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October 12, 2003

VALERIE PLAME OR VALERIE WILSON?....This post is sort of an open thread. I have a question I'm curious to get feedback on.

Here's the thing: the Washington Post article I blogged about this morning said, among other things, that a Post reporter was one of the targets of the White House leakers back in July. However, the reporter says that his source didn't mention Valerie Plame's name, only that "Joseph Wilson's wife" worked for the CIA. This supports the theory that perhaps no one was really trying to expose Plame's covert activities, but instead did it inadvertantly.

But — Robert Novak did use the name Valerie Plame in his original July 14 column. Now, it's certainly possible that Novak discovered her maiden name himself (it was publicly available), but I can't think of any reason that he would actually use it unless the name was deliberately given to him by his White House source. After all, wives all have maiden names, but if they go by their married name (which she did), that's the name it's natural to use. It would be bizarre, for example, if someone looked up my wife's maiden name and then referred to her as "Kevin Drum's wife, Marian Riegel," even though she doesn't go by that name.

So here's the question. The only way to get the White House off the hook for deliberately spilling the name that Plame used on her covert assignments is to posit that Novak decided to use it on his own for some reason. Can anyone come up with some plausible scenario in which he'd do this?

And let's try to keep the flame wars and jokes to a minimum, OK? I'm genuinely curious to know if anyone can think of a reasonably innocent explanation for this.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 12, 2003 05:09 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Nazi evil ashcroft hitLER IMPEACH OIL...

And let's try to keep the flame wars and jokes to a minimum, OK?

Oh...

Well, it seems like the relevant question is this: say a reporter had been told that Wilsons' wife was CIA and, in the process of writing his story, casually tried to find out her name. Is "Valerie Plame" the name he would find? Or was she Valerie Plame only in her capacity as an operative?

Posted by: Realish at October 12, 2003 05:16 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: Nope, you got me.

But I've another question. Why can't the six journalists contacted by the White House now report the abc's of their conversations? They need not reveal the sources (although I think they should). But certaintly, at this point, just what (precisely) was said to them is eminently newsworthy. What's stopping them from doing so?

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 05:20 PM | PERMALINK

No, it seems clear that in public she used the name "Valerie Wilson." She only used Plame overseas.

At least, that's what we've been led to believe so far, so I think we have to go with that. As far as I know, the only place you'd run across "Plame" is by looking up Wilson's bio and learning that he "married the former Valerie Plame." But why on earth would you then use that name?

Posted by: Kevin Drum at October 12, 2003 05:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sovereign Eye makes a good point ... as for Novak, as a former reporter, I can easily see a reporter being told "Wilson's wife ..." then doing some research to find out her FIRST name, coming across one of the publicly available records that lists her as Plame, and deciding that must have kept her maiden name, as so many women these days who marry late in their careers.

But only Novak knows for sure. And he should tell us.

BTW, Kevin, great meeting you last night.

Posted by: Howard Owens at October 12, 2003 05:23 PM | PERMALINK

Why does the name matter anyway? Her cover would have been just as blown if Novak had written, "Wilson's wife, a CIA operative, got him the Niger gig." How hard is to find out who someone's wife is? As you said, it's public record, married name and maiden name.

Posted by: SqueakyRat at October 12, 2003 05:36 PM | PERMALINK

The only way it may make sense is if Novak after hearing her name did a bio search on her came up with her maiden name. And then used a low level contact at the CIA to confirm her name in some CIA directory. No Valerie Wilson came up, so Novak thought to give the maiden name. Valerie Plame comes up, the low level contact says "umm, you'll need to talk with someone official" and hands Novak higher up where he's told not to run the name.

How plausible this is, I don't know.

Posted by: Rob at October 12, 2003 05:40 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like part of the plausible deniability strategy may end up being that the White House officials mentioned Wilson's wife but not by name and therefore this may escape being a "leak of classified information"?

Posted by: xian at October 12, 2003 05:41 PM | PERMALINK

I can't think of an innocent explanation. The fact that she worked for the CIA is the relevant issue, not her name. The White House apparently disclosed the fact that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA in a petty effort to smear Wilson. They may not have intended to out an operative, but that's what they did.

Posted by: Mom at October 12, 2003 05:57 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps Novak new her personally by her maiden name.

Posted by: Boronx at October 12, 2003 06:01 PM | PERMALINK

The use of the name Plame is relevant because her overseas contacts are unlikely to react to seeing that "Joseph Wilson's wife" or even "Valerie Wilson" is a CIA operative. They could make the connection, but it would require more digging. However, when a widely-syndicated column lists the name "Valerie Plame" we can imagine a rogue element in, let's say, Iran, saying, "Valerie Plame? That's the Brewster-Jennings woman who was going to sell us the centrifuge designs! She was brought into our confidences by that traitor Achmed! He must be killed at once!"

"Mrs. Wilson" might not have the same, immediate effect.

Posted by: \sockeye at October 12, 2003 06:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure the name (maiden or married) is particularly important, since as several folks have noted above, that's public record, and any intelligence effort byt US enemies would easily have uncovered it.

The core issue remains.

Posted by: spc67 at October 12, 2003 06:10 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the need for the question. This is from the July 22 Newsday article by Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce:

'Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." '

http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/ny-usspy0722,0,197775.story?coll=ny-nationworld-headlines

I know Novak backtracked after the Bush hit the fan but, unless Phelps and Royce are shown to have no credibility, I'll believe the article is accurate and that Novak wrote what he was told to write. It's also logically consistent with with the subsequent Wapo articles.

I'm sure that many scenarios can be (and are being) constructed to create a veil of "plausible deniability" within the White House and I see no need to contribute to the effort.

Posted by: Larry Wilmott at October 12, 2003 06:13 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Squeakyrat I don't see much mileage in the way her name was leaked. By saying Wilson's wife was CIA -- whether noc, analyst, operative, undercover, uncovered, named or unnamed -- would out her quite effectively.

I do have a couple questions though:

Is the referral from the CIA to Justice public information?

Is the Justice department investigation limited to the question of whether someone violated the statute that prohibits outing an intelligence agent? Or can it consider other statutes like the prohibition against leaking classified information and statutes prohibiting conspiracies which involve fraudulent activity?

John Dean makes the case that the secondary leakers may be guilty of fraud and conspiracy)
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20031010.html

Thanks in advance for any responses.

Posted by: ceh at October 12, 2003 06:16 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the same as Boronx -- that Novak just knew it from the social circles he runs in.

