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The Defame on Plame: Is the Law Lame?
July 14, 2005 12:13 PM   Subscribe

As much as I would like to see Rove's head on a pike, I still don't understand why outing a CIA agent should be a crime. After all, we managed to get through World War II and most of the Cold War without such a law. Once upon a time liberals opposed the intelligence Identities Protection Act, and for good reasons. Namely, the law is more likely to ensnare journalists making legitimate inquiries than the kind of traitors that spawned the law. It also requires a very high legal standard, as no one has officially confirmed that Valarie Plame, who's cover had been previously compromised and was well-known in Washington circles, still qualifies as a covert agent under the legal definition. After all, only one person has ever been convicted under the intelligence Identities Protection Act.
posted by Heminator (43 comments total)

 
what about lying to a grand jury?


that's another issue isn't it....

rove goes down.
posted by specialk420 at 12:17 PM on July 14, 2005


Didja see the sidebar?
posted by shawnj at 12:18 PM on July 14, 2005


Isn't this administration concerned about security? This incident doesn't make it appear so.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:19 PM on July 14, 2005


That's because we already had laws dealing with outing spies. This was added (by Bush I, iirc) to give some more teeth to them under very specific circumstances. Outing a spy has been a big deal since before Benedict Arnold.

Aaaand, the endless repetition by Rove's defenders of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act is a red herring. There are plenty of other laws that Karl might have violated that would have precipitated exactly such a response from the DOJ.
posted by dyaseen at 12:24 PM on July 14, 2005


At what point is this a) a double post, and b) someone who really just wants to make a comment but doesn't want it to disappear in a sea of discussion so it becomes a FPP?
posted by trinarian at 12:24 PM on July 14, 2005


A quote from a good friend of mine in a differnt forum:
"For those who aren't students of espionage, let a plebian scholar of the subject rant for a moment. Intelligence is a HARD game, one that doesn't forgive. There are rules to spying, most of which would sound almost like a Machevellian form of chivalry. One of them is NOT using the press to blow an enemy agent's cover. This leads to everyone doing it and suddenly NOBODY can get anything done. Another is the absolute priority of protecting the identity and location of freindly agents. Another is the absolute value of such information... more than the missile plans, the Premiere's sexual predilictions or the location of a cache of WMD, the absolute verified identity of an enemy agent is like plutoniun-wrapped gold encrusted with diamonds.

I will forego the 'alleged' that should be here, but also spare you the cynical smirk I have trouble describing in text. The guy, this POLITICAL mook, whether under orders from Dubya or on his own, broke THREE of the cardinal rules of being breifed into secret intelligence. Bush doesn't successfully sound tough saying he will fire anyone who revealed the ID of agents... the law says that person should be tried for espionage.

He gave up the ID of an agent, I don't care if he didn't say her name. What he managed to do was VERIFY what the reporter already had, which is EXACTLY the same in the espionage game. Enemy agents seldom get a definite 'yeah, that's him' from one source. Usually, just like reporters, they use many sources to figure out what's up. He talked to the press about agents and ongoing actions. Ever wonder why the Pres and others never talk about that stuff unless they have a preapred speech? It's not ALL about being unable to speak off-the-cuff... a lot of that stuff is scrubbed so no info inadvertantly gets handed out. Lastly he ( and in some ways the Shrub) is playing down the value of what was given out. Whether she was a Farm-trained spook or a contract agent slowly coached into being a valuable source, the CIA spent a lot of time, money and effort to create that assett and they crapped it away. Other agents will feel SO valued by these actions and report SO concisely now. I would gamble this makes CIA recruiters wisht ehy were fishing for National Guard soldiers... not exactly a safe feeling to know your Pres or someone close to him might put you in harms way with a poorly worded 'brush off'."
posted by BeerGrin at 12:25 PM on July 14, 2005


Shouldn't this be discussed in the other Rove FPP posted earlier today?
posted by nkyad at 12:28 PM on July 14, 2005


Yesterday, NPR's Daniel Schorr reminded us what this Rove/Plame thing is all about.
posted by neuron at 12:28 PM on July 14, 2005


Didja see the sidebar? and Shouldn't this be discussed in the other Rove FPP posted earlier today?

