National Ammo Day:

This sounds like a great idea, from Mr. Du Toit: National Ammo Day. The folk of Grim's Hall will certainly participate.
Rule of Law:

There are those among you, my old friends, who are wondering where I of all people get off defending the Rule of Law. It's a fair complaint.

I am an outlaw at heart, and all of you know it. I believe that a free man has, by right, a final appeal:

An appeal to arms, and to the God of hosts!
But we are not talking about the rights of men. We are talking here about two governments--ours (breaking its own laws, in the Plame case) and the French (breaking international laws, about which I normally care nothing, but of which France is the prime exponent).

A government ought to be bound by its laws, even if men may at the last extremity set them aside. By the same token, men who choose to bind themselves to the service of the state, whether from patriotism or for power, have an extra duty to the rule of law that lies not upon the rest.

This is the proper understanding of liberty. Governments are not people. They are our creatures. Men have freedoms, but governments are created by the yielding up of certain enumerated freedoms. Those liberties--those powers--are all that the government has. We have others, which we reserve.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
Because the Government's freedom is a freedom we lay down, freedom for Government from the law can only come by stealing liberties that we did not gladly give. If freedom for men is to be preserved, Law must bind the state.
The French Reply:

Well, we have a French response, now:
France strongly denied having sold any such missiles to Iraq for nearly two decades, and said it was impossible that its newest missiles should turn up in Iraq.
There we are. It's impossible. Case closed. :)

It'll be fun to track these, eh? By the way, take a look at the stats on the Roland. This isn't a shoulder-fired job--it's part of a full scale antiaircraft battery. It's NATO standard issue--as good as anything in the French or German arsenal, and probably roughly on the same order as the British Rapier or the American Avenger system.

Moving into the Negative Range:

Since my last ounce of sympathy for Novak died yesterday, The Agonist's report of today pushes us into the negative range of sympathy:
ed: i was teetering on the fence about novak before this article. note the following sentences, and note them good.

The name of the CIA front company was broadcast yesterday by Novak, the syndicated journalist who originally identified Plame. Novak, highlighting Wilson's ties to Democrats, said on CNN that Wilson's "wife, the CIA employee, gave $1,000 to Gore and she listed herself as an employee of Brewster-Jennings & Associates. There is no such firm, I'm convinced," he continued. "CIA people are not supposed to list themselves with fictitious firms if they're under a deep cover -- they're supposed to be real firms, or so I'm told. Sort of adds to the little mystery."
Another mystery: why aren't you in court, Bob?
French Weapons:

Polish troops have found brand-new French antiaircraft missiles in Iraq. Year of manufacture: 2003.

UPDATE: Could these weapons have been bought elsewhere and then shipped to Iraq in violation of end-user license? It's possible, but these weapons are pretty new to have made much of a turnaround--they will have had to have been manufactured not earlier than January 1st to have a 2003 date, and of course the war was over by April. Still, I'm sure there will be a good explanation.

There had better be, as the sale of weapons to Iraq is illegal and prosecuted as a war crime under UNSC resolutions.

...and, of course, as several EU countries sent aircraft and pilots to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their complaint against France, should a good explanation not be forthcoming, will be far angrier than ours. France to the US is a separate power with whom we're theoretically allied; but to EU nations, this would be a stab in the back from a sworn brother.

Still, as I said, I'm sure an excellent explanation is forthcoming.


The last, tiny bit of sympathy I have had for Novak just evaporated. Get him in court today, please? It's time to put an end to the slander that's being tossed at everyone in the White House, and time to put an end to the career of the guilty.

