Plame On

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The investigation of the leaks about Valerie Plame may be getting bigger, wider, more revelatory. The NY Times reports:

In looking at violations beyond the original focus of the inquiry, which centered on a rarely used statute that makes it a felony to disclose the identity of an undercover intelligence officer intentionally, prosecutors have widened the range of conduct under scrutiny and for the first time raised the possibility of bringing charges peripheral to the leak itself.

The expansion of the inquiry's scope comes at a time when prosecutors, after a hiatus of about a month, appear to be preparing to seek additional testimony before a federal grand jury, lawyers with clients in the case said. It is not clear whether the renewed grand jury activity represents a concluding session or a prelude to an indictment.

The broadened scope is a potentially significant development that represents exactly what allies of the Bush White House feared when Attorney General John Ashcroft removed himself from the case last December and turned it over to Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States attorney in Chicago.

"Charges peripheral to the leak itself?" Translation from the original Nixon: It's not the crime, it's the cover up that gets people in trouble. It's a phrase that's gotta make the Bush folks get a little weak in the knees. In nothing else, it allows this thing to drag on longer. Whole story here.

The White House should have just listened to Reason way back when.

NEXT: The Metayer Brothers

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  1. How could this be an issue? The CIA is in the business of misappropriating funds and resources to secure informants and field spooks the world over. There has been no peripheral damage made known to the public, and until any damage is made known to the public, DOJ and the CIA should wait for more important issues to be taken care of.

    I’ll admit to a strong bias against laws that are meant to safeguard information, though. They are designed to perpetuate an industry that is mostly in the business of self-perpetuation.

  2. The question here, though, is why the Bush administration didn’t strangle this story in the crib. It was totally within its power to do so by coughing up the leaker.

    Oh, it was? Could you provide us with a list of Bush administration officials who knew the identities of the leakers, please?

  3. Dan,
    Simple way to strangle it in the crib. Internal memo: Come forward now and we’ll go easy on you. If you hide and it surfaces, we will hit you hard.

    Even if the leaker doesn’t surface, the administration looks proactive, rather than reactive. No risk of a cover-up hurting the admin and their hands are largely washed of the incident.

  4. “It was totally within its power to do so by coughing up the leaker.”

    Well, it was within the leaker’s power anyway. Still waiting for the outrage from the left over this and the prosecutorial creep in the Limbaugh case.

  5. I guess the problem is that I don’t know a lot about Valerie Plame’s job description. And maybe that’s for the best.

    According to one side, she is the equivalent of Jennifer Garner’s character on Alias, going into dangerous places to meet with informants and hunt for WMD. Revealing her identity endangered countless people with whom she has spoken under dangerous circumstances, since terrorists and tyrants around the world will say “Ah, now I know why my henchman was speaking to that woman!”

    According to the other side, she is a paper-pusher at Langely and the closest she’s come to field work is when she spies on her neighbors to get gossip. Revealing her identity compromised absolutely nothing.

    Who knows?

  6. thoreau

    My problem with even discussing the story is that I can’t shake the feeling that EVERYONE inside the Beltway “knows” some things about it that I don’t know…like the probable identity of the leakers. From where I am, I have only Novak’s word for it that he even HAD sources for his story.

    I wonder if this could turn out like that Beeb affair in England…a near-complete vindication for the Administration, that leaves the doves more pissed-off than they were before.

    You missed me again with the pop-culture reference…makes me feel kinda out of step, actually.

  7. thoreau writes: “According to the other side, she is a paper-pusher at Langely and the closest she’s come to field work is when she spies on her neighbors to get gossip. Revealing her identity compromised absolutely nothing.”

    She might have been such at the time of the leak, but the relevant law covers her activities going back 5 years. She might have been Alias 5 years ago.

    It would be easy enough for DOJ to verify if Plame fell under the relevant statutes. Given that the investigation went forward with a grand jury and investigations of the White House, it’s quite likely that Plame was working overseas in covert operations within the last 5 years.

    If the DOJ didn’t check Plame’s work history before going after the White House, that’d be like bringing tax evasion charges against Bill Gates without doing even a simple audit first.

  8. ‘All, all of a piece throughout…’

    I think there are two other factors to consider here – reasons why even non-liberals might find this a significant issue.

    First, this kind of lie-and-smear job has been the administration’s modus operandi from the very beginning, starting with the hatchet job on McCain in South Carolina. Eventually, no matter how cynical one is about the political process, this kind of thing gets to be too damn much – especially when the people doing it seem to be otherwise totally incompetent, though infused with boundless arrogance.

