Technical difficulties plague my morning blogging, so this may be [witha few late adds] weirdly link-free.
Mark Kleiman has a very good post which hammers a point ai made earlier - however we got here, President Bush needs to decide whether he is part of the solution, or part of the problem. Up to now, the cover-up has been protecting staffers (or Cheney!). Anyone at he White House still working for George Bush has to remember, there is only one indispensable man in that operation.
And no, I wasn't speaking of Karl Rove. But on that subject, we see yet another denial (by Press Sec'y McClellan) of Rove's involvement.
Now, the White House explains that the Justice Dept is studying whether laws were broken, or national security compromised. Surely that has been established? Surely not. Allow me to muddy the waters.
Suppose Ms. Wilson had posed as a professor at the University of Islamabad while recruiting Pakistani engineers to spy on their countries nuclear development program. Reasonable minds can agree that outing her might compromise national security. However, if she came back to the US six years ago, she would not, for statutory purposes, be "covert". The WaPo notes that there may be another law relating to White House folks with a security clearance, so the lawyers have a lot to chew on. [LINK - wow, this blogging thing is a breeze in "stream of consciousness" no-link mode!]
Now, imagine that Ms. Wilson was serving abroad in a position that "everyone knew" was CIA. This is analogous to the notion that all Soviet cultural attaches were KGB. The CIA took care that she never met with sensitive assets, so outing her does not affect national security. However, and oddly, if she came back four years ago, she is still technically "covert", and a crime may have been committed. We note that Mark Kleiman links to the WaPo story with the ghastly news that "Intelligence sources said top officials at the agency were very concerned about the disclosure because it could allow foreign intelligence services to track down some of her former contacts and lead to the exposure of agents." Troubling. But what is the source, and the motivation - we detect hostile fire, and perhaps we can discount it pending more information.
So, Ms. Wilson may or may not be covert, there may or may not be national security implications, and answering one question does not automatically answer the other. To further compound the confusion, the statute seems to require knowledge and intent on the part of the "outer" - repeating water cooler gossip may be VERY stupid, but not illegal.
So, on the one hand, there is certainly enough here for the Justice Dept. to mull over. However, for the Justice Dept. investigation to become an excuse for inaction on the part of the Bush Admin doesn't work for me - if, G*d help you all, I were in charge, I would want to know what happened, and address this.
And perhaps the Wh already has? Maybe the WH has done some homework and is satisfied that national security was not compromised, and that no laws were broken. Fine, then say so. That is very different from "we will cooperate with the investigation."
I have some quick asides in the continuation, and I air one of my personal demons.
Quick asides - Andrea Mitchell is mentioned in the WaPo as a recipient of the leak, but gave the "no comment". She phoned in to "Imus In the Morning" and yes, she did get the call. Imus did not ask whether she double-checked with the CIA (as Novak did), nor did she say. Her take was, this info did not advance the story, the Ambassador was credible, can it.
I can offer personal testimony on that point. I read the Novak piece "live", before David Corn called our attention to it. I noted the involvement of Ms. Wilson, and spent about thirty seconds thinking, oh, great dirt, this makes Wilson look ridiculous. I then spent another thirty seconds thinking, man, look at his resume, can anyone keep a straight face and say he was not qualified for this Niger gig?
So I posted a different excerpt from the Novak piece. However, we have a great bit of "Psychic Ex-Post Journalism" from the reporter at CBS - nobody called me (because our ratings stink) but if they had, man, I would have known immediately it was a big story about a breach of national security. Right, just like all the other reporters, pal.
Now, on the notion that the White House staff knew she was a secret agent, knew that outing her would jeopardize natiojnal security, knew it was a felony, but proceeded anyway - please. It makes sense, maybe, if you are committed to the view that BushCo people are evil, arrogant, and hopelessly stupid. One attempts to imagine the following conversation:
"Here's a brainstorm! Why don't we at get Wilson by outing his wife!"
""Smooth! But I am the teensiest bit worried. That will compromise national security, and is a felony that could land us in jail for ten years.
"Good point! Let's not call more than six reporters, then".
"That's why you're the brains of this operation, boss."
Sure, it could have gone that way. But more likely, they didn't know she was covert, or knew that she was not "really" covert. That doesn't excuse bad judgement, but it may save a felony rap.
Personal Demon: The WaPo piece from Sunday mentioned the CIA spokesperson as expressing concern for Ms. Wilson's personal safety. Originally, I had been inclined to discount this issue - my guess is that she had "open covert" status while abroad, so that foreign intelligence services are no more interested in her now than previously.
However, it dawns on me (finally) that terrorist groups and talented cranks may have added a new name to their target list. That is not acceptable - we all watched "The Godfather", and you have to keep family out of it.
I have said before that this outing was stupid, but I may not have properly assessed that it was also dangerous.