Posted by: Justene at October 12, 2003 06:22 PM | PERMALINK

"Mrs. Plame, we're so sorry you're leaving the Somebekistan office of Brewster-Jennings. We wish you all the best of luck in your marriage to the ambassador."

It seems to me that her cover is potentially blown either way. We don't know what sort of contact she had with the people she dealt with overseas.

As has been said repeatedly, her identity wasn't a secret, the fact that she secretly worked for the CIA was a secret. Revealing any information about her at all in connection with the CIA blows that cover.

The maiden name thing is a red herring. Her cover is blown the first time "Wilson's wife" is linked to "CIA operative." The rest of the information can be uncovered from there.

Posted by: G C at October 12, 2003 06:22 PM | PERMALINK

We need a Daniel Ellsberg to blow this thing wide open.

Posted by: mike at October 12, 2003 06:22 PM | PERMALINK

Here's what I'm afraid is probably true:

The White House tells Novak that Joe Wilson's wife is a CIA operative without naming names. Novak does a Google search (or has someone do one for him) to find her name, and finds the bio with her maiden name to boot. Novak is a veteran who's experienced with the CIA, so he knows she would use her maiden name under cover. As Rob suggests, he strikes gold when floating the name at the CIA, and triumphantly authors his column with unassailable proof that Wilson's wife is an agent.

The White House doesn't even have to know that he intended to use her name in this scenario. We don't know whether they were aware of how easy it was for Novak to figure out her name. At the time when Novak wrote the article, the Wilson bio featuring Plame's undercover name was in the top 5 Google hits on a search for Wilson's name (if I recall correctly).

In this scenario, it would be much more difficult to pin any blame for the crime on the White House. I think this is the message that they intended you take from the Plame-wasn't-named spin.

Posted by: neil at October 12, 2003 06:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I've given some thought before this to your question. It was my own game of "devil's advocate," trying to think of some truly innocent explanation for this thing. And it just doesn't work for me: I cannot see this as an innocent event, not given the depth of cover she enjoyed, the low likelihood of anyone very low in the hierarchy even knowing about her, and so forth.

By the way, as amusing as his comment is I nonetheless disagree with Sockeye above. Well, yes, the use of the maiden name probably DID confer some advantages (surely Plame and her CIA handlers had given it all much consideration). But the moment her identity as a CIA operative was in the open, the maiden name dodge would do no more than buy a very little amount of time ... and no one could ever rely on it to protect her or her contacts. Unlike their suspicions about the leak of her identity to the Russians (who, presumably, would use it for their own purposes, but not share it freely), THIS exposure was catastrophic and really spelled an end to her undercover work ... and would have done so even without the maiden name issue.

Which brings me to SqueakyRat's point, which I think is a very valid one: truly the name used did NOT matter, and we're allowing our energies to be dissipated a bit by worrying about it.

-- Roger

Posted by: Marsman at October 12, 2003 06:30 PM | PERMALINK

My theory:

Novak was leaked "Valerie Plame" because leaker thought, rightly, that Novak would go to CIA to confirm story, where she works as Valerie Plame.

Of course, this is stupid, as CIA would know she is Valerie Wilson too. But, let's face it, this whole criminal, outrageous despicable act by Rove's crew (any real doubts? c'mon, "Joe Wilson's wife is fair game!! C mon), also was monumentally stupid.

Posted by: Armando at October 12, 2003 06:31 PM | PERMALINK

We don't know whether they were aware of how easy it was for Novak to figure out her name.

Nonsense. We have to at least HOPE these men aren't totally braindead nincompoops.

I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they know there's such a thing as Google.

Posted by: Julia Grey at October 12, 2003 06:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if they were just trying to discredit Wilson by spinning the fact that his 'wife' is the one who suggested he take the trip to Africa, there is no need to use her name Plame. But if the intent is to totally and ruthlessly out Plame as a warning to any other potential leakers, and also to make it more devastating to Plame, then you shop her covert name around. They will know, then, that it likely is coming from someone with access to highly classified info capable of doing the same to others.

Posted by: obe at October 12, 2003 06:37 PM | PERMALINK

Good point, worthy of Josh Marshall. Valerie and Joe were only married a few years before his now legendary trip to Niger (they had 2 year old twins at the time, right?). It was a second marriage for her, 3rd for him, if I remember correctly. The marriage could have been fresh in someone's mind; Joe (a true hero) did have his 15 minutes of fame, and she is described as a looker.
So it would make it appear that this was an attempt to attack Joe through his wife, and their beady little eyes widened at the prospects.(or it's a case of unrequited love:"That hot blonde at the CIA married the guy who wears a noose? I'll teach her for telling me to take a hike!")
Unless, of course, you received the following announcement:
"Mr. and Mrs. Plame are proud to announce the upcoming marriage of their daughter Valerie, an undercover CIA operative, to Mr. Joseph Wilson.."

Posted by: Kevin at October 12, 2003 06:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think the whole thing is deliberate -- not just outing Plame by her "professional" name; but publishing the Brewster Jennings Co. front, too. Historically, Brewster Jennings is a pretty big name in the development of MidEast oil concessions, pipelines, etc. Novak's gotta know that, but he plays dumb, just says the company doesn't seem to exist and tries to discredit Plame listing it as her employer with her campaign contribution. I think Novak is a willing (though perhaps not all-knowing) conduit it this.

Posted by: cs at October 12, 2003 07:01 PM | PERMALINK

What do you mean by "The only way to get the White House off the hook for deliberately spilling the name that Plame used on her covert assignments is to posit that Novak decided to use it on his own for some reason."?

John Dean has an interesting take on this at http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20031010.html

He says, "But even if the White House was not initially involved with the leak, it has exploited it. As a result, it may have opened itself to additional criminal charges under the federal conspiracy statute.

Why the Federal Conspiracy and Fraud Statutes May Apply Here

This elegantly simple law has snared countless people working for, or with, the federal government. Suppose a conspiracy is in progress. Even those who come in later, and who share in the purpose of the conspiracy, can become responsible for all that has gone on before they joined. They need not realize they are breaking the law; they need only have joined the conspiracy.

Most likely, in this instance the conspiracy would be a conspiracy to defraud - for the broad federal fraud statute, too, may apply here. If two federal government employees agree to undertake actions that are not within the scope of their employment, they can be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. by depriving it of the "faithful and honest services of its employee." It is difficult to imagine that President Bush is going to say he hired anyone to call reporters to wreak more havoc on Valerie Plame. Thus, anyone who did so - or helped another to do so - was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, and may be open to a fraud prosecution.

