14 Dec 2005

Was Plame Really a Covert Agent?

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Tom Maguire quotes Don Luskin, who concludes:

Was Plame really a covert operative? Yes, but this will be difficult to officially confirm and there will be debates as to just how covert she really was, and what real harm was done by outing her.

But is that really true?

Bob Novak, in the infamous 14 July 2003 column, refers to her imprecisely as an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. The word operative suggests that Valerie Plame was an officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and a covert agent, working undercover on hazardous overseas assignments.

Valerie Plame was working in the Directorate of Operations, but she was working domestically in the DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD).

corrected 1 May 2006.

The MSM made much of Valerie Plame’s Brewster Jennings & Associates cover. The reality is not that Mrs. Wilson infiltrated the barbed-wire fortified boundary of a hostile foreign state, trusting for protection in her forged Brewster-Jennings parking permit. She merely listed that imaginary firm as her employer in connection with a 1999 one thousand dollar campaign donation to Al Gore. It appears that the reality is that “Brewster-Jennings” was merely a general purpose CIA front address, established in 1994, and available to numerous CIA personnel for use as a very modest form of employment camouflage.


The real case for prosecuting the leak of Valerie Plame’s CIA employment is based on the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which defines the protected category of covert agent as:

The term “covert agent” means—
(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency—
(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and
(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or
(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and—
(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or
(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or
(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency.

She obviously was not serving outside the United States at the time of the publication of the Novak column, so the basic question for a Special Counsel ought to have been: did Valerie Plame Wilson within the five years prior to 14 July 2003 really serve on CIA assignment outside the United States? If she did not, he ought to have packed his bags, closed the investigation, and gone back home to Chicago.

One Feedback on "Was Plame Really a Covert Agent?"


It is a matter of law, i.e., a matter for a Federal Court to determine, as to whether disclosure of information that is “classified”
but not germane to national security constitutes a violation of law. There is a lot of conflicting case law on both sides of this question, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with contemporary history in the US in the past three decades or so knows very well. Broadly, it has been found not to be a violation of law when disclosure has been made by the press. A plentitude of examples involving the NY Times, The Washington Post and their ilk will readily come to mind.

Whether the National Center for Counterproliferation is a creature of the Directorate of Operations or the Directorate of Intelligence within CIA is scarcely the point. There are both “Analysts” and “Operatives” within the Directorate of Operations – not everyone who works for the DDO is an “Operative”.

It is curious but true that a search of the CIA’s official website http://www.cia.gov returns NO documents under “National Center for Counterproliferation” or “Center for Counterproliferation” or even “Counterproliferation Center”. However, “Counterproliferation Division” returns precisely one document, a press release announcing the retirement of James Pavitt, DDO from August 1998 until the June 2004 announcement. He had formerly headed the “Counterproliferation Division”:

“Prior to becoming the ADDO in 1995, he served as Deputy Director of the DCI Nonproliferation Center, which is now known as the DCI Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center. Before that, he served as Chief of the Counterproliferation Division in the Directorate of Operations.”

The announcement of Pavitt’s retirement came shortly after the Tenet retirement, but was “unrelated”.

Googling “National Center for Counterproliferation” returns an alphabet soup of different organizations, including the USAF Counterproliferation Center which is still out there and avowedly part of the US Air Force:


In reality, nobody out here in general public land really knows what part of CIA Valerie Plame worked for, and when. The CIA presumably knows, but they are such a bungling bureaucracy that they may not have it straight. The special counsel’s office may know (or think they know), but it is already abundantly clearly that they will claim the interpretation that serves their continuing to draw a paycheck and continuing to score points for the Side.

Interestingly, I have lived long enough to see the abuse of “national security” classification of information – once the exclusive worry of the Left – become a threat to the rest of us reasonable Americans. It is not a good form of “interesting”. In any case, JDZ’s point remains valid – whether there was an “underlying crime” for a special counsel to be investigating, or no. If not, said special counsel stretched his prosecutororial discretion beyond all law, and any resulting alleged violations of 18 USC 1001 – otherwise, “Martha’s Law” – clearly results from a politically motivated fishing expedition.

Prosecutorial abuse, using 18 USC 1001 as a magic quantum tunnel out from under the restrictions of Constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, you know, the Fifth Amendment and similar inconveniences, is the real problem and the real threat.


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