Monday, July 11, 2005

The Leak That Dare Not Speak Her Name

Karl Rove’s lawyer is saying that his client never told any reporter that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. He just told them that Joe Wilson’s wife was.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with at least one reporter about Valerie Plame’s role at the CIA before she was identified as a covert agent in a newspaper column two years ago, but Rove’s lawyer said yesterday that his client did not identify her by name.

Rove had a short conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper on July 11, 2003, three days before Robert D. Novak publicly exposed Plame in a column about her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson had come under attack from the White House for his assertions that he found no evidence Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger and that he reported those findings to top administration officials. Wilson publicly accused the administration of leaking his wife’s identity as a means of retaliation.

[…]

To be considered a violation of the law, a disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent’s identity.

Cooper, according to an internal Time e-mail obtained by Newsweek magazine, spoke with Rove before Novak’s column was published. In the conversation, Rove gave Cooper a “big warning” that Wilson’s assertions might not be entirely accurate and that it was not the director of the CIA or the vice president who sent Wilson on his trip. Rove apparently told Cooper that it was “Wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip,” according to a story in Newsweek’s July 18 issue.

So he never said her name. Oh, okay, that makes it all perfectly legal. Can you imagine the storm of outrage it would bring from the Republicans and right-wing punditocracy if a Democrat tried that? Oh, wait. Late-night shows and conservative pundits had a field day — and rightly so — when Bill Clinton went through legal hair-splitting to define whether or not he had committed perjury, had sexual relations with “that woman,” or went into a long discussion over the meaning of the transitive verb “is.” So I’m sure we’re going to hear the same hue and cry, right? Right? Yeah, I’m not holding my breath, either.

What we will hear is that Joe Wilson had an axe to grind and that he and his wife were out to “get” the Bush administration (wait — Oliver Stone is on line 1.) Then we’ll hear that Ms. Plame wasn’t really a covert agent…she just knew covert stuff. That’s right along the lines of a blowjob isn’t really sex, which works only if you’re a teenaged boy wearing a virginity ring. Then we’ll hear that Wilson and Plame were just working out a movie deal (there’s Oliver again — have him call my people). That’s all very amusing and diverting and completely irrelevant to the facts at hand: someone very high up in the White House with enough of a security clearance to know who Joe Wilson’s wife was and what she did for a living and who had both the political savvy and the legal knowledge to know exactly how to skirt the law told Robert Novak and other reporters who she was, who she was married to, and why Joe Wilson might be writing op-eds that would embarrass the White House. It also demonstrates that this person very high up in the White House will stop at nothing to exact political revenge, even if it breaches security. Now who in the White House has that kind of reputation? Oh, I won’t say his name, but he’s Andrew Rove’s father.