Desperate for an issue to use against the White House, the left-wing critics of the Bush Administration have now seized on something that has been in the press for months?the name of a CIA official disclosed by columnist Robert Novak. Now the story has become that this disclosure was retaliation for Ambassador Joe Wilson criticizing administration policy because the CIA official, Valerie Plame, is Wilson’s wife. The critics say this disclosure was a violation of a federal law and requires an investigation by a special or independent counsel. The White House, which has been needlessly on the defensive about Iraq for months, says the Justice Department will look into it.
Actually, Novak opposed the war. So the notion that he was a vehicle for White House retaliation against a critic of the Iraq policy is ridiculous. Second, the federal law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, is designed to protect the identities of covert CIA agents conducting sensitive operations abroad. The law requires evidence that the CIA is taking affirmative measures to conceal the covert status.
Novak himself set the record straight during his appearance as co-host on CNN’s Crossfire on September 29: “Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July, I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson’s report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing.”
He added, “When I called the CIA in July, they confirmed Mrs. Wilson’s involvement in a mission for her husband on a secondary basis, who is?he is a former Clinton administration official. They asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operative, and not in charge of undercover operatives. So what is the fuss about, pure Bush-bashing?”
Novak is saying that she was not a covert agent for purposes of the law. No investigation is warranted. Nevertheless, on CNN itself, correspondent David Ensor ominously reported that, “?identifying his wife as a CIA operative?is a felony, if an American official tells journalists that name as a CIA operative. So there are national security implications to the release of that name.” It sounds horrible but in the final analysis, as Novak says, it is an exercise in Bush-bashing?another feeding frenzy.
The real story, originally reported by Novak, is whether Mrs. Wilson and her husband were part of an effort to undermine the administration’s Iraq policy. It should be remembered that Wilson, who made a brief trip to Africa at the request of the CIA, actually confirmed Bush’s State of the Union charge that Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa. But Wilson doesn’t talk about that. Instead, he makes wild charges without any evidence about White House official Karl Rove being out to get him. He made a wild charge that Rove was behind it, and then backed away from it. The Democrats and their media allies love it.