Sorry. Another long post follows. Forgive the prolixity.
I’ve received at least 100 responses to my long postyesterday afternoon speculating about whether Patrick Fitzgerald is, in fact, pursuing Judith Miller as the person who actually began circulating the fact that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA. Some followup thoughts:
It’s unlikely that even if Miller is original source, she could be prosecuted. The language of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act that would apply to her concerns people “in the course of a pattern of activities intended to
identify and expose covert agents” — that would be Miller in this scenario.
But that’s not enough to make it illegal. She would have to have had “reason to believe that such
activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of
the United States” — and given that Miller is a friend of the CIA and one of its trusted sources, that seems unlikely as well.
The trouble might come if she might have “disclose[d] any information that identifies an
individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive
classified information.” Danger, Will Robinson. But wait, the law raises the bar in her favor again, because she would have to have done so “knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking
affirmative measures to conceal such individual’s classified
intelligence relationship to the United States.”
Now, if all these criteria are met, the perpetrator “shall be fined not more
than $15,000 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.” But here’s the big, big, big question. She’s covering for someone else. Well — since we’re playing the speculation game — what if that someone else were none other than Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson?
Huh? How? Why? The logic is simple.
At the time, Wilson was trying to prove that his vaunted memo on Iraq and Niger and uranium had been read at the highest levels of the government. In fact, he said without qualification that he “knew” it had been read at the highest levels of government.
This is important, because it was at the heart of the case being made at the time. The case was that Dick Cheney knew from Joe Wilson’s memo that there was no Iraqi nuclear program but Cheney said so anyway and therefore the administration lied its way to war.
Wilson was retailing this story to various reporters, and Miller might have been one of them. A logical question to ask would be: “How do you know Cheney read it?” And the logical answer would be: “I know because my wife told me. She works for the CIA on WMD questions. But this is super top secret.”
So the scenario continues: Alas for everybody in Washington, loose-lipped Judy Miller, who couldn’t help telling the Holy Land Foundation back in the fall of 2001 that the feds were about to raid its offices, somehow let the cat out of the bag when trying to follow up on the story. In calling various people in the administration to check on Wilson’s story, she let slip that Wilson’s wife was CIA.
Perhaps, therefore, the whole effort behind Fitzgerald’s remorseless pursuit of Miller (besides his anger, which I wrote about yesterday, on her unconscionable Holy Land Foundation behavior), is to close the circle here. Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative came not from White House sources eager to out her, but from those eager to bolster Wilson’s case against the White House (like, say, Wilson himself).
Since Wilson could hardly have wished to place his own wife in danger in this way, there could have been no crime at the outset and therefore no crime at any point along the way.