The Valerie Plame affair is shaping up as this summer’s entertainment for bored news junkies. As noted below, an important issue in the “case” is whether Plame was a covert employee of the CIA. This morning’s Washington Times includes this denial by one of Plame’s former supervisors that she was a “covert agent”:
A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an “undercover agent,” saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency’s headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.
“She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat,” Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.
“Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren’t minding the store here. … The agency never changed her cover status.”
In addition, Mrs. Plame hadn’t been out as an NOC since 1997, when she returned from her last assignment, married Mr. Wilson and had twins, USA Today reported yesterday. The distinction matters because a law that forbids disclosing the name of undercover CIA operatives applies to agents that had been on overseas assignment “within the last five years.”
Beyond that, the story is pure entertainment value. Yesterday the Senate Democrats tried to revoke Karl Rove’s security clearance; every Senate Democrat joined in the buffoonish measure. Bill Frist responded by introducing an amendment to revoke the security clearances of Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, for improperly disclosing the contents of FBI reports, in Reid’s case on a judicial nominee and in Durbin’s on Guantanamo Bay.
I think it would have been funnier if the Republicans had tried to revoke Ted Kennedy’s driver’s license.
With luck, the Plame affair will continue to enertain us through the dog days of summer.
UPDATE: Stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post this morning have fueled more speculation about the underlying source of the information that Plame worked for the CIA, including, once again, the theory that Judith Miller is that source. We’ll continue to pass along some of the better-reasoned speculation, but prefer to wait to hear from the prosecutor before reaching even tentative conclusions about how the information in question circulated.
FURTHER UPDATE: The current rumor, based on a grand jury leak, is that Rove learned about Plame’s CIA employment from Robert Novak and another journalist (who presumably could have been Miller). If this testimony were accepted, it would mean that there could be no criminal liability on Rove’s part. The broader question, of course, is whether Rove’s supposed “outing” of Ms. Plame had any significance at all, given that Rove was apparently among the last to know.
By the way, one wonders: is this grand jury leak a “good leak,” like the kind engaged in by the New York Times and the Washington Post, or a “bad leak,” like the kind allegedly engaged in by Rove? Just asking.