Discussing the controversy surrounding White House senior adviser Karl Rove's alleged outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, Washington Times chief political correspondent Donald Lambro repeated the meritless claim that because Rove did not disclose Plame's actual name, he did not "out" her. But the distinction between name and identity is irrelevant both legally and practically, and Lambro misleadingly edited a quote from Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to make his case.
From Lambro's July 21 Washington Times commentary:
The core of this story deals with one question: Did Mr. Rove leak the name of Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, to reporters? ... But it doesn't appear Mr. Rove did, at least not explicitly. Who says so? A reporter at the center of this media maelstrom, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, who called Mr. Rove to ask him about allegations swirling around Mr. Wilson's dubious trip. Writing in this week's issue of Time, Mr. Cooper says: "So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No."
In fact, describing Plame as "Wilson's wife," as Rove did, was sufficient to determine her identity, so it lacks both practical and legal significance. As a practical matter, a quick Google search would have produced the actual name, as Media Matters for America has noted. As a legal matter, the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which forbids disclosing the identity of a covert agent, applies to any individual who "intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information." Even Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, has conceded that the distinction between name and identity in this case is "a detail" and is not central to Rove's alleged leak of classified information.
Lambro also misleadingly cropped Cooper's quote. In his first-person account of his conversation with Rove in July 2003, Cooper explained that while Rove did not disclose Plame's actual name, he provided more than enough information for anyone to easily identify her:
As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which.
So did Rove leak Plame's name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the "agency" on "WMD"? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don't know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me.
Finally, Lambro also repeated the false allegation that Wilson's July 2003 New York Times op-ed claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney had authorized his trip to Niger. This frequently repeated falsehood (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) is an attempt to justify Rove's apparent leak on the grounds that he had a legitimate interest in setting the record straight by explaining that Plame, not Cheney, had authorized the trip. In fact, Wilson never claimed Cheney sent him to Niger.