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July 05, 2005

The Leak

In a post below, Rick derides whomever leaked Valerie Plame to the press. Her position may or may not have been classified, but she was no field agent or spy. Ever since she was outed, she's been a liberal superstar and I have about as much sympathy for her as I do for Dan Rather.

Posted by Matt at July 5, 2005 09:51 AM

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Question: Was her name classified? If yes, the appropriate conservative response is "reprehensible." Divulging classified information for political gain is not a conservative principle. The only reason she is a media darling is because her name was leaked. No matter the source - classified information must not be leaked.

Posted by: Rick Brady at July 5, 2005 10:57 AM

Fair enough, but two points:

- Maybe her position was classified, but that doesn't mean it should have been.

- I think you're the only one advocating that particular conservative principle. I don't believe the editors of National Review or the WS would concur.

Posted by: Matt at July 5, 2005 02:17 PM

Perhaps "Vanity Fair" should be on the hook for outing her, picture and all.

Posted by: Doug Payton at July 5, 2005 05:22 PM

I agree that leaking information is super bad ,which is why I don't think Rove would have done it. He's too smart for that.

However, if Plame was so concerned about being outed, she wouldn't be all over the media. I still want to know what happened with her husband in Niger and why he had mistaken intel about their dealings in Iraq. All of this furor over the leaking of Plame's name is clouding the fact that Joe Wilson made a big mistake.

Posted by: Abigail at July 5, 2005 07:44 PM

Matt, in response to your points:

- Maybe her position was classified, but that doesn't mean it should have been.

Maybe the speed limit is 65, but that doesn't mean it should be. I think it should be 100, therefore it's okay for me to go 100? C'mon.

- I think you're the only one advocating that particular conservative principle. I don't believe the editors of National Review or the WS would concur.

I think that working within the system to effect change is a bedrock principle of conservatism. If you dispute whether some piece of information should be classified, you work the channels to declasify it. Just like if you dispute a law in this country, you work through the legislative and judicial channels to undo it. You can't simply decide which pieces of information should or should not be classified, or which pieces, although classified, are okay to leak, etc. That's anarchy. Conservatism is not anarchy. Whoever leaked Plame's name, acted in anarchy. That's what I object to.

BTW - David Corn has a great post on this topic. He doesn't think it was Rove.

Posted by: Rick Brady at July 6, 2005 11:59 AM

It takes years for Non-Official Covers or NOCs, as they are known, to become really effective. Over time, they become gradually more trusted; they gain access to better information from more sensitive sources. NOCs have no diplomatic protection and so are vulnerable to hostile regimes that can imprison or execute them without official repercussions. A NOC's only real defense is his or her cover, which can take years to build. Because of this vulnerability, a NOC's identity is considered within the C.I.A. to be, as former C.I.A. analyst Kenneth Pollack has put it, "the holiest of holies." By definition, Valerie Plame was a NOC. Yet unlike all other NOCs who fear exposure and torture or death from hostile governments and individual targets who have been judged threats to the United States, she seems to have got done in by the Bush administration, who is apparently willing to place politics above national security. Let’s be clear on this. Plame was an expert on WMD and we need such people, especially covert operatives who were as well placed as her. Now she cannot serve in that capacity and all the other covert agents she associated with in foreign countries cannot provide the U.S. with information vital to our national security.

Now let’s consider why. Joe Wilson served admirably in a non-partisan capacity as a career foreign service officer and ambassador. In 1990 he was the last American diplomat to meet with Saddam Hussein and was a forceful advocate for his removal from Kuwait. After Iraq, he was George Bush Sr.’s ambassador to Gabon and SaoTome and Principe. He was not a liberal crusader.

In February of 2002 the CIA asked Wilson to investigate a report that Dick Cheney had about allegations that Saddam had tried to buy yellowcake (uranium) from Niger. The CIA then paid Wilson’s travel expenses (and nothing more) to investigate the claim. Wilson and others concluded that the information in the documents Cheney had was incorrect and informed both the CIA and the current ambassador to Niger, who agreed with his conclusion. Later others demonstrated Cheney’s documents were forged. Those are the facts. Cheney’s office had a question; Wilson was asked to investigate; he reported his conclusion to the appropriate government authorities.

Wilson’s conclusion was never officially deemed to be wrong. Instead, it was ignored by the Bush administration. Later, when President Bush and Vice President Cheney publicly stated that Saddam had tried to buy uranium from Niger as part of their case for why the U.S. should invade Iraq, Joe Wilson wrote a letter debunking this claim that was published in the NYT. Shortly after that, at least six journalists were informed by two members of the Bush administration that Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson’s wife, was a CIA operative. Since she was undercover, it is a federal offense equivalent to treason for anyone in the government to knowingly reveal such information. After this leak, Chris Matthews of Hardball said that Rove had just spoken to him and said that Wilson’s wife “was fair game”.

Whether Rove was one of the original leakers is not an issue. The issues are that (1) senior members of the Bush administration sacrificed our national security merely to punish someone who publicly disagreed with Bush and Cheney and (2) that Bush and Cheney tried to convince the public that Saddam had tried to obtain uranium from Niger when they knew that was untrue. This last point is symptomatic of the misrepresentation of information by the Bush administration in convincing the public to support the war. Members of the CIA have publicly complained that information they provided was cherry-picked by Cheney’s office to make the case for going to war stronger. Analysts were bypassed or ignored. And now our soldiers are dying for a lie. There are a lot of terrorists in Iraq now that weren't there before the U.S. invaded. The war is being used as a method for recruiting new members of Al Qaeda. Clinton was impeached for far less egregious a crime than the ones perpetrated by the Bush administration.

Matt, I think you are wrong. I don’t know how you can call Plame anything but a victim. As far as I can tell she has sought no publicity and has not given any interviews to the press.

Doug, Vanity Fair published a picture of Plame long after she had been outed by Robert Novak, who got his information from “two senior administration officials”. To equate her outing with a picture in VF long after the fact is disingenuous.

Abigail, I don't understand why you think coverage of the Plame affair by the media is Plame’s fault considering Plame doesn't seem to be granting interviews. Also, could you please explain how Wilson was mistaken in his intelligence about Iraq’s dealings with Niger? Every account I have read asserts Wilson was correct.

Rick, I mostly agree with you... again. I don't know who should be more worried, me or you.

Posted by: dem at July 7, 2005 12:38 AM

First, I don't think the leak was Plame's fault, however her choice to involve herself in her husband's job assignments seems to indicate that she was not working very deeply undercover. Moreover it is becoming clear now that she was known to be working for the CIA, just not necessarily knwon as working in the Clandestine service. That's an important distinction.

Second, not having heard that Wilson was discredited would not be a difficult thing because it was not widely reported. Whether or not actual Uranium was purchased is not even the issue. Wilson told the CIA that he understood Iraq to be seeking nuclear materials in Niger and then wrote and Op-ed saying the opposite.

For more links and sources of information regarding Wilson's story being discredited in at least two countries, see my post here:

Posted by: Abigail at July 12, 2005 01:33 AM