Friday, July 15, 2005

Your General commands it

If you have a Senator who voted to allow covert agents' identities to be leaked, you must follow General JC Christian's Action Alert, and send the following note to your senators:
Dear Senator,

I support the Administration's right to destroy its critics by betraying intelligence agents and leaking classified national security information. Please continue to oppose the Senate Democrats' attempts to revoke the security clearances of those who leak classified material.

Thank you,

[Your name here]
If Karl Rove is not a "Federal employee who discloses, or has disclosed, classified information, including the identity of a covert agent of the Central Intelligence Agency, to a person not authorized to receive such information" then there's no reason that he should not "be permitted to hold a security clearance for access to such information." But why should anyone want the real leaker (I hear OJ is on the lookout) to keep having access to classified material?

On the other hand, this article muddies the water, but not so you can't see the bottom-feeders.

A source close to the investigation (believed to be a Rove lawyer) informed the TImes that:

Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.

After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: "I heard that, too."
Now, does this violate the espionage act? We're getting into hair-splitting, but I'd say it probably does.

Let's talk abstractly. A Soviet spy calls a guy he knows on the Manhattan Project, and says that he heard this and that about the bomb. The guy says "I heard that, too." Did the guy reveal classified information?

One could say "No, the information was already out there." But whether the information is out there or not is irrelevant. The Intelligence Identity Protection Act says that it's a crime for:
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.
Simply confirming information is a disclosure, whether the leaker actually says the words or not.

The Espionage Act defines a spy as someone with access to classified information (including the identities of covert agents) who

willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause[s] to be communicated, delivered or transmitted [that classified information].
This seems a little trickier, but I think the same logic applies. Confirming that something is true communicates that information in a compressed form.

Even if it were true that Plame's cover were blown, that wouldn't make the information less classified, and I doubt that al Qaeda or North Korea has guys watching who goes in and out of the CIA, so her identity was probably pretty safe. At least until Rove and Novak got through with her.