Thursday, July 14, 2005

Attorney X with more on the Plame outing

The latest from Attorney X on the law and the Plame outing. While the press takes a pass, Attorney X is attempting to walk us through what the law says. Warning, there's a link to The National Review. Our policy is not to give any traffic to the right wing. It's included because Attorney X isn't aware of that policy and I wanted Attorney X's statements noted in full:

This morning, I notice the publication of the Republican Party talking points on this issue. Aside from the issue of whether Ambassador Wilson went to Niger because the Vice President sent him or because the Vice President's office told the CIA that he wanted more information about Niger and the CIA sent the former ambassador to the country to go get the information (which, having nothing to do with the exposure of a covert agent's identity, is a patent political smokescreen designed to keep talking heads from having absolutely nothing at all to say in response to the charges), the points seem to boil down to : Karl Rove betrayed Valerie Plame's identity to prevent reporters from writing a false story.

Still floating about in the ether is the assertion that Mr. Rove did not know that Ms. Plame was a covert agent when he betrayed her to reporters.Of course, warning reporters off of a false story is no excuse for committing a crime. If I learn you are about to print a false story, I am not privileged to murder you, or burn down your printing press, I have to obey the law, and let you print the story, wrong though it may be.And the "false" aspect of the story that Mr. Cooper and Mr. Novak and perhaps others were about to write is not clear, at least to me. Was it the false claim that Ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger by the Vice President? Even a cursory reading of Ambassador Wilson's piece in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, reveals that "agency officials," CIA officials, asked him to go to Niger, not the Vice President.

As for the claim of ignorance that Ms. Plame was a covert agent, that is not an element of the crime. For instance, one of the elements of covert agent status, at least under one of its definitions, is service abroad during the previous five years. So is the argument that, before conviction under the statute can be obtained, a prosecutor must prove that the discloser knew what the victim had been doing for the previous five years and where she had been doing it?

That would render the law useless, which is why it is not an included element of the offense.

It is interesting that this argument seems to be receding. And the claim that Mr. Rove did not identify Ms. Plame because he did not call her by name seems to have disappeared completely.

As you place side-by-side the law forbidding disclosure of the identity of a covert agent and publicly available information (together with logical deductions that must be drawn from that information), only one element of the offense seems to remain in question - whether Mr. Rove knew Ms. Plame's identity was a secret the government wanted to keep.

It is entirely possible that grand jury testimony has already resolved this issue. Those of us not privy to that information can only deduce from publicly available information.

For instance, Mr. Rove did not pass on to Mr. Cooper Ms. Plame's identity with permission to attribute that disclosure to Mr. Rove. Perhaps Mr. Rove didn't want to step on the toes of official White House spokespersons on the issue, or had some similar motive. But all he had to do, if such were the case, was to say, "Matt, keep my name off of this." But that isn't what he did. Instead, he demanded "double super secret background." Is "double super secret background," as opposed to a simple request for anonymity, more merely standing on ceremony, or more designed to keep a leaker out of jail? And what, of the information set out in the Cooper e-mail, anyway, so "double super secret background?" That the U. S. government was trying to tie Iraq to nuclear weaponry in advance of attacking it? That the CIA sent someone to Niger to try to find evidence of such a tie? That the person sent was a former ambassador to countries in Africa? That the former ambassador was Joe Wilson? That he found no credible evidence of the tie? All of this was publicly known at the time of the disclosure, most of it having been written by Ambassador Wilson the week before in the New York Times. The only information described in Mr. Cooper's e-mail that would seem to begin to pass for information requiring "double super secret background" protection was the secret identity of a CIA agent who "works at the agency on wmd issues."

Now, Mr. Rove's lawyer claims, "Karl speaks to him on double super secret background . . . I don't think that you can read that e-mail and conclude that what Karl was trying to do was to get Cooper to publish the name of Wilson's wife."

But the request for "double super secret background" protection doesn't indicate that Mr. Rove was trying to keep Mr. Cooper from publishing Ambassador Wilson's wife's identity so much as it indicates that Mr. Rove wanted to escape any responsibility for that publication. If you don't want it published, you don't tell it to a reporter. If you want it published, but you don't want to be responsible for its publication, you tell it to a reporter and tell him not to use your name.

Simple as that.

Finally, Mr. Rove's lawyer asserts that Mr. Rove did not call Mr. Cooper, but that Mr. Cooper called Mr. Rove, and that the identity of Ms. Plame was not the initial point of conversation, but raised by Mr. Cooper in the midst of the conversation. This, Mr. Rove's lawyer argues, proves "that this was not a calculated effort by the White House to get this story out." In fact, it could, and might well, indicate no more than that Mr. Rove had some goals at the time, that the foremost of those goals was the promotion of an attack on Iraq, and that Mr. Rove is simply the sort of man who takes his opportunities where he finds them. And sometimes lives to regret doing so.

A number of e-mails are coming in expressing gratitude to Attorney X for attempts to walk us through. I'll say thank you as well. It is strongly appreciated. And something the press isn't attempting to do.

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