What counts as "fraud" under the statute? Simply put, "any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government." (Emphasis added.) If telephoning reporters to further destroy a CIA asset whose identity has been revealed, and whose safety is now in jeopardy, does not fit this description, I would be quite surprised.

If Newsweek is correct that Karl Rove declared Valerie Plame Wilson "fair game," then he should make sure he's got a good criminal lawyer, for he made need one. I've only suggested the most obvious criminal statute that might come into play for those who exploit the leak of a CIA asset's identity. There are others."

Posted by: fightingdem at October 12, 2003 07:02 PM | PERMALINK

I think the details are just something to be savored later. The important thing is that, at a minimum, we're either going to see Karl Rove gone, or a major hit to Cheney's office.

As an old scandal watcher, my advice is to let this unravel at its own pace and just enjoy it as it comes out. And it will come out. The longer it takes, the more turnover we'll see and the more fun it will be to watch.

Posted by: Mark Gisleson at October 12, 2003 07:16 PM | PERMALINK

The leak of her identity as an agent, regardless of the use of her name, her maiden name, or her marriage to Joe Wilson, is STILL criminal...

Any Intel service worth a damn (sheesh, even me with google) could immediately plug "Joseph Wilson" + wife into google and get hundreds of hits...including his bio and her name on the Middle East Institute website...

No, her NAME, or her Maiden Name, none of that was secret...it was her CIA status that was secret...

Now, why such a thorough and complete shattering of her cover?

I think that it was an attempted "twofer" 1) get Wilson, and 2) Get Plame.

remember, she was a super-spy involved in "Special Weapons" -- as an operative she gathered intel and ran a ring...as an analyst she (presumably) filtered and coalated and contextualized that information...

Dick Cheney and Lewis Libbey (and Steve Hadley and Bob Joseph??) were poking around at Langley for better than a year, trying to push Chalabi's INC garbage...and the analysts and operatives weren't buying it and were complaining (via leaks) about the pushing and the twisting of intel, and the politicization of intel...

Go read the CounterPunch archives, search for VIPs, or for Ray MvGovern...Go read Sy Hersh's articles in the New Yorker...

The Analysts were angry about being pushed, and were pushing back...

I think that the NeoCons saw Val Plame as a target in and of herself, and that they saw an opportunity to get both Wilson and Plame, to punish each for their various insubordinations and failures to play ball....

The "sweaty palmed, double-chinned, combed over policy wonk lusting after hottie spy" story is a good angle too, but less relevant to the real meat...

Posted by: Dan at October 12, 2003 07:25 PM | PERMALINK

neil: The White House tells Novak that Joe Wilson's wife is a CIA operative without naming names. Novak does a Google search...and triumphantly authors his column with unassailable proof that Wilson's wife is an agent.

The White House doesn't even have to know that he intended to use her name...

In this scenario, it would be much more difficult to pin any blame for the crime on the White House.

I'd like to see the white house try this. How would it go?

"I didn't reveal the agent's name. I just said "that man over there, second from the end of the bar, in sandals and a festive shirt, is a CIA operative." At no point did I use his name, so you can't touch me.

If the statute turns on some absurd technicality whereby identifying an agent in a way that unambigously points to a specific person without proving their actual name is a defense, I'll eat my keyboard.

Posted by: Laertes at October 12, 2003 07:35 PM | PERMALINK

"unambiguously"

"providing"

Apologies for failing to proofread.

Posted by: Laertes at October 12, 2003 07:37 PM | PERMALINK

If Novak finds out that she goes under Valerie Plame (and not Wilson) and that she works for the CIA under that name, the discredit cast upon Wilson may be somewhat greater in suggesting that CIA operative "Valerie Plame" got him the job, rather than "Mrs. Joseph Wilson".

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at October 12, 2003 07:45 PM | PERMALINK

Bush doesn't want to run in 2004.

If Karl Rove has to 'retire' early I think this Bush would say he's suffering from exhaustion; and he doesn't get enough vacation time.

So this is just the beginning of 'something.'

But anyone crazy enough to try to pull a 'black bag' trick on the president, himself, has a death wish.

Just like all those guys that 'knew' about the JFK assassination before it happened.

Bush just isn't as vulnerable as you think!

But, there is one qualification, here. Colin Powell, at the State Department, really wants to destroy the run into Iraq.

And, given Wilson's propensity to sound like a democratic operative ... you get to some pretty strange places following these spooks.

Posted by: Carol in California at October 12, 2003 07:51 PM | PERMALINK

"We need a Daniel Ellsberg to blow this thing wide open."

No. We need an Emile Zola to blow this thing wide open.

And the thing that needs to be blown wide open is the tyranny of unnamed sourcing.

IT MUST END.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at October 12, 2003 07:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Why the Federal Conspiracy and Fraud Statutes May Apply Here"

They may apply, but that does not mean they will get applied. Ashcroft and the DOJ will strive to keep the criminal investigation as narrow as possible. Their goal is to stave of an independent counsel who might get to the bottom of things, and to "kill" the investigation asap, and ideally without having to address the issue of who leaked to Novak (especially if, as it appears, that person(s) was someone senior in the WH).

I doubt he will map out or investigate a conspiracy. Ashcroft's main focus will be the statute that criminalizes the disclosure of the identities of covert agents. It has three or more elements that could serve as escape hatches for Rove and other subsequent disclosers: 1. actual knowledge of covert status, 2. actual intent to disclose it, 3. and the agent's identity cannot have been previously disclosed 'publicly' by the gov. or it is not a crime to 're-disclose' it.

Once they kill (quickly conclude) the criminal investigation, the rest can be spun as politics, no harm-no foul, and the evils of leakers in general. Ideally there will be no criminal charges brought (they will blame the reporters and leakers for that). If there are, they will be lower level 'administration officials' not in the White House, charged with lessor offenses hyped to discourage future leakers. It should all be over by the holidays and forgotten by the new year, or so they hope. That would be my goal, anyway, if I was defending GWB.... I mean prosecuting this as I think Ashcroft will.

Posted by: obe at October 12, 2003 07:55 PM | PERMALINK

Is there an innocent reason why a horse's head winds up in the bed of a Mob critic?

They wanted to make the message to potential critics crystal clear: Shut Up or you will personally be endangered. And your wife. And her family.

I can't think of an innocent reason to use "Plame". I've tried, but all the facts just point to the WH's heart of darkness.

Posted by: Tim B. at October 12, 2003 07:59 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting question. I dunno... maybe the use of Valerie Plame instead of Valerie Wilson is part of the attempt to tar J. Wilson with the perception that he's a nobody who got the job because of his wife - with the implication that a wife who doesn't take her husband's name must be domineering and manipulative.

