The Corner

On The Other Hand

From another reader:

Jonah-

Not to be a negative Nancy here, but legally speaking (and contra your correspondent), the mens rea term of “intent” speaks to the actus reus element of the agent’s cover being blown and nothing else. So as long as you intended for that result to happen (and you satisfy the other elements of the crime, namely knowing that Plame was covert), it doesn’t matter if it was because you really hated them and wanted them dead, or because you wanted to demonstrate that their husband was a clown, or because you think they’re just a fantastic government agent and you want them to get accolades for their accomplished service. The intent element is still satisfied.

And while your correspondent makes the point that the “screw her husband” intent is more morally culpable than the “you can’t take this clown seriously” intent, the fact that the latter intent isn’t as bad as the former isn’t a defense to the charge that the latter intent is still a crime. You can’t defend a manslaughter charge by arguing that it wasn’t murder. (You could, but it wouldn’t have much traction in front of a judge).

Of course, the reason Marshall suddenly cares so much about statutory construction is that his political argument just fell apart. So he’s still full of it, but he’s right legally.

Your reader,

[Name withheld]

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