    Second, there is something deeply offensive about an administration dedicated to the expansion of the national security state destroying the career of a professional spook for transitory political gain. If they take the ‘war on terror’ seriously (and evidence is lacking) then politics would be subordinated to policy. Moreover, the hit on Ms Plame was not even about her – it was done to discredit her husband, solely because he had demonstrated the falsity of a critical casus bellum against Iraq.

    If the Bush administration were serious about doing its job, rather than just holding on to power, this kind of thing would not happen with such staggering regularity. And that’s why this should be a big deal for all of us – even us cynical, world-weary libertarian types.

  9. The idea that this adminstration is any worse than others at smearing is just silly. That’s just how politics works these days. It’s just when you do it, it seems okay, but when others do it, it seems unfair.

    McCain, the worst politician the media loves, was a pretty tough bastard too. The same time everyone got upset at Bush sliming him, he was claiming Bush hated Catholics.

  10. Ha. “Translation from the original Nixon” is brilliant writing!

    great. GREAT! one-liner that describes so much political double-speak these days!

  11. Just a caution, having dealt with a number of cases in which prosecutors were said to be in front of grand juries “expanding their investigation” and just on the brink of major indictments.

    More often that not, the indictments don’t come. Prosecutors don’t really like to pursue shaky cases where there is a lot of political attention involved and careers potentially at stake. It wouldn’t surprise me to see something come out of this, though not from the initial alleged violation of law, which seems dubious. But it also wouldn’t surprise me a bit if nothing came of it.

  12. Prosecutorial creep. Was a time Reason opposed it.

  13. Reason (or at least I am) is still opposed to prosecutorial creep, and I don’t remember a lot of crying in the office when the special prosecutor law lapsed.

    The question here, though, is why the Bush administration didn’t strangle this story in the crib. It was totally within its power to do so by coughing up the leaker. If the Plame affair turns into a cancer (more likely a canker; it’s not that big a story) on the presidency, it’s the admin’s fault.

  14. I’ve made this comment before in war-related threads, and I’ll make it again:

    It’s always amazing to me how most people who opposed the war in Iraq (with some exceptions) are convinced that the Plame incident is a scandal of epic proportions, while so many people who supported the war ih Iraq (with a few exceptions) are absolutely convinced that the Plame incident is trivial.

    Now, one side or another may be right. But when so many issues that are peripherally related to the war (peripherally in the sense that one could reasonably feel one way about the war and the opposite way about that issue, despite a connection) fall along the same old lines, it suggests to me that many of us (myself included, perhaps) are simply making this a proxy issue for the war rather than thinking coherently about this issue in its own right.

    I’m not trying to do another parody suggesting thta one side is dumb, as I did a few days ago (ticking off so many people in the process). Rather, I think that we all (myself most certainly included) need to rethink our assumptions on this issue if we’re all lining up so predictably. Sure, it could turn out that some people were right all along, but I become deeply skeptical of any position (including my own) when the whole debate lines up so conveniently along the same old lines.

  15. who cares?
    there are way too many things more important than this, whatever this even is exactly.

  16. t-
    The problem is there isn’t enough solid information for people to step away from their assumptions and figure out whether or not this is even an issue. Was she really undercover, did revealing her name leave her open to risk (she was an ambassador’s wife, so she’s always linked to the US gov’t), etc. This is one of those cases where we have to wait for the facts to come out during investigation and see how big this is. The problem with the 24 hour news cycle is that everyone wants instant gratification and thinks all the info will flow out immediately.

  17. The question here, though, is why the Bush administration didn’t strangle this story in the crib. It was totally within its power to do so by coughing up the leaker.

    The fact that this whole investigation is bogus, politically motivated crap becomes apparent when you realize that the prosecutors have a very short list of people who know exactly who the leaker was (if any), but the prosecutors have refused to subpoena those witnesses and squeeze the information out of them. If this was a serious investigation, the first people subpoenaed would be the Bob Novaks and others in journalism who were peddling the Plame tale in the first place.

    The fact that known witnesses with knowledge are not being interrogated tells you this investigation is not about finding the leaker. It is about something else. What else, well, that probably depends on whether you see Repubs or Dems as the locus of evil. But please, we are all adults here, we can all see that, whatever this is about, its not about national security or leaked information.

  18. If the Bush administration were serious about doing its job, rather than just holding on to power, this kind of thing would not happen with such staggering regularity. And that’s why this should be a big deal for all of us – even us cynical, world-weary libertarian types.

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