enriched uranium — Iraqis under Saddam Hussein are trying to buy enriched uranium. There are his critics — and you know Pat, there are a lot of critics of Joe Wilson out there who support the president and his stance on the war who say you know what? He’s really responsible for outing his wife, because he wrote this article saying he made a trip on behalf of the CIA.
And if you go to his who’s who biographical file, it’ll say he’s married to Valerie Plame. And if he were working for the CIA, that that could have compromised her identity right there.
LANG: That’s true, but it’s a fairly extended set of circumstances in that case. It’s not as specific and destructive, as it would be if, in fact, officials of the United States government used their facilities and the power of the state to disclose the identity of this person.
This is something which would not be understood anywhere as David said. People would look at that and say, well, my God if they did that to one of their own people, why should I entrust my safety to these people? Will they be able to protect my identity?
BLITZER: We might know tomorrow whether any of the individuals who talked about her to reporters, whether Bob Novak, or anyone else, actually knew she was under cover, that she was what they call a NOC, a non-official cover and clandestine operative.
LANG: Actually, it wouldn’t make any difference if she were a NOC or if she were simply undercover in a fairly shallow cover. In either case, she would be a covered person in the meaning of the law. You don’t have to be a NOC to be that. In fact, any undercover person’s has to be protected.
ENSOR: I would like to say, in defense of those who are saying this is not such a bad thing — it is fair to argue, I think, that by marrying Joe Wilson, a fairly public figure, a former ambassador, she probably made herself a bit less useful to the CIA.
She put herself, at least married to a very public figure and probably could not have gone, for example, undercover with a false name and so forth.
So, her usefulness was still very much there and a law appears to have been broken. But it isn’t quite the same loss to U.S. intelligence as it if would have been if she had no connection with anybody as public as Joe Wilson.
BLITZER: Her usefulness as an analyst in the CIA, of course remains. She still works at the CIA. But, her usefulness as an uncover officer was completely destroyed when she decided to pose publicly for a picture for Vanity Fair. Then all of the sudden, not just the name Valerie Plame is known around the world, but the face is known as well.
LANG: The chain of circumstances that led to that is an unfortunate thing. It in fact ruined the possibility of ever using her as a field operative again, that’s absolutely true.
I think the particulars of this have to be established by the special prosecutor in this case. We’re going to find out tomorrow.
BLITZER: One of the things that’s very worrisome that we heard from Larry Johnson, who is a former CIA officer, a state department counterterrorism official as well — he said that he had heard that there had been death threats to her as result of all of this from al- Qaida. Have you ever heard that.
ENSOR: I have not.
BLITZER: Pat, have you heard that?
LANG: No, I have not heard that.
BLITZER: Because if there were death threats, I assume she’d want protection from the government. She still is employed by the CIA at this point. Pat, button this up. What do you suspect will happen tomorrow?
LANG: I think Mr. Fitzgerald is a kind of person who does not see things in relative terms in any way. He sees things as being either correct or not correct.
And all his past seems to indicate that he will press the cases very hard. In fact, his use of some laws may seem to be quite creative to many people.
BLITZER: The president now back on the ground touring South Florida. Just got off Marine One over there. We’re going to continue to watch what he’s up to.
Pat Lang, as usual, thanks very much for joining us. David Ensor, thanks to you as well."
thanks very much for posting this, it’s a very important issue.
Thank you for your fine posts, Col. Lang.
“… there are a lot of critics of Joe Wilson out there who support the president and his stance on the war who say you know what? He’s really responsible …”
I wish I would have seen the interview because I may be reading too much into the transcript. Aside from Blitzer’s slimy innuendo that this is Plame and Wilson’s own fault, was he implying that criticizing Wilson equates to supporting the President and the war? And hence, following the Administration’s own twisted logic, supporting Wilson means you’re with the terrorists? I hope Wolf gets a stipend for pushing this tripe. Or maybe I’m just going over the line into full-blown paranoia.
Yes, thank you, as a more dispassionate reading shows. I’ve been succumbing to the witch-hunt mentality.
Even paranoids have real people following them.
For our unfortunate troops in Iraq, paranoia assumes a whole new level of meaning. They not only have real people following them, but planting bombs in the road ahead of them, as well.
This whole, sorry soap opera demonstrates one thing above all else: namely, that America doesn’t have a serious government or an adult electorate capable of differentiating trivia from treason.
I didn’t see the Blitzer segment in which Pat Lang appeared, but I did see a short snippet from Larry King Live here on CNN International in Taiwan featuring some U.S. Senators along with Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post — a.k.a., The Emerald City Gazette. Woodward still had his green glasses on as he defended Judith (Chalabi’s girl Friday) Miller as “the underdog” in all this mess. I mostly heard a lot of melliflously modulated mush with only a tinge of anxiety about “the war” and what it means to George W. Bush.
Like I said, America doesn’t have a serious government, serious political dialogue, or adult electorate capable of separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Reading about the Blitzer bit interjecting credulous concern about yet more staged Presidential photo ops in front of yet more Hurricane-damage-as-background wallpaper only reconfirms my esteem for H. L. Menken’s dictum: namely, that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.