It's Here! Newsweek Does Nail Rove

July 10, 2005

The Newsweek story I described below is out. Reporter Michael Isikoff has obtained a copy of an email that Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper sent his bureau chief, Michael Duffy, on July 11, 2003--three days before conservative columnist Bob Novak first published the leak that outed CIA officer Valerie Wilson/Plame. In that email, Cooper wrote that he had spoken to Rove on "double super secret background" and that Rove had told him that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's "wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues." "Agency" means CIA. Read the full Newsweek piece here, and read my item below on why it is so important. There now is clear-cut evidence that Rove was involved in--if not the chief architect of--the actions that led to the outing of Plame/Wilson. If he's not in severe legal trouble, he ought to be in political peril. I explain in full the ramifications of this smoking email below.

Posted by David Corn at 09:05 AM | Comments (35)

July 09, 2005

New Explosive Rove Revelation To Come? Time to Frog-March?

Time to get ready for the Karl Rove frog-march?

I don't usually log on Saturday evenings. But I've received information too good not to share immediately. It was only yesterday that I was bemoaning the probability that--after a week of apparent Rove-related revelations--it might be a while before any more news emerged about the Plame/CIA leak. Yet tonight I received this as-solid-as-it-gets tip: on Sunday Newsweek is posting a story that nails Rove. The newsmagazine has obtained documentary evidence that Rove was indeed a key source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper and that Rove--prior to the publication of the Bob Novak column that first publicly disclosed Valerie Wilson/Plame as a CIA official--told Cooper that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife apparently worked at the CIA and was involved in Joseph Wilson's now-controversial trip to Niger.

To be clear, this new evidence does not necessarily mean slammer-time for Rove. Under the relevant law, it's only a crime for a government official to identify a covert intelligence official if the government official knows the intelligence officer is under cover, and this documentary evidence, I'm told, does not address this particular point. But this new evidence does show that Rove--despite his lawyers claim that Rove "did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA"--did reveal to Cooper in a deep-background conversation that Wilson's wife was in the CIA. No wonder special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald pursued Cooper so fiercely. And Fitzgerald must have been delighted when Time magazine--over Cooper's objection--surrendered Cooper's emails and notes, which, according to a previous Newsweek posting by Michael Isikoff, named Rove as Cooper's source. In court on Wednesday, Fitzgerald said that following his receipt of Cooper's emails and notes "it is clear to us we need [Cooper's] testimony perhaps more so than in the past." This was a clue that Fitzgerald had scored big when he obtained the Cooper material.

This new evidence could place Rove in serious political, if not legal, jeopardy (or, at least it should). If what I am told is true, this is proof that the Bush White House was using any information it could gather on Joseph Wilson--even classified information related to national security--to pursue a vendetta against Wilson, a White House critic. Even if it turns out Rove did not break the law regarding the naming of intelligence officials, this new disclosure could prove Rove guilty of leaking a national security secret to a reporter for political ends. What would George W. Bush do about that?

On September 27, 2003--after the news broke that the Justice Department, responding to a request from the CIA, was investigating the Plame/CIA leak--White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of the Plame/CIA leak, "That is not the way this White House operates, and no one would be authorized to do such a thing." He also declared that the allegation that Rove was involved in this leak was "a ridiculous suggestion, and it is simply not true." Days later, Bush issued a straightforward statement about the Plame/CIA leak:

There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. If there's leaks out of my administration, I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.

Perhaps Bush won't have to "take care of" Rove if this new evidence does not lead to a prosecutable violation of the law. But Bush also called on any government official with knowledge of the leak to "come forward and speak out." Has Rove done so? No. So it seems he violated a presidential command. Would Bush be obliged to fire him for insubordination? And there's another key point to consider: whether Rove told the truth when he testified to Fitzgerald's grand jury. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, has acknowledged that Rove appeared before the grand jury, and Luskin has said that Rove did speak to Cooper prior to the publication of the Novak column. But what did Rove tell Fitzgerald and the grand jury about this conversation with Cooper? And--here's the big question--does Rove's account jibe with the new documentary evidence that Newsweek is scheduled to disclose. If it does not, Fitzgerald would have a good start on a perjury charge against Rove.

