Carol Platt Liebau: For Shame

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

For Shame

I'm not going to waste a lot of space here parsing the Valerie Plame issue, because it strikes me as small potatoes -- despite liberal wishes and efforts to the contrary.

Of course, as Howard Kurtz points out, lefty websites and the Dems are in full battle cry mode, joined, obviously, by the press. Their motives are -- needless to say -- less than pure; they include (1) getting Rove out of The White House; (2) scoring political points; and (3) attempting to whitewash the facts that have emerged about the case -- namely, that Joseph Wilson is a liar, and that his wife was indeed the person who was responsible for sending him to Africa (before he returned to lie about what he had found there).

After standing by a perjuring President Clinton to this day, if the liberals and the Democratic Party want to spend their time attacking Karl Rove, that's their business. It's also more evidence of just how deeply unserious they are about the war that's being waged, even in the streets of London, as this continues.

One word of warning to them: It's far from clear that Karl Rove broke any laws. With apologies to the libs for raining on their garden party, it might be useful actually to check the relevant statute.

There are three relevant sections to the law. The first two require that the perpetrator had access to classified information -- something Rove wouldn't have had, since at the time of the leak, he was a political person without that kind of security clearance.


Sections A & B require that Rove had to tell Cooper about a covert agent "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States."

It's far from clear either that Valerie Plame was a covert agent or that the US was, indeed, taking such affirmative measures -- Joe Wilson obviously didn't think so. As John Pohoretz points out, Wilson had his own wife's name posted at his web site . . . hardly the sign of someone trying to stay privately undercover.

Section C requires the disclosure to have been part of a pattern, and the perpetrator had "reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States . .. "

Clearly not relevant here.

And even Newsweek notes that there's nothing in Rove's communication to suggest that he knew she was a covert agent or that he even knew her name. (I guess he could have checked Wilson's web site . ..)

The press loves this story because it puts them front and center. Some anti-administration peripheral erstwhile national-security "nobodies" love it, too, since it allows them to be outraged! outraged! and to pretend that their jobs are far more glamorous and dangerous than is, in fact, the case.

But one thing is clear: To the extent that liberals and the press have glorified whistle-blowers, well, as always, it appears that it's a "good thing" only when it's being used against conservatives or Republicans. Karl Rove was a whistle blower of the first order -- trying to prevent a batch of lies that really could damage our national security from being circulated by a publicity-seeking has-been who procured a trip to Niger on the government dime thanks to his wife. That's a scandal, too, but who has eyes to see it when they can try to bleed the President, instead?

Maybe this kind of judgment explains a lot about the Democrats' recent electoral fortunes.


Blogger Jesse Larner said...

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12:27 PM  
Blogger Jesse Larner said...

Now let me get this straight, Carol:

Bush, in his state of the nation speech, says something that is at best poorly researched and at worst an out and out lie: that Iraq is trying to obtain uranium from Niger. He does this sloppy or dishonest thing in order to get the public on board for that most serious of actions, a war.

Joseph Wilson is sent to investigate. He comes back and tells the truth: he's discovered evidence that the whole thing is a hoax.

Karl Rove, who can't stand the idea that someone would DARE to tell the truth if it didn't agree with what his boss said, then leaks to a journalist the fact that Wilson's wife is a CIA agent, in an attempt to discredit Wilson (discredit him how, by the way? By implying that his assignment was nepotism? Or just to get back at him by destroying his wife's career, no matter how counter that was to the national interest?)

Plame's unmasking led to the forced abandonment of an expensive US intelligence asset, her overseas cover company. By the way, this company was also used as cover for OTHER CIA agents who were running OTHER covert operations, which also had to be abandoned. Exposing this company possibly ENDANGERED THE LIVES of the company's employees. But here's something that should hit you close to home, Carol, as a Republican: It cost the US taxpayer - that's you and me - hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So to recap: Rove exposes a CIA agent for political spite, in furtherance of a political agenda involving her husband telling a truth that refuted Bush's lie. It endangers lives. It compromises the national interest. And it costs taxpayers a lot of money. And yes, contrary to what you've posted, Plame WAS undercover and the CIA WAS trying to keep her undercover and Rove must have known this -- or if he didn't, he was criminally irresponsible.

By the way, what do you mean by saying that Rove was a whistleblower who, in exposing Plame, was trying to prevent a lie that would have endangered national security? So knowing the truth about Bush's repetition of the Niger hoax would have endangered national security? By what standard? Using hard evidence to refute something that Bush says endangers national security, because the president is always right? Perhaps you should go to the dictionary. Look up D-E-M-O-C-R-A-C-Y.

