Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The cost of burning Wilson

Outed CIA officer was working on Iran, intelligence sources say. Raw Story reports that the CIA damage assessment on Valerie Plame's outing by Dick Cheney is damning:
The source described the findings of the assessment as showing "significant damage to operational equities."

Another counterintelligence official, also wishing to remain anonymous due to the nature of the subject matter, described "operational equities" as including both people and agency operations that involve the "cover mechanism," "front companies," and other CIA officers and assets.

Three intelligence officers confirmed that other CIA non-official cover officers were compromised, but did not indicate the number of people operating under non-official cover that were affected or the way in which these individuals were impaired. None of the sources would say whether there were American or foreign casualties as a result of the leak.

Several intelligence officials described the damage in terms of how long it would take for the agency to recover. According to their own assessment, the CIA would be impaired for up to "ten years" in its capacity to adequately monitor nuclear proliferation on the level of efficiency and accuracy it had prior to the White House leak of Plame Wilson's identity.

NOC officers take years to train and hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish and maintain a cover, let alone the cost of training. We invest those millions of dollars for these people because having them in the field helps to keep America safe. According to James Bamford, the NOC program hit its maximum at around 150 people in the 1990s. The loss of even a couple amounts to a loss of a significant fraction of the program.
That ten year estimate probably amounts to the time needed to prepare new NOC officers, to establish their cover, and to get them integrated into the field. Meanwhile, Iran's nuclear program is moving forward, and in no small part because the United States cannot offer a credible threat. Our military is overstretched in Iraq in part because of the lies James Wilson exposed, for which Ms. Plame was outed. Irony isn't always entertaining.

(Image based on a Chuck Norris shirt pimped at BoingBoing. It's a reference to the people around Plame. My prayers are with Mr. Whittington, and this isn't meant as a reference to him.)

In other news, the CIA's counter-terrorism chief was fired for opposing the use of torture. Plus, a new group of photographs from Abu Ghraib have surfaced, and a UN commission reviewing the care of prisoners at Guantanamo has found that

the U.S. treatment of them violates their rights to physical and mental health and, in some cases, constitutes torture.

It also urges the United States to close the military prison in Cuba and bring the captives to trial on U.S. territory, charging that Washington's justification for the continued detention is a distortion of international law.
Look! Manimals! Intelligence assets reported that the quail at the Armstrong Ranch were actually human-quail hybrids! Let's discuss hunting etiquette for a week.