John wrote here that whether Valerie Plame was a “covert agent” subject to the protection of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act appears to turn on whether she served outside the United States during the five years preceding her identification. Did she?
We seem to have made some progess today in our efforts to answer the question. James Taranto links to this USA Today article and writes in “Best of the Web Today”:
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.
Over at NRO’s Corner, John Podhoretz writes:
Here is Joseph Wilson himself, talking to Wolf Blitzer on CNN today: “My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.” Read that again. Now reflect on the fact that there has been an ongoing investigation FOR TWO YEARS conducted, we were breathlessly and rather constantly told in the weeks surrounding the initial controversy, on the basis that the White House and reporters OUTED A CLANDESTINE AGENT. Now we know. She wasn’t. Not then.
It is certainly possible, based on the poorly drafted wording of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, to take this fact and still somehow to discern a crime somewhere here. Which is what Wilson’s defenders and the blood-in-the-water Democrats and Leftists are arguing and will continue to argue.
Fine. And for the record, as I said in my book Bush Country, if indeed a clandestine agent was placed in jeopardy by a White House leak, then the administration deserved to go hang. But — now her own husband is saying it — Valerie Plame Wilson WASN’T A CLANDESTINE AGENT AT THE TIME.
No, no, no. She WASN’T.
So what I want to know, based on simple logic, is this: When is Allen Funt going to step out from behind the lamppost and inform America that we’ve all been on Candid Camera?
Has anyone explored the possibility that Karl Rove is not the target of Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation or that the crime in issue does not include violation of the IIPA?
UPDATE: Reader Jimmy Guckian emails us this story from tomorrow’s New York Times: “Rove reportedly held phone talk on CIA officer.” It appears highly likely that another element of an offense under the IIPA may be lacking as to Rove — knowledge of the CIA officer’s identity from classified information. The story also notes that Karl Rove’s attorney “has previously said that prosecutors have advised Mr. Rove that he is not a target in the case, which means he is not likely to be charged with a crime.” Guckian comments on the Times article: “They all but exonerate Karl Rove and then wonder whether Bush will stand behind his promise to fire any official caught leaking the name of a covert agent. The exonerate Karl Rove and then rag on about how difficult a position Scott McClellan is in. They exonerate Karl Rove and harp on about how this may be Bush