Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The Plame case

The Valerie Plame case hasn't faded away yet.  It's not looking good at the moment for an actual prosecution.

But this was a serious incident.  Also, it really ticked off a lot of people in the CIA.  So there are lots of people who seriously want to see the mystery of who ratted her out solved.  It's not over yet.

There is now a blog which seems to be mostly devoted to Valerie Plame news, called Whatever Already!  Not to be confused with John Scalzi's Whatever blog.

The Whatever Already! blogger also has a recent article out on the Plame affair: Murray Waas, "Plame Game Redux", The American Prospect Online, Apr 22, 2005.

Waas explains that several officials have admitted to prosecutors telling reporters that Plame was a CIA analyst, but deny that they knew or said that she was an undercover agent.  And also Bob Novak, the GOP schill how first publicly outed her in his column.

In his original story disclosing Plame's identity, Novak identified Plame as "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." But after it became known that the Justice Department had initiated a criminal investigation, Novak changed his story, claiming that his sources had told him only that Plame was an analyst. He declared on CNN on September 29, 2003: "According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson's involvement was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operative, and not in charge of undercover operatives. So what is the fuss about?"

If Novak had misquoted his source, the investigators asked, why had he only changed his story more than two months after his column first appeared and after word of the criminal investigation leaked? It is, of course, traditional practice for journalists to correct mistakes in their stories as soon as they learn of them. Novak apparently did not do that in this instance, leading investigators to regard his mea culpa as not credible.

Later, when administration officials, such as the one who spoke to Pincus, admitted to investigators that they had told reporters that Wilson had been sent to Niger only as a result of his wife's purported nepotism -- but did not know she had ever been a clandestine operative -- the investigators came to believe that Novak and his sources might be misleading them.

Denying they knew she was a undercover operative apparently would get them off the hook legally, as Waas explains.  Even though Novak's switch of his story has so little credibility we would think it was bad scriptwriting if it showed up on Law and Order, it may work for them.  Because, as Waas reports:

A former federal prosecutor who worked with [Patrick] Fitzgerald [the special prosecutor on the case] in the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago says that an "earnest and thorough prosecutor" would want to "exhaust possible avenues of inquiry" before ending an investigation like the one that Fitzgerald is conducting. The former prosecutor, now in private practice, said he wanted to discuss the case because Fitzgerald has been unfairly portrayed as a zealot in the press because of his demands that reporters testify in the case. ...

"You have two people who had a conversation," says the attorney, "Novak and an administration official. If both of them are going to lie -- Novak and the source -- there is no way to penetrate that. None. It doesn't matter how meticulous you are a prosecutor, or that you have unlimited resources at your disposal."

John Dean also weighs in again on the case: An Update on the Investigation Into the Leak Of CIA Agent Plame's Identity: Will The Supreme Court Take The Miller And Cooper Cases? Findlaw.com 04/22/05.  Dean explains why he thinks the Supreme Court will refuse to hear the case of the two reporters threatened with fines and jail if they don't reveal their sources, meaning it will let lower court rulings stand which side with the prosecutor against the reporters.  Dean concludes:

By now, both reporters, highly sophisticated and as knowledgeable as they are, have long known that they will have to pay their fines, and serve their time, except in the unlikely event that the Supreme Court takes their case and overrules (or clarifies) Branzburg.

But there is one other event that could - and should - save them: It is time for anyone who leaked information to either of these reporters to step forward and reveal themselves.

This is particularly true if the person (or persons) who leaked information to Miller and Cooper was also the person (or persons) who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to Novak and others. For that source to watch Miller and Cooper go to jail for their principles, would be craven indeed: A case of the innocent suffering to benefit the guilty, for as I have explained in a prior column, the leak certainly appears to be a federal felony.

Only Miller and Cooper's source(s), by stepping forward, can prevent a potential miscarriage of justice. He or she must do so forthwith.

Are the Valerie Plame leakers willing to be "craven"?  In this administration, it seems that the chances are very high.

1 comment:

purcellneil said...

If Miller and Cooper cooperate, justice will be done in the Plame case.  But at what cost?  In an administration that is only surpassed by Nazi Germany in the use of propaganda, and which classifies and hides information from the public eye, the only opportunity we have to discover misdeeds and malfeasance is through leaks to the press.  

Forcing Miller and Cooper to give up their confidential sources will shut down this channel of information for many years to come, and will embolden those who would lie, cheat and steal against the public trust and national interest.

Our free press has been a failure in recent years and seems so pathetic that few will raise their voice to protect them from the over-reaching of the powerful executive branch.  But we will lose an important protection against tyranny if we do not defend these reporters.

Neil