Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Something bad happened in 2003

I’ll admit that I am more than a casual observer to current events and news reports of the Fitzgerald investigation of the White House intelligence leak is familiar to me. The Fitzgerald Grand Jury is winding down, having interviewed every upper level Administration official about the political motives behind the leaks of US intelligence information. The buzz is that indictments will be handed down this week, and they may be big.

“Fitzgerald who”, you ask? That would be Patrick Fitzgerald, Special Prosecutor from Chicago, who has been assigned to investigate whether crimes have been committed in the disclosure of a CIA operative’s identity in the Summer of 2003. (If any of this is news to you so far, then I suggest you turn off your computer right now and either go to the library and pick up past issues of every periodical you can find over the last two years and READ them, or you should rescind your US citizenship, move to Easter Island, plant soybeans and decline from voting in any election as an informed citizen of any democracy ever again.)

Presidents and their administrative staff tend to be Teflon-coated when it comes to criminal indictments, but the current accusations are much more than the occasional Clintonian ejaculation or errant real estate transaction. What happened in 2003 is a big deal: we went to war to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Our allies disagreed with us, and knowledgeable officials expressed reservations, and they were all correct. We also know that in July 2003 somebody in the White House disclosed the name of a female CIA operative under “non-official cover” (NOC) to a group of journalists, and her name and identifying relationships were published in an article written by columnist Robert Novak. Fitzgerald has yet to determine if enough evidence is available to show that a crime has been committed.

So, what’s the big deal? You say, “yeah, sure, but it’s not like we have a blue dress with a semen stain or anything real, like, gross, or anything.” Valerie Plame is a former CIA operative who was “outed” by top administration officials. Accusations by her husband, former State Department official Joseph Wilson, state that the disclosure was for political retribution for Wilson’s opposition to the Iraq War and his July 2003 Washington Post article about the dubious basis for Bush’s claims of a nuclear weapons program in Saddam Hussein’s regime. The undeniable facts are that top secret US intelligence information was disclosed and published in July 2003. Speculation is that this disclosure was purposeful and politically motivated to punish critics of George W. Bush’s Iraq War.

The Agee Act of 1982, supported by then-Vice-President and former CIA Director George H. W. Bush, makes any known disclosure of a known CIA operative a federal crime. The reasons for this statute seem obvious: when a CIA operative is “outed”, the entire covert apparatus is jeopardized. Not only is the agent put in danger, but every contact that agent has made is also potentially compromised. Nobody knows what Valerie Plame has done over her decades-long career in the CIA (ie, it’s classified), but we do know she was NOC for some of that time. That means that every shopkeeper and delivery boy who may have been seen with her will now be viewed differently in the respective Third world backwaters in which they reside. They or their families may be threatened, or killed. Future operatives will be less likely to find cooperative allies when we need them most. The war on terror has been gravely compromised. Something very bad happened in 2003. Fitzgerald is now charged with determining if the disclosure of Plame’s status constituted a crime under the Agee Act. And if it did, who participated in the crime?

Likely, we will have an answer soon. Fitzgerald will finish his investigation and the grand jury will disband by next week. Whether criminal indictments are handed down or not, we will know one thing: something bad happened in 2003.

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