07/19/2005: Why l'affaire Plame really matters, Part 2
Jonathan Alter at Newsweek has a lot to say that's worth reading about this case, but this passage makes an excellent case for why Karl Rove should be convicted of espionage, and put away for a long, long time (if not executed):
Was Plame "fair game," as Karl Rove told Chris Matthews? George H.W. Bush didn't think so. Even after Wilson embarrassed the president publicly, Bush Sr. wrote Wilson—whom he had appointed to various ambassadorial posts—to congratulate him for his service and sympathize with him over the outing of his wife. The old man was head of the CIA in the 1970s and knows the consequences of blowing the identities of covert operatives.Not just awfully stupid. Criminally stupid. And I hope he pays the full price for that criminal stupidity.
But does his son? A real leader wouldn't hide behind Clintonian legalisms like "I don't want to prejudge." Even if the disclosure was unintentional and no law was broken, Rove's confirmed conduct—talking casually to two reporters without security clearances about a CIA operative—was dangerous and wrong. As GOP congressman turned talk-show host Joe Scarborough puts it, if someone in his old congressional office did what Rove unquestionably did, that someone would have been promptly fired, just as the president promised in this case. Scarborough, no longer obligated to toe the pathetic Republican Party line, says it's totally irrelevant if Joe Wilson is a preening partisan who misled investigators about the role his wife played in recommending his Niger trip. The frantic efforts of the GOP attack machine to change the subject to Wilson shows how scared Republicans are that the master of their universe will be held accountable for Rove's destructive carelessness.
To get an idea of how destructive, I talked to Melissa Mahle, a former CIA covert operative turned author whose career parallels Plame's. She explained what happens when someone's cover is blown. It isn't pretty, especially when, like Plame, you have been under "nonofficial cover" (working for a phony front company or nonprofit), which is more sensitive than "official cover" (pretending to work for another government agency). The GOP's spinners are making it seem that because Plame had a desk job in Langley at the time she was outed, she wasn't truly undercover. As Mahle says, that reflects a total ignorance about the way the CIA works. Being outed doesn't just waste millions of taxpayer dollars; it compromises hundreds of other people in the field you may have worked with in the past.
If Bush isn't a hypocrite on national security, he needs, at a minimum, to yank Rove's security clearance. "Whether you do it [discuss the identity of CIA operatives] intentionally or unintentionally, you have not met the requirements of that security clearance," Mahle told me.
The bigger question is what this scandal does to the CIA's ability to develop essential "humint" (human intelligence). Here's where the Iraq war comes in again. The sooner we beef up our intelligence, the sooner we crack the insurgency and get to bring our troops home. What does it say to the people doing the painstaking work of building those spy networks when the identity of one of their own becomes just another weapon in the partisan wars of Washington? For a smart guy, Karl Rove was awfully stupid. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
Len on 07.19.05 @ 12:53 PM CST