It deserves to be discussed here, and this is why.
posted by Rothko at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2005


Its still is illegal to divulge classified information to the public. The penalties are the same as the "lame law" and the denies of Covert CIA agents are classified.

I would argue if Rove did not know the information he was divulging was classified then that does not matter he should still be classified. He was top-secret CLEARANCE, he's in the whitehouse, he's a grown man, he damn well should check the info he so freely disseminates.

In fact, in times of war his should do more then Double check the status of the information he wants to give to reporters.

TITLE 18, Chapter 37, § 793 US Code

§ 793. Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information

"(d) Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any document, writing, ... or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it; or

(e) Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, .... or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it;

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

(g) If two or more persons conspire to violate any of the foregoing provisions of this section, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each of the parties to such conspiracy shall be subject to the punishment provided for the offense which is the object of such conspiracy."
posted by jboy55 at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2005


...no-one has officially confirmed that Valarie Plame, who's cover had been previously compromised and was well-known in Washington circles, still qualifies as a covert agent

I'm not sure what you mean by "officially," but her NOC status has been confirmed time and again. And of course there is the oft-made argument that if she didn't satisfy the relevant definition we wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:38 PM on July 14, 2005


To rebutt any arguments about Plame's status as a CIA officer.

From my understanding her cover was as an executive of a company that would be of interest to people wanting to purchase WMDs or ingredients of such.

Here is a post by a retired CIA operative from this site...

http://www.davidcorn.com/2005/07/rove_did_leak_c.php

27

Republicans' talking points are trying to savage Joe Wilson and, by implication, his wife, Valerie Plame as liars. That is the truly big lie.

For starters, Valerie Plame was an undercover operations officer until outed in the press by Robert Novak. Novak's column was not an isolated attack. It was in fact part of a coordinated, orchestrated smear that we now know includes at least Karl Rove.

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

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

The lies by people like Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King, and P. J. O'Rourke insist that Valerie was nothing, just a desk jockey. Yet, until Robert Novak betrayed her she was still undercover and the company that was her front was still a secret to the world. When Novak outed Valerie he also compromised her company and every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company and with her.

The Republicans insist on the lie that Val got her husband the job. She did not. She was not a division director, instead she was the equivalent of an Army major. Yes it is true she recommended her husband to do the job that needed to be done but the decision to send Joe Wilson on this mission was made by her bosses.

At the end of the day, Joe Wilson was right. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was the Bush Administration that pushed that lie and because of that lie Americans are dying. Shame on those who continue to slander Joe Wilson while giving Bush and his pack of liars a pass. That's the true outrage.

Larry Johnson
former CIA analyst and
Counterterrorism Official at the State Department

Posted by: Larry Johnson at July 13, 2005 07:56 PM
posted by jboy55 at 12:41 PM on July 14, 2005


Jeez, that wiki article on Agee reads like it was written by J.J. Angleton. Here's CAQ's homepage. CAQ is the successor to CAIB and has been through several changes of staff (including a very controversial one.)
posted by warbaby at 12:42 PM on July 14, 2005


as no one has officially confirmed that Valarie Plame, who's cover had been previously compromised and was well-known in Washington circles, still qualifies as a covert agent under the legal definition.

This is the stupidest of the stupid when it comes to the disinformation surrounding the Plame affair.

Precisely one agency is in a position to know if Plame was under cover: the CIA. They say affirmative. The prosecutor took the case: he wouldn't do so without first assessing if it was even possible for a crime to have been committed.

Also, as near as can be ascertained, the idea that Plame's identity was an "open-secret" comes from a completely unsubsantiated assertion by one person.

Which completely ignores the fact that, at this point, the Intelligence Identities act is probably the least of Rove et al. worries. Espionage act, conspiracy, lying to a grand jury, all of these are quite possibly in play now.

