Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Requirements for Breaking the Law

My guess is that most people reading this have been steeped in the Valerie Plame story, but here's what you don't hear - the circumstances that must be met in order for Karl Rove to have broken the law in his conversation with report Matt Cooper (last full paragraph, which I've bolded).

Cliff May explains:

In his conversation with Matt Cooper was Karl Rove responding to Joe Wilson’s claim that Vice President Cheney sent him on the mission to Niger?

That claim was implied in Wilson’s NYT oped 7/6/03: “In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney’s office had questions about a particular intelligence report. … The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president’s office.”

But Cheney has consistently denied that he sent Wilson anywhere – or even received a report on Wilson’s visit. And the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence confirmed that Cheney did not assign Wilson to conduct an investigation on behalf of the CIA.

CIA Director George Tenet said (in a press release 7/11/03) that the “CIA’s counter-proliferation experts, on their own initiative, asked an individual with ties to the region to make a visit to see what he could learn.” Wilson’s wife was a CIA counter-proliferation expert at this time.

Did she help get him the assignment? Apparently so (emphasis added):

“Some [CIA Counterproliferation Division, or CPD,] officials could not recall how the office decided to contact the former ambassador, however, interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD employee, suggested his name for the trip. The CPD reports officer told Committee staff that the former ambassador’s wife ‘offered up his name’ and a memorandum to the Deputy Chief of the CPD on February 12, 2002, from the former ambassador’s wife says, ‘my husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.’” (From the Select Committee On Intelligence’s “Report On The U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments On Iraq,” U.S. Senate, 7/7/04)

So that would mean Rove may have been countering Wilson’s demonstrably false claim with the truth. Is it a crime in Washington to tell the truth? Actually, it probably would be if (1) Rove knew that Mrs. Wilson had been undercover, (2) if the CIA was taking assertive measures to protect her covert status, and (3) if Rove knew about Mrs. Wilson’s status because he had access to classified information.

But if those conditions have not been met, this is a tempest in a teapot – one which will be stirred for all its worth nevertheless.