The Washington Post has been covering a supposed leak from the White House that may have exposed a CIA covert operative. The operative, Valerie Plame, is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who went to Niger trying to confirm stories of Iraq seeking uranium.
As Clifford May notes in National Review, Wilson’s "investigation" was essentially a waste of time as Wilson had no investigatory experience and he spend his time in Niger doing little more than sipping tea in the US embassy. While that’s true, it’s also besides the point. Yes, Wilson’s investigation may have been a joke, but that doesn’t justify disclosing the identity of covert operatives.
There’s something odd about this scandal. First, if Plame’s name was unveiled on July 14, why is the media only investigating this now? Especially since 6 journalists including Bob Novak and NBC’s Andrea Mitchell were supposedly contacted by the White House. Given that you’re a major journalist, and the White House has just called you and revealed a clandestine CIA source, why wasn’t more made of this before? While the CIA did push for an investigation shortly after Novak’s column broke, the fact that the media was asleep at the wheel in the face of what seems to be a major scandal is slightly odd. O fail to see any reason why there would be an embargo on this story, especially since the damage had already been done.
Furthermore, as Donald Luskin points out, Novak called the CIA and asked about Plame. The CIA confirmed that Plame was an agent, and made a very weak request for Novak not to print the name. Given that the CIA could have easily spiked the story if they felt there was a pressing national security issue, their actions are also fishy.
I agree with Megan McArdle on this one: this sounds like a leak from the CIA or a low-level White House aide. While Plame was likely not a critical officer and unveiling her wasn’t a major risk of security, it was still revealing sources and methods, and that’s unacceptable. Whoever leaked this information should lose their job and never work around government again.
My gut instinct is that this is some mid-level staffer rather than some major Administration figure. Karl Rove seems to be the top suspect, but Rove is smart enough not to do something so likely to turn into a major scandal. However, if this were some major conspiracy that could significantly hurt the Bush Administration, those 6 reporters wouldn’t miss the opportunity to become the next Woodward or Bernstein by following the story. The fact that this story died shows that there’s a very small chance that this scandal will have any legs. Whoever leaked this should lose their jobs, but the left’s hysterical cries that the person should be Bush is more a function of their own rabid partisanship than looking at the facts.