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7/15/2005 12:52:00 AM | Timothy

Could it ever be a problem to expose the identity of someone who had been a clandestine CIA agent?
Sure, it is even worse if that person's identity is exposed while overseas (for starters, that agent could be captured or killed). But as many commentaters have noted, outing a CIA officer who was once clandestine can put in grave danger everyone that person had come in contact with on their earlier travels overseas. Intelligence networks can be damaged and destroyed. The front company that the person worked at is useless and becomes tainted. But once the agent's identity is exposed, their (and our) future effectiveness is undermined. They otherwise could have (and for all we know, would have) returned to cladestine status and went on future missions overseas. We definitely want people working on non-proliferation- I believe both Kerry and Bush said in the debates that non-proliferation should be the number one priority. So who in their right mind would imply that there is no possible danger to national security?


Update: My post was in reaction to a Dartblog post which said that Joe Wilson said that his wife was not clandestine at the time when Novak printed his column, and that Novak would thereby be exonerated if that were true. I found that last idea ridiculous, because exposure of a past agent still has effects. But the premise of the Dartblog post is also wrong. Wilson was NOT saying Novak didn't blow his wife's cover. Here's the transcript:
BLITZER: But the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife, who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.

What do you make of those accusations, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you.

WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.
BLITZER: But she hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before that?

WILSON: That's not anything that I can talk about. And, indeed, I'll go back to what I said earlier, the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed, and that's why they referred it to the Justice Department.

She was not a clandestine officer at the time that that article in Vanity Fair appeared. And I have every right to have the American public know who I am and not to have myself defined by those who would write the sorts of things that are coming out, being spewed out of the mouths of the RNC...
For those of you who don't know, the Vanity Fair article happened after Novak wrote his column and because her cover was blown. Atrios says:
For sentient humans, it's clear what Wilson means - that she ceased to be a clandestine operative the day Novak's column came out. It's also clear from his other comments (as it was clear to Blitzer in conversation) that he has to use such language because he can't acknowledge that she ever was a clandestine operative with direct language.



Update 2: Dartblog posts this email from a reader:
HAS ANYONE CORRECTED THIS DUMBF--K? WILSON MEANT THAT THE MOMENT NOVAK BLEW HER IDENTITY SHE WAS NO LONGER UNDERCOVER NOT THAT SHE WAS NO LONGER UNDERCOVER WHEN NOVAK BLEW HER IDENTITY. JESUS CHRIST WHAT AN IDIOT
What a nice tactic: pick out an email like this, and not address the substantive point. He could at least concede what many others could have told him, that his earlier point made no sense at all.

Update 3: A few days later, Dartblog responds, which is what I asked for in my last post. He asserts (without evidence, alas) that Plame had not operated overseas in the last 5 years before the Novak column. (Again, see my original post above even if this is the case...) Dartlog bases his case on grammar. I think Wilson's number one priority was not in anyway admitting his wife had been covert: not even implying that is the number one priority for a diplomat such as Wilson. But whatever, if dartblog wants to believe that Wilson is so smart and clever to choose his words carefully and to reveal to us that his wife was not undercover, but to also only leave it until now to say (real clever, huh?) while Dartblog undoubtly himself believes Wilson has lied on other matters publically... well that's an interesting position to hold, and I've leave him to it. This does not matter too much to me anyway. Plame could have been covert the day before or year before, not the day of, Novak's column and still Novak would been exposing her, and Wilson would be telling the truth, even under Dartblog's interpretation. Dartblog says: "Grammar aside, we already know that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent via other avenues." Huh? Again, no evidence provided. Here's a round up of links about this.
ALSO: Dartblog wonders suggest some alternate phrasing for what Wilson could have said. One of them goes: "My wife ceased to be a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity." Who can tell me why that would be dumb to say? Because in order to 'cease to be' a clandestine office, you had to once be one! Hence my point above about this. Dartblog illustrates perfectly why another phrasing could have been treacherous.



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