Why was Novak able to learn this highly secret information? It turns out that he didn't have to dig for it. Rather, he has said, the "two senior Administration officials" he had cited as sources sought him out, eager to let him know. And in journalism, that phrase is a term of art reserved for a vice president, cabinet officers, and top White House officials.
On July 17, Time magazine published the same story, attributing it to "government officials." And on July 22, Newsday's Washington Bureau confirmed "that Valerie Plame ... works at the agency [CIA] on weapons of mass destruction issues in an undercover capacity." More specifically, according to a "senior intelligence official," Newsday reported, she worked in the "Directorate of Operations [as an] undercover officer."
In other words, Wilson is/was a spy involved in the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence, covert operations and espionage. She is/was part of a elite corps, the best and brightest, and among those willing to take great risk for their country. Now she has herself been placed at great - and needless - risk.
The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act of 1982 may both apply. Given the scant facts, it is difficult to know which might be more applicable. But as Senator Schumer (D.NY) said, in calling for an FBI investigation, if the reported facts are true, there has been a crime. The only question is: Whodunit?
The Reagan Administration effectively used the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute a leak - to the horror of the news media. It was a case that was instituted to make a point, and establish the law, and it did just that in spades.
In July 1984, Samuel Morrison - the grandson of the eminent naval historian with the same name - leaked three classified photos to Jane's Defense Weekly. The photos were of the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, which had been taken by a U.S. spy satellite.
Although the photos compromised no national security secrets, and were not given to enemy agents, the Reagan Administration prosecuted the leak. That raised the question: Must the leaker have an evil purpose to be prosecuted?
The Administration argued that the answer was no. As with Britain's Official Secrets Acts, the leak of classified material alone was enough to trigger imprisonment for up to ten years and fines. And the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed. It held that the such a leak might be prompted by "the most laudable motives, or any motive at all," and it would still be a crime. As a result, Morrison went to jail.
The Espionage Act, though thrice amended since then, continues to criminalize leaks of classified information, regardless of the reason for the leak. Accordingly, the "two senior administration officials" who leaked the classified information of Mrs. Wilson's work at the CIA to Robert Novak (and, it seems, others) have committed a federal crime.
Another applicable criminal statute is the Intelligence Identities Act, enacted in 1982. The law has been employed in the past. For instance, a low-level CIA clerk was convicted for sharing the identify of CIA employees with her boyfriend, when she was stationed in Ghana. She pled guilty and received a two-year jail sentence. (Other have also been charged with violations, but have pleaded to unrelated counts of the indictment.)
The Act primarily reaches insiders with classified intelligence, those privy to the identity of covert agents. It addresses two kinds of insiders.
First, there are those with direct access to the classified information about the "covert agents." who leak it. These insiders - including persons in the CIA - may serve up to ten years in jail for leaking this information.
Second, there are those who are authorized to have classified information and learn it, and then leak it. These insiders - including persons in, say, the White House or Defense Department - can be sentenced to up to five years in jail for such leaks.
The statute also has additional requirements before the leak of the identity of a "covert agent" is deemed criminal. But it appears they are all satisfied here.
First, the leak must be to a person "not authorized to receive classified information." Any journalist - including Novak and Time - plainly fits.
Second, the insider must know that the information being disclosed identifies a "covert agent." In this case, that's obvious, since Novak was told this fact.
Third, the insider must know that the U.S. government is "taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States." For persons with Top Secret security clearances, that's a no-brainer: They have been briefed, and have signed pledges of secrecy, and it is widely known by senior officials that the CIA goes to great effort to keep the names of its agents secret.
A final requirement relates to the "covert agent" herself. She must either be serving outside the United States, or have served outside the United States in the last five years. It seems very likely that Mrs. Wilson fulfills the latter condition - but the specific facts on this point have not yet been reported.
What is not in doubt, is that Mrs. Wilson's identity was classified, and no one in the government had the right to reveal it.
Virtually all the names of covert agents in the CIA are classified, and the CIA goes to some effort to keep them classified. They refuse all Freedom of Information Act requests, they refuse (and courts uphold) to provide such information in discovery connected to lawsuits.
Broadly speaking, covert agents (and their informants) fall under the State Secrets privilege. A federal statute requires that "the Director of Central Intelligence shall be responsible for protecting intelligence sources and methods from unauthorized disclosure." It is not, in other words, an option for the CIA to decide to reveal an agent's activities.