At a public meeting in the summer of 2003, Joseph Wilson, responding to a question about the leak, quipped that it would be interesting "to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." He then had to pull back from that comment and concede he had no evidence to support his hunch that Rove was one of the leakers. (By the way, Novak cited two unnamed Bush administration officials when he published the Plame/CIA leak.) With Newsweek's latest article, we may be getting closer to frog-marching time.

Posted by David Corn at 11:43 PM | Comments (11)

July 08, 2005

Rehnquist Resigning?

What a great way to start the weekend. Not too long ago, I posted the following short item on HuffingtonPost.com:

I just got a call from a TV station that produces a weekly panel show on which I am a regular. We finished taping this weeké─˘s show at 2:30 pm. The producer wanted to know if I could come pack at 8 pm. The reason: Chief Justice William Rehnquist is supposedly resigning at 4:15 pm. Thaté─˘s about fifteen minutes from now. Double trouble?

I see that I might have been given the wrong time--or perhaps I misheard. George W. Bush supposedly is set to return from Europe at 4:50 pm. So any announcement will probably come after that. But bringing bad news to the world in a hurry is hardly anything to crow about. Enjoy your weekend, if you can. The ride ahead is going to be damn bumpy.

UPDATE. 4;50 has come and gone. Apparently Bob Novak was one of the first to say that a Rehnquist resignation announcement would come after that. Did he trigger a chain of bad info?

Posted by David Corn at 04:38 PM | Comments (113)

Poodle Blair Gets No Bone; Time for Rove WIthdrawal?

I almost--almost--felt sorry for Tony Blair, as I watched him on the telly this morning trying to sell the G8 agreement that was more disappointment than achievement. He did his best not to sugarcoat the agreement, but he still couldn't stop the spin (to mix a metaphor). He said that progress on global warming was made because he was able to coax George W. Bush into a "dialogue" on the matter and because Bush signed the communique which declared that global warming is a serious issue and that "we know enough to act now." Well, Bush may know enough to act, but he still has adamantly refused to take any significant action to address global warming--even though he promised to do so after rejecting the Kyoto accord in 2001. The Bush administration--perhaps reluctantly--has already acknowledged that global warming is real and requires action. True, once in a while an energy company lobbyist working within its ranks rewrites a report to say global warming ain't much to fret about, but officially the administration accepts the premise that it is a problem requiring a remedy. Yet Bush has done nothing to develop an effective remedy. Thus, Blair achieved nothing, vis a vis his pal from Washington, at this G8 on this critical issue, no matter how nicely Blair spins the agreement. Only goes to show: you can go to war for this fellow--even though your own foreign secretary says the primary case is "thin"--and you can assume enormous political risk in order to help him, and you will get nada in return. Even a poodle receives a bone once in a while.
I posted the below dose-of-reality on HuffingtonPost.com. In case you haven't seen it:

Time for Rove WIthdrawal?

What's a I-wanna-see-Rove-go-to-jail fanatic to do now?

For the past few weeks, the Plame/CIA leak was in the news far more so than it had been ever since the CIA first asked the Justice Department in September 2003 to investigate the leak from Bush administration officials that outed an undercover CIA official working on WMD issues (Valerie Wilson, a.k.a. Valerie Plame), who was married to a critic of Bush's war in Iraq (former Ambassador Joseph Wilson). That leak first appeared in a Bob Novak column published on July 14, 2003; Novak cited two unnamed "senior administration officials" as his sources.

What drew all the recent attention to the investigation was the face-off between special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and two reporters--Time's Matt Cooper and The New York Times' Judith Miller. Fitzgerald, in pursuit of the leakers (who may have violated a federal law making it a crime for a government official to identify a clandestine CIA official), wanted Cooper, who cowrote a Time article that also reported that unnamed government officials had said Valerie Wilson was a CIA official, and Miller, who had written nothing on this subject, to testify before his grand jury and talk about what their sources had told them. Initially they both resisted. And the ensuing clash--as troubling as it was for those of us who care about protecting reporter-source confidentiality--was a goldmine for anyone trying to figure out what has been happening with Fitzgerald's investigation. His inquiry has been surprisingly low on leaks, and it had been hard to suss out what he was doing and whether he was achieving any progress. But his fight with Miller and Cooper pushed facts and hints into the public record.

