What Was Plame’s Job?
In an earlier post, James clipped from a humorous take on the Lewis Libby indictment written by Michael Kinsley. In the article, Kinsley reiterated a piece of conventional wisdom:
Two and a half years ago, Robert D. Novak published the name of an undercover CIA agent in his column.
But is there any evidence that this statement is true? Not that Novak outed Valerie Plame, but that she was “an undercover CIA agent.” This description of Plame has been used carelessly and consistently, but the terms “undercover” and “agent” are highly specific, and in fact at the heart of whether any serious crime was committed in this case.
Most people who work for the CIA are not undercover agents — they are non-covert analysts who work desk jobs in an office building in Langley, Virginia. And while they like to romanticize about their jobs, pretending to be secret agents who would have to kill you if you knew what they did for a living, in fact they are little more than researchers and paper-pushers (but with really cool business cards).
I’m not necessarily accusing Kinsley of trying to spin the story, but the terms used to describe Plame’s position at the CIA are essential, and the haphazard use of “undercover” and “agent” only obfuscate the very issue special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was charged with investigating.
UPDATE: Fitzgerald refers to Plame as a “CIA officer,” but fails to mention that not all CIA officers are clandestine agents. Also, Fitzgerald states that Plame’s job status was classified, but this is a vague statement — wouldn’t you assume that most (if not all) positions at the CIA are classified? It’s not like you’d expect them to have an online employee directory or something. Finally, Fitzgerald makes the completely ambiguous statement that Plame’s status “was not widely known outside the intelligence community.” It sounds to me that Fitzgerald had/has no case related to the purported violation of the federal Espionage Act, but found something to charge Libby with along the way. If in fact Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, or even if she was but was outed unknowingly, then this investigation should have ended once this was established. That Fitzgerald cannot definitively say that Plame’s outing meets the legal threshold for espionage calls into question the rationale for the entire investigation.