Not a very likely explanation, I guess (and pretty pathetic, if true), but given the probable target audience of the smear campaign, I wouldn't rule it out completely.

Posted by: Nick at October 12, 2003 08:17 PM | PERMALINK

No way would Novak use it on his own, because it wouldn't have served his purpose.

It's CW, and fairly so, that Novak's intention -- for his own purposes, or for those of his WH buddies, or some dark and sinister combination thereof -- was to undermine Wilson's credibility.

So why mention Valerie Plame at all, even with attribution as Wilson's wife? She wasn't known by that name in DC. It's not like his is a social column, where readers keep track of those things. In fact, why even mention her last name, or even her first name?

Yes, he could have found out her maiden name. But why would he? And why would he publish it?

I'm sorry, but this is a fool's errand, of the excruciatingly fair sort that the Right doesn't bother with.

As to getting "the White House off the hook," as many readers have observed, it's irrelevant. An undercover agent was outed by "top White House officials" (per Sunday's Post.) End of story.

Posted by: bleh at October 12, 2003 08:35 PM | PERMALINK

"And the thing that needs to be blown wide open is the tyranny of unnamed sourcing.

IT MUST END."


David (or should I say, Elliot Abrams), would it help if we gave the unnamed source a nickname? Like, I don't know, Deep Throat?


Posted by: harley at October 12, 2003 08:52 PM | PERMALINK

And the thing that needs to be blown wide open is the tyranny of unnamed sourcing.

IT MUST END.

Used judiciously by reporters who do everything they can to find secondary confirmatory sources who will speak on the record, there is nothing ethically wrong with using anonymous sources.
Many of the best investigative stories at least start with anonymous sources, including the Watergate coverage. We still don't know for certain who "Deep Throat" was.

Posted by: Meteor Blades at October 12, 2003 09:03 PM | PERMALINK

Whoops! harley beat me to it.

Posted by: Meteor Blades at October 12, 2003 09:04 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, for Pete's sake. The Doomsday subway system under Washington, with satellite lines to distant parts, is also an open secret that lots of people know about. If you know exactly where to go and what to look for, you can even find a half-decent map in at least a dozen large libraries open to the public, although the librarians will probably call the FBI as soon as your back is turned.

Does that mean the Sunday supplements should spend the next six weeks connecting various dots, spotlighting a particularly obtrusive and implausibly deniable round of engineering that's taken place during this administration, and otherwise hammering on that story at every available press conference?

The "avenging angel" routine that the CIA is running has, as a direct side effect, violated another Bozo No-No: putting the other guy up on his toes. "Valerie PLAME query WILSON... yes, Akhbar, that's P-L-A-M-E...." Valerie Plame, Valerie Plame, Valerie "Wilson" Plame, enough already!

To the extent that her contacts (if any) will have already spent many an unpleasant evening with Dr. Electrode and Mr. Pliers, and the morale and usefulness of CIA people are undoubtedly continuing to degrade, I certainly hope they accomplish something with this other than an inconclusive tit-for-tat pissing match with the White House.

Posted by: Mike D. at October 12, 2003 09:05 PM | PERMALINK

M'Blade: Up post, I wondered:

Why can't the six journalists contacted by the White House now report the abc's of their conversations? They need not reveal the sources (although I think they should). But certaintly, at this point, just what (precisely) was said to them is eminently newsworthy. What's stopping them from doing so?

For that matter, if they didn't report what was said in the first place, why do they feel obliged to protect the identity of someone they now know compromised our national security?

(Sorry, Kev, I know those 2 questions are far afield from your own. But I think they're worthy of consideration).

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 09:16 PM | PERMALINK

"As to getting "the White House off the hook," as many readers have observed, it's irrelevant. An undercover agent was outed by 'top White House officials'"

I don't think it's irrelevant to the White House!

Most facts can be spun, minimized, rationalized and denied, but not criminal charges or a conviction. Having your grand political wizzard frog marched down the WH steps is not the best way to open the campaign season. They have to see the criminal investigation as a real potential threat to reelection if they do not contain it and kill it.

But with Republicans controlling congress, Ashcroft could come out with a lame and inconclusive report and get away with it. Then all that would be left would be a spin battle between dems and repubs. The press would move on. Bush would claim vindication.

Unless a leaker comes forward, or a leakee, and the DOJ has no choice but to follow new evidence that leads to the WH. Then we could see Karl fall like the statute of Saddam! And Bush go down hard in 2004. The potential is there.

Posted by: obe at October 12, 2003 09:20 PM | PERMALINK

No way that flies, I like this better

VP's office says "Who the hell is this bastard Wilson" after NYT op-ed. For sure Cheney and Libby in on this.

Damage control from Rove's batcave gets involved.

Some CIA liason in VP's office drops the classified dime on Plume. This info is diseminated and discussed. To kill Wilson's message, damage the messenger.

Smear to go like this through press proxies...CIA lousy on all WMD info, remember how they dropped the ball on 9/11, Wilson is just the husband of their WMD honcho who has to cover her incompetent ass.
Secondary benefit of shutting up the analysts who have other bombs like Niger to drop.

Libby delegated to plant with Novak because the Prince of Darkness is his boy

Six other plants co-ordinated out of VP office or Rove's Cave, by people familiar with reporters involved

Rove's later involvement with Matthews was just to keep the smear moving along.

For this to work, if Plume was a NOC, why did they do it?

Because they thought it would work. Even if Wilson screamed, the CIA and his wife were damaged goods covering their asses. They could play stupid on her status, and trusted Novak to cover for them. They had no reason to think Tenet would allow a JP request, he already took the pipe for the State of the Union.
The story sat for quite a while, it almost worked. Somebody else inside deepthroated them to the WSJ.
They were wrong.

Posted by: PeteyPuck at October 12, 2003 09:20 PM | PERMALINK

Petey Puck,

The only problem with the "who is that bastard Wilson" routine...is that Cheney was SecDef at the same time that Wilson was Charge d'Affairs in Baghdad....

Think they didn't know each other?

Even after GHWBush introduced Wilson to his "wartime cabinet" as "a true American Hero"?

Riiiiiiiiiight.

Posted by: Dan at October 12, 2003 09:29 PM | PERMALINK

Makes it even better, Dan, change "Who is " to "Get that" works for me...maybe because I want to see Cheney do a Spiro march...

Posted by: PeteyPuck at October 12, 2003 09:34 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I know, the only place you'd run across "Plame" is by looking up Wilson's bio and learning that he "married the former Valerie Plame." But why on earth would you then use that name?