And you compare -- you DARE to compare -- Rove exposing Plame with a president committing perjury about a personal matter that was no one else's business and that did not in any sense constitute a crime (unless Republicans are going to consider consensual sex with a person over 21 to whom one is not married a crime?) Are you insane?

Insane or not, this one isn't going away, and I hope very much to see, as Wilson put it, Karl Rove "frog marched" out of the White House. What will Bush do without his brain?

Here are the details on the Karl Rove treason, much more informed stuff than what you have, from

* * * *

A: The Plame affair matters.

It matters because a significant national security asset in the war on terrorism was badly compromised. Contrary to the conservative spin that Plame's outing didn't matter because "everyone" in the Beltway knew she was CIA (and, in some permutations, that she was only an analyst and not an operative), in fact Plame's status was a closely held secret, for overwhelmingly important reasons, as the New York Times explained:

[W]ithin the C.I.A., the exposure of Ms. Plame is now considered an even greater instance of treachery. Ms. Plame, a specialist in nonconventional weapons who worked overseas, had "nonofficial cover," and was what in C.I.A. parlance is called a Noc, the most difficult kind of false identity for the agency to create. While most undercover agency officers disguise their real profession by pretending to be American embassy diplomats or other United States government employees, Ms. Plame passed herself off as a private energy expert. Intelligence experts said that Nocs have especially dangerous jobs.

"Nocs are the holiest of holies," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former agency officer who is now director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. "This is real James Bond stuff. You're going overseas posing as a businessman, and if the other government finds out about you, they're probably going to shoot you. The United States has basically no way to protect you."

Moreover, her exposure has widespread ramifications for the war on terror, as Warren Strobel reported Friday:

Training agents such as Plame, 40, costs millions of dollars and requires the time-consuming establishment of elaborate fictions, called "legends," including in this case the creation of a CIA front company that helped lend plausibility to her trips overseas.

Compounding the damage, the front company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, whose name has been reported previously, apparently also was used by other CIA officers whose work now could be at risk, according to Vince Cannistraro, formerly the agency's chief of counterterrorism operations and analysis.

Now, Plame's career as a covert operations officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations is over. Those she dealt with -- whether on business or not -- may be in danger. The DO is conducting an extensive damage assessment.

And Plame's exposure may make it harder for American spies to convince foreigners to share important secrets with them, U.S. intelligence officials said.

... "This is not just another leak. This is an unprecedented exposing of an agent's identity," said former CIA officer Jim Marcinkowski, who's now a prosecutor in Royal Oak, Mich., and who also did CIA training with Plame.

As Josh Marshall has pointed out, the damage to America's intelligence on weapons of mass destruction may well be massive, and very well could result in the deaths of CIA assets abroad -- not to mention the extent to which it exposes the entire American populace to an increased likelihood of attack by terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.

It matters because the deliberate exposure of an undercover agent's identity in a way that grotesquely compromises national security and the potential deaths of agents abroad constitutes outright treason.

And no, we're not talking about Ann Coulter's nearly hallucinogenic version of treason, but the Aldrich Ames kind of treason. The real thing that earns people prison terms.

It matters because the culpability for the leak goes right to the heart of the Oval Office. The sources of the leak appear to be within the inner circle of the Bush White House, including chief of staff Karl Rove, who has been identified by Jospeh Wilson, Plame's husband, and reporters as one of the administration officials who contacted them after the Novak column's appearance and exacerbated the effects of Plame's original exposure by explicitly encouraging its further spread.

The fact that these matters reach the highest levels of government is underscored by the reports that the White House, according to the Boston Globe, is reserving the option of resorting to "executive privilege" claims to shield some of its documents from the Justice Department investigation:

If the White House asserts a claim of executive privilege, [law professor Thomas] Sargentich said it would be a strong sign that the investigation is heading to the highest levels of the Bush administration, given that the claim can only be used to shield the president's decision-making process.

If the White House indeed resorts to this audacious tactic, it will be a tacit admission of the president's possible involvement.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Jesse Larner said...

Oh yeah, one more thing. Try to answer this question honestly:

How would Republicans react if Rove had done exactly the same thing, but he'd been a Democratic operative acting on behalf of Bill Clinton?

Can you even imagine the cries of "Treason" that would be emanating from every Republican blog in the universe -- including, I'd bet a good sum of money, yours? In this case you'd be right.

Or do you really believe that if the actions were the same but the political polarity reversed, you'd still be calling this "small potatoes"? Really?

12:59 PM  

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