On his MSNBC program, host Tucker Carlson claimed that "[t]here's never been a shred of evidence" that the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity "compromised our national security." But the special counsel in charge of investigating the leak found that Plame's identity had been protected by the CIA "not just for the officer, but for the nation's security." Further, reports have indicated that the subsequent disclosure of Plame's CIA front company likely endangered other officers' work.
On the July 12 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson claimed that "[t]here's never been a shred of evidence" that the disclosure of former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity by several Bush administration officials "compromised our national security." But Carlson ignored findings by U.S. attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in charge of investigating the leak, that Plame's identity had been protected by the CIA "not just for the officer, but for the nation's security." Further, news reports have indicated that the CIA believed the damage caused by the leak "was serious enough to warrant an investigation" and that the subsequent disclosure of Plame's CIA front company likely put other agents' work at risk.
Carlson's comment came in response to the publication of syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's July 12 column, in which Novak discussed his cooperation with Fitzgerald's investigation, which arose from Novak's July 14, 2003, column disclosing Plame's identity as a CIA operative. Novak was one of several Washington journalists to receive information about Plame's identity from several Bush administration officials in mid-July 2003 and the first to publish it.
While the CIA has not released a formal assessment of the damage caused by the disclosure, there is ample evidence that the leak had ramifications for national security. Fitzgerald himself has made clear that the investigation had been conducted because "national security was at stake." During the October 28, 2005, press conference in which he announced the indictment of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, Fitzgerald explained that Plame's CIA employment had been classified and that this protection -- like that of any CIA operative -- had been put in place "not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.":
FITZGERALD: Before I talk about those charges and what the indictment alleges, I'd like to put the investigation into a little context.
Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.
Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.
The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.
Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003.
Fitzgerald later noted that "[i]t was known that a CIA officer's identity was blown. ... And given that national security was at stake, it was especially important that we find out accurate facts." He went on to suggest that the question was not whether "national security information" had been compromised, but whether it had happened intentionally:
FITZGERALD: This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter. But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important.
Fitzgerald's assertion that the investigation occurred in the context of concerns regarding national security is backed up by an October 29, 2005, Washington Post article which reported that, according to unnamed officials, shortly after Plame's name appeared in print "the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation."
Further, the leak did not simply reveal Plame as a CIA officer, but also exposed as a front the company that she purportedly worked for -- Brewster-Jennings & Associates -- as the Post reported on October 4, 2003. Former CIA agent Larry Johnson noted that the disclosure of Plame's identity "led to scrutiny of her cover company" in his July 22, 2005, testimony before a joint session of congressional Democrats:
JOHNSON: As noted in the joint letter submitted to congressional leaders earlier this week, the RNC [Republican National Committee] is repeating the lie that Valerie [Plame] was nothing more than a glorified desk jockey and could not possibly have any cover worth protecting. To those such as [Republican attorney and former Reagan Justice Department official] Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King [R-NY], [conservative humorist] P.J. O'Rourke, and Representative Roy Blunt [R-MO] I can only say one thing -- you are wrong. I am stunned that some political leaders have such ignorance about a matter so basic to the national security structure of this nation.
Robert Novak's compromise of Valerie caused even more damage. It subsequently led to scrutiny of her cover company. This not only compromised her "cover" company but potentially every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company or with her.
Other former CIA officials, such as Vincent Cannistraro, have concurred with Johnson's assessment. From an October 11, 2003, Knight-Ridder article:
Training agents such as Plame, 40, costs millions of dollars and requires the time-consuming establishment of elaborate fictions, called "legends," including in this case the creation of a CIA front company that helped lend plausibility to her trips overseas.
Compounding the damage, the front company, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, whose name has been reported previously, apparently also was used by other CIA officers whose work now could be at risk, according to Vince Cannistraro, formerly the agency's chief of counterterrorism operations and analysis.
From the July 12 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: It seems very clear to me that Valerie Plame did not at all qualify under that statute. She was not in deep cover. Anybody who lives in D.C. -- you lived here a long time. You know --
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL JR. (MSNBC senior political analyst): That's not necessary. Tucker, if you read the statute --
CARLSON: And I have. I have.
O'DONNELL: If you read the statute, you do not have to be in deep cover. It says nothing about deep cover.
CARLSON: But hold on. But hold on here. We have a much broader question about American national security. There has been this steady drumbeat from the left from Day One about how this leak compromised our national security. There's never been a shred of evidence, as far as I can tell, in support of that contention, but that's what people are saying. So doesn't it surprise you, if, in fact, that's true, if Karl Rove's leak to Bob Novak hurt our country, why isn't anybody going to jail for it?