Nutty Little Pundit Turf Wars


Christopher Hitchens calls the Intelligence Identities Protection Act a nutty little law. Ted Barlow calls Hitchens' piece a nutty little argument and asks

What kind of a man responds to the exposure of a CIA agent by attacking the law that makes it illegal to expose CIA agents?

Well, Reason's own Jesse Walker for one, although he was not so much responding to the exposure of a CIA agent as arguing against a bad law that happened to be getting a lot of attention because of the exposure of a CIA agent.

Civil liberties-minded folks should be wary of laws that make it difficult to expose the terrible things that the CIA has been known to do, and the IIPA ought to be junked even if there are any number of bad arguments for doing so. Hitchens, for example, can't help but indulge in some highly dubious score-settling over the Iraqi WMD issue:

This government [Niger], according to unrefuted intelligence-gathering from British and other European intelligence agencies, is covertly discussing sanctions-breaking sales of its uranium to a number of outlaw regimes, including that of Saddam Hussein.


The CIA in general is institutionally committed against the policy of regime change in Iraq.

Ted Barlow helpfully pointed out that the intelligence on Nigerien uranium sales to Iraq has been refuted, at least if you believe the Iraq Survey Group's claim that it

has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991.

In any case, if Hitchens were purely concerned with arguing against a bad law, there would be no need for him to pre-emptively absolve Karl Rove of having violated that law:

And it appears that [Rove] did [observe the law], in that he did not, and did not intend to, expose Valerie Plame in any way [emphasis added].

The general claim is one that Hitchens can't possibly know, and the qualification, that Rove did not intend to expose Plame in any way, can't possibly be true. Provided 1) Rove was in full control of his mental faculties, and 2) "Plame" and "Wilson's wife" refer to the same person, Rove obviously intended to expose her in some way when he told reporters that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Unless, perhaps, when Rove said that Wilson's wife/Plame worked for the "agency," it's impossible to say which agency he meant to convey.

As Jesse Walker aptly put it, "Rove's apologists have been reduced to splitting semantic hairs to deny he violated the law."