Burnt Njal said of a worse case:

"That is no breach of settlement," says Njal, "that any man should take the law against another; for with law shall our land be built up and settled, and with lawlessness wasted and spoiled."
I have been considering this case this morning, and I fear it is another example of the failure of law--that is, of lawlessness--in our country. This has been brewing for a long time. The Constitution is no longer routinely considered when writing a law; in addition to the example Del gives, we have "Campaign Finance Reform," which was approved in spite of the fact that the parties to it admitted it was unconstitutional. Nor were these lawless men merely the usual suspects:
�President Bush acknowledged the measure had �flaws� when he signed the bill into law,� said Sekulow. �He admitted that certain provisions �present serious constitutional concerns� and we are committed to ensuring that those provisions never see the light of day.�
We remember that the 2nd Amendment is ignored by every branch of government, state, Federal, and local. The 4th Amendment is suffering not much better a fate, with government "property seizure" laws that require you to prove you are not a criminal to recover your property--the burden of proof, usually on the accuser, is reversed because your right to your things is not as great as your right to freedom. You are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.

We remember, but will not bother to rehearse, the dealings of the Janet Reno DOJ, and the Clinton administration. We remember the O.J. Simpson trial, which is but emblematic of a thousand such cases, when the rich and the powerful are excepted from the law.

We remember that the courts have allowed themselves to become havens for lawsuits designed to prevent people from executing their rights. There are lawsuits designed to punish people for selling you something in good faith. There are laws designed for an express purpose intentionally misused by public officials in pursuit of other goals.

It is time for a broad retrenchment. Here is the address to reach the DOJ. Here you can find a link to your Senators' web pages. Here is one for your representatives in the House. Your state representatives I leave to you. I propose the following as a joint plan of action:

1) For the DOJ: that Novak be brought before a magistrate immediately and forced to testify.

2) For Legislators: That they form a committee in every lawmaking body whose sole purpose shall be to seek out and revoke unconstitutional legislation. There is no reason to leave this to the courts: it is the responsibility of everyone in government, and every citizen, to see that the Constitution is respected.

3) That certain acts--RICO, Patriot, and so forth--which have been passed to address a particular evil (organized crime, terrorism) be amended to require that the government prove it is addressing that particular evil in order to use the powers thereby granted.

4) That tort reform becomes a priority of all legislators.

What say you?
New Links:

I've added two new halls to the links section, CommieWatch, and Anticipatory Retaliation. You might enjoy either or both.
More on Plame:

Cold Fury's Light of Reason has some thoughts on the Plame business, and more here. As a couple of days have passed, a few people have become willing to stand up and put their names on the line. When we were dealing with unnamed accusers and secret sources, I was willing to write this off as an unknowable business that was obviously being played by both sides.

Now, though, we have a few people brave enough to stand up and say what they know. OK--it's time to start taking depositions. Volokh speaks to why the DOJ hasn't done what I'd like them to do, which is send a US Deputy Marshal to haul Novak into court. Internal guidelines, indeed. We could know the truth about this business tomorrow if they would set these things aside and require Novak, under oath, to testify.

Meanwhile, the push seems to be for an independent "special prosecutor." No doubt as to why certain people want that--it would take time to hire one, and time to hire his staff, apportion money for his investigation, get papers in order, and start. By then, election season would be on us... how convenient.

What is needed is not an independent counsel. What is needed is a US Attorney to do his job. Send the Marshals. Let's find out who did what today, not in six or nine months, and get whoever it was safely behind bars.

It would be satisfying, would it not, to see the law enforced on the powerful for a change? Whoever they are?

The Scottish Enlightenment:

Southern Appeal has a roundup of recent stories and commentary on this most important of times.
More Letters to a Communist:

The Debate continues, afresh, for those interested. It makes an interesting counterpoint to the new Whittle essay, I think.

There's a new essay on B. Whittle's blog. Don't miss POWER.

Glory to old Georgia! I happened today across the University of Georgia: Points of Pride webpage. Oddly, it leaves out what I considered to be two of the key points of pride: the alumni status of Little Alec Stevens, and Doc Holliday.