As regular readers of this blog know, Fitzgerald's tussle with these reporters moved Karl Rove to the top of the suspects list. Though much remains unknown, it does seem probable--as Lawrence O'Donnell has blogged about here and as Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reported--that the source Fitzgerald has so much wanted Cooper to talk about is Rove. Why is Fitzgerald intensely interested in Rove? We can only guess at this moment. But it's not unreasonable to presume this is because Fitzgerald considers him a chief suspect--even though Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has told reporters that Rove did not name Valerie Plame as a CIA official to any reporter and that Fitzgerald has informed Rove he is not a target. (For a thorough analysis--by me--of what the recent court proceedings do and do not tell us about Fitzgerald's investigation and Rove's place in it, click here.

But now Fitzgerald's fight with Miller and Cooper is done. Miller is sitting in a jail in Virginia, dispatched there by federal District Court Judge Thomas Hogan until she cooperates with Fitzgerald or his grand jury expires in four months. Cooper is a free man. Time magazine, over his objections, surrendered his emails and notes to Fitzgerald. Still, Fitzgerald wanted Cooper to testify before the grand jury. Cooper was prepared to say no and be imprisoned. Then at the last-minute, Cooper declared that his confidential source--Rove?--had granted him a personal waiver to speak to the grand jury about his conversations with this source. But this waiver did not allow Cooper to speak in public about this source.

With the Miller and Cooper cases resolved, we will be left with no new tea leaves to read. Fitzgerald's investigation will proceed under the cloak of secrecy that covers (or is supposed to cover) all federal criminal probes. Some, of course, leak. (Remember Ken Starr?) But Fitzgerald's inquiry has been rather tight. I've had Justice Department officials tell me that they tend to hear nothing about Fitzgerald's actions. Cooper's upcoming testimony to Fitzgerald's grand jury will be confidential. So what he says--or does not say--about Rove will only become public if it leaks or if Fitzgerald ends up issuing indictments and he uses Cooper's testimony to support the indictments.

So while it's been an exciting time for anyone yearning for details about Fitzgerald's work or for anyone wishing ill for Rove, those days may be over, as the investigation, like a submarine that occasionally has to surface, dives back into the deep, dark water. Let's hope this vessel does spring a leak or two--though none that harm the career of an honest public servant or that undermine national security.

Posted by David Corn at 11:42 AM | Comments (47)

July 07, 2005

More Trouble for Rove in Plame/CIA Leak Case?

I just posted a piece at www.TheNation.com analyzing what happened at yesterday's dramatic courthouse hearing on the Plame/CIA leak case, paying particular attention to what it might mean for Karl Rove. To see the article, click here. If you've already read it, please check out the piece I also published today on Bob Novak's role in this affair and other postings below. The leak case keeps getting more and more intriguing, even as Fitzgerald, who seems to be truly interested in finding out what happened, undermines reporter-source confidentiality by chasing Judith Miller (of whom I am no fan) into the jailhouse.

P.S. There have been troubles this week with Movable Type, and these problems seem to affect the comments section. If you have not been able to post comments, please keep trying and please be patient. My wizard masters tell me that this is beyond our control (can you believe that?) and that somewhere there are some people doing some things--that I certainly do not understand--to remedy the situation. Though I have done absolutely nothing wrong, I apologize for the inconvenience and for any disappointment that may have been caused.

Posted by David Corn at 06:12 PM | Comments (73)

Novak Squealed

As Judy Miller ofThe New York Times takes up residence in a prison because she refuses to disclose a source to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who's investigating the Plame/CIA leak, I thought it was a good time to ponder Bob Novak's apparent cooperation with Fitzgerald. Consequently, I wrote the below piece that was posted today at TomPaine.com, which I encourage you to visit regularly.

Novak Squealed
By David Corn
July 07, 2005

As Judith Miller of The New York Times sits in jail for refusing to reveal a source to Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating the Bush administration leak that identified CIA officer Valerie Wilson (nee Plame), the question remains, why is Robert Novak, the conservative columnist who published the original leak, enjoying his freedom?

Not that Novak should be a target for prosecution. Under U.S. law--particularly the Intelligence Identities Protection Act--only U.S. government officials who intentionally disclose the identity of an American intelligence official are fair game for a prosecutor. The journalist to whom they leak cannot be prosecuted. This is a good thing. We do not want reporters being tossed into the hoosegow for publishing secrets obtained from the government. England has an official secrets act; we former colonists do not. (I wish more people understood the legal distinction between Novak's leakers and Novak. I receive loads of e-mails from people who indignantly ask why Fitzgerald hasn't charged Novak with a crime.) But the issue is this: While other reporters have resolved to be imprisoned to protect their sources (whether these sources deserve protection or not), what has Novak done? The obvious answer: He has squealed.

