Walter Pincus of the WaPo tries to report on the Mary McCarthy firing and manages to bungle a related story:
Democrats Suggest Double Standard on Leaks
Key Democratic legislators yesterday joined Republicans in saying they do not condone the alleged leaking of classified information that led to last week's firing of a veteran CIA officer. But they questioned whether a double standard exists that lets the White House give reporters secretly declassified information for political purposes.
"I don't know this woman, and I do not condone leaks of classified information," said Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, referring to the firing of Mary McCarthy.
Harman added that "while leaks are wrong, I think it is totally wrong for our president in secret to selectively declassify certain information and empower people in his White House to leak it to favored reporters so that they can discredit political enemies," she said on Fox News Sunday.
Harman was referring to White House staff members disclosing the classified identity of CIA case officer Valerie Plame in 2003.
No, she wasn't referring to the Valerie Plame leak, or if she was, the WaPo should have noted her error rather than reinforcing it - per the recent Fitzgerald filing, Bush and Cheney authorized Libby to leak portions of the National Intelligence Estimate as part of the push-back against Joe Wilson.
Much as he seemingly wanted to, Fitzgerald offered nothing indicating he had any evidence indicating that Cheney had authorized a leak of Plame's CIA affiliation. As to Bush's involvement in Libby's Plame-related chats, Fitzgerald provided this:
During this time, while the President was unaware of the role that the Vice President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser [i.e., Libby, who had both jobs] had in fact played in disclosing Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment, defendant implored White House officials to have a public statement issued exonerating him.
Since Walter Pincus and Bob Woodward were Plame leak recipients, I am surprised that Mr. Pincus and his editors could be so misinformed on this point. Especially since they seemed to have a firm grasp on the NIE connection just a few weeks ago.
MORE: Mr. Pincus' mis-reporting aside, how fair is to to compare the Plame and Secret Prison's leaks?
I think we can all agree that Ms. McCarthy was well aware that she was leaking classified information. But what about I. Lewis Libby or the other Plame leakers?
It's far from clear just what crime it might be that Special Counsel Fitzgerald is investigating. We say this because someone (probably then-deputy Secretary Armitage) apparently leaked to Bob Woodward and Robert Novak, then only disclosed his leak to Novak in his early encounters with investigators; the Woodward leak was eventually disclosed in November 2005.
So somebody leaked twice, including to the person who first published Ms. Plame's CIA link, then mis-led investigators about his involvement. What's a prosecutor to do? Conceal his identity to shield him from embarrassment! From the WaPo:
But Walton's decision to continue to protect the anonymity of one administration official, whom Libby's attorneys described as a confidential source about Plame for two reporters, one of them apparently Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward, is a blow to Libby's case. Defense attorneys had said they needed to know the official's identity and the details of his conversations with the two journalists to show that Libby was not lying when he testified that many reporters knew about Plame's identity.
But Walton said the source's identity is not relevant, and there is no reason to sully the source's reputation because the person faces no charges.
The official's identity has been the subject of intense speculation since syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak published Plame's name in July 2003 -- eight days after her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, accused the administration of twisting intelligence to justify going to war with Iraq.
Defense attorneys in yesterday's hearing described the official as someone who did not work at the White House and was the source for two reporters. They said that one of those reporters had revealed in November that he learned about Plame from the official in mid-June 2003.
Well - per this example, leaking about Plame to the press and then lying about it does not seem to merit prosecution. But did the White House know she was covert? Here is Fitzgerald from a filing related to the Judy Miller subpoena:
To date, we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed that Wilson's wife was engaged in covert work.
OK, that was then. But Fitzgerald's recent filing in which he noted the Bush-Cheney authorization of the NIE leak would have been enhanced by any mention that Libby knew Ms. Plame's status was classified, but it slid past that point, rather awkwardly - Fitzgerald noted that Libby was reluctant to discuss the classified NIE without authorization, but never asserted that Libby sought authorization to leak information about Plame, or that Libby believed Plame to be classified.
However, per a defense response, we get the opposite:
Mr. Libby was not, of course, a source for the Novak story. And he testified to the grand jury unequivocally that he did not understand Ms. Wilson’s employment by the CIA to be classified information.
Again, his silence speaks volumes - if Fitzgerald has contradictory evidence that Libby did know that Ms. Plame's status was classified, why not indict him on that point for perjury?
How might Libby have found out about Ms. Plame's status? Perhaps VP Cheney told Libby that Ms. Plame was classified. It's imaginable, but who told Cheney? From Murray Waas, we get this:
Cheney told investigators that he had learned of Plame's employment by the CIA and her potential role in her husband being sent to Niger by then-CIA director George Tenet, according to people familiar with Cheney's interviews with the special prosecutor.
Tenet has told investigators that he had no specific recollection of discussing Plame or her role in her husband's trip with Cheney, according to people with familiar with his statement to investigators.
Maybe Tenet remembers getting a Medal of Freedom, but this sort of evidence is not going to prove that Libby, or anyone, know that Ms. Plame had special status.
Let's wrap this by noting a quote from the notes of the INR analyst describing the Feb 19 2002 meeting that launched Joe Wilson's Niger trip - Valerie Wilson was "a CIA WMD managerial type and the wife of Amb. Joe Wilson".
Is "managerial type" spook-speak for "NOC", and are NOCs names bandied about in memos? Please.
There is a reasonable possibility that the White House did not know her status was classified, although I can not conceive of documents that would prove that. Similarly, there is an excellent possibility that First Leaker Armitage (if it was he) did not know either.
Well - the McCarthy/Libby comparison has an irresistible appeal, and post-Kerry Dems may have lost their zest for nuance and details.