Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Robert Novak Is a Traitor

by Eric Alterman
The upshot here appears to be that Novak lied to everyone in order to betray his country on behalf of Rove and company. First he revealed the name of an active CIA officer, blowing any and all operations with which she has ever been involved, costing the country millions, and possibly endangering lives despite the specific request from the agency that he not do so. That’s all here.

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

Next, he played Joan of Arc by insisting he would never reveal the names of his sources to Mr. Fitzgerald while simultaneously doing just that. Why in the world is The Washington Post continuing to stand by this scoundrel? Is it all because he’s a member of the club and insiders protect their own? It worked for Kim Philby and I’m beginning to think it’s working here too.

On a historical note, Novak’s most consequential story before this one was the one that sunk George McGovern’s 1972 candidacy in which he quoted one of the senator’s Democratic colleagues as insisting that his campaign stood for “the three As: acid, abortion and amnesty.” The quote wouldn’t have mattered had it come from Nixon, but the fact that it was sourced to a Democratic senator, made the charge stick, as incredibly unfair as it was to bona fide prairie liberal and heroic World War II fighter pilot. Almost everyone familiar with the incident believed the source was Henry “Scoop” Jackson. But McGovern told he that he asked Jackson and the man swore it was not so. And if it were Jackson, then Novak’s pledge of confidentiality would have been released when he died. But Novak still will not reveal his source. We know he does reveal his sources when it suits his purposes; not only to Mr. Fitzgerald but also in the case of the former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, after Hanssen was arrested for spying. Why? Because, Novak wrote, "To be honest to my readers, I must reveal it.

Honest with his readers? What was the name of that Buddy Holly song again? So the fact that he won’t finger this one leads me to a conclusion I’ve always suspected: Novak probably made it up. The man’s self justification is here.

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