Monday, July 18, 2005

CIA outed Plame?

Andrew McCArthy writes a great piece for National Review. He goes and reads the amicus brief the mainstream media filed with the court on the whole Plame issue and finds a few interesting tidbits.

You heard that this was the crime of the century. A sort of Robert-Hanssen-meets-Watergate in which Rove is already cooked and we're all just waiting for the other shoe — or shoes — to drop on the den of corruption we know as the Bush administration. That, after all, is the inescapable impression from all the media coverage. So who is saying different?
The organized media, that's who. How come you haven't heard? Because they've decided not to tell you. Because they say one thing — one dark, transparently partisan thing — when they're talking to you in their news coverage, but they say something completely different when they think you're not listening.

You see, if you really want to know what the media think of the Plame case — if you want to discover what a comparative trifle they actually believe it to be — you need to close the paper and turn off the TV. You need, instead, to have a peek at what they write when they're talking to a court. It's a mind-bendingly different tale.

Just four months ago, 36 news organizations confederated to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. At the time, Bush-bashing was (no doubt reluctantly) confined to an unusual backseat. The press had no choice — it was time to close ranks around two of its own, namely, the Times's Judith Miller and Time's Matthew Cooper, who were threatened with jail for defying grand jury subpoenas from the special prosecutor.
The media's brief, fairly short and extremely illuminating, is available
here. . . .

The thrust of the brief was that reporters should not be held in contempt or forced to reveal their sources in the Plame investigation. Why? Because, the media organizations confidently asserted, no crime had been committed. Now, that is stunning enough given the baleful shroud the press has consciously cast over this story. Even more remarkable, though, were the key details these self-styled guardians of the public's right to know stressed as being of the utmost importance for the court to grasp — details those same guardians have assiduously suppressed from the coverage actually presented to the public.

Though you would not know it from watching the news, you learn from reading the news agencies' brief that the 1982 law prohibiting disclosure of undercover agents' identities explicitly sets forth a complete defense to this crime. It is contained in Section 422 (of Title 50, U.S. Code), and it provides that an accused leaker is in the clear if, sometime before the leak, "the United States ha[s] publicly acknowledged or revealed" the covert agent's "intelligence relationship to the United State s[.]"As it happens, the media organizations informed the court that long before the Novak revelation (which, as noted above, did not disclose Plame's classified relationship with the CIA), Plame's cover was blown not once but twice. The media based this contention on reporting by the indefatigable Bill Gertz — an old-school, "let's find out what really happened" kind of journalist. Gertz's relevant article, published a year ago in the Washington Times, can be found here. . . .

The Amicus brief points out that Plame's identity was first disclosed to Russia in the mid-1990's. On another occassion, the media points out that CIA itself inadvertently compromised Plame's idendity by revealing in Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba.

Thus, the same media now stampeding on Rove has told a federal court that, to the contrary, they believe the CIA itself blew Plame's cover before Rove or anyone else in the Bush administration ever spoke to Novak about her. Of course, they don't contend the CIA did it on purpose or with malice. But neither did Rove — who, unlike the CIA, appears neither to have known about nor disclosed Plame's classified status. Yet, although the Times and its cohort have a bull's eye on Rove's back, they are breathtakingly silent about an apparent CIA embarrassment — one that seems to be just the type of juicy story they routinely covet.

If Plame's cover was blown, as Gertz reports, how much did Plame know about that? . . . Assuming she knew, did her husband, Wilson, also know? At the time he was ludicrously comparing the Novak article to the Ames and Philby debacles, did he actually have reason to believe his wife had been compromised years earlier?

And could the possibility that Plame's cover has long been blown explain why the CIA was unconcerned about assigning a one-time covert agent to a job that had her walking in and out of CIA headquarters every day? Could it explain why the Wilsons were sufficiently indiscrete to pose in Vanity Fair, and, indeed, to permit Joseph Wilson to pen a highly public op-ed regarding a sensitive mission to which his wife — the covert agent — energetically advocated his assignment? Did they fail to take commonsense precautions because they knew there really was nothing left to protect?

We'd probably know the answers to these and other questions by now if the media had given a tenth of the effort spent manufacturing a scandal to reporting professionally on the underlying facts. And if they deigned to share with their readers and viewers all the news that's fit to print ... in a brief to a federal court.


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