In fact, if Novak found this reference, it seems to me that the correct inference from this bio is that she no longer went under her maiden name. If he encountered this bio, it should count only as evidence that his choice to use "Plame" was all the more calculating. He would be ignoring the obvious conclusions, aiming to achieve a deliberate effect -- namely, outing her.

It's particularly hard to avoid this conclusion when you combine it with Novak's calling her in the same breath an "operative".

Posted by: frankly0 at October 12, 2003 09:39 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, I can't stand it anymore. I know you're trying to be reasonable and non-partisan and all that, but this whole thread is the reason that the good guys are getting eaten alive across the country.

Can you imagine, even for one instant, the equivalent thread at any Righty site? "What other explanation could there be for President Gore not personally grabbing those airliners and preventing them from crashing into the World Trade Center?"

Is there anyone on the Right - anyone at all - who cuts any Democrat any slack whatsoever on any subject? I think not. Please tell me if I am wrong, but I really think the answer is no. They see an opening - or they make one up - and then it's full tilt boogey into condemnation and slander and off with his head.

There, I ruined the nice even tone of the thread. Sue me.

Posted by: craigie at October 12, 2003 09:45 PM | PERMALINK

PeteyPuck is right -- this story almost died; if it hadn't been for the leaking senior Administration official, it would have drifted off into tinfoil-hat territory. They thought they could get away with it, mostly because they really could've.

Posted by: Kimmitt at October 12, 2003 09:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think the name does matter as far as whether they:
A) intentionally/knowingly blew a CIA agent's cover to intimidate future critics and their families, or
B) recklessly/negligently blew her cover in an attempt to discredit a current critic.

Neither is excusable but option A is much worse--and more likely if they used "Plame". I don't know why Novak would use her name if they didn't give it to him--though he probably could have figured it out--but who knows.

Posted by: Katherine at October 12, 2003 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

"I think the name does matter as far as whether they:
A) intentionally/knowingly blew a CIA agent's cover to intimidate future critics and their families, or
B) recklessly/negligently blew her cover in an attempt to discredit a current critic."

A. would be criminal under the statute, B. would not be.

The July 12th leak revealed in the WaPo today came from an 'administration official' and he used 'Wilson'. This leak came 2 days before Novak's column. The leak to Novak' was from a 'senior administration official(s)' who likely used 'Plame' and may have come after the July 12th leak, or maybe not.

Posted by: obe at October 12, 2003 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

Novak knew her before she was married and made a mistake.

Posted by: jpmellville at October 12, 2003 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Curse you, Kevin Drum! I thought I was the only person who had given any thought to this question (I first raised it at Tom Maguire's site 10 days ago), but I had been procrastinating on putting up a full post. Now you've beaten me to it.

Anyway, to show why I was procrastinating, I have an epic post on my site that attempts to answer your question in the context of the known/suggested evidence.

The short answer: There is no "innocent" reason. As cs suggests above, there's some intentional malice toward the CIA involved. But some of the leakers may have been tricked into using the name "Valerie Plame."

Posted by: Swopa at October 12, 2003 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase Hal Holbrook: "These White House guys aren't nearly as bright as you credit them".

Of course they intentionally leaked 'Plame' by name.

In doing so, they f**ked up egregiously. So now they find themselves ensnared in a cover-up that must succeed, lest George W. Bush be destroyed.

It's really that simple.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

I hope they don't try to get Novak to give out the name of his source. That would compromise this whole journalism thing.

Posted by: Drew at October 12, 2003 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

I saw it written somewhere (don't recall where) that someone working at the NSC had previously worked with Valerie Plame at the CIA. Ambassador Wilson himself worked on the NSC from June 1997 until July 1998.

The connection of Plame to Wilson very likely came from a connection of that sort. The NSC people are also the ones who would have clearance to find out the names of agents.

Novak knew exactly what he was doing when he used her maiden name, and so did the leaker.

Posted by: Rick B at October 12, 2003 11:00 PM | PERMALINK

(Trying to stick with the program this time :-)

Without knowing what Novak knew immediately before the call,
it's hard to do more than float guesses around. Novak has
been working Washington for quite a long time. It is not
hard to imagine that he might maintain files of background
information, and that there might be an entry in there for
the Wilsons. Why use the name Plame? If Mrs Wilson used a
private-sector job as her front, it is possible that she used
her maiden name in the workplace, and that Novak picked it up
from there. Possibly it worked better for style to give her
greater apparent authority by using her maiden name. Possibly
he meant to distinguish her from his previous wives. Or the
name may have been pushed by the leaker to give the outing
a personal flavor for the Wilsons. We just don't know.

I agree that, at the end of the day, published references to
the name "Plame" are beside the point. Any reference sufficient
to identify her, together with a claim that she was a CIA
operative, was enough to damage the nation's security.

For what it's worth.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape at October 12, 2003 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Jassalasca Jape: Why do you think it is that those reporters, contacted along with Novak, have refused to publish accounts of their conversation with the leakers? They needn't name name's, but they could surely help clarify those facts that are known. Why don't they do it?

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Craigie, if you can come up with a logical explaination that covers the facts as we know them, and at the same time absolves any member of the current Administration of deliberate wrongdoing, then please feel free to do so.

That is what Kevin opened this thread for, and you can post whatever you think will fill the bill for your side.

No flaming, no jokes, just start from the old Joe Friday request: "Just the facts, sir."

Posted by: Dark Avenger at October 12, 2003 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

LARRY WILMOTT wrote (upthread, 10/12, 6:13pm):

"I don't understand the need for the question. This is from the July 22 Newsday article by Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce:

'Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." '

Why is Larry off-target? If he's not, then what's the point of this thread?

Posted by: Cervantes at October 12, 2003 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sovereign Eye: "Why do you think it is that those reporters, contacted along with Novak, have refused to publish accounts of their conversation with the leakers? They needn't name name's, but they could surely help clarify those facts that are known. Why don't they do it?"

Because once it is known that X knows who the leakers are, there will be pressure on X to name the leakers; and, just as people are calling Novak names for not telling us who used him, X would also be subject to similar opprobrium.

Posted by: Cervantes at October 12, 2003 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

Cervantes: Thanks. But if that is their reason, those people are in the wrong racket. They oughtta be selling life insurance somewhere.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sovereign Eye: If you were the "top White House officials" in question, to whom would you feed your nasty little tidbits? Professional journalists who hold themselves to a proper code of conduct?

