July 15, 2005

Washington Post on Rove

The Washington Post has a good and surprisingly sensible editorial on the Rove leak:

But much is still unknown, and Democratic demands that Mr. Rove be fired immediately seem premature given the murky state of the evidence. While we await more facts, it's worth remembering some from the previous episodes of this strange story-- including a few that have been mangled or forgotten. Mr. Wilson made his trip in 2002 to look into reports that Iraq had sought to buy uranium from Niger. A year later, he publicly surfaced and loudly proclaimed that the Bush administration should have known that its conclusion that Iraq had sought such supplies, included in the president's 2003 State of the Union address, was wrong. He said he had debunked that theory and that his report had circulated at the highest levels of government. One year after that, reports by two official investigations -- Britain's Butler Commission and the Senate intelligence committee -- demonstrated that Mr. Wilson's portrayal of himself as a whistle-blower was unwarranted. It turned out his report to the CIA had not altered, and may even have strengthened, the agency's conclusion that Iraq had explored uranium purchases from Niger. Moreover, his account had not reached Vice President Cheney or any other senior official. According to the Butler Commission, led by an independent jurist, the assertion about African uranium included in Mr. Bush's State of the Union speech was "well-founded." ..... Mr. Rove and other administration officials had a legitimate interest in rebutting Mr. Wilson's inflated claims -- including the notion that he had been dispatched to Niger at Mr. Cheney's behest. It's in that context, judging from Mr. Cooper's e-mail, that Mr. Rove appears to have brought up Ms. Plame's role. Whether Mr. Rove or others behaved in a way that amounted to criminal, malicious or even merely sleazy behavior will turn on what they knew about Ms. Plame's employment. Were they aware she was a covert agent? Did they recklessly fail to consider that before revealing her involvement? How they learned about Ms. Plame also will matter: Did the information come from government sources or outside parties? It may be that Mr. Rove, or someone else, will turn out to be guilty of deliberately leaking Ms. Plame's identity, knowing that it would blow her cover. Or officials may have conspired to cover up a leak or lied about it under oath. For now, however, it remains to be established that such misconduct occurred.

My only issue with the editorial is that the Washington Post doesn't recognize that, in fact, there is no way that there could have been a violation of law. Clearly, the evidence deduced so far (including Joe Wilson's own book) has revealed that this leak does not amount to a violation of the law as Ms. Plame had not been covert in over five years (the requirement of the statute). You do not even need get to the analysis of intent as the CIA agent being "outted" had not been covert in the previous five years. Of course, whether it was unethical or not is still not clear...
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