The Corner

Thin Gruel

So I’m reading Josh Marshall’s defense of Joe Wilson and it just doesn’t do the job for me, starting with his shoot-the-messenger snarking at Susan Schmidt (always refereshing to have liberals complain about the pro-Republican bias of the Washington Post).

He quotes from the Schmidt article:

Plame’s role could be significant in an ongoing investigation into whether a crime was committed when her name and employment were disclosed to reporters last summer.

The report may bolster the rationale that administration officials provided the information not to intentionally expose an undercover CIA employee, but to call into question Wilson’s bona fides as an investigator into trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. To charge anyone with a crime, prosecutors need evidence that exposure of a covert officer was intentional.

And then Marshall replies:

“There’s no ‘challenging the bona fides of a political opponent’ exception to the law in question. While Plame’s alleged role may have some political traction, it’s legally irrelevant. Government officials are not allowed to disclose the identity of covert intelligence agents, whether they feel like they have a good reason or not.”

Frankly, I’ll await someone else’s legal analysis before I make up my mind about that. But assuming Marshall is correct about the law, am I alone in thinking he’s being disingenuous? Marshall’s been banging the drums about the Plame story for a very long time. The essence of the entire scandal has been the contention that the White House deliberately endangered a CIA agent’s life in order to punish Wilson. Must we recount all of the paranoid pieties about how “this White House will stop at nothing to silence its enemies”? Now Marshall’s new talking point is a legalism. Well, excuse me: If in fact the White House inadvertantly revealed Plame’s identity in order to explain why a dishonest hack like Wilson was being sent to Africa (i.e. “His wife pulled some strings”) and not so as to endanger a whistle-blower’s life that sounds like more than a matter of “some political traction.” That sounds like the whole enchilada, scandal-wise.

Again, maybe Marshall’s correct about the law, but he’s pretty deep in the bunker if he thinks there’s no difference — to the public or to a jury — between someone trying to rebut and explain a partisan attack from someone pretending to be a dispassionate public servent and inadvertantly spilling the beans about her job and someone saying “let’s frag Wilson’s wife.”

Indeed, if Plame did in fact promote her husband for the job and he did subsequently distort the facts in an effort to undermine the White House in willful disregard to the facts as he knew them, it sounds to me like Husband and Wife were in on a partisan conspiracy together. That doesn’t sound like something CIA analysts are supposed to be doing. No this wouldn’t absolve the leaking of her identity, but it would detract from her martyr status quite a bit.

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