USA Today has it right. In the end, as a legal matter this won’t be about outting Plame. Among other things, the five year rule can’t be met. The paper reports, in part:
In The Politics of Truth, former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes that he and his future wife both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997. Neither spouse, a reading of the book indicates, was again stationed overseas. They appear to have remained in Washington, D.C., where they married and became parents of twins.
Six years later, in July 2003, the name of the CIA officer –Valerie Plame– was revealed by columnist Robert Novak.
The column’s date is important because the law against unmasking the identities of U.S. spies says a “covert agent” must have been on an overseas assignment “within the last five years.” The assignment also must be long-term, not a short trip or temporary post, two experts on the law say. Wilson’s book makes numerous references to the couple’s life in Washington over the six years up to July 2003.
“Unless she was really stationed abroad sometime after their marriage,” she wasn’t a covert agent protected by the law, says Bruce Sanford, an attorney who helped write the 1982 act that protects covert agents’ identities.