Larry Johnson on the Plame Scandal
I think this interview by Wolf Blitzer with Larry Johnson on CNN’s Situation Room on Wednesday is extremely important and worry that it may be missed. I’m quoting some excerpts below. I was struck by the information that Plame Wilson has had death threats from al-Qaeda, and that the CIA has declined to offer her any special protection even though she still works there.
So the Bush administration is throwing our own counter-proliferation intelligence operatives to al-Qaeda by outing them, and Porter Goss refuses even to provide any security? Oh, yeah, we’re going to recruit a lot of capable, competent people into counter-terrorism after this.
At one point former CIA officer Larry Johnson slams Clifford May as “not credible.” May, a far rightwing Zionist, has been a hatchet man for the Neocons, smearing Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of Valerie Plame Wilson, with innuendo and half-truths. The principle on American television news (aside from Fox, which gets a pass because Rupert Murdoch is so rich and crazy) is that some sort of partisan balance has to be maintained. So Johnson’s going after May required Wolf to step in to defend May’s credibility, since he didn’t have a guest on to counter Johnson.
Johnson’s anger and bitterness, as a US intelligence professional, about the damage done by Rove and Libby in leaking Plame’s name to the press for petty political advantage, are well worth considering.
‘BLITZER: . . . For more on the damage that may have been done by the leak, I’m joined now by former CIA officer Larry Johnson. He was a classmate of the outed operative Valerie Plame at the CIA’s training school way back.
How many years ago was that, Larry?
LARRY JOHNSON, COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: Nineteen-eighty-five, September.
BLITZER: So, you were basically with Valerie Plame…
JOHNSON: Right . . .
BLITZER: Now, in order for any charges, an indictment, to really have weight, I think what everyone wants to know is, was there serious damage done to U.S. national security? And I have been trying to find out if the CIA actually did a postmortem, a damage assessment. You have been looking into that as well.
JOHNSON: Now, CIA did a postmortem. There’s no way that they could not have. They have not delivered any written report to Congress, to the House or Senate Intelligence Committees.
But what they done with this report, they had to do it internally, because…
BLITZER: Is there a piece of paper there that’s written?
JOHNSON: Yes. There will be a written — there’s a written document within the CIA. There has to be, because every time that someone like this is outed, it’s not just the person. In this case, it’s the front company. It’s other NOCs who may have been exposed.
BLITZER: Non-official cover is the NOCs.
JOHNSON: Non-official cover officers, also other intelligence officers who were exposed to that company, as well as intelligence assets overseas who were working with Brewster-Jennings who didn’t know that it was a CIA front, and some who may have been witting…
JOHNSON: … assets.
BLITZER: … do you know whether or not they concluded that serious damage did occur?
JOHNSON: I have heard that serious damage did occur.
BLITZER: In terms of lives lost, agents, foreign agents…
JOHNSON: To that…
BLITZER: … U.S. allies?
JOHNSON: To that extent, I don’t know.
But what I do know for certain is, we’re not just talking about Valerie Plame. We’re talking about an intelligence resource, a United States national security resource that was destroyed by these White House officials that went out and started talking to the press about this. Reckless. And they have — they have harmed the security of this country. They’re trying to pretend no harm, no foul, and find lots of excuses.
BLITZER: Let me read to you from a Bob Novak column in “The Chicago Sun-Times” and other newspapers October 1, 2003, a couple of months or so after he revealed her name . . . That doesn’t make it sound like she was very covert.
JOHNSON: Not only does — you know, Bob Novak once again demonstrates he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And that is a lie.
I defy anybody. I have got $5,000 that says that you can’t find a reference to Valerie Plame and the CIA prior to Robert Novak’s column. Can’t do it. The fact that she’s married…
BLITZER: Well, why would Clifford May say that he knew about it?
JOHNSON: Clifford May has been wrong on a whole variety of things.
BLITZER: But he’s a respected guy, Clifford May.
JOHNSON: Well, he’s respected by some people. I don’t respect him, because I…
BLITZER: I have known him for many years… JOHNSON: I…
BLITZER: … going back to when he was a reporter for “The New York Times.”
JOHNSON: His information — his information — his information on this issue has been repeatedly wrong.
And, again, I’ll bet Clifford May $5,000. Find the reference prior to Robert Novak’s column in which that information was out there. It wasn’t out there. Not only that. When Valerie wrote that check to Al Gore’s campaign as a member of Brewster-Jennings, she was living her cover. Not a single neighbor knew that she worked for the CIA.
She protected that cover. She was in the process of moving from non-official cover to official cover, but, under the law, official cover still protected.
BLITZER: Because there is some suggestion that she had been outed by other — by Aldrich Ames or others…
JOHNSON: Well, my…
BLITZER: … who were U.S. — were American spies spying for…
BLITZER: … the Soviet Union or other countries.
JOHNSON: My understanding is that, as a result of the Aldrich Ames betrayal, the damage assessment there came up with the possibility that she may have been compromised, so she’s moved back to the United States, home-based here, but continues to operate from here, traveling overseas as a consultant with Brewster-Jennings. So, she was continuing to work overseas.
BLITZER: What about the argument that she was driving in and out of Langley, CIA headquarters, on a daily basis for her job as an analyst in counter — nuclear counterproliferation?
JOHNSON: People saying that just demonstrate their further ignorance of the CIA.
At least 40 percent of the people driving through those gates every day are undercover. They are — sometimes, they are here in the United States for two or three assignment. Then they go back overseas. Their acknowledged relationship with the CIA is unacknowledged. They’re presumed to work for some other U.S. government agency. Their covers are backstop.
So, just because they are driving through the gates there doesn’t mean that they’re not undercover. I was out there for four years driving through the gates. I was undercover until I day I left. And the only one who knew I worked with CIA was my wife . . .
BLITZER: Were you surprised that, after her name was revealed, that she posed for pictures, that famous picture in “Vanity Fair,” that she posed for pictures elsewhere with her husband? . . .
JOHNSON: Yes. With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think Joe and Valerie would have done that again.
But they also recognized, at the time when they did it, her career had been completely destroyed. And she had received death threats overseas from al Qaeda. So, as a result of that outing…
BLITZER: How do you know she got death threats from al Qaeda?
JOHNSON: I have heard it directly from people that have been told that there was a threat.
BLITZER: Because she is a…
BLITZER: … a former CIA operative?
JOHNSON: … operative and outed by Robert Novak.
There were three people that were identified as having a threat. And she was contacted by the FBI.
BLITZER: Does she get security protection…
JOHNSON: She did not.
BLITZER: Why didn’t she?
JOHNSON: She called…
BLITZER: She still works for the CIA.
JOHNSON: She called CIA and was told, you will have to rely upon 911 . . .
BLITZER: Larry Johnson, former CIA officer, worked at counterterrorism at the State Department as well.