Left-wing bloggers are all over the assertion by Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that Valerie Plame was indeed a covert operative. More careful people are not so sure.
For one, it’s absolutely ridiculous for anyone to say that the case is closed based on the word of a prosecutor in a legal matter. For one, if Fitzgerald knew that Plame was covert, why did he not charge anyone with violating the IIPA? He know who the leaker was — Richard Armitage, so the argument that Libby’s purported obstruction doesn’t matter. If Plame was covert as a matter of federal law it should have been a slam-dunk case. Yet the CIA has never conclusively said that Plame was a covert operative under the terms of Title 50, U.S.C. §421 which would make it a closed issue. One would think that if Plame really were protected by the stringent terms of the IIPA, that Fitzgerald would have prosecuted someone for that, rather than for obstruction.
Yet, Fitzgerald went the easy route, prosecuting someone for the coverup, rather than the crime. As Maguire notes:
My guess – Fitzgerald is an aggressive prosecutor and was comfortable moving full speed ahead on what looked to him to be a perjury/obstruction investigation. For purposes of the Libby trial, he had what looked like a straightforward case which would scarcely be advanced by arguing the question of Ms. Plame’s covert status; if he won Fitzgerald would be spared some verbal gymnastics and be able to speculate as to Libby’s motive more easily. But if he lost a key ruling on her covert status, the defense would spend the entire trial hammering the point that this was an investigation about nothing.
Consequently, he ducked the issue in any forum when it might matter, such as the pre-trial filings. However in a sentencing memorandum the prosecutor is expected to throw in everything, with special emphasis on the kitchen sink.
Now, if it is as the leftybloggers say it is — that Valerie Plame was a super-secret agent, the American Jane Bond, and only a moron would say otherwise, why did Fitzgerald have doubts that he could win that point in court? Instead, Fitzgerald danced around the issue. If it really were an open-and-shut case, it should have been an open-and-shut case in court as well.
This whole thing continues to reek of a politically-motivated prosecution by an overzealous prosecutor who knew that he couldn’t come up empty-handed. He knew who the original leaker was. If Plame was truly covert and Armitage had broken federal law, there doesn’t seem to be much good reason for Fitzgerald not to have taken him down. My guess is that he wanted someone in the Oval Office, not Foggy Bottom, and Libby was the best he could do.
We probably will never get a conclusive answer as to what Plame’s true status was — it’s likely her position at the CIA was ostensibly “covert”, but not sufficiently so to be covered by the IIPA. What we do know is that this whole silly little affair continues to spiral into irrelevance, with left-wing activists making ever more outrageous accusations and the facts supporting less and less. At least this affair was more interesting when hoards of leftybloggers were still demanding that Karl Rove be shot for treason… now that we know that Richard Armitage was the real leaker and Joe Wilson’s book is gathering dust in remainder bins, it appears as though the intrigue has long faded.