Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Law is on the side of Plame

by
Larry C. Johnson

Despite claims to the contrary, the Identity Protection Act spells trouble for White House officials. Republican talking points have achieved some success in muddying the waters by insisting that Robert Novak's outing of CIA clandestine officer, Valerie Plame, was not a violation of the law. The typical presentation of this red herring was bandied about most recently in an October 10, 2005 article by Washington Times reporter, Joseph Curl.

Curl wrote:

But lawyers familiar with the probe say special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald appears to be changing the grand jury's initial focus in part because the law protecting covert CIA operatives appears not to apply to Valerie Plame, whose name first surfaced in a July 2003 column by conservative Robert Novak.

"There is not one fact that I have seen that there could be a violation of the agent identity act," said Victoria Toensing, a lawyer who helped draft the 1982 act.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act outlaws intentional disclosure of any information identifying a covert agent. The penalty for violating the law is imprisonment for up to 10 years.

But according to the law, Mrs. Plame was not a "covert agent" at the time that at least two senior Bush administration officials discussed her with reporters.

Ms. Toensing is wrong. Let us pray that Ms. Toensing is not practicing law these days because, if her comments in this article reflect her abilities as an attorney, clients could be in serious trouble. Valerie Plame was a "covert agent" as defined by the law. In her cover position as a consultant to Brewster-Jennings, Ms. Plame served overseas on clandestine missions. Just because she did not live overseas full time does not mean she did not work overseas using her status as a non-official cover officer.

Unfortunately, the organized plot by White House officials to expose Valerie Plame also permanently ended her ability to ever serve overseas in an official cover position. At a minimum, U.S. tax payers invested at least $250,000 (that is in 1985 dollars) in training Valerie as a case officer. Karl Rove, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and others not yet revealed destroyed by their reckless acts her career, a CIA front company, and a network of intelligence assets.

The law to "protect the identities of undercover officers, agents, and sources" is only one possible source of jeopardy for the White House gang. (The key parts of the law are reprinted below.) The important point is not that a law was broken, but that our country is in the hands of a President who is willing to tolerate people in his Administration who are admitted liars and who played a direct role in compromising our nation's security. President Bush is sending a clear message--it is more important to protect cronies than protect this country.

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