To be fair, we don't know for sure. Novak has declined to answer any questions about the investigation and his interactions with Fitzgerald. But here are two pretty solid assumptions.

1. Fitzgerald wants to know the name of the two unidentified Bush 'senior administration officials" Novak cited in his July 14, 2003, column that outed Valerie Wilson, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a White House critic. That's the whole point of his investigation.

2. Fitzgerald at some point must have asked Novak to name names. After all, he requested that Matt Cooper of Time and Miller reveal their sources. (Cooper narrowly avoided going to prison on Wednesday when his source--Karl Rove?--gave him permission to testify before Fitzgerald's grand jury. Previously, Time magazine turned over his notes and e-mails to Fitzgerald.)

Fitzgerald has not slapped Novak with a subpoena. Thus, Novak in some manner, shape or form cooperated with Fitzgerald. Otherwise, he would be in the same--or similar--legal quicksand as Miller.

Novak owes it to his fellow journalists--and to his readers--to explain how he has escaped the powerful claws of prosecutor Fitzgerald. In fact, had Novak offered such an explanation prior to the final actions in the Cooper and Miller cases, it might have strengthened their legal position. But Novak elected to remain silent and adopt a protect-my-backside crouch. He has said he will "reveal all" only when the leak case is completed.

With that stance, he leaves the door wide open for speculation. So let's accept the invitation.

We've established it's likely that Novak somehow cooperated with Fitzgerald. That would mean that he disclosed to Fitzgerald the identity of these two senior Bush administration officials. Would Fitzgerald accept anything less? And that would present two possibilities: Novak either burned his sources, or he named them with their permission. (White House aides, such as Karl Rove and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have signed waivers allowing reporters to testify about their conversations with them.) My guess is that it was more of the latter. I've known Novak for years; I co-hosted Crossfire with him several times. He does fancy himself a newsman, and I don't think he would be a complete rat (or risk becoming known as a complete rat) regarding the protection of sources.

So the odds are that Novak talked with the approval of his sources. Which leads us to the next question: What did he say? Fitzgerald obviously would not be satisfied with merely the names of the sources. He would want to know what these people told Novak. It's theoretically possible that Novak hung them out to dry and said something like, They told me quite clearly that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA official, and they knew they were blowing her cover. Such a statement would place Novak's sources in legal jeopardy. But would Novak, a conservative ideologue, cooperate with Fitzgerald--with the permission of his sources--knowing that he could be sending senior Bush officials to the slammer? His standing as a hero in the conservative world would certainly be diminished if that occurred. Consequently, I find such a scenario hard to believe.

That brings me to my best guess of what did happen: Novak told Fitzgerald a story that helps his sources. It went something like this:

Yes, Mr. Fitzgerald, Bush Aide X and Bush Aide Y both told me that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA and that they suspected she had sent Joseph Wilson on his now-infamous trip to Niger where he determined it was highly unlikely that Iraq had been shopping there for uranium to be used in a nuclear weapons program. But neither one of these two fine Americans told me that she was an undercover operative at the CIA. If you will again look at what I wrote, I referred to her as an "Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." I never reported she was in a secret position. In fact, the use of the word "operative"--which I suppose could connote a clandestine position but does not necessarily do so--was mine alone. These sources merely said to me she was employed at the CIA. As a newspaper columnist, I used the most evocative term I could think of at the time. I take full responsibility for that.

And to make everything neat and tidy, Bush Aide X and Bush Aide Y each essentially said the same thing to Fitzgerald:

I heard hallway chatter that Valerie Plame was at the CIA and that she had something to do with Wilson's trip to Niger. I passed this on to Novak and Time magazine. I was never aware that she was working undercover or that by sharing this gossip I would be disclosing confidential information that identified a covert official. After all, as you know, Mr. Fitzgerald, not every CIA employee is a clandestine official.

Voila. No crime. A thuggish act of political retribution that destroyed a CIA officer's career and undermined national security, yes. But no crime. The relevant law--the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982--says that an offender has to "intentionally" disclose information "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies [a] covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States."

