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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Valerie Plame Wilson - July 29

Good story from The Hill.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has demanded a criminal investigation into who exposed the wife of retired ambassador Joseph Wilson as a covert CIA agent.

Their lead is old news. Now, good stuff:

The chairman of the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), has also not ruled out an investigation. “It could be part of a wider weapons-of-mass-destruction investigation,” Goss, a former CIA operative, told The Hill.

And not ruled it in.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) told reporters last week that “whoever released the information regarding Mr. Wilson’s wife may have committed a felony, may have actually violated federal law. I think that it ought to be investigated.

...What happened is very dangerous to a person who may be a CIA operative,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, adding: “[The leak] came from the executive branch, in my view. Its intent is to stop other people like Joe Wilson, and I am going to insist on getting to the bottom of this any way we can.”

Charles Tiefer, a former special counsel on the House Iran-Contra Committee, said this is just the latest eruption in tensions between two branches of government over leaks of national security information.

The anger over leaks goes back to the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when Bush restricted classified information to eight key lawmakers.

In June 2002, the FBI investigated 37 lawmakers and 60 staff members investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks over leaks of classified information from the National Security Agency. [link]

Tiefer added, “By the White House apparently ‘outing’ the identity of a CIA operative just to savage Ambassador Wilson, that war has gotten nastier and hotter and much closer to the core of legally violative revelations.”

And some people who might know argue about whether a felony might have been committed:

...Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.), a former CIA agent, said he was not convinced anyone had violated the law by naming Wilson’s wife as a CIA operative.

“The law criminalizes identifying covert agents as a pattern of activities,” Simmons said. “The intent is to criminalize a behavior … and the routine functioning of the media would not be covered.”

But some intelligence experts disagree with Simmons’ characterization of the law.

“It is true that the letter of the law refers to a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents,” said Steven Aftergood, executive director of the Project on Government Secrecy.

“The law views such disclosures with the utmost seriousness. … Until we know that exactly what the motive was, the law is not inapplicable.”

Well, I did not know the question of whether this was a felony was that unclear.

But Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) disagreed. He told reporters that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee would investigate the leak.

Sen. Durbin joined this story last week (Newsday, July 23). But the other names are new, which suggests there is a bit of activity.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman wonders about this "pattern of disclosure" mentioned by Rep. Rob Simmons.

Nothing on this at the daily WH press briefing. A donnybrook on declassifying the Saudi section of the 9/11 report, however, if you like that sort of thing.

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