Wednesday, September 1, 2004

What About Valerie?

Robert Steinback in the Miami Herald:

It has been 13 months since someone in the White House burned Valerie Plame, the CIA-operative wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV — and no one yet has been called to account.

Leaking the identity of a clandestine agent is a serious crime, one that could land an offender in prison for 10 years. It jeopardizes the agent and anyone who may have come in contact with her.

President Bush can’t make a staff member implicate himself, of course; that would violate the Fifth Amendment. But he could direct every White House official to cooperate fully with the federal investigation — and fire anyone who doesn’t. After all, no one — certainly not a war president who has staked his reputation on national security — wants nation-betraying criminals traipsing about the White House with top-secret security clearances.

Bush, in fact, did issue such a directive on Sept. 30, 2003. But when Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is leading the investigation, requested that top White House officials sign waivers releasing reporters covering the story from their journalistic promises of confidentiality, not all did.

Yet no one has been fired. “Cooperate,” in Bushspeak, evidently carries a built-in wink: “…if you feel like it.”

[…]

Reasonable people can debate whether Hussein’s mere desire to purchase ore justified invasion. But what about those two ”senior administration officials” who disclosed Plame’s name to syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who printed it just eight days after Wilson published his essay?

Maybe no one will ever be prosecuted for the leak. Still, it would be comforting to know that Bush won’t tolerate the presence of national-security risks within his administration. That is, unless his directive that staff cooperate with investigators wasn’t really a directive — which would make it, then, a cover-up.