Slow-Roasting Rove

Bushrove GOP LAWMAKER: "I think he should resign ... I hope Karl Rove doesn't come gunning for me."

Thus screams the zillion-point type headline atop the Huffington Post today. No matter that this lawmaker isn't exactly a household name. Or  a member of either house. Unless you count the Arkansas state house. But the HuffPo is doing it's part to keep the Rove story hot.

More interesting is a piece that Philadelphia's Whiskey Bar highlights today, by the UCLA professor Mark A. Kleiman. Kleiman isn't worrying over whether what Rove said to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper constitutes a violation of law protecting the identity of covert CIA agents.

He thinks the charge that could stick is espionage.

Kleiman, a professor of public policy, writes:

Under the Espionage Act, the person doing the communicating need not actually know that revelation could be damaging; he needs only "reason to know." Classification is generally reason to know, and a security-clearance holder is responsible for knowing what information is classified.

Nor is it necessary that the discloser intend public distribution; if Rove told Cooper -- which he did -- and Cooper didn't have a security clearance -- which he didn't -- the crime would have been complete.

And to be a crime the disclosure need not be intended to damage the national security; it is only the act of communication itself that must be willful.

It's also a crime to "cause" such information to be communicated, for example by asking someone else to do so.

Open and shut, I'd say.

The Democrats in the U.S. Senate are trying to limit Rove's security clearance. And there are Democrat calls for a House inquiry.

Eschaton quotes a Sidney Blumenthal piece in Salon that wonders what's next for Judy Miller, the New York Times reporter jailed for not revealing who in the administration outed Valerie Plame, the CIA agent married to former ambassador to Iraq Joe Wilson. Blumenthal talked with Bill Kovach, former Times Washington bureau chief, and Kovach said Miller should be freed from protecting her source.

"By the 1980s, we decided that we had to set some limits because reporters had been misled and the credibility of the news reports had been damaged by misleading sources," Kovach told Blumenthal. "When I was chief of the bureau in Washington, we laid down a rule to the reporters that when they wanted to establish anonymity they had to lay out ground rules that if anything the source said was damaging, false or damaged the credibility of the newspaper we would identify them."

In the Plame matter, Kovach sees no obligation of the reporters to false sources. "If a man damages your credibility, why not lay the blame where it belongs? If Plame were an operative, she wouldn't have the authority to send someone. Whoever was leaking that information to Novak, Cooper or Judy Miller was doing it with malice aforethought, trying to set up a deceptive circumstance. That would invalidate any promise of confidentiality. You wouldn't protect a source for telling lies or using you to mislead your audience. That changes everything. Any reporter that puts themselves or a news organization in that position is making a big mistake."

Obviously, the Times is not imposing the rules in its present crisis that Kovach was involved in making. Are the editors unfocused on the underlying facts and falsehoods? Do the editors have a responsibility to determine who is a fair source and who is a deceiver? Has anyone fully debriefed Miller? For now, the Times is frozen in its heroic defense of the First Amendment.

Over in the conservative quarters of the b'sphere, Power Line links to the new G.O.P. Website and its Joe Wilson's Top Ten Inaccuracies and Mistatements. The diplomat who discredited one of the planks of the Iraqi war is blamed for saying Vice President Cheney sent him to Niger to investigate claims Iraq was seeking uranium from the African country to build a weapons of mass destruction program, for denying his wife sent him, for being a Democrat.

The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal feasts on a USA Today piece that questions whether Plame was recently enough undercover to count as a covert agent:

Unless we're missing something, Joe Wilson has disproved his own accusation that someone in the Bush administration violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, USA Today reports:

The alleged crime at the heart of a controversy that has consumed official Washington--the "outing" of a CIA officer--may not have been a crime at all under federal law, little-noticed details in a book by the agent's husband suggest.

In The Politics of Truth, former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes that he and his future wife both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997. Neither spouse, a reading of the book indicates, was again stationed overseas. They appear to have remained in Washington, D.C., where they married and became parents of twins.

This meant that Plame would have been stationed in the U.S. for six years before Bob Novak published his column citing her two years ago today. As USA Today notes:

The column's date is important because the law against unmasking the identities of U.S. spies says a "covert agent" must have been on an overseas assignment "within the last five years." The assignment also must be long-term, not a short trip or temporary post, two experts on the law say.

All the Democrats who are braying for Karl Rove's head can't be very confident that he's committed a crime. If they were, they would wait for an indictment, which would be a genuine embarrassment to the administration.

In the MSM, talk of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's intent also heats up. Washington Post reporters Jim VandeHei and Carol Leonnig write:

"Several people familiar with the investigation said they expect [special prosecutor Patrick J.] Fitzgerald to indict, or at least force a plea agreement with, at least one individual for leaking Plame's name to conservative columnist Robert D. Novak in July 2003," VandeHei and Leonnig write.

"A number of legal experts, some of whom are involved in the case, said evidence that has emerged publicly suggests Rove or other administration officials face potential legal threats on at least three fronts.

"The first is the unmasking of CIA official Valerie Plame, the original focus of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's probe. But legal sources say there are indications the prosecutor is looking at two other areas related to the administration's handling of his investigation. One possible legal vulnerability is perjury, if officials did not testify truthfully to a federal grand jury, and another is obstructing justice, if they tried to coordinate cover stories to obscure facts."

Posted 07/14/2005 04:02:03 PM

I can see the html now <font size="a zillion" color="obnoxious"> This could surely be a huge blow to Bush.

Posted 07/14/2005 04:04:16 PM

oh man, it blocked the html! < font size="a zillion" color="obnoxious" >

Posted 07/14/2005 04:26:04 PM

btw Daniel, great stories these last few days, i think you've definitely found your blog style :) i'm not familiar with your regular work. you singlehandedly caused a 3 point drop in the DJIA this past week, i've been captivated :)

daniel rubin
Posted 07/14/2005 05:42:18 PM

I think I forget what regular work is.

Posted 07/15/2005 09:31:17 AM

Regular Work - Any work where you would rather be doing something else (in my case anyway).

Daniel Rubin
Posted 07/15/2005 09:37:23 AM

Ah, this has become occupational kudzu. It's taken over everything.

That Dude from Philly
Posted 07/16/2005 12:23:30 PM

The leaker was Powell or Armitage, I'm tellin ya.