In the October 13 Newsweek, Andrea Mitchell is quoted as saying, "I heard in the White House that people were touting the Novak column and that was the real story." Newsweek also reported that Wilson had received a call from Chris Matthews, of MSNBC's "Hardball," who told him, "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game."
In short, after the leak it certainly appears that the White House spread the word, further exploiting the leak.
But even if the White House was not initially involved with the leak, it has exploited it. As a result, it may have opened itself to additional criminal charges under the federal conspiracy statute.
This elegantly simple law has snared countless people working for, or with, the federal government. Suppose a conspiracy is in progress. Even those who come in later, and who share in the purpose of the conspiracy, can become responsible for all that has gone on before they joined. They need not realize they are breaking the law; they need only have joined the conspiracy.
Most likely, in this instance the conspiracy would be a conspiracy to defraud - for the broad federal fraud statute, too, may apply here. If two federal government employees agree to undertake actions that are not within the scope of their employment, they can be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. by depriving it of the "faithful and honest services of its employee." It is difficult to imagine that President Bush is going to say he hired anyone to call reporters to wreak more havoc on Valerie Plame. Thus, anyone who did so - or helped another to do so - was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, and may be open to a fraud prosecution.
What counts as "fraud" under the statute? Simply put, "any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government." (Emphasis added.) If telephoning reporters to further destroy a CIA asset whose identity has been revealed, and whose safety is now in jeopardy, does not fit this description, I would be quite surprised.
If Newsweek is correct that Karl Rove declared Valerie Plame Wilson "fair game," then he should make sure he's got a good criminal lawyer, for he made need one. I've only suggested the most obvious criminal statute that might come into play for those who exploit the leak of a CIA asset's identity. There are others.
Consider how the balancing test might play out:
First, let's look at the government's interest in getting the reporters' testimony. There's a real law enforcement need to find out who committed this crime. And it doesn't seem that the perpetrators' identities have been revealed in the discovery the Special Counsel has already received from the White House. So it is likely that only the subpoenaed (or soon-to-be-subpoenaed) reporters know who exposed Plame as a CIA agent.
Second, let's look at the First Amendment interest here. The confidential sources were likely willful perpetrators committing a federal felony - not morally-compelled whistleblowers who violated government secrecy rules along the way. And that's a very important distinction.
We need whistleblowers for the press to function. Deep Throat, depending on who he or she was, might have broken some laws, or violated attorney-client privilege, to talk to Woodward and Bernstein. But if so, it was to serve the greater social good - revealing corruption at the highest levels.
What we don't need is willful perpetrators like those who seem to have been behind the Plame leak. What social purpose was served by outing a CIA agent? Here, the sources seem to have served not the social good or the functioning of democracy, but a personal vendetta - punishing former Ambassador Wilson by putting his wife in danger. And it's not just Valerie Plame who was placed in jeopardy: It's all those whom she protected in her service as a CIA agent.
The sources' disclosure was the crime here, and that is exactly what is being investigated. The sources didn't report a crime by speaking out - they committed one by talking to reporters. So protecting the disclosure, protects the crime.
In the Plame scandal, those who intentionally leaked her identity are by definition criminals - as long as they knew she was not only a CIA agent, but a covert agent, which should have been obvious.
Moreover, when a source is contacting numerous reporters to try to get the word out, in order to serve his own political objectives, one could reasonably question if the source's communications truly deserve the term "confidential." This seems to have plainly been the case with the Plame leakers. It might also have been the case with the National Guard documents.
Rove told the grand jury that by the time Novak had called him, he believes he had similar information about Wilson's wife from another reporter but had no recollection of which reporter had told him about it first, the source said.
Rove told the grand jury that four days later, he had a phone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and - in an effort to discredit some of Wilson's allegations - told Cooper that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, though he never used her name.
Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper yesterday named a second Bush administration official as a source for stories that identified Valerie Plame as an agent of the CIA, although he conceded that neither source mentioned her by name or said she had been a "cover agent."
In a first-person article in this week's editions of the magazine, Mr. Cooper writes that he told a federal grand jury investigating the leak that he asked Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, whether the vice president played any role in arranging Joseph C. Wilson IV's trip to Niger, as Mr. Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon and then to Sao Tome and Principe, had suggested in an op-ed essay in the New York Times.
"On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, 'Yeah, I've heard that too,' or words to that effect," Mr. Cooper writes. The magazine is available on newsstands today.
Mr. Cooper confirmed that neither Mr. Libby nor senior Bush adviser Karl Rove identified Mrs. Plame or disclosed her work status at the CIA. ("Background" describes an interview in which the subject cannot be quoted, by name, position, or even indirectly; any information must be used only as "background information.")