And don't forget: Novak also outed the front company for which Plame worked. That's an action that may have effected other agents, for all we know. There is no way that knowledge was an "open secret."

Stupidist of the stupid.
posted by teece at 12:48 PM on July 14, 2005


I still don't understand why outing a CIA agent should be a crime

Because you are endagering not only their lives, but the lives of the agents working with them, their contacts, and national security of the country. It's pretty open and shut, actually.
posted by shawnj at 12:55 PM on July 14, 2005


I can see why this post (as framed) might deserve to be a post of its own. Its a separate question: Why do we need another law? Unfortunately, most will not discern this difference and it will degenerate into more talk on the Plame/Rove thing specifically.

To address the FPP:
Most laws are a knee jerk reaction to some event - or an attempt to close some sort of loophole that has been tolerated in the past. The FFP links answer the FPP's question:
"it was passed to stop the activities of former CIA case officer Philip Agee and the magazines Counterspy and Covert Action Information Bulletin, which between them had exposed over 2,000 alleged agents of the company."

When names are outed, people die. The current issue isn't just about Plame's name being linked however. It is about a classified document that is still classified yet (in addition to being leaked) is STILL being used as talking points "proof" of their claims. Unbelievable.

But after reading your links, yeah it looks like you simply wanted to spotlight something that could have been a comment in one of the other Rove links.
posted by spock at 12:57 PM on July 14, 2005


Here's what I don't get, Novak claimed that he called the CIA to ask if it was OK to name her, and that they said no. And he named her anyway. WTF?

If rove goes down for anything, it'll be perjury I bet. I also bet he'll get a pardon if it ever comes down to it.
posted by delmoi at 12:58 PM on July 14, 2005


Law to charge the person feeding Rove with the info or Rove himself,



TITLE 18, Chapter 37, § 793 US Code

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, note, or information, relating to the national defense,
(1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or
(2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
posted by jboy55 at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2005


Heminator posted "I still don't understand why outing a CIA agent should be a crime"

I don't understand how this can even be a question, except maybe in a subtly ironic way. Outing an undercover agent is probably a crime in any country, for all the right reasons. As spock said, people die. Information sources disappear. Year of had work are thrown down the drain. The minute Plame's real job was known, every serious agency around the world went to work, reviewing every known move she made in the past, examining her business associates, her employees, her friends in order to identify other agents and sources, many of whom can still be active and undercover in some front-line. Is there any doubt about the amount of damage this kind of thing can cause? This kind of people are in the front line of defense of your country, whatever that may be. Outing them for any reason is criminal - outing them for petty partisan reasons should be treated as high treason (and I am not even American, but if it happened in my country I'd like to see the person responsible in jail for a long time).
posted by nkyad at 1:19 PM on July 14, 2005


PIKE!
posted by santiagogo at 1:27 PM on July 14, 2005



Didja see the sidebar?
posted by shawnj at 3:18 PM EST on July 14


fuck the sidebar.
posted by quonsar at 1:36 PM on July 14, 2005


Yeah, as someone who appreciated the '80s work of Covert Action Information Bulletin -- a publication which exposed strange CIA operations in Latin America during the "dirty wars" -- I have mixed feelings.

Someone in Rove's position doing it clearly deserves to lose his job for undermining the Administration's work, though.
posted by johngoren at 1:49 PM on July 14, 2005


By the pro-rove logic - it seems there's a case for Bin Laden being a hero!
I mean, I'm sure he didn't MEAN, or EXPECT the buildings to come down. He tried to minimize collateral damage just like us, but he messed up i guess. And he was merely reacting to Bush doing something real bad, right?
And since we refuse to give any real power to international law, theres no real court to try him, so technically 9-11 may not have been illegal.
But I don't think I should comment on him really, due to the ongoing investigations.
posted by 31d1 at 1:55 PM on July 14, 2005


fuck the sidebar.

the go to the whiskey bar ...
posted by specialk420 at 2:05 PM on July 14, 2005


An interesting analysis from 2003 of why Plame was outed. Short version: it was about making the CIA report appear to be biased (as it may have been) and not personal. That would explain why Rove may not have known the status of Plame, nor particularly cared.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:07 PM on July 14, 2005


fuck the sidebar.
posted by quonsar at 1:36 PM PST on July 14 [!]


