Don’t You Dare Call It Treason


Treason, no less! A leading Democrat, Rep Henry Waxman howls in Congress that “The intentional disclosure of a covert CIA agent’s identity would be an act of treason. If Rove was part of a conspiracy and intentionally disclosed the name ­ then that jeopardizes national security”

Liberal columnists like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times join the Waxman chorus. Of White House political adviser Karl Rove’s efforts to discredit Joe Wilson by outing his wife Valerie Plame as a covert CIA employee, Scheer bellows furiously that that Rove might have even endangered Plame’s life and that “this partisan game jeopardizes national security. This is the most important issue raised by the Plame scandal.”

But suppose one of Valerie Plame’s covert CIA missions, until outed by Karl Rove, had been to liaise with Venezuelan right-wingers planning to assassinate president Hugo Chavez, possibly masquerading as a journalist and using her attractions to secure an audience with the populist president and then poison him, just as the CIA tried to poison Castro. In an earlier incarnation Scheer would surely have been eager to jeopardize national security by exposing Plame’s employer.

Thirty-eight years ago Scheer was one of the editors of Ramparts and in February of 1967 that magazine ran an expose of covert CIA funding of the National Student Association, prompting furious charges that it had endangered national security which, from the foreign policy establishment’s point of view, it most certainly had. Of course Ramparts, and the left in general, derided the very phrase “national security” as a phony rationale for covering up years of covert CIA operations entirely inimical to any decent definition of what “national security” should properly mean.

The CIA’s covert wing is not in the business of advancing world peace and general prosperity. The record of almost 60 years is one of uninterrupted evil. So we should drop all this nonsense about treason and clap Rove warmly on the back for his courageous onslaughts on the cult of secrecy. By all means delight in the White House’s discomfiture, but spare us the claptrap about national security and treason.

To thread one’s way through coverage of the Plame affair, the jailing of Judy Miller, the contempt citations of four journalists (though not,alas, of Jeff Gerth of the New York Times) and the AIPAC/Franklin spy case is like strolling past distorting mirrors in a fun house. Go from one to the next and the swollen giant of “treason” in the west wing of the White House shrinks to the dwarf-like status of a “leak”, which is how AIPAC’s defenders like to categorize the transmission of a top secret Presidential Directive on Iran from Larry Franklin in the Pentagon to AIPAC officials and thence to a spymaster, Naor Gilon, in the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Judy Miller too has had an image make-over, from the warmongering fabricator of yesterday to today’s martyr to the First Amendment, with years of profitable speaking tours beckoning after she is released from the incarceration she surely knew would winch her reputation out of the mud.

But why is prosecutor Fitzgerald going after her? She wrote no story about Plame.

Now, as a prime propagandist of the war faction Miller had every reason to be as keen to discredit Wilson as was Rove. Suppose it was she who relayed from her pal and prime disinformant, Ahmad Chalabi, the news that it was CIA employee Plame who assigned her husband the Niger mission to assay the veracity of charges that Iraq had bought uranium yellowcake there. Relayed to whom? Maybe to one of the State Department’s neocon warmongers, like John Bolton or EliottAbrams, who duly passed the news on to Scooter Libby and Rove in the White House. Remember, Rove told the prosecutor that he learned about Plame from two journalists. What a joke it would have been to have him behind bars for refusing to disclose his sources.

Stroll on to the next set of mirrors, apropos Wen Ho Lee’s suit to discover who leaked the false accusations about his supposed acts of treason at Los Alamos, allegedly transmitting nuclear secrets to China. Four journalists, including James Risen of the New York Times and Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, may join Miller behind bars for refusing to divulge their sources.

One can understand why Wen Ho Lee is unmoved by charges that he is sabotaging the First Amendment. His case displayed the FBI and the press which smeared him ­ primarily Risen and Gerth in the New York Times ­ in a disgusting light. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement, with FBI agents telling him he might face the death penalty for being a traitor.

Who in fact was the betrayer of secrets, if one has to be found? On July 7 Steve Terrell reported in The New Mexican that the leaker so eager to disclose a top secret government probe of Wen Ho Lee at Los Alamos, may well be a the current governor of New Mexico and possible White House aspirant, Bill Richardson, who was Clinton’s Energy Secretary at the time and who had spent a large portion of his political career nurturing the interests of Los Alamos as a nuclear research lab.

I doubt Waxman will start calling for his blood as a compromiser of national security, leaking secrets as part of a political maneuver to shift blame for the appalling mess at Los Alamos to a person of Chinese origin whom he falsely accuswed of being a spy, then denied he had done any such thing. This guy wants to be president of the United States.

