Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 28, 2005
POLITICS: Leaky Vessel
Jon Henke, on the Plame leak:
If a White House official 1) consciously knew that Valerie Plame was a covert agent 2) whose identity ought to have been protected, and 3) that White House official initiated a leak of her name to the press 4) in order to disclose her identity, then he ought to be removed from his position and prosecuted.
Even leaving aside the issue of prosecution - which I've about beaten to death at the moment - I'd pretty much agree with this, and I'd add that the White House should fire anybody who meets (1) and (2) and initiated or participated in a leak, and that (4) is only marginally relevant if people in the White House gave out her name, knowing her status. It's actually amazing - at least if you're not familiar with how politics works - how much heat has been expended on the issues of who can be prosecuted and what regulations require and what the president said he should or should not do, as opposed to the central question of what is bad enough conduct to justify firing someone in the first place. And to me, if somebody was just negligent with the identity of a non-covert agent and accidentally revealed that she'd been covert in the past, that's a blunder, but it's not something you organize a lynch mob over. Listen to former Director of the National Security Administration and former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Admiral Bobby Inman, who at one time was nominated by Bill Clinton to be Secretary of Defense:
[The leaking of Plame's identity] is still one I would rather not see, but she was working in an analytical organization, and there's nothing that precludes anyone from identifying analytical officers. I watch all the hand-wringing over the ruining of careers… there are a lot of operatives whose covers are blown. It doesn't mean the end of their careers. Many move to the analytical world, which is where she already was. It meant she couldn’t deploy back off to Africa, but nothing I've seen indicated that was possible in the first place.
Inman also notes the pervasive leaking from the CIA directed at the Bush Administration during the 2004 election, about which the cheerleaders of the Plame investigation can muster no outrage.