A Brief History
On July 14, 2004, Robert Novak of the Washington Post exercised irresponsible journalistic ethics by publishing an article outing Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.
Plame was the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a career diplomat that had been the US Ambassador to a few minor countries and had served other diplomatic roles. Plame, who was already a CIA agent when she married Wilson, was used to good advantage by the CIA with her husband providing diplomatic cover.
All that changed when Wilson angered the administration of George W. Bush by publicly opposing the expected invasion of Iraq, explaining that on a fact finding mission to Africa he had discovered the alleged attempt by Iraq to acquire uranium was false.
Information was leaked to Robert Novak of the Washington Post about Plame’s job as a CIA agent, and he dutifully published the information. Plame’s position as a CIA agent was compromised, and having been outed made her useless to the CIA, resulting in her resignation and the end of her 18 year career in the CIA. This vindictive act of political dirty tricks undermined the security of the United States, but apparently the perpetrators cared more about their own politics than the good of the country. Plame was clearly sacrificed to get at Wilson for having the gall to (honestly) undermine the false case for invading Iraq.
Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a high ranking Bush administration official was not charged with illegally revealing Plame’s position with the CIA or with also revealing secret intelligence estimate information to the New York Times. Libby was indicted, however, for various counts of lying and obstructing justice. He was convicted of 4 of those counts and received a 30 month prison sentence. President George W. Bush commuted the sentence, removing the jail time but leaving the fine and probation and allowing the conviction to stand. It was later revealed that Richard Armitage, a deputy secretary of state, was the actual source of the leak to Novak.
After the trial, baffled jurors wondered to the press why Karl Rove and vice-president Dick Cheney had not been on trial. Many observers wondered the same thing. Wilson and Plame found federal courts to be unsympathetic to their lawsuits and the Obama administration was also unsupportive.
Plame had a book published about the incident titled Fair Game in 2007, and in 2010 a movie by the same name was released.
Obviously, this fiasco generated more articles and books as well, including Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, by David Corn and Michael Isiskoff, 2006.
Question for students (and subscribers): So why were Libby, Armitage, Karl Rove, Novak, and Cheney not charged with revealing US classified information? Sometimes people go to jail for that, why not this time? Are politicians above the law? Tell us what you think about this case in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please read…
Rozen, Laura and Valerie Plame Wilson. Fair Game: How a Top CIA Agent Was Betrayed by Her Own Government. Simon & Schuster, 2008.