Posted by: Cervantes at October 12, 2003 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Cervantes: Would you rephrase the question, please? I don't understand it. Thanks.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 13, 2003 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

Sovereign Eye: Why do you think it is that those reporters, contacted along with Novak, have refused to publish accounts of their conversation with the leakers? They needn't name name's, but they could surely help clarify those facts that are known. Why don't they do it?

For the same reason that the outing of a CIA operative by a bunch of politicians is a prospective security disaster. Reporters must retain the trust of their sources if they expect to continue working at a rate that will pay for their children's education. It would not be very comforting to a reporter's other sources if he or she stood up, in the midst of an active FBI investigation into the Plame affair, and said "I was called by a White House official and told of Mrs Wilson's position in the CIA, but I most certainly won't reveal the name of the person I spoke with. Unless, of course, I'm served with a subpoena".

There may be other intimidatory maneuverings and messages working the background, but like the rest of it, we just don't know. Yet.

I can't imagine that this thing is going to grind to a halt. Too many people know, and there is too much at stake. In that way, it's a bit like a shipment of yellowcake from Niger to Iraq would have been had, er, such a thing actually happened in the lead-up to Iraq War.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape at October 13, 2003 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Dems come to aid of victim of other GOP dirty trick intended to steal an election:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/13/national/13PHIL.html

Posted by: jeb at October 13, 2003 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

On reflection, maybe I do understand it. The Big House "feeds the mouths that kiss the ass". Leastwise, I'll assume that's what you meant.

The thing is, in this instance, people have been drawn into a scenario of historical import. What they now do- or now fail to do- will be long noted by those "who know us not, and that we know not of".

They'll be remembered, in spite of themselves and like it or not. I would guess that even the most craven amongst them will take pause when considering that.

People scoff, but I contend this nation is already in the midst of a constitutional crisis; they just don't know it yet. Bush is currently involved in a coverup, in which he's seeking to protect those lieutenants of his that broke the law. Frankly, I think it likely he was involved from the git-go. But be that as it may, he's surely involved now, and up to his neck.

The constitutional crisis that was Watergate did not commence the day the James McCord began to sing to Judge Sirica. It began the moment that Nixon's 'plumbers' broke the law. Well before John Dean spilled his guts to the Ervin committee, and long before the American people suspected something had gone wrong.

We're not far beyond the "something isn't right" stage. But this story isn't going to disappear. Quite the contrary. Too many people- including many a stunned journalist- are in the loop. The truth will out. And when it does, the Bush administration will be finished.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 13, 2003 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

obe, who, at October 12, 2003 10:16 PM, wrote:

A. would be criminal under the statute, B. would not be.

in response to: Katherine, who, at October 12, 2003 10:03 PM, wrote:

I think the name does matter as far as whether they:
A) intentionally/knowingly blew a CIA agent's cover to intimidate future critics and their families, or
B) recklessly/negligently blew her cover in an attempt to discredit a current critic.

I write:

B. is still criminal and could be a capital offense. See 18 USC 794 (a).

18 USC Section 794. Gathering or delivering defense information to aid foreign government

(a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life, except that the sentence of death shall not be imposed unless the jury or, if there is no jury, the court, further finds that the offense resulted in the identification by a foreign power (as defined in section 101(a) of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) of an individual acting as an agent of the United States and consequently in the death of that individual, or directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, early warning systems, or other means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack; war plans; communications intelligence or cryptographic information; or any other major weapons system or major element of defense strategy.

A NOC CIA officer's identity is Top Secret information, which means that unauthorized disclosure would cause immeasurable and irrepairable harm to the security of the United States. Everybody who has such a clearance signs a document every year that states that they understand they can be prosecuted under the Espionage Act for unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

Therefore the leaker had, "reason to believe that it (Plame's identity as a NOC CIA officer) is to be used to the injury of the United States." Getting that information published in the newspaper certainly fulfills: "communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any . . . information relating to the national defense."

So, at minimum, the leakers can be sentenced to very long stretch in the slammer, up to life. And, if it can be proven that any of Plame's contacts have been killed as a result of this leake, the perps can be executed.

Posted by: Jake at October 13, 2003 01:32 AM | PERMALINK

Newsday stands by it's interview with Novak. The White House fed it all to him. He reported it. It is also revealing of Novak's nature that he tried to lob another grenade on top of this by stating on CNN that Plame gave money to the Dems and accused her of incorrectly reporting who her employer was. Turns out her employer was in fact the now defunct CIA invented company. This was also probably White House fed to him and he reported it. I don't believe a lot of brain power goes on with Novak when it comes to getting info out for the White House. They tell him and he reports it. There is no innocent explanation to using her maiden name. There is no innocent explanation to accusing her of illegally making false statement on a political contribution. The only way Novak is innocent is the possibility that his own CIA source is feeding him just enough info to hang himself and the Bush Political Mafia and Novak is too stupid to see it. Does that seem possible? I think not.

Posted by: Pancho & Lefty at October 13, 2003 01:49 AM | PERMALINK

A somewhat tedious off-topic point:
Ahmed, not Achmed, Akbar, not Akhbar (which is "News").

Posted by: collounsbury at October 13, 2003 02:15 AM | PERMALINK

If it was deliberate, as I believe it was, the folks behind the leak were willing to waste Plame, her entire network, and any other NOC operative and network who used the Brewster Jennings front, which obviously purported to be some sort of oil/gas operation.

I wonder if these leaks havent' been about sending signals outside the US as well as warning shots to those inside the intelligence wars clearly going on.

Yes, once Plame's name was out, her Jennings Brewster link could easily be found out. If doesn't mean much to ordinary folks to know her front company, so why publish it? Novak sets it up like a smear on her professionalism in using the company name to file her campaign contribution.

That's pretty lame. The administration is more likely using Novak to tell specific folks specific things for specific reasons.

Now, if someone will just uncover those specifics . . .

Posted by: cs at October 13, 2003 04:47 AM | PERMALINK

One thing to keep in mind in terms of how events apparently transpired is the retelling of them by the Washington Post's unidentified source who is a senior administration official. After their second reference to him yesterday, the Post seems convinced that this official was very, very close to the action that led up to the exposure of Plame.
Some boggers have commented that this source was "in the room" when some of the contacts to reporters were made. If the Post's source can be believed--and it is incredibly fascinating to speculate on that person's possible motives--the effort within the White House to smear, intimidate and get revenge was an orchestrated one. It may have been stupid and unintentionally criminal but it was never uncoordinated and certainly never an innocent ploy.
As far as Novak is concerned he is a "journalistic operative." And I use the term operative in the way he now says he always has--in other words, he is a "political hack" of long (forty-three years) standing. Hacks never mind being used by their bosses and/or sources.

