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Larry C Johnson (bio/blog)

Received a copy of David Corn's latest brilliance.  He takes NY Times columnist David Brooks to task and schools him.  

What David Corn did not know is that Mr. Brooks lives about 250 feet from my front door.  So I took the opportunity to pen the following note, welcoming him to the neighborhood, and giving him a copy of Mr. Corn's excellent work.  Here is my letter, which I dropped off yesterday:

3 July 2007
Larry Johnson
Bethesda, MD  20817

David (Brooks),

Read your NY Times piece today and felt compelled to comment a little more in depth.  You are correct in one respect, Plamegate is farce, but not in the way you imagine.  The farce is that folks like you are making farfetched excuses for perjury and obstruction of justice.  You piece today is dishonest on so many levels.  Fortunately, David Corn’s wit and imagination provide the appropriate skewering of your nonsense.  I’ve attached a copy.

Forgive my grumpiness, but I actually worked at the CIA and trained with Valerie in the Career Trainee class that entered on duty in September of 1985.  Every single member of our class was undercover.  Every one!

We now established beyond a doubt (see statement by CIA Director Hayden, statement by Judge Reggie Walton, and sworn statement by Patrick Fitzgerald) that Valerie was undercover and was covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.  If you would like to discuss this in person I will be happy to fill you in on the details.  We can do it over a glass of wine if you like.  You can drop by the house and I’ll show you my two Exceptional Performance Awards signed by Judge Webster.

[I ended with a personal note that, in the interest of the neighborhood I'll keep confidential]
Welcome to the neighborhood.
Larry Johnson

And here is the clever post of Mr. David Corn -- reprinted in full with David's express permission.

A Memo for David Brooks

July 3, 2007

From: Copy Desk
To: David Brooks

July 3, 2007

Mr. Brooks, our apologies. There was a snafu yesterday, and we neglected to send you the edited version of your latest column, which contained several queries from us. What appeared in today's Times was the copy you initially filed--with all those queries obviously unaddressed. Again, we apologize for the error and hope this did not cause you any trouble or embarrassment. For the record, below is the marked-up version of your column.


In retrospect, Plamegate was a farce in five acts. The first four were scabrous, disgraceful and absurd. Justice only reared its head at the end. [Powerful opening. Setting the bar high. Must be proved.]

The drama opened, as these dark comedies are wont to do, with a strutting little peacock who went by the unimaginative name of Joe Wilson. [Pot calling kettle back, Mr. Brooks? Besides, do most "dark comedies" open with plain-named birds. Query Mr. Rich?]

Mr. Wilson claimed that his wife had nothing to do with his trip to investigate Iraqi purchases in Niger, though that seems not to have been the case. [Chronology problem? Mr. Wilson did not "open" this "comedy" with such a claim. He began the episode by publishing an op-ed--on the very same page your column appears--that accused the administration of having "twisted" the prewar intelligence. The issue of his wife's involvement in his mission to Iraq came later.]

He claimed his trip proved Iraq had made no such attempts, though his own report said nothing of the kind. [He did not claim his trip had "proved"--your word--the matter. He wrote that after speaking with past and present officials of Niger and "people associated with the country's uranium business," he had concluded that "it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." (We can forward you a copy of his op-ed.) And, as you know, columnists of the Times are not fact-checked. But we would point out that in his Times op-ed, Mr. Wilson did not claim, as you state, that "his trip proved Iraq had made no such attempts" to purchase uranium. He maintained that "there's simply too much oversight over too small an industry for a sale to have transpired." And--not to belabor what might be a fact-checking issue--according to a Senate intelligence committee investigation, the report written by the CIA on Mr. Wilson's trip "described how the structure of Niger's uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to sell uranium to any rogue states."]

In short order, Wilson established himself as the charming P.T. Barnum of the National Security set, an inveterate huckster who could be counted on to wrap every actual fact in six layers of embellishment. [An idea: explain the "actual facts" and then list the "six layers of embellishment."] His small part in the larger fiasco of the Iraq war would not have registered a micron of attention had the villain of the epic ‚ ”the vice president ‚” not exercised his unfailing talent for vindictive self-destruction. [We suggest you peruse some of the clips of that time. Mr. Wilson's op-ed and his concurrent appearance on Meet the Press generated more than a "micron of attention"--and that occurred before the vice president responded to Mr. Wilson's charges.]

Act Two opened with a cast of thousands crowding the stage, filling the air with fevered vapors and gleeful rage. Perhaps you can remember those days, when the Plame story pretended to be about the outing of an undercover C.I.A. agent. [How can a story pretend to be something? And, if memory serves, there was indeed an outing of an undercover CIA official.] Perhaps you can remember the howls of outrage from our liberal friends, about the threat to national security, the secret White House plot to discredit its enemies. [For the reader's benefit, you might want to note Ms. Wilson's position at the time of her outing: operations chief for the Joint Task Force on Iraq, a unit of the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA's clandestine operations directorate. And you might want to note that her primary duty was overseeing covert operations designed to gather intelligence on WMDs in Iraq. Then again, you might not want to note this. Also, you seem to be suggesting there was no secret White House action to discredit Mr. Wilson. Are you aware that Mr. Libby met with Judith Miller, a former employee of this paper, and passed her classified information that he hoped would discredit Mr. Wilson? Are you aware that Mr. Libby conveyed classified information about Ms. Wilson to Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, and Mr. Fleischer says he shared this information with reporters as part of an effort to undermine Mr. Wilson's charges?]

