Valerie Plame Was Still Covert at Time of Leak

Michael Isikoff reports that Valerie Plame was still performing covert overseas assignments at the time her name was leaked to the press.

Newly released court papers could put holes in the defense of Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, in the Valerie Plame leak case. Lawyers for Libby, and White House allies, have repeatedly questioned whether Plame, the wife of White House critic Joe Wilson, really had covert status when she was outed to the media in July 2003. But special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald found that Plame had indeed done “covert work overseas” on counterproliferation matters in the past five years, and the CIA “was making specific efforts to conceal” her identity, according to newly released portions of a judge’s opinion. (A CIA spokesman at the time is quoted as saying Plame was “unlikely” to take further trips overseas, though.) Fitzgerald concluded he could not charge Libby for violating a 1982 law banning the outing of a covert CIA agent; apparently he lacked proof Libby was aware of her covert status when he talked about her three times with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Fitzgerald did consider charging Libby with violating the so-called Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of “national defense information,” the papers show; he ended up indicting Libby for lying about when and from whom he learned about Plame.

Now, it is unclear how exactly this puts “holes in the defense of . . . (Scooter) Libby.” Indeed, it would seem to have little to do with the crime with which Libby was charged. If true, however, it undermines the chief moral defense of the leakers, which is that Plame’s status with the CIA was common knowledge.

Of course, it is not inconceivable that “the CIA ‘was making specific efforts to conceal’ her identity” and failing spectacularly.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Funny, isn’t it?

    Funny how the supposed leak of Valarie Plaime’s name, is worrisome to the press, and where is their own leaking as regards wiretapping isn’t.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Well, the press can’t leak they can only report leaks. I do agree that they seem more intent on portraying the Plame leakers as criminals and the NSA leakers as heroes.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Of flip that around, Bithead. To the defenders of the administration. NSA leaker – evil terrorist scum. Plame leaker – Patriot. Can’t have it both ways either.

  4. Bithead says:

    Well, let’s look at these… first, the idea that the press can’t leak.

    They are (possibly) secondary.. but the leak to the PUBLIC doesn’t occur until such time as they decide to MAKE that info public. Like, for example, sitting on the wiretap story until nearly a YEAR after the fact.

    As of the Plaime leak, I’ve yet to see anyone explain where that cost anyone much of anything…. whereas the wiretap story dried up that vat of information. How many lives that will cost is an open question.

  5. G A PHILLIPS says:

    Any leak of any type that has to do with spy or secret should end with all perps at the end of a rope, and I don’t care who you work for. Dang’ your right on that one DC. (lol)

  6. anjin-san says:

    The Plume leak was clearly an act of political revenge, politics before national security. Since even Republicans are questioning the legality of the wiretapping, you can make a reasonable argument that the leakers were trying to do whats right for our country.

    As for the “vat of information” we were supposedly culling with wiretaps or data mining or whatever you want to call it, does anyone think that terrorists discuss their plans uncoded on open lines?

    It stands to reason that if they managed to destroy the WTC and sucessfully attack the Pentagon (for God’s sake!), they possess a reasonable level of skill & tradecraft when it comes to covet operations.

    I am not impressed by Bush’s bragging about how this action has “saved lives”. Given the carve up in Iraq and the response to Katrina, I don’t really expect competence from this bunch in any area…

  7. Herb says:

    Liberal extremists would not have the mental ability to recognize progress by the Bush administration if it smacked right in the side of their heads.

    Liberal HATE seems to overcome any resemablance of common sense they claim to possess.

    As the old saying goes, “They Have a One Track Mind” Hate Bush.

  8. ICallMasICM says:

    Another political Rorschach test where more discussion will change few if any minds.