Friday, January 02, 2004

Wither "whether"? 

Dawkins writes:

Are we slipping backwards here in the Plame-smear investigation?

The Times' David Johnston writes today:
With the interviews, documents and grand jury tools, law enforcement officials said on Wednesday that they are increasingly optimistic that Mr. Fitzgerald stands a strong chance of getting to the bottom of whether anyone in the administration improperly identified a C.I.A. officer to a newspaper columnist.
Wait a minute.

"…getting to the bottom of whether anyone in the administration improperly identified a C.I.A. officer to a newspaper columnist."

Didn't we establish this "whether" thing a long time ago, such as when Robert Novak himself wrote in the very column at issue that he in fact was given the identity of Valerie Plame by "two senior administration officials"? That in other words, someone in the administration did indeed improperly identify a C.I.A. officer to a newspaper columnist?


Novak, July 14, 2003:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
Why, today, is the question still whether anyone in the administration identified Plame? Is the issue about "improperly"? Is there some doubt about whether Patrick Fitzgerald (or David Johnston, or any reader of newspapers) knows that it's quite "improper" indeed - felonious, in fact - for an administration official to reveal the name of a C.I.A. operative?

Isn't the question now about who [Blicero adds: or what] in the administration positively did the identifying? Isn't it now Fitzgerald's task to determine the identity of these people?
But despite the resurgent mood surrounding the case, investigators are said to doubt, at least for the moment, that anyone is likely to be prosecuted for disclosure of the identity of the officer even though the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover operative is a federal crime. That is because a prosecutor must show that a defendant knew that it was unlawful to disclose the name.
It's as reasonable as ever to assume that the administration officials -- smart folks, those -- who leaked Plame's identity knew it was a bad thing to do.

[Blicero adds: I don't know--hasn't "ignorance of the law" always stood as a universal exculpatory factor? And plus, what is knowing, you know? Blicero would also note that he finds the phrase "resurgent mood" (despite what it seems the phrase should mean: hopeful of a conviction) chilling, just chilling.]

From what I've heard of his tenacity and rectitude, I'm confident that Fitzgerald - "the bulldog" - ought to be able to make this one stick.

Ought to…


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