Clarifying the Plame Game
IÃ¢€™m going to once again try to clarify what I believe actually happened in the course of Patrick FitzgeraldÃ¢€™s investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, which ultimately led to the indictment of Lewis Libby. If youÃ¢€™re uninterested in this topic, simply move along.
Please, if you decide to comment on this post, I only ask that you actually address what it is IÃ¢€™m asserting here. If you cannot refute it, donÃ¢€™t bother with ad hominem, straw man, or other fallacious argumentation — theyÃ¢€™re getting old already. Feel free to agree with me all you want.
Valerie Plame was a Ã¢€œCIA officerÃ¢€ whose employment status was Ã¢€œclassifiedÃ¢€ and this status Ã¢€œwas not widely known outside the intelligence community.Ã¢€ On July 14, 2003, Robert Novak disclosed her identity in an op-ed column he wrote examining why Joe Wilson (PlameÃ¢€™s husband) was sent to Africa to investigate the now-proven assertion that Saddam Hussein attempted to buy yellow-cake uranium from Niger.
Because Plame was outed, the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak, and the DoJ appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as special prosecutor to investigate whether in fact a crime had been committed.
My contention is that Fitzgerald took the fact of the leak as prima facie evidence that a crime had been committed, and went out on a fishing expedition. Most of the comments on my previous posts indicate that many of you make this same assumption.
But I ask you, what specific crime was committed in the outing of Valerie Plame?
Outing a member of the intelligence community is a serious matter. So serious, in fact, that in 1982 Congress passed the Intelligence Identities Protection Act — which sought to make it a serious federal crime to disclose the identity of a Ã¢€œcovert agent.Ã¢€ As IÃ¢€™ve said before, all indications are that Valerie Plame was in fact not a Ã¢€œcovert agentÃ¢€ under the definition given in section 4 of the IIPA. Joe WilsonÃ¢€™s lies aside, there is no one — including Patrick Fitzgerald — who has asserts that Plame falls into this specific legal category. The best explanation of this can be found in this article, written by the authors of the IIPA.
Yes, the legal threshold here is rather high. But this was seemingly irrelevant to Fitzgerald, who admitted to not being able to prove the original crime — not because of LibbyÃ¢€™s alleged obstruction, but because he founded his investigation on the false assumption that the leak itself was enough evidence for him to proceed. He has yet to make a definitive statement as to whether the crime he was charged with investigating even occurred. And as I said in a previous post, the first step in his investigation should have been to clearly define PlameÃ¢€™s status before deciding to proceed. Again, had he done so he would have known enough to end his investigation immediately after it began. Yes, her status was classified; yes, her named was leaked. But a violation of the IIPA simply did not happen, and LibbyÃ¢€™s indictment remains a product of the process.
The outing of Plame is not laudable. But from what we have to go on in terms of FitzgeraldÃ¢€™s words, nor was it felonious. It was simply using the truth as political hardball to combat the serial lies of PlameÃ¢€™s husband, who drastically overplayed his hand.