Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Plamegate" update, post "Fitzmas"

I thought I had a good grasp of this whole "Plamegate" affair, but I just learned two things that threw me for a loop:
  1. Turns out that Libby & Co. did not out a covert agent, in spite of repeated such claims by Larry Johnson (mostly here) and other ex-CIA people. According to blogger Steve quoted by Kevin Drum the law has very specific definiton of covert:
    A present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency...whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States.
    So, since Valerie Plame moved back to the US in 1997 her outing was not technically covered. The Limbaugh-style conservative punditry was right and liberals like me were wrong. Luckily there's still obstruction and perjury of course, as the Bill Clinton impeachment trials showed those can be two powerful sticks to use when humiliating a president.

  2. Turns out that all the grandstanding by the NYT and WaPo over Judith Millers stint in prison was rather pointless as well. I support freedom of the press as much as the next liberal, but as Matthew Yglesias points out this wasn't about the right to protect the identity of sources. Rather, what happened was that "Libby himself described to investigators the contents of discussions he'd had with some journalists. Fitzgerald had doubts about the accuracy of that description, hence his desire to hear testimony from journalists." That puts the whole case in an entirely different perspective. Matt sums it up well:
    The principle that journalists should be able to acquire information from sources while keeping the identity of the sources confidential is an important one. The alleged principle that journalists should be able to keep the content of what their sources tell them secret is silly. That's not a principle at all. The whole point of having sources is to relay what they told you. A source who's already outed himself as your source can't have any reasonable expectation that you'll conceal what he told you. That doesn't make any sense.
    And as this case shows, it certainly isn't in the interest of the public.
UPDATE: A "what now, Valerie" story from WaPo.

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