Howard Kurtz asks a very important question in the Wilson Affair – if 5 other reporters were contacted, why didn’t they speak out.
If you’re a reporter who is called by some official and given the name of a classified operative, you have the legal obligation to inform the CIA and the Justice Department over the leak. If Valerie Plame was some kind of covert operative, which is looking doubtful, then those 5 reporters had no right to simply sit on this information. It’s not only a violation of journalistic ethics, but it’s massively stupid for a reporter to have an explosive political scandal and not do anything about it.
The more I dig into this story, the more it seems less like a scandal and more like a crock of shit. The CIA would not have the wife of a public official working as a covert operative directly with foreign sources. Moreover, they sure as hell wouldn’t have someone contacting foreign sources using their real name. Considering all that an enemy spy would have to do is look up the marriage records and see that Valerie Plame and Valerie Wilson were the same person and her cover would be blown. Furthermore, I’ve yet to see any evidence that Plame was more than an analyst manning a desk at Langley. If she had any field contacts, it would be through agents in the field, and not directly – which makes Joshua Micah Marshall’s hypothetical seem more a function of too many James Bond movies rather than the real way in which the CIA gathers intelligence.
Certainly some heads should roll, and at least one of them should be the CIA worker who did not have the Post spike the story if Plame’s identity was critical to national security. Given that Novak acted ethically and called the CIA first, it would seem that if there was any national security implications to his story it could have ended there. However, given Plame’s public status and Novak’s call, it seems highly unlikely that any sources or methods were actually compromised.