The Evidence Presented So Far Suggests Karl Rove Has Done Nothing Wrong In The Valerie Plame Case

A couple of days ago, I posted a “let’s wait and see” type post about Karl Rove…and I would be content to do that.

Unfortunately, prominent Democrats are understandably, but also irresponsibly, calling for Karl Rove to be fired and the press has already gone into a Valerie Plame related feeding frenzy.

This puts the White House into a really tough spot because they completely botched how this was handled in the beginning. Even though they probably knew better, they didn’t challenge the whole idea that a felony had been committed or that Valerie Plame was a covert operative. Moreover, Bush said he’d fire the leaker and Scott McCellan said, “The president knows that Karl Rove wasn’t involved.”

So, the Bush administration really set themselves up for a fall on this whole thing — which, quite frankly, is too bad, because at this point, this whole “scandal” looks to be nothing more than a tempest in a teapot that was allowed to get way out of hand.

By that, I mean that whether Karl Rove should be fired or not really hinges on two things: did he commit a crime and/or did he do anything that’s unethical? Given what we know about the case at this point, the answer to both those questions appears to be a resounding, “no.”

Despite the fact that there was a lot of bold “felony talk” early on, the general consensus now seems to be that no crime appears to have been committed by revealing that Joe Wilson’s wife worked in the CIA. That’s being pointed out by everyone from National Review to the Washington Post.

Next, was it unethical for Karl Rove to tell Matt Cooper that Joe Wilson’s wife was a CIA agent? Yes, if — and this is a huge “if” — if she was a covert agent, because that could endanger her life.

However, despite the fact that Plame may have been a covert agent at one time and the CIA may still have technically looked at her that way, she was no longer a “secret agent” in any meaningful sense of the word when Novak’s column came out. Consider the situation at the time this whole “scandal” broke:

— Plame had a “desk job at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va..” Now, how “secret” can your identity be if you’re driving to CIA headquarters every day?

— Valerie Plame’s name was published at the time as part of Joseph Wilson’s own biography online.”

— Plame’s identity was apparently widely known by the press BEFORE Novak’s column came out.

— Robert Novak actually did contact the CIA before the column went live and going by what he was told, it sounds like Plame was an ex-covert agent who was working as an analyst:

“At the CIA, the official designated to talk to me denied that Wilson’s wife had inspired his selection but said she was delegated to request his help. He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause “difficulties” if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson’s wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name. I used it in the sixth paragraph of my column because it looked like the missing explanation of an otherwise incredible choice by the CIA for its mission.

…A big question is her duties at Langley. I regret that I referred to her in my column as an “operative,” a word I have lavished on hack politicians for more than 40 years. While the CIA refuses to publicly define her status, the official contact says she is “covered” — working under the guise of another agency. However, an unofficial source at the Agency says she has been an analyst, not in covert operations.”

As far as Plame being “endangered” goes, Valerie Plame certainly didn’t look like she was worried about being in danger while she happily posed for Vanity Fair:

That picture really sums up how silly this whole thing is getting to be. The Democrats are screaming that Karl Rove should be fired for what he’s done to the Wilsons and meanwhile Joe, who by the way campaigned for John Kerry “in at least six states,” parlayed this into a book and Valerie is smiling for the cameras in Vanity Fair. Trust me, nobody needs to shed any tears for Joe Wilson & Valerie Plame.

Given all that, not only should Karl Rove not be fired, as far as I’m concerned, he hasn’t even done anything that’s unethical. Now, if Patrick Fitzgerald comes back and charges Rove with a crime, that’s a different ball game. But since the Democrats are demanding that we take sides right now, before all the facts are in, I’m happy to say that I don’t have any problem whatsoever with Rove setting the record straight by mentioning Plame’s involvement with Wilson’s trip to Matt Cooper.

*** Update #1 ***: Mark Levin at The Corner brings up another very relevant fact. First here’s USA Today:

“In The Politics of Truth, former ambassador Joseph Wilson writes that he and his future wife both returned from overseas assignments in June 1997. Neither spouse, a reading of the book indicates, was again stationed overseas. They appear to have remained in Washington, D.C., where they married and became parents of twins.”

Six years later, in July 2003, the name of the CIA officer –Valerie Plame– was revealed by columnist Robert Novak.

Now here’s Levin:

The column’s date is important because the law against unmasking the identities of U.S. spies says a “covert agent” must have been on an overseas assignment “within the last five years.” The assignment also must be long-term, not a short trip or temporary post, two experts on the law say. Wilson’s book makes numerous references to the couple’s life in Washington over the six years up to July 2003. “Unless she was really stationed abroad sometime after their marriage,” she wasn’t a covert agent protected by the law, says Bruce Sanford, an attorney who helped write the 1982 act that protects covert agents’ identities.

If Plame hasn’t traveled outside the US since 1997 then she’s not a covert agent nor is revealing her identity illegal or unethical.

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