If you want to start waving words like “treason” around, the AIPAC spy case is surely a better target than Karl Rove. Here we have a four-year FBI probe of possible treachery by senior US government officials, as well as by Israel’s premier lobbying outfit in the United States, AIPAC. Yet compared with the mileage given to the Plame affair, coverage of the AIPAC spy case in the press has been sparse, and the commentary very demure, until you get to Justin Raimondo’s pugnacious columns on

Raimondo’s been comparing the AIPAC spy case to the indictment of State Department official Alger Hiss back in the 1940s, claiming that just as the foreign policy apparatus was allegedly riddled with Communist spies in the 1940s, the same apparatus is now riddled with Israel’s agents today. I’d reckon that when it comes to agents of influence the USSR back then couldn’t hold a candle to Israel today (or then, for that matter, though in that distant time Zionist and Communist were often hats on the same head).

One answer in the McCarthyite era to accusations of spying was that the Soviet Union was an ally and the supposed transmission of “secrets” was just a routine exchange of information on such matters as the schedule for the Dumbarton Oaks conference laying the groundwork for the UN (in which Hiss was involved.)

Similar talk about “allies” and “routine exchanges” pops from the mouths of Israel’s supporters here, denouncing the FBI probe as some latterday equivalent of the persecution of Dreyfus.

It’s perfectly obvious that Israel exerts huge influence on US policy. Men and women working in Israel’s interest throng Washington. But on the left, in the spy case just as in the Plame affair, we should be leery of words like traitor and “national security”. They cut both ways.

Here’s a useful parable on the fetishization of secrecy. Jeffrey St Clair unearthed it in Ernie Fitzgerald’s The Pentagonists, essential reading for anyone interested in how US politics really works.

In 1973, Nixon fired Pentagon auditor Ernie Fitzgerald for exposing the tidal wave of cost overruns associated with Lockheed’s useless C-5A cargo plane. One of the accusations hurled against Ernie at the time was that he had “leaked” to a congressional committee “classified information” about the scandal. The charge was made by Robert Seamons, Nixon’s Secretary of the Air Force. When Fitzgerald sued (and won his job back and a major settlement, which he used in part to found the Fund for Constitutional Government), his lawyers deposed Seamons, who retreated a little.

Here’s how Ernie describes it:

“Later, after I was fired, Senator William Proxmire forced Seamons to retract this accusation. In his apologia pro vita sua to the official tape, he produced this wonderful waffle: ‘At the time I was testifying, I really thought that Ernie had given them classified material, marked ‘Confidential.’ Later on, when we still had the opportunity of going over the testimony, it wasn’t so clear as to whether any of the material was classified or not. So we changed the word from Confidential with a capital “C” to confidential with a small “c”.


This Is On Background

Dear Folks,

Been fascinated by this whole Karl Rove situation…I am not familiar with the clandestine and hush-hush world in which the likes of Karl Rove and the Wilsons live…but it struck me as kind of interesting that the journalist Matt Cooper used the term “double super secret background” to describe whatever conversation they had. Remember the classic film Animal House? (written by a Dartmouth grad and modeled after the fraternity next door to my beloved house Heorot – named appropriately after the drinking hall of Beowulf)

Remember Dean Wormer’s response to Greg Marmalard?

Greg Marmalard: But Delta’s already on probation.

Dean Vernon Wormer: They are? Well, as of this moment, they’re on DOUBLE SECRET PROBATION

Imagine then a similar conversation between Matt Cooper and Karl Rove:

Cooper: Well, I already have you on secret background Karl?

Rove: We are? well then this has to be DOUBLE SUPER SECRET BACKGROUND!!!

Who do these guys think they are? Maxwell Smart?

I mean…come on. Tell me that when you really get down to the bones, these guys like Rove are really still using their sophomoric minds to handle stuff and get folks in trouble…just like college…

We should just put Rove on DOUBLE SUPER SECRET PROBATION and have done with it…

Cheers, Dave Ross


Not Brian Lamb!

CounterPuncher Morton Skorodin, commending me for my parody of the Lehrer News Hour took a swipe at CSPAN’S Brian Lamb, which I printed here a couple of weeks ago. This presumption elicited a protective cry from Holden Mills.

I agree with you that much of PBS has continually become more timid and watered down. Personally, I stopped watching Jim Lehrer’s program at least a year ago. Who needs it! Nevertheless, PBS continues to occasionally show excellent documentaries.

I profoundly disagree with your correspondent, Morton Skorodin, who put C-Span and Brian Lamb in the same category as PBS and Jim Lehrer. I consider Mr. Lamb a hero of our time. Recently, one of his interviewees (I think Bob Herbert) commented that the pressure must be overwhelming. Brian responded: “You cannot imagine it!”. I believe him.

He continues to present programs like the Rev. David Ray Griffin’s, who made a case that the falls of the World Trade Center buildings were caused by controlled demolitions. Arundhati Roy, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Greg Palast, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and many, many other informed, left wing people who do not and cannot appear anywhere else on network or cable TV are presented in long, detailed interviews or symposia on C-Span.