"Like Rove, Libby never used Valerie Plame's name or indicated that her status was covert, and he never told me that he had heard about Plame from other reporters, as some press accounts have indicated," Mr. Cooper writes.
In an appearance yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Cooper was asked by host Tim Russert whether he interpreted Mr. Libby's response "as a confirmation."
"I did, yes," the Time reporter said.
Mr. Cooper said Mr. Rove was warning him that Mr. Wilson's accusations against the Bush administration were entitled to little credibility. Such cautions, or "wave-offs," are common.
Originally posted by deltaboy
still shows that Rove did not leak the identity of the CIA operative. even Mr. Cooper says it. unless u are accusing Cooper of lying.
Originally posted by Jehosephat
THe law does not say you need to name a person, instead it says "reveal thier identiity."
Originally posted by djohnsto77
The law also says that the agent had to be stationed overseas within the last 5 years, Valarie Plame was not!
In an interview on CNN Thursday before the latest revelation, Wilson kept up his criticism of the White House, saying [White House senior adviser Karl] Rove's conduct was an "outrageous abuse of power ... certainly worthy of frog-marching out of the White House."
But at the same time, Wilson acknowledged his wife was no longer in an undercover job at the time Novak's column first identified her. "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity," he said.
Federal law prohobits goverment [sic] officials from divulging the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. But in order to bring charges, prosecutors must prove the official knew the officer was covert and nonetheless outed his or her identity.
BLITZER: But the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife [in the January 2004 Vanity Fair magazine], who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.
What do you make of those accusations, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you?
WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.
BLITZER: But she hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before that?
WILSON: That's not anything that I can talk about. And, indeed, I'll go back to what I said earlier, the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed, and that's why they referred it to the Justice Department.
She was not a clandestine officer at the time that that article in Vanity Fair appeared.
In an interview on CNN earlier Thursday before the latest revelation, Wilson kept up his criticism of the White House, saying Rove's conduct was an "outrageous abuse of power ... certainly worthy of frog-marching out of the White House."
Wilson also said "my wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity."
In an interview Friday, Wilson said his comment was meant to reflect that his wife lost her ability to be a covert agent because of the leak, not that she had stopped working for the CIA beforehand.
Steven G. Brant: The Gonzales-Card Leak (was: Rove-Plame Leak)
"What did White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card learn
from Alberto Gonzales and when did he learn it...and what
did he do with that knowledge? This "whole new can of
worms" (to quote CBS News' Bob Schieffer, on this
morning's Face The Nation) is to me the breaking news
question of the day. Why? Because on today's Face The
Nation, Alberto Gonzales admitted that he called Andrew
Card right after he was notified that the Justice
Department had opened its investigation of the Plame
leak...even though he formally notified The White House
staff 12 hours later.
On Face The Nation, Gonzales said the Justice Department
contacted him at 8pm and, after responding by saying
something to the effect that everyone had gone home for
the night, Gonzales asked if it would be okay if he
waited until 8am the next day to notify The White House
Staff to "preserve all records" etc. Gonzales got
permission to do so, but then - again this is Gonzales
speaking on Face The Nation - he said he contacted Andrew
Card to informally tell him what had happened.
That was a mistake on McClellan's part. He should have reiterated that the White House position was always against illegal leaks of classified information, not discussing the case with reporters. And that's what has been revealed in this case. Bush official Karl Rove's big "crime" so far has been exposed as discussing the matter with reporters. It's clear, based on the notes of his discussion with Matt Cooper of Time, that Rove wasn't aware of the facts and didn't have access to classified information about Valerie Plame's service or status in the CIA. He said she "apparently" worked at the agency. In any case, it turns out she isn't covered under a law designed to protect the identities of secret CIA agents.
At this point, there's no evidence that it was a leak in the sense that someone identified her for the purpose of leaking classified information and destroying her career as a CIA employee. What we have is evidence of officials providing information to the press that they obtained from the press.
The media, however, don't want to make that point clear. Instead, they want to confuse the situation.
This was another public relations mistake by the White House. They chose to remain silent. But that mistake should not detract from the basic point, which is that, in their grilling of McClellan, the media are making a mountain out of a molehill. There is no contradiction in the White House position. If somebody in the White House broke the law and leaked classified information, there's no evidence of that so far. All of the evidence is not in, however, and the special prosecutor may be able to make a case against some official based on perjury or obstruction of justice charges.
The tragedy is that the special counsel was not charged with investigating whether Wilson and his wife violated federal nepotism laws.