Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The "Mr. Cellophane" Spook

"Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane, shoulda been my name, Mr. Cellophane. Cause you can look right through me, walk right by me and never know I'm there."

Amos Hart sings those mournful lyrics in the musical Chicago, and Larry Johnson should know where's he's at. Johnson purports to be a former colleague of Valerie Plame, and he's written a piece that blows right out of the Potomac the White House allegations of Joe Wilson's wife as nothing more than an "analyst," a desk jockey who was about as undercover as Inspector Clouseau.

Says Johnson: Not seau.

Johnson writes, on TPM Cafe:
Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover--in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies. We had official cover. That means we had a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.

A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed.
Wow. Must be some pretty nasty paper cuts behind that desk.

When you read Johnson's entire essay you get the feeling that he knows a little of what he is talking about. Terence Smith thought so when he invited Johnson to appear on the PBS program NewsHour on September 30, 2003.
During that interview, Johnson said the same thing he is saying now: Valerie Plame was an undercover operative who was outed:
TERENCE SMITH: Larry Johnson, explain what the dangers are that are inherent in identifying an undercover operator. What is the worry here?

LARRY JOHNSON: Let's be very clear about what happened. This is not an alleged abuse. This is a confirmed abuse. I worked with this woman. She started training with me. She has been undercover for three decades, she is not as Bob Novak suggested a CIA analyst. But given that, I was a CIA analyst for four years. I was undercover. I could not divulge to my family outside of my wife that I worked for the Central Intelligence Agency until I left the agency on Sept. 30, 1989. At that point I could admit it.

So the fact that she's been undercover for three decades and that has been divulged is outrageous because she was put undercover for certain reasons. One, she works in an area where people she meets with overseas could be compromised. When you start tracing back who she met with, even people who innocently met with her, who are not involved in CIA operations, could be compromised. For these journalists to argue that this is no big deal and if I hear another Republican operative suggesting that well, this was just an analyst fine, let them go undercover. Let's put them overseas and let's out them and then see how they like it. They won't be able to stand the heat.
But that seems to be the last attention that the mainstream media has paid Larry Johnson. Lately he's appeared on NPR, various Air America Radio programs, Democracy Now, and others. But you won't find him quoted in any major American newspaper or TV network. You have to look up the Mail and Guardian, the award-winning South African newspaper, to find a story that quotes him. (And what a quote it is, too!).

Out here in the wilderness we won't even speculate about why such an obvious source is being overlooked. Does he have what the media commonly call an ax to grind? Well, if you agree that it qualifies to be royally ticked off about the way the White House has used the intelligence community as a scapegoat, then he has an ax. Which is appropriate, because the Wilson/Plame affair has to be one of the most vindictive hatchet jobs in the history of Washington.