More damned unnamed sources, but this time there's something important at stake. The Kuwaiti press is reporting the seizure of biological and chemical weapons being smuggled from Iraq.
The Bush League:

So the first installment of the much awaited Bush League is up. I can't help but notice that a certain Dr. Rice is portrayed as reacting to scandal by hiding under her desk "again." Would that be because she's black, Sovay, or because she's a woman? Looks like the rest of your, ah, heroes are able to deal with the stress.
CIA Unmasked:

Who, besides Bob Novak, would be so evil as to reveal the name of an undercover CIA officer? How about liberal stalwart The New Republic? They didn't just blow the cover of someone they'd been told was an "analyst," living in D.C.--they blew the cover of a COS for the DO.

Gina wasn't satisfied with the first take, so after re-positioning the camera slightly -

Gina Wilkinson: Mr Saadi, could you ask them to do that one more time for me?
- (trans): This time in reverse?
- (trans): No no no.

Gina Wilkinson: Excellent.
I am not a vicious man, least of all toward women: but I am a father. After reading this through a second time, I can only say:

Let this woman hang.

UPDATE: "In Christian morals, in short, it is wicked to call a man "damned": but it is strictly religious and philosophic to call him damnable." So held Chesterton. I will hold with him, for he is braver than I am. It is hard not to think this woman cursed by all creation, but I will think so.

No Mercy:

Here, brothers and sisters, is a journalist urging children to climb on a missile in order to get a good shot of it for the TV News. There is no excuse, and no adequate punishment.

Via InstaPundit.

The Times Finally Turns Up:

Today's NY Times has a piece on the tribal nature of Iraqi families, which they say will complicate the reconstruction tremendously.

My readers, of course, dealt with this fully two weeks ago, and came to a far more positive conclusion. If you're curious, see "The Black Mail."

Link to the NYT via Arts & Letters Daily.

Wilson, II:

The social factor appears to be real in the Wilson case, reports Clifford May in the National Review. He reports from first hand experience, having been told informally himself that Wilson was an undercover officer:
On July 14, Robert Novak wrote a column in the Post and other newspapers naming Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

That wasn't news to me. I had been told that � but not by anyone working in the White House. Rather, I learned it from someone who formerly worked in the government and he mentioned it in an offhanded manner, leading me to infer it was something that insiders were well aware of.

Meanwhile, Atrios is finding that the "senior" official may have been something rather different. Damn journalistic ethics, eh, lad? He chides the press:

Look, words mean things. While "administration aide" might be technically true, it doesn't mean the same thing as "senior administration official."
"Words mean things." Now where have I heard that before? Oh, yes, I remember now.

OK, I'm going to comment on this a little bit after all.

First, here is today's story from the Washington Post. Here is the Novak column. And here is a roundup from when this story broke in July.

You can see that, even in July, people went for the jugular. 'Maybe the VP himself.' Huge 'felony'. 'Almost a confession.' And yet, the story died. Why is that?

I wrote the story off because it was based entirely on unnamed sources. Journalistic ethics haven't been especially impressive lately, but that's not what I'm talking about. Let's say Novak was fully ethical--I don't know the fellow, so it's only fair to give him the benefit of those charges we can't evaluate (it was obviously unethical by my standards to print the story outing a CIA agent--which is why we learn today that 5 of 6 journalists didn't print it). Nevertheless, let's say Novak was 100% ethical in all other points.

As a journalist, he knew that printing that story would bring questions about his sources. He also knew that, if he ever gave up his sources, he would never work again. And, further, as a journalist he is protected by the First Amendment--he can't be forced to yield his sources. So, the reader of the July piece can reasonably expect that the claims Novak makes will have to be evaluated on faith alone. You can't really judge whether you ought to take the word of an anonymous person.

Of course, Watergate was broken open by an anonymous. So, the sensible person does what we all did--we shrug, and wait to see if anything comes of it that can be evaluated.

Today, we have a new story--which is also based entirely on anonymous sources. A "Senior Administration official," two unnamed "Top White House officials," this is of no use whatever. We are left scrabbling after what "Top" and "Senior" normally mean in this context, and pulling feathers and thin reeds out of the air. Yet there is still not a name to hold onto.