Posted by: Krik Etfot at October 13, 2003 07:33 AM | PERMALINK

Unless a leaker comes forward, or a leakee, and the DOJ has no choice but to follow new evidence that leads to the WH. Then we could see Karl fall like the statute of Saddam! And Bush go down hard in 2004. The potential is there.

It's quite clear that one high administration official who knows where all the bodies are buried has kept this scandal going by at least twice leaking damaging information to the Washington Post. If the press' interest flags, he'll be meeting with Pincus and Allen late at night in a parking garage real soon to feed them more damning information. As long as Rove doesn't figure out who this leaker is and "take care of him," this scandal isn't going away.

Posted by: Bashrov at October 13, 2003 07:56 AM | PERMALINK

If Rove "takes care of" the second leaker, then the scandal will immediately blow wide open. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer".

Posted by: jri at October 13, 2003 08:12 AM | PERMALINK

Hmm, it looks like what we've got here is a Vulcan Mind-Meld between me and Krik Etfot.

Posted by: Basharov at October 13, 2003 08:14 AM | PERMALINK

Someone (Novak?) mentioned that Valerie Plame/Wilson was listed in his Who's Who entry. Here it is. It lists her as Valerie Elise Plame. And man, he is damn qualified to do what he did.

Birth: November 6, 1949 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, United States
Occupation: Ambassador
Source: The Complete Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2003.

Source Citation

Family: s. Joseph Charles III and Phyllis (Finnell) W.; m. Susan Dale Otchis, Apr. 27, 1973 (div. 1986); m. Valerie Elise Plame, Apr. 3, 1998; children: Sabrina Cecile, Joseph Charles, Trevor Rolph, Samantha Finnell Diana. Education: BA, U. Calif., Santa Barbara, 1972.Avocations/Research/Interests: golf, bicycling, fitness E-mail: joewilson@rockcreekcorp.comMemberships: Am. Polit. Sci. Assn., Am. Fgn. Svc. Assn. (William R. Rivkin award 1987), U. Calif. Santa Barbara Alumni Assn., San Onofre Surfing Club. Addresses: Office, Ste #300, 1717 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20006-4619.

Recipient Disting. Alumni award U. Calif. Santa Barbara, 1991, Comdr. Order of Equatorial Star govt. Gabon award, 1995, Disting. Def. Dept. Civilian award, 1997; named hon. adm. County Commr., El Paso, Tex., 1991.

Positions Held: pres., JC Wilson Internat. Ventures, Washington, 1998; spl. asst. to pres., sr. dir. for African affairs, Nat. Security Coun., Washington, 1997-98; polit. adv. to Commdr. in Chief, U.S. Armed Forces Europe, 1995-97; amb., Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, 1992-95; dep. chief of mission, Am. Embassy, Baghdad, Iraq, 1988-91; dep. chief of mission, Am. Embassy, Brazzaville, Congo, 1986-88; dep. chief of mission, Am. Embassy, Bujumbura, Burundi, 1982-85; congl. fellow, Am. Polit. Sci. Assn., Washington, 1985-86; fgn. svc. officer, Dept. of State, Washington, 1976-98. Career-Related: Adj. scholar Mid. East Inst., 2002.

Posted by: jsg at October 13, 2003 09:00 AM | PERMALINK

I saw it written somewhere (don't recall where) that someone working at the NSC had previously worked with Valerie Plame at the CIA.

You might have read me speculating about Mary K. Sturtevant, Senior Director of Intelligence Programs at NSC, who came over from the CIA. Her early work was in technology transfer and proliferation. She probably knew Plame personally.

I don't want to be like Sumwon, beating his Robert Joseph theory to death, so I haven't flogged her name around in the same way, but Sturtevant is my pick in the Who Named Plame? pool. She didn't make the phone calls to the reporters, but in my view she was probably the person who committed the crime of leaking Plame's classified identity to people who had no right to know.

Posted by: Julia Grey at October 13, 2003 09:03 AM | PERMALINK

I think one of the keys behind the use of the name Plame may come from Novak own testimony. Recall that he admitted the CIA asked him not to use her name. Interestingly, he has never tried to duck that, even though it involves admitting that he went against the CIA's explicit request.

So it may be that the name itself, Plame, is considered to be particularly threatening--an indication that Novak's info comes from high enough up to understand how her cover actually worked (that is, that the maiden name had some value). Perhaps the CIA particularly emphasized that they did not want Novak to use _Plame_, and he did so specifically as a warning to the CIA.

My other less serious suggestion is that perhaps Plame is how Aldrich Ames leaked her name. Josh Marshall makes the point that if Cliff May's assertion that Plame's identity was well-known were true, it may have been because of Ames' earlier treason. Now I think Marshall is just suggesting that May be careful or this act, the outing of Plame's name, may be able to be closely connected to Ames' treason. But it is interesting to wonder if the form that this is taking still carries the mark of the earlier outing.

Posted by: emptywheel at October 13, 2003 09:34 AM | PERMALINK

I find all this back and forth about her married name/maiden name, etc. utterly irrelevant and annoying. Along with questions about Wilson's qualifications and thoroughness, it only helps the WH blow smoke over the whole matter.

Once you say, "Wilson's wife is a CIA operative," you've said it all. Finding out her name is a trivial task for anyone interested. Just see jsq's posting of the Who's Who listing above.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov at October 13, 2003 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

A previous poster wrote:
I think the name does matter as far as whether they:
A) intentionally/knowingly blew a CIA agent's cover to intimidate future critics and their families, or
B) recklessly/negligently blew her cover in an attempt to discredit a current critic.

I think B is the most likely scenario, but I don't see why it is exculpatory. Does intent in the statute refer to the action or the consequence of the action?

Posted by: Mom at October 13, 2003 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Bob Novak used "Plame" because he is a liberal, modern made who believes that a woman should not be defined by the man she marries. He's a closet flaming feminist, and this slip blew his cover.

Posted by: qwerty at October 13, 2003 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

MAN! not made, MAN! Liberal, modern MAN!

Apologies.

Posted by: qwerty at October 13, 2003 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

If Rove "takes care of" the second leaker, then the scandal will immediately blow wide open.

John Mitchell had Martha drugged and locked up when she began making too many late night phone calls to reporters during Watergate and nothing much happened in the affair for a long time, so I wouldn't be so sure of that.

Don't be surprised if a "senior administration official" suffers a heart attack or a debilitating stroke in the near future.