Ignorance can be a defense under this act. A person indicted by Fitzgerald could argue that he (or she) didn't know that Valerie Wilson was working undercover. Case in point: After Rove was recently named in media reports as one of Cooper's source, his lawyer said Rove, who has appeared before Fitzgerald's grand jury, "never knowingly disclosed classified information" (my emphasis) and that "he did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA."

If the above scenario is how things played out (or close enough), Novak could indeed defend himself by saying he was protecting his sources--protecting them from prosecution. But in such a situation, Fitzgerald would have to ask himself, are Novak and his sources telling me the truth? And how could he answer that question? Novak's notes--if there are any--might confirm or undermine their joint account. But imagine if phone logs show there were calls between Novak and these sources after the investigation had begun. There well could be innocent explanations for these contacts. But Fitzgerald might be suspicious.

In this (imaginary though possible) scenario, if Fitzgerald doubted what Novak and these officials had told him, discovering what Novak's sources told other reporters, such as Cooper and Miller, would be essential for him. It wouldn't matter that Miller had not written a story on the Wilson business. If Fitzgerald had phone logs indicating one of Novak's sources had also spoken to Miller in the relevant timeframe, he'd be damn curious to know what had been said. Regarding Cooper's case, Fitzgerald does know that Time reported three days after Novak's column appeared that "government officials" had told the newsmagazine that "Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." (Again, there is no clear indication that these "officials" had explicitly informed Time that Plame was an undercover CIA employee.) Squeezing information out of Cooper and Time could help Fitzgerald determine if Novak and his sources were being honest with him. And if he uncovered information contradicting their accounts he might even be in a position to contemplate perjury or obstruction of justice charges. (I'm not defending Fitzgerald's pursuit of Cooper and Miller and his destruction of reporter-source confidentiality. I'm merely exploring why he has chased after them in Javert-like fashion.)

Of course, I'm just supposin' here. Perhaps what occurred was completely different than the above-detailed scenario, maybe even unimaginable. But Novak gives us no other choice than to guess. And he cannot blame anyone for wondering how he has avoided the dilemma confronted by Cooper and Miller. He could come clean and share what he told Fitzgerald. He could at least describe in general terms his apparent cooperation. But as another reporter faces jail time for defying a prosecutor investigating a leak that Novak made public, Novak sticks to his mum's-the-word position. Miller is in prison to protect a right that Novak appears to have finagled.

Posted by David Corn at 10:52 AM | Comments (28)

July 06, 2005

Blaming HIllary; Pessimism on the Supreme Court Fight; and Safire Needs a Factchecker

Did you see the following news dispatch?

Associated Press - New York. Following the announcement of the International Olympic Committee's decision to hold the 2012 summer games in London, not New York City, a coalition of conservative political organizations known as 527s announced a campaign to air $13 million worth of television ads blaming Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) for failing to persuade the IOC to bring the games to New York. "Maybe if she had spent more time on this instead of hanging out with her lesbian-friendly pals, New Yorkers would have something to look forward to seven years from now," said Morris Harlinsen, deputy executive of Blame Hillary, one of the 527s. "If she cannot deliver for her own state, how can she deliver for the entire nation?"

Just kidding.

What to do? What to do? With a pivotal vacancy on the Supreme Court, interest groups--a term I don't like since many are citizens groups--on both sides are mobilizing, raising money, cutting TV ads, concocting battle plans. But will any of this matter? I think not. The White House knows what social conservatives want. The religious right doesn't have to spend money to deliver that message. Still, religious right groups will mount a make-us-happy campaign, at least to show off for their members and funders. And I see little possibility for outfits on the left to affect the debate. Bush and Republican Senators will not be swayed by an "stop-the-extremists" campaign waged by progressives. Will such an effort buck up Senate Democrats? Perhaps. But it's clear that already several Dems will not go along with a filibuster (unless Bush nominates someone who shows up for his or her confirmation hearing in a hooded robe and carrying a burning cross). And it is equally clear that several of the seven Republicans who were part of the so-called Gang of 14 that cut the deal on the judicial filibuster will vote with their fellow Republicans to eliminate the filibuster should the Democrats use it against a nominee who merely is too far right. As I noted at the time of the deal, it was a better in the long-run for Republicans than Democrats and all but eliminated the use of the judicial filibuster. That seems to becoming truer by the day.

