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July 13, 2005

Rove, Plame, and espionage

There's been lots of yakkity-yak, here and elsewhere, about whether Karl Rove (or anyone else who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to the press) has really committed a crime.  I'd say 99.8% of the discussion (including my own) has focused on the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which, as has been noted ad nauseam, has very strict requirements and is so tough to use in a prosecution that it's only happened once.

Several alert commentators, however, have begun to notice that there's very likely another statute in play here, namely, the Espionage Act, 18 USC 793(d), which reads in pertinent part as follows:

Whoever, lawfully having possession of, access to, control over, or being entrusted with any ... information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted .. the same to any person not entitled to receive it, ... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Well, well, well.  No need for a big argument over "covert status" there!  Seems to me the fact that a person is (1) a CIA agent (2) who works on weapons of mass destruction (3) whose identity as a CIA agent is not public knowledge (regardless of whether it's technically "covert") falls fairly neatly within that descripton - it "relates to the national defense," and any person with half a brain would have "reason to know" that it could be used to injure the US or aid a foreign nation.  A lot of folks on the left as well as the right have been trumpeting the fact that Plame may not have technically been "covert," or that Rove may not have "known" that she was technically "covert," as the Intelligence Identities Protection Act seems to require.  So take a chill pill, everyone: that statute is not the only game in town.  And, really, wouldn't it actually be more satisfying to indict Rove for "espionage"? 

On a related note, if you didn't hear Daniel Schorr's truly excellent commentary on the real meaning of the Plame case, you should listen to it here.  It's easy to miss the forest for the trees on this one, and Schorr does a great job of putting things back in perspective.

Posted by David at 10:11 PM in Law and Lawyers, National | Permalink


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