Are the rules of the community really too much for you to deal with? Or are you really just more important than everyone else who has to follow them?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:08 PM on July 14, 2005


In the spirit of the FPP, I would like to announce a citizen's initiative to publish photographs and home addresses of undercover police officers and informants in the community because, as has been pointed out, "I... don't understand why outing [an undercover cop] should be a crime".
posted by clevershark at 2:08 PM on July 14, 2005


it was about making the CIA report appear to be biased (as it may have been)

Yes: biased toward reality. Let's not forget who was ultimately right: the CIA and Wilson.

posted by teece at 2:20 PM on July 14, 2005


Yes: biased toward reality. Let's not forget who was ultimately right: the CIA and Wilson.

Somewhat irrelevant point, but turning out correct doesn't prove that a prediction was unbiased. It's possible for something to be biased and still turn out right. If I tell you that the next coin you flip will turn out heads that doesn't mean that I have any psychic powers when it does, it just means that I happened to get it right.

I'm biased toward thinking that the Red Sox are going to beat the Yankees today, whereas Vegas has even odds on the game. If I tell you the Sox are going to win and they do that doesn't make me less biased, it just means that my prediction happened to turn out right.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:37 PM on July 14, 2005


Nice dodge, tddl. We are not talking about a coin toss here, or some other entirely random event.

I meant that completely literally. The reality was the CIA realized the Niger claims were shit. Thus they were "biased" towards firmly making their case by having a guy on the ground confirm that, just for sure. Thus went Wilson.

In any sane world, that's not called bias, it's called prudence or common sense. There was never any evidence to support the idea that Iraq had been pursuing uranium from Niger. Nor was there motive. Thus calling the CIA's leanings towards thinking the story was bunk "bias" is the height of spin.

It's important not to lose sight of the fact that this whole fiasco resulted from the Bush White House's telling of tall tales in order to support the Iraq war.

The CIA was doing it's job: trying to gather raw intelligence and find out what it told them. Rove and crew were pissed because the CIA wasn't coming to the "correct" conclusion.
posted by teece at 2:45 PM on July 14, 2005


The more FPPs I see about Karl Rove, the more I am sure he is going to get into some serious trouble over this.

Like, maybe he will only get to throw two sexy parties this year instead of four.
posted by wakko at 3:11 PM on July 14, 2005


Are the rules of the community really too much for you to deal with? Or are you really just more important than everyone else who has to follow them?

um, what about the flag it rule? you and shawnj missed that one, huh? uh, what about the no posting noise about the post rule? you and shawnj missed that one too, huh? uh, what about fucking off, bud?
posted by quonsar at 3:12 PM on July 14, 2005


The agent identities act was passed to a) smear the left (the assassination of the Athens station chief was falsely imputed to be related to the actions of Agee and others trying to clean the crooks out the CIA); b) intimidate the press (as if that was necessary.)

The fact that the only casualty so far in this scandal is Judy Miller (a BushCo shill) is flat out hillarious.
posted by warbaby at 3:36 PM on July 14, 2005


And this story raises the possibility that when Novak spilled his guts to the grand jury, he may have lied to protect Rove et. al.
posted by warbaby at 4:53 PM on July 14, 2005


um, what about the flag it rule? you and shawnj missed that one, huh? uh, what about the no posting noise about the post rule? you and shawnj missed that one too, huh? uh, what about fucking off, bud?

The comment was directed to your flagrantly disrespectful attitude toward the community of "fuck the sidebar", as if the rules don't apply to you since you're So Imporant. The comment was not directed to the FPP in general, which I have discussed in this thread. I did not flag the FPP since it seemed to be a new topic.

