A bit of a koan here. The law is an imperfect guide to human behavior. I did not like it when the Clinton Administration claimed exoneration every time a special prosecutor declined to indict them, applying the standard that "if they don't indict, it's all right". And Al Gore's "no controlling legal authority" concept comes to mind.
Well, if I didn't like it then, I don't like it now as it relates to Ms. Wilson. In this post, I describe how Ms. Wilson could be technically covert, yet her outing might not jeopardize national security; conversely, she might not technically have covert status, yet her "outing" could represent a serious blow to national security.
The law may be either a shield or a sword in this case; White House staffers might hide behind a technicality, or Democrats might hang them on one. Either way, it should not be the central question.
People should focus on three issues - was national security compromised; was Ms. Wilson's safety endangered; and was the law broken. We throw in that last because, yes, White House aides are expected to follow the law.
I will have more later. But my answers don't come up good for the White House. Developing...
UPDATE: An update before we finish? YES! The Hammer has a good round-up of links, and we especially love this explanation of the different jobs at the CIA, and the speculation about where Ms. Wilson might fit in.
MORE: Kevin Drum has a similar theme. Since I may never finish this, here my quick version - even if the aides thought Ms. Wilson was "not really" covert; even if folks at the CIA confirmed that to them, as they did to Novak; it was not worth the risk that someone was wrong. Same point as to her safety - the Ambassador is calling a lot more attention to his wife than the White House ever did, but still, they are responsible for their own actions, which were not good. Increasing the risk to her is simply not acceptable.
Legally, I think we will discover this to be a thicket leading to a swamp. On the first two issues, I am not sure how the WH can defend themselves. Not that I won't try...