So what are the opportunities for the citizens groups? I hate to say it, but there ain't many. Look at this story from The Hill: GOP senators are readily blowing off the concerns of the rightwing lobby groups that are trying to prevent Bush from nominating Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The leaders of these outfits seem to view him as a closet communist, though his favorability rating among average Republicans is quite high. I'm hoping Bush does choose Gonzales. Not because I think he'll be a moderate and reasonable justice, but because I'd be delighted to spend the summer watching a nasty cat fight on the right. But I doubt Bush will give liberals such a gift.

Unfortunately, the Democrats don't possess the ability to thwart any Bush pick that is not absolutely ridiculous. (If he nominates Sean Hannity, they might be able to do something about that.) Still, citizens groups of the left and right will mount their attack-ad campaigns, explaining they're attempting to win over the public and influence the atmosphere in which the nomination fight will occur. But if this plays out over the summer, much of the public won't be paying attention. That's what happens in summers: Americans tune out. And on cable news channels these days, the missing teen in Aruba warrants more airtime than the Supreme Court vacancy. Yesterday, Gallup released a poll noting that only 50 percent of the public cares "a great deal" about who will be the next Supreme Court nominee. And that number is obviously inflated. That is, a significant. portion of this 50 percent probably doesn't care "a great deal" but they believe they should.--or they believe they should say that they do. Thus, trying to nudge popular sentiment one way or the other in order to affect the outcome of a vote in the Senate (where the Republicans have a strong majority) is akin to a double bank shot--in which one tries to sink a soft ball into the pocket.

At the Fourth of July parade in my town of Takoma Park, a progressive woman I know came running up to me and plaintively asked, "What can I do?" "About what?" I asked, as I tried to get out of the way of the County Executive's car. "About the Supreme Court. I hear there's some conservative judge who we're all supposed to support." I apparently had missed that meeting of the not-so-vast leftwing conspiracy. Relax, I said. There's nothing much to do--especially before Bush makes a selection. And you may want to wait on sending any donation to a save-the-court organization until after Bush makes his pick; money spent before that is probably being wasted. "I don't have any money to give now," she said. "I tapped out during the election." Then enjoy the parade, I said.
I'm still surprised by all the misinformation peddled about the Plame/CIA leak case. Last week, writing in The New York Times, William Safire
blasted special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for conducting a runaway and pointless investigation that has sideswiped Times reporter Judith Miller, whom he calls "a superb and intrepid reporter." I share his concern for the awful impact the Fitzgerald inquiry is having on reporter-source confidentiality, though I take issue with his description of Miller, who, like Safire, misled Times readers about the case for war in Iraq. But I also would like to suggest that Safire hire a factchecker, for he is dead wrong in saying that Fitzgerald can have no case against the leakers under the relevant law. He writes:

The case was about the "outing" of an agent--supposedly covert, but working openly at C.I.A. headquarters--in Robert Novak's column two years ago by unnamed administration officials angry at her husband's prewar Iraq criticism.

To show its purity, the Bush Justice Department appointed a special counsel to find any violation of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. That law prohibits anyone from knowingly revealing the name of a covert agent that the C.I.A. is taking "affirmative measures" to conceal. The revelation must be, like that of the 70's turncoat Philip Agee [a former CIA officer] -- "in the course of a pattern" intending to harm United States intelligence.

Evidently no such serious crime took place.

Now let's see what the law really says:

Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined not more than $50,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

That's the portion of the law that applies to government officials--and that might apply to the Bush officials who leaked Valerie Plame's identity to Novak. There need not be any "pattern" or intent to harm the United States. There is another section of the law that does cover anyone who engages in "a patter of activities" to identify US intelligence officials in order to "impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States." As Safire should know, this part of the law was enacted to thwart people like Agee, who in the 1970s mounted a campaign to identify CIA officers around the world to hinder CIA operations. The point of this section of the law is to target anti-CIA activists like Agee without drawing journalists into the net. Under this law, it is not a crime for a journalist--such as Novak--to publish a leak identifying a CIA officer, unless that journalist engages in a "pattern of activities."

Safire applied the wrong part of the law to Novak's leakers and once more gave his readers bum information. Why can't this fastidious wordsmith get his facts straight?

Source: http://www.davidcorn.com/