Now how about chilling out a bit?
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 5:00 PM on July 14, 2005


Deep Throat's leaks to the press exposed illegal activity in the highest levels of Republican government.

Turd Blossom's leak to the press was in and of itself illegal activity in the highest levels of Republican government.

In the eyes of the law (and Bob Woodward) that shouldn't make a difference, but in reality it apparently does.
posted by CynicalKnight at 5:17 PM on July 14, 2005


as no one has officially confirmed that Valarie Plame, who's cover had been previously compromised and was well-known in Washington circles, still qualifies as a covert agent under the legal definition.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but "operating covertly within the last five years" seems to be the pre-requisite for meeting the legal definition, and it's clearly a favorite noisemaker of the right for this particular dodge. Of course the CIA cannot publically answer this ridiculous charge. I think it's well understood by all parties that the Agency's silence on this question is a matter of policy, and well-founded. (Excellent background, albeit unofficial, by Plame's former classmate Larry Johnson notwithstanding.)

So, with a sealed grand jury, and the CIA's silence, and the implicit mystery surrounding a covert operator -- as non-sequiturs go this charge seems to have some resilience. So let's address it now.

Here is evidence reported in the Washington Post and confirmed by administration officials that her cover story was maintained during that preceding five year time period:
The leak of a CIA operative's name has also exposed the identity of a CIA front company, potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure, Bush administration officials said yesterday.

The company's identity, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, became public because it appeared in Federal Election Commission records on a form filled out in 1999 by Valerie Plame, the case officer at the center of the controversy, when she contributed $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign.

After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.
There it is. As recently as 1999 (and who knows...perhaps right up until the day she was outed) Plame was filing her tax returns listing the CIA front company Brewster Jennings as her employer. Novak's column betraying her cover was published July 14, 2003.

I think we can all do the math.
posted by edverb at 6:42 PM on July 14, 2005


Now, I'm not a lawyer, but "operating covertly within the last five years" seems to be the pre-requisite for meeting the legal definition, and it's clearly a favorite noisemaker of the right for this particular dodge.

But that's the thing. Nowhere in the law does it give a 5 year limit and it's pretty clear that she was still operating undercover much much more recently than that.
posted by bshort at 7:06 PM on July 14, 2005


 
posted by five fresh fish at 7:15 PM on July 14, 2005


Presidential confidant Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he learned the identity of a CIA operative originally from journalists, then informally discussed the information with a Time magazine reporter days before the story broke Toad.
posted by marvin at 11:04 PM on July 14, 2005


On Oct. 28, Talon News, a news company tied to a group called GOP USA, posted on the Internet an interview with Wilson in which the Talon News questioner asks: "An internal government memo prepared by U.S. intelligence personnel details a meeting in early 2002 where your wife, a member of the agency for clandestine service working on Iraqi weapons issues, suggested that you could be sent to investigate the reports. Do you dispute that?"

So Rove learned it from Gukkyboy who was Rove's stooge?

The first public mention of Wilson's mission to Niger, albeit without identifying him by name, was in the New York Times on May 6, in a column by Nicholas D. Kristof. Kristof had been on a panel with Wilson four days earlier, when the former ambassador said State Department officials should know better than to say the United States had been duped by forged documents that allegedly had proved a deal for the uranium had been in the works between Iraq and Niger.

Wilson said he told Kristof about his trip to Niger on the condition that Kristof must keep his name out of the column. When the column appeared, it created little public stir, though it set a number of reporters on the trail of the anonymous former ambassador. Kristof confirmed that account.

The column mentioned the alleged role of the vice president's office for the first time. That was when Cheney aides became aware of Wilson's mission and they began asking questions about him within the government, according to an administration official.


Cheney never knew? Oh, c'mon. He started the ball rolling on the Niger canard.
posted by warbaby at 11:37 AM on July 19, 2005


via War And Piece
posted by warbaby at 11:40 AM on July 19, 2005


A tangential article topic, but it's the photo that caught my eye.
posted by jaronson at 7:44 AM on July 20, 2005


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