The CIA Station Chief for Afghanistan was recently “outed”, apparently accidentally, during the POTUS’ recent visit to Afghanistan. So let’s do a comparison with another recent outing of a “clandestine” operative, shall we?
I’ve looked at both. The results are . . . interesting.
Remember all the brouhaha over the Valerie Plame “outing”? How the left – and the media – was all up in arms over Carl Rove’s supposed “outing” of that “clandestine CIA operative”?
Here’s a refresher on the facts of the Plame case:
- The fact that Plame worked for the CIA was apparently common knowledge in DC.
- Plame was not working in a clandestine capacity at the time she was “outed”; she was working openly as an analyst at CIA HQ at the time (such positions are generally not clandestine and are thus not covered by the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act [IIPA]). She may or may not have been covered by IIPA the due to past overseas clandestine work, as the IIPA provides 5 years of identity protection under such circumstances (50 USC 426). (That claim has been asserted and is likely true, but to my knowledge was never definitively proven.)
- Rove didn’t “out” Plame to journalist Robert Novak. He confirmed, apparently in an offhand reply to a remark made by Novak himself, information Novak already had obtained.
- Robert Novak already had learned Plame’s name and CIA connection prior to approaching his first confirmatory source, Richard Armitage.
- The CIA confirmed Plame’s CIA connection to Novak, and requested he not use her name. However, the CIA never explicitly indicated to Novak that she was a current or previous clandestine operative. In fact, they indicated she would likely never work for the CIA in such a capacity in the future.
- Scooter Libby went to jail for perjury/lying to investigators, not for outing Plame.
- No one was ever prosecuted for “outing” Plame.
- Finally, the investigative reporting regarding Plame’s alleged “outing” was legitimate journalism, not political payback. The reporter, Robert Novak, was exploring legitimate questions raised by the assignment of Joe Wilson – who had zero experience in either nuclear proliferation issues or with the country of Niger, and who was a former senior Clinton Administration official – to investigate processed uranium ore (yellowcake) provided by Niger to Iraq prior to 2003. Novak was following up on a lead; he’d heard Wilson’s wife (Plame) was the reason he’d gotten the special assignment.
We all know that the alleged Plame “outing” received intense media attention, was thoroughly investigated, and that one prosecution resulted – Libby, for essentially being stupid and lying to investigators. But what was the actual impact of Plame’s supposed “outing”?
Well, frankly, not much. At the time Plame was working openly at CIA HQ, apparently as an analyst – and had been for a number of years. She was rated as unlikely to ever receive another clandestine assignment. Claiming her current assignment working openly at CIA HQ was “clandestine” is, bluntly, nonsensical. As noted previously, she was almost certainly covered under the IIPA for work she’d done in the past – and was likely nearly outside the five year “window” of IIPA coverage. So the practical effect of her alleged “outing” was small if not effectively nada.
Now: contrast the Plame brouhaha with the current screw-up in Afghanistan, where the identity of the current CIA Station Chief for Afghanistan was disclosed. In contrast to the Plame case, to paraphrase a currently-famous politician this disclosure is indeed a “big (freaking) deal”. Common sense tells anyone that disclosing a CIA Station Chief’s identity dramatically reduces his/her effectiveness, if not destroys it completely. It also leads to other problems I won’t discuss here.
It also makes the individual working in such a position a high-value target for terrorists. Don’t believe me? Just ask the next of kin of the late Richard Welch and LTC William Buckley. Indeed, Welch’s murder by terrorists after being outed as CIA Station Chief in Greece is one of the primary reasons that the IIPA was passed.
In this recent case, there was thus serious damage – even if inadvertent. Ditto a violation of the IIPA. Even if the media is generally being cooperative and not releasing the individual’s name, it’s a virtual certainty that foreign intelligence services and terrorist organizations have that info today.
So, the White House is going to hammer someone, right? I mean, even if by accident, this one gets someone fired – right?
Well, no. Other than a couple of procedural changes, the White House doesn’t plan to do squat in the way of disciplining anyone. Apparently they don’t see it as any big deal.
The media also apparently doesn’t think it’s worth raising Cain about, either. Best I can tell, there have been precious few stories about the screw-up. The Plame case, on the other hand, was front-page news for literally years.
I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself why the media is treating this case differently than they did Plame’s.