Posted by: Basharov at October 13, 2003 12:10 PM | PERMALINK


I find it odd that we give this blanket authority to journalists to protect their sources in all situations and contexts. We don’t give the same universal amnesty to any other profession, including lawyers and doctors.

It is one thing for a journalist to protect a source who reveals classified information in an effort to get a newsworthy story out. In these cases, the journalist is just an innocent conduit for the story, and typically the leak is a revelation of some other “crime” that has already taken place.

It is quite another case for a journalist to be a principal party to THE crime – aiding and abetting, and in this case actually facilitating the execution of the crime. There was no crime prior to the story – thus Novak is absolutely a party to this crime – as guilty as the guy who drives the getaway car in a bank heist. He should be pleading the 5th amendment, not exercising journalistic privilege.

Imagine a far grimmer leak of classified information – a member of the government revealing the location of groups overseas to a journalist. Wouldn’t the publication of the story, with locations, be considered an act of treason? And shouldn’t both the leaker and the reporter be cited for their collective participation in the illegal deeds? Or would you continue to assert that the reporter is entitled to protect his sources, and by extension, himself?

I would suggest that the journalism industry should collectively hang Novak for abusing this journalistic privilege. I don’t think it would necessarily be a bad thing to set the precedent that journalists will not tolerate themselves being used to commit crimes. They should be reporters, not active participants in the story.

Posted by: Tommy at October 13, 2003 02:26 PM | PERMALINK

Marc G,

I consider your suggestion of relishing this scandal as it unravels somewhat declasse! You really ought to have more respect for the seriousness of this, less relish for the scandal, and more of a direct interest in finding justice.

Wait--- sorry, scratch that, I meant... pass the popcorn.

Posted by: Pyrrho at October 13, 2003 05:00 PM | PERMALINK

"I think B is the most likely scenario, but I don't see why it is exculpatory. Does intent in the statute refer to the action or the consequence of the action?"

Yes, the disclosure of a covert agent's identity must be intentional. And the person must know the agent is a covert operative. So intent matters, a lot.

The interesting thing here is that the disclosure to Novak seems a clean and clear violation. Whoever did it had to know her status since he used her "Plame" name. Novak refers to the person as covert. She was covert. And it was clearly intentional. Novak said it was pushed on him. The secret source confirms this.

On the other hand, in the July 12th disclosure by the "administration official," the leaker used the name "Wilson" and said that she was a CIA analyst, and thus by implication, not covert, even though she was. These facts, if true, do not clearly violate the statute. They suggest (1) the guy did not know she was covert, and thus even though his comments would have outed her as covert anyway, (2) his 'unknowing' disclosure of her status would not have beedn intentional.

Rove's alleged July 22 (is that right?) disclosures ("it's ok to go after her") would have also met the elements of the statute.

But there is a defense written into the statute. If the US 'publicly' discloses the agent's identity prior to a subsequent disclosure, the subsequent disclosure is not actionable even if it otherwise meets all of the elements of the crime.

So, if the US had disclosed Plame's covert status "publicly" at some point prior to the leak to Novak, then the subsequent leaks (including the leak to Novak and the leaking by Rove) would not be actionable under the sttatute as a matter of law.

That's why it's interesting that this new July 12th disclosure comes out. It would be awfully helpful if it came before the disclosure to Novak, and if it counted as a public disclosure by the us. It would not only get all of the leakers off the hook, except the July 12th one itself. But amazingly, the July 12th leak appears not to violate the statute because it was not knowing and intentional. TADA! (And one reason why the use of Wilson v. Plame is important.) No crimes were committed. And evedrybody gets off the hook. And, no need to even find out who did the leaks to Novak or to look into any leaks by Rove.

Someone may get punished, like whomever disclosed to the "administration officals," senior and otherwise.

It may not come out that way, but it could. They need a prior disclosure of her covert status to kill the part of the criminal investigation that threatens the White House most directly. It is a total defense to any subsequent disclosure. Look for one to appear. The question is whether this would lead to further damaging leaks from that one unnamed source, or from the CIA. Doubtful, butwho knows.

The bottom line is, Aschroft is going to shut the investigation down as soon as he can. He could conclude that no laws were broken, or he could find there was a prior disclosure by lower administration official that is actionable and prosecute that. What he is not going to do is embark on a wide ranging inquiry to find out who leaked what to whom and when beyond what he needs to address any actual crimes, or to conclude there were no crimes. This is not Ken Star investigating Clinton.

Posted by: obe at October 13, 2003 06:51 PM | PERMALINK

p.s. A more aggressive prosecutor would go after the conspiracy that appears to have existed to out and damage Plame, this would in effect do away with the subsequent disclosure defense, and would bust the whole thing wide open. But I don't see Johnny doing that. Not unless someone was selling bongs, or tending medical marijuana plants or watching prono as part of the conspiracy...

Posted by: obe at October 13, 2003 07:10 PM | PERMALINK

Guys...

Robert Novak has been THE conservative commentator for longer than I have been aware of newspapers. (that is, considerably pre Nixon era.) He is the player on the conservative side, and has been the Washington authority bar none for 30 years or more.

He is also repeatedly acknowledged by friend and foe alike as being meticulous in both research and phrasing. He does not make errors of this magnitude. It as if he had stated something about Washington being on the west coast, confusing the capital and the state. It ain’t gonna happen folks.

He also has been happily used in the past as the conduit for smear campaigns against the enemies of republican administrations. I cannot recall the details, but it seems to me my mother always talked about his strong ties to Nixon, and I know he ran interference for Reagan. He is too smart, too well connected and too willing to be the attack dog for exactly this sort of naked vendetta, to make any valid claim of innocence.

It is a role that he has filled in the past, and he is far to savvy to credit any claims of incompetence, sloppiness, mis-wording, or any other dodge to. There just is not even an improbable circumstance, where gifting him an incredible benefit of the doubt, allows one to find any possibility that this was an innocent oversight.

In short, unless he got whacked over the head, or had a stroke, he was repeating the message that he was handed to deliver, knowing that it was an open threat against anyone speaking out against the Bush administration.

Just my thoughts,

Mr Tek

Posted by: Mr Tek at October 13, 2003 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how the whitehouse suppress this kind of stuff... oh and then you get all the right wing harpies coming out of the dark corners to defend stupidity never before seen in the history of America (with the exception of Dick Nixion) of course. ohhum we all know no one will get impeached or arrested or censured over this one, they'll get away with it, like they let their ENRON and CSFB and the rest of the big buck buddies... democracy, justice..if this all wasnt such a freakin nightmare it would be funny...

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