We note a mini-breakthrough in the media! Dan Froomkin, in an on-line chat, say this:
Blacksburg, Va.: How can the question of Valerie Plame Wilson's status at the CIA (covert or not) finally be cleared up?
Dan Froomkin: Wouldn't that be nice? Fitzgerald tried to clear it up yesterday, stating quite definitively that her status was classified. Which means that while she technically may not have been covert by the standards of the IIPA, her identity as an operative was secret, and should not have been disclosed.
Given the continued debate over what is a fact, it would be nice if it were revisited journalistically and definitively.
He does not know! Well, neither do I, but I welcome him to the club.
Briefly, my official editorial position is this: We don't know Ms. Plame's status, and it would take heavy legal research which has not been done to establish it.
The Intelligence Identities Protection Act requires that an agent have classified status and the the agent "is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States".
And what constitutes service overseas? Wilso-philes basically stamp their feet and insist that any trip abroad would qualify; since Ms. Wilson went to Jordan in 2002 on Agency business (or so it has been reported), she qualifies and is "covert' as per the statute.
Victoria Toensing, an attorney who helped draft the statute, argues that based on history and intent, service overseas referred to a specific posting, not just a business trip.
My view is, who knows? This law has been applied once, with CIA clerks and officers based in Ghana, so this specific issue of this law has never been tested in court. Which means that the prosecution has not prepared a brief, the defense has not prepared a brief, a judge has not ruled, and we don't know.
And that explains Judge Walton's statement to the jurors that he does not know Plame's status either - the fact is, until the legal arguments are joined (and more facts about Ms. Plame's service and postings become available), her covert status is probably not something that can be answered by more diligent reporting.
If you care for my guess, it is that Ms. Toensing's view would carry the day - it is clear from the snippet of Agee history in this post (scroll down to "More on the IIPA") that the law was directed to problems arising from overseas postings:
To identify C.I.A. personnel in a particular country, Agee goes to the target country and consults sources in local diplomatic circles whom he knows from his prior service in the United States Government. Agee and his collaborators have repeatedly and publicly identified individuals and organizations located in foreign countries as undercover C.I.A. agents, employees, or sources.
The locals in a particular country could generally guess who the real Foreign Service officers were, and which ones were carried on the US roster as being in the Foreign Service but were really with the CIA.
And lest the notion that traveling abroad may not equate to serving abroad seems hopelessly unlikely, I will close by noting that if Ms. Plame were a covert geologist, this issue would be clear:
D. Service abroad means service on or after September 6, 1960, by an employee at a post of duty outside the United States and outside the employee's place of residence if that place of residence is a territory or possession of the United States.
Well, she is not a geologist.
LATE ADDITION: This post covered the legal implications of Ms. Plame's pension status and, I daresay, represents a helpful idea for resolving Ms. Plame's status under the IIPA that was offered no where else. In brief - CIA officers receive un upward bump in their pension for time sent in "service abroad". Ms. Plame's pension reflects her full service abroad, and presumably the last date, so her coverage under the five year provison of the IIPA should not be rocket science. This assumes that CIA practice for tracking service abroad would match the Congressional intent in passing the IIPA statute.