Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Is it a crime?: Victoria Toensing and Bruce W. Stanford have a piece in today's Washington Post outlining the law and what is required for having named liar Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent.
At the threshold, the agent must truly be covert. Her status as undercover must be classified, and she must have been assigned to duty outside the United States currently or in the past five years. This requirement does not mean jetting to Berlin or Taipei for a week's work. It means permanent assignment in a foreign country. Since Plame had been living in Washington for some time when the July 2003 column was published, and was working at a desk job in Langley (a no-no for a person with a need for cover), there is a serious legal question as to whether she qualifies as "covert."
The law also requires that the disclosure be made intentionally, with the knowledge that the government is taking "affirmative measures to conceal [the agent's] relationship" to the United States. Merely knowing that Plame works for the CIA does not provide the knowledge that the government is keeping her relationship secret. In fact, just the opposite is the case. If it were known on the Washington cocktail circuit, as has been alleged, that Wilson's wife is with the agency, a possessor of that gossip would have no reason to believe that information is classified -- or that "affirmative measures" were being taken to protect her cover.
Remember, columnist Robert Novak identified Plame as a CIA agent to answer the question: "Why in the world would the Bush administration send Joseph Wilson to investigate Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger?" Answer: "His wife the CIA agent suggested him for the job."
For those who've forgotten, or never heard about it because the media didn't think it was a big deal, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA revealed that Joseph Wilson is a serial liar.
The report also said Wilson provided misleading information to The Washington Post last June. He said then that he concluded the Niger intelligence was based on documents that had clearly been forged because "the dates were wrong and the names were wrong."
"Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports," the Senate panel said. Wilson told the panel he may have been confused and may have "misspoken" to reporters. The documents -- purported sales agreements between Niger and Iraq -- were not in U.S. hands until eight months after Wilson made his trip to Niger.
Wilson's reports to the CIA added to the evidence that Iraq may have tried to buy uranium in Niger, although officials at the State Department remained highly skeptical, the report said.
Wilson said that a former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, was unaware of any sales contract with Iraq, but said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq -- which Mayaki interpreted to mean they wanted to discuss yellowcake sales. A report CIA officials drafted after debriefing Wilson said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq."
According to the former Niger mining minister, Wilson told his CIA contacts, Iraq tried to buy 400 tons of uranium in 1998.
If you've wondered why Wilson disappeared from the cable TV shows, this is why.