07/13/2005: Why l'affaire Plame really matters....
Bryan at Why Now? lays out the big picture. If you're opening up an intelligence operation in a foreign country, here's what you need to do:
You need a front, usually an international business. Business is useful, because most international businesses function in a remarkably similar fashion to covert operations - they bribe people, seek information, hide funding sources, use postal boxes and rented offices to avoid taxes and get business.Were Rove a decent person, he'd lose some sleep over the harm he's caused to innocent people because he got into a snit at Joe Wilson and needed to get back like the immature little child he is.
The front needs a "legitimate" contact, someone who can be researched and identified. Someone with minor celebrity, such as being the wife of an ambassador, is just about perfect. Someone like that could be checked by intelligence services and ignored.
These front operations need to actually function like the businesses they claim to be, so they will actually pursue business and fulfill contracts to prove they are real. Some percentage of the employees don't know they are working for a covert front, and are totally separate from the espionage function.
If the cover on the front is blown, say someone tells the world that the ambassador's wife is actually an employee for the CIA , there is a problem for everyone associated with the front, not just those who were part of the espionage operation. Counterintelligence people don't like being fooled, so everyone will be hauled in and considered guilty. There is rarely any effort to allow those people to prove their innocence.
The Plame case isn't about just one woman, it is about everyone who worked for her covert operation. Dozens of people have been put in danger because of this revelation, not simply one upper-middle-class Washington suburbanite. Most of those in trouble were not involved in espionage; they are simply "collateral damage" in a nasty little personal feud. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
But we know Rove isn't a decent person, so I'm sure he's sleeping soundly. When he's not worrying about an indictment. And considering the pardon is probably sitting on Dumbya's desk to be signed when needed, I'm sure he's not worrying about the indictment.
UPDATE: Larry Johnson, a retired CIA officer who was a member of the CIA "entering class" with Valerie Plame makes this point over at Josh Marshall's TPM Cafe:
Karl Rove is such a contemptible sleaze that I am ashamed to be a member of the same species he is.
The misinformation being spread in the media about the Plame affair is alarming and damaging to the longterm security interests of the United States. Republicans' talking points are trying to savage Joe Wilson and, by implication, his wife, Valerie Plame as liars. That is the truly big lie.
For starters, Valerie Plame was an undercover operations officer until outed in the press by Robert Novak. Novak's column was not an isolated attack. It was in fact part of a coordinated, orchestrated smear that we now know includes at least Karl Rove.
Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985. All of my classmates were undercover--in other words, we told our family and friends that we were working for other overt U.S. Government agencies. We had official cover. That means we had a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card.
A few of my classmates, and Valerie was one of these, became a non-official cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. If caught in that status she would have been executed.
The lies by people like Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King, and P. J. O'Rourke insist that Valerie was nothing, just a desk jockey. Yet, until Robert Novak betrayed her she was still undercover and the company that was her front was still a secret to the world. When Novak outed Valerie he also compromised her company and every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company and with her.
The Republicans now want to hide behind the legalism that "no laws were broken". I don't know if a man made law was broken but an ethical and moral code was breached. For the first time a group of partisan political operatives publically identified a CIA NOC. They have set a precendent that the next group of political hacks may feel free to violate. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
Len on 07.13.05 @ 12:01 PM CST