While the mainstream media continue to be indignant about Bush official Karl Rove’s alleged role in revealing the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame, it is worthwhile to put this in political perspective. The Center for Individual Freedom has provided an excellent list of cases involving Democratic officials possibly violating national security or using classified information that have been ignored or glossed over by the major media. It’s hard not to conclude that the media are targeting Rove because he is a conservative Republican.
Despite the feeding frenzy and scores of questions asked by the media at White House briefings, it remains to be seen that what Rove did was actually wrong. Possible violations of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act have been the apparent reason why the New York Times and others pushed so vigorously for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the case of who provided Plame’s name to the press. Yet according to her husband Joe Wilson’s book, “The Politics of Truth,” she had not served in a foreign country since 1997 and wasn’t therefore covered by the law.
One of the many relevant aspects of the law is that for it to be applicable, the named agent must be serving now, or sometime in the past five years, in a foreign country. Also, the agent must be someone whose identity the CIA is taking active steps to keep hidden. But Plame gave money to Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000 using her married name and identified her employer as a CIA-front company. She worked at the CIA headquarters in Virginia and was listed in her husband’s biography.
There is, of course, the possibility that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, is looking at other possible violations of the law. For example, reports of conflicting statements could mean perjury or obstruction of justice or just bad memories of the same events. But for the media the blood is in the water. The critics are saying at the very least, President Bush promised to fire anyone involved, even though a reconstruction of the comments and the timeline of his remarks on the matter clearly indicate that Bush was saying that if anyone had committed an illegal act, they would be fired. Was Rove involved? He was certainly involved in the sense that he talked to reporters about her. But there’s no evidence at this point that his involvement rises to the level of anything illegal or unethical.
The Center for Individual Freedom has assembled some other more clear-cut examples of the misuse or outright abuse of classified material, some by harsh critics of Rove and the Bush administration for their handling of this matter. They include:
? Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) went on the floor of the Senate and said there was a “problem” revealed in a private FBI file on a judicial nominee, Judge Henry Saad. Senate rules require Senators “to keep FBI information strictly confidential.”
? Senator John Kerry (D-MA) identified a covert CIA officer by name during confirmation hearings for John Bolton as UN ambassador. The committee chairman had repeatedly requested that the agent not be named.
? John Deutsch, the CIA director under former President Clinton, “wrote, stored and accessed classified memos on the same unsecured home computer that he used to surf the Internet.”
? A Federal Appeals Court said that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, “was a likely source of disparaging leaks about former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee,” while Richardson was Energy Secretary under President Clinton. The case involved national security information.
? Democratic Senators Rockefeller and Wyden improperly disclosed the existence of a classified spy satellite last year while on the floor of the Senate, while expressing opposition to what they felt was too much spending by the Bush administration.
? Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont resigned from the Senate Intelligence Committee “in disgrace” in the 1980’s for leaking a draft report on the so-called Iran-Contra investigation. It included information on how the CIA gathered intelligence.
? Sandy Berger, former National Security Adviser under President Clinton, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in federal court. Berger admitted that he intentionally took and destroyed copies of classified documents from the National Archives. He had stuffed some in his pants, cut some of them up with scissors, and lied to the investigators and the American public. He claimed he was reviewing Clinton administration documents to decide which ones to provide to the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks on Washington D.C. and New York. He said it had been “an honest mistake” and that he “deeply regrets” his actions.
Time will tell how these episodes compare to the actions of Karl Rove and others in the Bush administration. But the public evidence against Rove at this point is mighty thin and the case seems minor compared to the incidents cited above. We can only conclude that the media frenzy is disproportionate to the facts of the case, and that coverage of Rove represents a clear double standard by reporters eager to go after Republicans but willing to ignore worse transgressions by Democrats. If Karl Rove were a Democrat, he would be forgiven by the press and reporters would be returning to him for more juicy tidbits of information.