But already we're having a field day of calls for impeaching Bush. "Rule of Law!" yells Atrios, citing two laws that he asserts must have been broken by the President. Well, sure--if the President is guilty, let's have the rule of law. Impeachment followed by a trial in the Senate is fine, an actual trial by jury to proceed once he's out of office.

But first let's be clear on one or two things:

1) There is no evidence at all that an actual pair of "top officials" existed as such. We don't know what Novak was calling a top official because we don't know--and will never know from Novak--who the sources were. These "top" officials could have been deputy undersecretaries for agriculture. Just because "top" normally means something in journalism doesn't mean it always means that thing. The fact that Novak expected his sources to remain secret means that we can't evaluate these sorts of charges with the surgical precision some seem to feel is possible. I've seen lists of suspects with as few as eight people on them. Get a grip.

2) There is no information at all on what GWB may or may not have done about this internally. The fact that Town Hall runs a column citing an unnamed source claiming that someone in your office committed a crime is not evidence that a crime has been committed of the sort that compels you to report it to a judge. If GWB actually knew that the charge was true--well, that's another story, of course. But if he simply had it mentioned at his news briefing, there's nothing de jure that requires him to respond to an anonymous allegation with, "Quick! Call a judge!" An informal internal inquiry--which might well have netted nothing if the two jokers had realized how much trouble they were in and clammed up--would be sufficient. Hell, doing nothing would suffice as far as the law was concerned.

3) Again from Atrios, we have an excellent overview of internal security policies that are designed to prevent intelligence leaks. The conclusions drawn are out of line, however. The simple fact is that the biggest danger to a CIA officer's cover is not from professional matters, but social matters.

There is simply no telling who knew that this woman was an undercover officer. We don't know who she told, for example--certainly her husband, maybe a friend. There are other ways that this kind of information gets around besides code-word communications. "So and so is a secret agent" is gossip of the most irresistible sort--anyone who dealt with her on an everyday basis probably knew, at least informally, that it was the case. If they knew informally, they hadn't signed the tons of nondisclosure agreements. It is still illegal, but having not signed the papers, they probably didn't think much about sharing a secret. Gossip is, I have found since moving to D.C., a Washingtonian favorite passtime.

So: these "Top" officials, even if they were in fact Top Officials, may not be associated with national security at all. That's just something to keep in mind.

Ultimately, I think all we can do is let the inquiry sort things out. I'm sure the CIA will take this quite seriously, and should have no trouble persuading the other involved agencies to do so as well. Still, I honestly don't expect major bloodshed over this. That's not to say the guilty parties aren't deserving of justice under the law. It is only to say that they may prove quite difficult to find. When you consider in the social factor, it becomes very difficult to draw lines around who might have known that she was an officer, and who might have wanted to share it.

As for that impeachment--it may have to wait a bit. I can't see anything here that would have required the president, or anyone especially close to him, to have been involved. Even if all the charges in the Post piece are perfectly true, these Top officials may prove to be far smaller fish than expected; and getting the kind of proof required by a court of law, when most of those in the know are going to invoke Journalistic immunity, may be difficult indeed.

Of course, it may prove that it really was Dick Cheney, based on information he read right out of a codeworded report. I wouldn't give odds on it if I were you.


Blogger's having an issue today where it's transmitting blogs as-they-publish onto random (all?) addresses. If you're seeing this and you didn't expect to, hit refresh--that should fix the problem.

Of course, you're welcome to stick around, too. If you're not into Southern issues, skip down about two days, as I've been on that this weekend. The more regular issues are below.

Heroes & Volunteers:

This was not the first man from Tennessee to fight and fall for freedom. Sergeant First Class William Bennett, U.S. Special Forces, is one in a tradition of Volunteers as long as it is proud.

De oppresso liber.


