LA Times falsely reported Fitzgerald "concluded" Plame leak "did not violate ... law protecting the identity of covert operatives"

››› ››› JOE BROWN

A Los Angeles Times article echoed the claim -- frequently advanced by conservatives -- that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of then-CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity "concluded that the disclosure did not violate a federal law protecting the identity of covert operatives." In fact, Fitzgerald has stated that he was unable to determine whether any laws were violated in the leaking of Plame's identity because his investigation was impeded by former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whom he charged with perjury and obstructing the grand jury investigation.

A July 13 Los Angeles Times article by staff writer Richard B. Schmitt echoed the claim -- frequently advanced by conservatives -- that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of then-CIA employee Valerie Plame's identity "concluded that the disclosure did not violate a federal law protecting the identity of covert operatives." Schmitt appeared to be referring to the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), prohibiting the intentional disclosure of a covert intelligence officer's identity. But as Media Matters for America has noted repeatedly , Fitzgerald has stated that he was unable to determine whether any laws were violated in the leaking of Plame's identity because his investigation was impeded by former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was indicted on charges of perjury and obstructing the grand jury investigation.

In an October 28, 2005, press release summarizing Libby's indictment, Fitzgerald indicated that he had not been able to reach a conclusion about whether a crime had been committed in leaking Plame's identity, saying that Libby impeded the grand jury's investigation:

Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens. The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government. In an investigation concerning the compromise of a CIA officer's identity, it is especially important that grand jurors learn what really happened. The indictment returned today alleges that the efforts of the grand jury to investigate such a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed classified information about Valerie Wilson [Plame].

And in a press conference that same day, a reporter specifically asked Fitzgerald whether the investigation was over and whether the probe would fail to "lead to a charge of leaking." In response to the first question, the special counsel said that the investigation had not concluded. In response to the second question, Fitzgerald compared himself to an umpire who, while attempting to determine whether a pitcher intentionally hit a batter, had sand thrown in his eyes:

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, this began as a leak investigation, but no one is charged with any leaking. Is your investigation finished? Is this another leak investigation that doesn't lead to a charge of leaking?

FITZGERALD: Let me answer the two questions you asked in one. OK, is the investigation finished? It's not over, but I'll tell you this: Very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried and would you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you, the substantial bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded. This grand jury's term has expired by statute; it could not be extended. But it's in ordinary course to keep a grand jury open to consider other matters, and that's what we will be doing.

Let me then ask your next question: Well, why is this a leak investigation that doesn't result in a charge? I've been trying to think about how to explain this, so let me try. I know baseball analogies are the fad these days. Let me try something. If you saw a baseball game and you saw a pitcher wind up and throw a fastball and hit a batter right smack in the head, and it really, really hurt them, you'd want to know why the pitcher did that.

[...]

In this case, it's a lot more serious than baseball. And the damage wasn't to one person. It wasn't just Valerie [Plame] Wilson. It was done to all of us.

And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell [New York Times reporter] Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. [Matthew] Cooper [of Time magazine]? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?

Or did they intend to do something else, and where are the shades of gray?

And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened, and somebody blocked their view.

As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.

So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.

From Schmitt's July 13 Los Angeles Times article:

Columnist Robert Novak's decision to break his silence about his role in the CIA leak investigation has left one crucial question unanswered: Who was the administration official who gave him the tip that has occupied a special prosecutor and Beltway pundits for three years?

Novak's July 14, 2003, column publicly identifying CIA officer Valerie Plame triggered a federal investigation into whether the Bush administration had retaliated against a critic of its Iraq policy by blowing the covert status of his wife.

But the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has declined to finger the primary source, and this week one of the few people in a position to unravel the mystery would identify only supporting players.

On Wednesday, both in his syndicated column and on Fox News Channel's "Special Report," Novak acknowledged for the first time that he had cooperated with Fitzgerald, telling the special prosecutor that he had talked about Plame with administration officials before he wrote a column criticizing her husband -- and publicly identifying her.

He agreed to talk with Fitzgerald about his conversations with the officials, he said, only after learning that the special prosecutor had independently confirmed who they were.

But the failure to publicly name the person who initially identified Plame and her employer has left open major questions of motive and circumstances behind one of the biggest scandals of the Bush years - whether the disclosure was a political dirty trick, a momentary lapse in judgment or something in between. Fitzgerald has concluded that the disclosure did not violate a federal law protecting the identity of covert operatives.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Los Angeles Times
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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