Perhaps you remember the media stakeouts of Karl Rove's driveway, the constant perp-walk photos of Rove on his way to and from the grand jury, the delirious calls from producers (The indictment is coming today! The indictment is coming today!). [Our readers might also remember that Mr. Rove leaked to Matt Cooper, then of Time, classified information regarding Ms. Wilson's covert employment at the CIA. As Mr. Cooper noted in an email, Mr. Rove did so "on double super secret background." They might possibly also recall that Mr. Rove confirmed Ms. Wilson's status as a CIA employee for Robert Novak, the first journalist to disclose her CIA identity.]

There were media types so eager to get Rove, so artificially appalled at the thought of somebody actually leaking classified information, they were willing to forgive prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for throwing journalists in jail. [You cite many unnamed characters in this "dark comedy." Perhaps you ought to consider naming some of these "media types."] It was like watching a city of Ahabs getting deliriously close to the great white whale. [No one on our desk has read that classic recently. But a quick question: was Moby Dick ever suspected of having committed a crime?]

That was back when everybody thought Rove was the key leaker. But then it turned out he wasn't. Richard Armitage was, as Fitzgerald knew from the start. [See our note above. Mr. Rove did leak to Mr. Cooper and Mr. Novak. It was only because Time held its story for several days that Mr. Novak had the "scoop" and beat out Time. Had that not happened, Mr. Rove might have won the title of chief leaker.]

By the start of Act Three, nobody cared about the outing of a C.I.A. agent. [Nobody? We are relatively sure that the Wilsons cared, that CIA officials cared, that Mr. Fitzgerald cared, that congressional Democrats cared, and that thousands of Americans who followed this story in the media cared.] That part of the scandal disappeared. And all that was left of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame were the creepy photos in Vanity Fair. [You might want to consider describing the photos. A blonde in a convertible might not come across as "creepy" to all.]

Act Three was the perjury act, and attention shifted to the unlikely figure of Scooter Libby. [What is "unlikely" about a White House aide accused of lying?] As Joe Wilson was an absurd man with a plain name, Scooter Libby was a plain man with an absurd name. [What's in a name?] And the odder thing was that Libby was the only normal person in the asylum. [Have you read the sex scenes in his one novel? A girl with a bear?] People who knew him thought him discreet, honest and admirable. [We hear he was also a quiet man. Mention that?] And yet the charges were brought and the storm clouds of idiocy gathered once more. [We're not lawyers, but we do believe that there are instances when criminal charges are filed against people who other people consider admirable. You might want to explain why a special prosecutor should not file obstruction of justice charges against an official suspected of lying to investigators.]

Republicans who'd worked themselves up into a spittle-spewing rage because Bill Clinton lied under oath were appalled that anybody would bother with poor Libby over lying under oath. [Is there a continuity issue here? Above you contend that the charge was a product of idiocy. Shouldn't that justifiably cause Republicans to be appalled?] Democrats who were outraged that Bill Clinton was hounded for something as trivial as perjury were furious that Scooter Libby might not be ruined for a crime as heinous as perjury. [You seem to be skating past the case the Democrats made: lying to the FBI during a national security investigation is different from lying about sex in a civil proceeding.] It was an orgy of shamelessness. The God of Self-Respect took sabbatical. [Any word on what the God of Thou Shall Not Lie did at this time?]

The trial and sentencing, Act Four, was, to be honest, somewhat anticlimactic. Fitzgerald, having lost all perspective, demanded Libby get a harsh sentence as punishment for crimes he had not been convicted of. [We realize you were not in the courtroom during the trial, but news reports and transcripts show that Mr. Fitzgerald argued that committing perjury during a national security investigation was a serious matter and that a stiff sentence was warranted for that crime.] The judge, casting himself as David against Goliath, demonstrated an impressive capacity for talking about himself. [Ditto the previous remark. Again, we do not fact-check columnists for the Times, but one of us did call--merely out of curiosity--several reporters who covered the case, and they told us that Judge Reggie Walton did not cast himself as a David-type figure, nor did he talk about himself more than the average federal district court judge. You might want to reconsider a characterization not supported by actual eyewitnesses.]

And finally, yesterday, came Act Five, and a paradox. Scooter Libby emerged as the least absurd character in the entire drama, and yet he was the one who committed a crime. [Another continuity problem? If the chief of staff to the vice president commits a crime, shouldn't there be a thorough investigation and even a rigmarole?] President Bush entered the stage like a character from another world, a world in which things make sense. [A world like Baghdad?]

His decision to commute Libby's sentence but not erase his conviction was exactly right. It punishes him for his perjury, but not for the phantasmagorical political farce that grew to surround him. It takes away his career, but not his family. [Fact: after Mr. Libby was indicted and resigned from Mr. Cheney's staff, he was named a fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. The Washington Post reported that his salary is probably at least $160,000--perhaps more. Most readers would think that with such a position Mr. Libby's career was not over.]

Of course, the howlers howl. That is their assigned posture in this drama. They entered howling, they will leave howling and the only thing you can count on is their anger has been cynically manufactured from start to finish. [Once again, continuity. If Mr. Libby did commit a crime--which you bravely acknowledge he did--then shouldn't anger be an appropriate response. Who are the howlers whose anger was "cynically manufactured"? And who did that manufacturing? Specifics would help.]

The farce is over. It has no significance. Nobody but Libby's family will remember it in a few weeks time. Everyone else will have moved on to other fiascos, other poses, fresher manias. [Good teaser of an ending. It's as if you expect another Bush aide to be caught lying under oath.]

Originally posted to L C Johnson on Thu Jul 05, 2007 at 08:43 AM PDT.

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