Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Don't trip

According to the official Run with Ryun blog (Republican Rep. Jim Ryun's campaign Student Ambassadors program), the year and a half old investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame can be summarized as follows:
In 2003, Rove allegedly told a reporter not to trust a Kerry supporter about stories regarding nuclear materials and Iraq and during the course of that conversation confirmed that the Kerry supporter's wife worked for the CIA. She was not an undercover CIA agent, nor did Rove know her name. So, while he apparently violated no known law, Democrats are taking advantage of the slow news cycle to whip this story into a frenzy.
Because Joe Wilson's major qualification in life was his support for Kerry, not his years of service in countries like Niger, experience which caused the administration to send him to a country exactly like Niger, to determine if Saddam Hussein had, as they say, "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." The fact that he found no such evidence is what he was telling "stories" about. Indeed, no such evidence exists today, either.

During the course of smearing a public servant's name, Rove happened to mention that Wilson's wife "apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues," as Matt Cooper of Time magazine described the conversation to his editor. Newsweek explains that "Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division."

Can you see any differences between the truth and what Ryun's people seem to believe?

The law, as nerds who've been waiting for the world to wake up and pay attention know, is 50 USC 421(b):

Whoever, as a result of having authorized access to classified information, learns the identity of a covert agent and intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined not more than $25,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
As Vanity Fair put it:
on July 22 [2003] Newsday's Knut Royce and Timothy M. Phelps reported that, according to their intelligence sources, Plame was an "undercover officer." In fact, she had noc status, that is, nonofficial cover. nocs are not ordinarily deskbound intelligence analysts who work inside C.I.A. headquarters. Mostly they operate abroad, frequently using fake job descriptions and sometimes fake names. According to a former senior C.I.A. officer, to blend in they often have to work two jobs: that of their "cover" and that involving their C.I.A. duties, which usually consists of handling foreign agents in the field, but can also involve recruiting them. nocs have no diplomatic protection and so are vulnerable to hostile regimes that can imprison or execute them without official repercussions. A noc's only real defense is his or her cover, which can take years to build. Because of this vulnerability, a noc's identity is considered within the C.I.A. to be, as former C.I.A. analyst Kenneth Pollack has put it, "the holiest of holies."
I'm just hoping that the authors of the Ryun blog aren't responsible for actual legislation, because these morons managed to avoid understanding anything that's happened in the last year and a half.

In particular, the issue is not "a frenzy" generated for a "slow news day." A secret agent who worked around the world using the cover of an energy consultant, finding out about terrorists and rogue states trying to buy and make WMD, got burned.

What's involved in being a secret agent? Here's what Plame went through:

After Valerie graduated from Penn State, she moved to Washington, D.C. … She worked at a clothing store, biding her time, waiting for her acceptance from the C.I.A. She may have mentioned, says Angstadt, that she was going to interview with the C.I.A., but "nobody ever heard about it ever again."

Plame learned Greek-she can also speak French and German-and was sent to Athens. There she had what is known as "State Department cover." The only lie Plame had to tell her friends then was that the State Department was her only boss.

After the Gulf War she was sent to the London School of Economics, and from there to the College of Europe, an international-relations school in Bruges. She stayed on in Brussels, telling friends she was working for an energy consulting firm, Brewster-Jennings (now defunct).
Years of school and careful development of a public identity, and all her contacts in the black market, got destroyed because Karl Rove wanted to punish Joe Wilson for telling the truth about Saddam's nuclear weapons program.