I often treat intelligence matters here, but I am not going to speak to the Wilson affair at this time. However, since others are apparently annoyed that it isn't getting more attention, I'll certainly post a couple of links for interested parties. My own thoughts largely echo those of that other Bear: namely, that it's early yet, and that the legal processes appear to be working on it.

I read about the rumors of this back when J. M. Marshall had it early. My thoughts at that time were that it was probably true, but likely some amateur functionary who didn't know it was illegal--the Bush administration has employed a number of folks who haven't worked previously in national government. That's good on the whole, as it brings a fresh perspective; but the price is that you get people who don't really understand the law or what the limits of their office are. The new claim makes it sound like it was multiple people at work, though, so it may not have been as simple as a mistake.

Of course, it's possible that it's not true; or that it's true, and that it touches the highest levels in a sorry conspiracy to destroy their political opposition. Neither extreme seems terribly likely to me, but who knows? It's early.

Ah, my people:

I feel a certain instant kinship with this fellow. Given his prolific nature, who knows but what we might even be related?
Psalms sat on Papa Pilgrim's right knee and Lamb perched on his left. Thirteen more of his children -- all of them with names from the Bible, several of them packing pistols -- crowded around. . . .

The Lord, Pilgrim said, told him that clearing a derelict mining road through the park was a loving thing to do.

"In order for me to love my children, I have to be a provider," Pilgrim said. "With great reluctance, I took the bulldozer and used the road. I had no idea what was in store."

Pilgrim's passage on the Caterpillar D4 has resulted in an edgy standoff between his well-armed family and the federal government. The National Park Service has shut down the bulldozed road to his property, dispatched armed rangers to assess park damage and is pursuing criminal and civil cases against him and members of his family.

The brouhaha over the bulldozer -- a drama still unfolding inside the largest U.S. park -- has made the Pilgrims actors in a national dispute over private access to federal land. National environmental groups are demanding that the Park Service prosecute the Pilgrims to the fullest extent of the law, while land-rights activists have embraced them as heroic victims of overzealous federal bureaucrats.

Overzealous federal bureaucrats, you say? Well, let's see what the bureaucrats in question have to say for themselves:
Park Service rangers admit that they are fed up with the Pilgrims, especially with the boys who carry revolvers and rifles.

"What they tend to do is surround you," said Hunter Sharp, chief ranger in the park. "When they do that, cops get nervous. We have had it. We are not going to back off. We represent the people of the United States."
So you do, although this person of the United States would warn you to leave well-armed backcountry people alone if you know what's good for you. They certainly aren't bothering me. What were you doing bringing riflemen out onto their land anyway?

Besides, what they are doing is legal:

In a sense, Pilgrim drove the bulldozer through a bureaucratic gap opened by the Bush administration. Over objections from environmentalists, the Interior Department published a rule in January that opened federal land to motorized access in places where roads once existed.

The rule -- a reassertion of an obscure 1866 mining law known as RS-2477 -- has since inspired right-of-way claims on old roads across federal land in the red rock country of southern Utah and across the Mojave National Preserve in California.
So let's see--during the Alaska winter, a fellow with 15 children decided to make legal use of an abandoned road in order to feed his family. This is of course exactly the kind of thing the Federal government is meant to prevent.
By act of Congress, national parks in Alaska are supposed to be different from those in the Lower 48. The 1980 law that created 104 million acres of parks and refuges in the state guaranteed that in-holders, meaning people who own property in the parks, could pursue traditional livelihoods while having "reasonable and feasible" access to their land.

For most of the past 23 years, however, a group of highly vocal Alaskan in-holders has complained that the Park Service has been flouting the will of Congress and trying to squeeze them off their land. They see a conspiracy of city people from the Lower 48, environmental zealots and narrow-minded federal bureaucrats who are trying to strip Alaska of its rural culture and replace it with a depopulated wilderness.
It's certainly true that people love trees. But if a tree stands in a forest and nobody can get close enough to enjoy it, what good is a park?