I recently read an article by Gore Vidal calling C-Span subversive because you can see and hear numerous public figures displaying themselves, some in all their ridiculous pomposity or outright evil-doing. Also, C-Span covered Rep John Conyers’ entire basement hearing on the recent British memo on “fixing” intelligence to start the Iraq war.

I also want to praise the Sundance Channel, which shows excellent, eye-opening documentaries, like The Origin of Aids.

I do not usually write such letters, but feel obliged to send this one. Let’s not “throw out the baby with the bathwater”. There are too few honest channels remaining. Let’s value the few we have left (pun intended).


Holden Mills


To refresh your memory, here’s what Morton wrote:

Mr. Cockburn,

Great piece on PBS. C-SPAN is almost the same. Claim to be neutral; Brian Lamb is an ICONOBLAST (the opposite of iconoclast) – it’s very well-managed. He snickered at a caller who was a Hawaiian “nationalist.” Right wing think tanks dominate on CSPAN- e.g. Heritage Found, AEI. They quote the Wash. Times daily. One caller counted 40 Republicans to 21 Democrats. Progressives tolerated rarely – Howard Zinn was on recently. In all fairness CSPAN 2 has some progressive coverage.

Also, Lamb’s book – it’s chronological – and it completely skips the 60’s.

Lamb hung up on me twice; I accused the pres. of treason.


Those Google Ads: How To Keep Imperialism At Bay

Hello Counterpunchers,

As an on-line reader on a daily basis I would say a few things.The first: just keep up the good work. It is a delightful daily experience, and it helps to raise spirits of at least one rebel in the Netherlands:

The first: I read about those google ads, that you need them, but that some readers object. A few things about it all. 1. counterpunch has guts. 2. I find those ads often useless, sometimes they lead to useful stuff, and sometimes they are hilarious. But the idea that I (or you) would be contaminated because there are ads, or because one clicks at them, is sheer silliness. Are we lefties so easily contaminated?? 3. I have no money to support you directly. I am pleased to be able to do my bit in this easy, and often quite funny. Just four clicks a day keeps imperialism at bay:

yours in struggle

peter storm
The Nethelands
weblog (in Dutch)


That Smile on the Face of the Tiger

John Brown at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown recently cited that snooty conservative prof, Roger Scruton, as having written in the TLS (April 15), that “human beings are alone among the animals in revealing their individuality in their faces. The mouth that speaks, the eyes that glaze, the skin that flushes, all are signs of freedom, character and judgement, and all give concrete expression to the uniqueness of the self within.”

What bilge! I see more expressiveness on the faces of my dog (Jasper), horse (Agnes), cat (Frank) cockatiel (Percy) and even my Gouldian finches and Gloucester canaries than on 90 per cent of the people I see on tv, starting with the Leader of the Free World. The same is true of Jeffrey St Clair’s Australian shepherd, Boomer, Destroyer of Fine Carpets.

Jasper has the blood of Irish wolf hounds and other indeterminate canine DNA pulsing in his veins Let me tell you, “the signs of freedom, character and judgement” are writ large on his whiskered mug, every minute that passes. The other day I handed him the remnants of a pork chop on which he deemed I had left insufficient meat and before he picked up the morsel he threw me a glance of such delicate reproach that Marcel Proust would have taken a couple of pages to describe its modalities.

There was nothing so delicate in the reporoach of Sinclair Lewis’s sometime dog ­ an Airedale ­ which in his youth my father once had to look after over Christmas in Berlin in the late 1920s, as he describes in his memoirs.

It was a horrible Christmas for the dog, because just at that time I had run entirely out of money and was living chiefly on expectations of a check from the United States which never came. To begin with, the dog fed fairly well because the butcher round the corner always had a pile of scraps ­ offal, bacon rind and the like ­ which he gave me free when I bought some meat for myself. But on Christmas Eve, when everyone I knew had left town for the holiday, I found, distressingly, that I had only just enough money to buy a couple of drinks and some tobacco.

Feeling very low, mentally and morally, I went round to that butcher and told him that I myself was, of course, invited to eat my Christmas dinner with friends and therefore did not wish to buy anything for myself but was anxious that the dog should have a particularly good Christmas dinner. The kindly butcher made up an unusually large and nasty-looking parcel of scraps, which I took home and cooked. The dog watched me with satisfaction. But the next day at noon when he saw me carefully dividing the mess into equal portions and putting only half of it on his plate, his disappointment and indignation knew no bounds. At first he watched me with an expression of sheer incredulity. Then when he saw me actually digging my fork into that portion of his dinner that I had reserved for myself, he got up on his hind legs, with his forepaws on the table, and threw back his head, howling in astonishment and despair at the pass things had come to.

Footnote: a slightly shorter version of the first item ran in the print edition of The Nation that went to press last Wednesday. Please, resist the urge to send us photographs of your domestic menagerie. Our inbox is already bursting at the seams.





















Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.