She is a case officer in the CIA's clandestine service and works as an analyst on weapons of mass destruction. Novak published her maiden name, Plame, which she had used overseas and has not been using publicly. 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.
The disclosure could have broken more than one law. In addition to the federal law prohibiting the identification of a covert officer, officials with high-level national security clearance sign nondisclosure agreements, with penalties for revealing classified information.
And, a sharp-eyed observer noted that the sources have been downgraded - where Sunday we were told that "a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists", today we are informed that "An administration official told The Washington Post on Saturday that two White House officials leaked the information to selected journalists to discredit Wilson."
My tea leaves do not tell me if this is deeply significant.
Novak recants; his original column had Ms. Wilson as an "operative". Now, as to his comment that "nobody called me". Well, fine. We can imagine that he was chatting with some WH folks, heard the anecdote about Wilson and Wife, and said, "I love that, you should get that out there - after I print it". Many were called, none chose to bite.
CIA lawyers followed up the notification this month by answering 11 questions from the Justice Department, affirming that the woman’s identity was classified, that whoever released it was not authorized to do so and that the news media would not have been able to guess her identity without the leak, the senior officials said.
The CIA response to the questions, which is itself classified, said there were grounds for a criminal investigation, the sources said.
Now, Mark Kleiman has some very good material, with lots of links. I may see if I can limit myself to a combination of links and cheaps shots, uhh, comments.
VALERIE PLAME, VIEWED IN RIGHT PROFILE: Pretty good. He notes the electrons wasted by Clifford May at NRO, but properly ignores the lost bandwidth run up by Mark Levin. The best piece by an NRO contributor is by Don Luskin. Bonus - here is the piece Mr. Luskin wrote in July, and we now know his secret source was Bob "Now I wrote it, now I didn't" Novak.
AND WHO WILL CRITIZIZE THOSE SELFSAME CRITICS?: Through the media looking glass with Howard Kurtz of the WaPo, who overlooked TIME magazine's contribution to the confusion. A weak column that misses a key point - the media is now covering itself. How does NBC News report the White House denial that Karl Rove was involved, when Andrea Mitchell knows whether he was involved? Too tough a question for Howie.
MORE PLAME: THE WHITE HOUSE STONEWALLS: I am in more agreement than I would like to be. Bush needs to get in front of this, as I have noted.