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As we await a verdict in the Libby Trial, Washington Post reporter Dana Priest solves a mystery. From today's live chat:
Pauling, N.Y.: Is it possible that Valerie Plame was covert but would not be covered by the IIPA? Why is it that no government official will comment about Ms. Wilson's employment and covered status?
Dana Priest: Because she was covert! No, she's covered. If she were not, you could not have this trial in the first place.
And they say people have lost their faith in the justice system.
Let's see. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald never proved Plame was covert, though it ever so slightly might have strengthened his case against Libby if he did. Trial Judge Walton said he doesn't know. In his closing argument, Fitzgerald snuck in a suggestion that Plame was covert, whereupon Walton instructed the jurors that sometimes lawyers say things they don't intend to say. And better than not knowing, Victoria Toensing is confident Plame wasn't covert under the terms of the law cited by Priest. Which Toensing helped write. Dana Priest Live Chat, Meet Victoria Toensing Live Chat:
New York: Ms. Toensing, if no government official is willing to discuss Plame's job or covert/classified status how can you state with certainty that she wasn't covert? Has any government official told you what her status was? What position would you take if you were shown, by someone you trust, that she was covert?
Victoria Toensing: Well, if I had evidence that she was covert I certainly would respect that, but she did not have a foreign assignment within five years of publication. Wilson stated that in his book -- he states that they returned to the United States sometime in 1997, so six years. The definition of "covert agent," a person whose identity is to be protected, is someone who has been overseas in the past five years. The five years were added to protect sources the person would have worked with.
And Toensing spelled this out in her Op-Ed:
On Dec. 30, 2003, the day Fitzgerald was appointed special counsel, he should have known (all he had to do was ask the CIA) that Plame was not covert, knowledge that should have stopped the investigation right there. The law prohibiting disclosure of a covert agent's identity requires that the person have a foreign assignment at the time or have had one within five years of the disclosure, that the government be taking affirmative steps to conceal the government relationship, and for the discloser to have actual knowledge of the covert status.
But hey, there never would have been a trial if Victoria Plame wasn't covert. Just ask Dana Priest.
Thanks to jerry in the Just One Minute comboxes for making today's entertainment possible.
Update: Greetings to Stephen Spruiell and the surfers coming in. The Post's Carol Leonnig has another story today (Friday) that I haven't had the time to properly blog, though it has an interesting premise in its headline, A Nonpartisan Reputation At Stake. The story does a decent job in the first half or more, quoting people who think prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is just peachy and others, like Fred Thompson, not so much. But the last third lapses into cheerleading for Fitzgerald, which is no surprise for anyone who has read either PostWatch's reports on Leonning and Amy Goldstein or even, heaven forbid, the coverage itself. And of course we have the obligatory misrepresentation that has become the Post's calling card for the entire affair:
Fitzgerald alleged that Libby lied about sharing information about Plame with reporters and had been part of a campaign to discredit Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. The CIA sent Wilson to Niger in 2002 to investigate allegations that Iraq was attempting to obtain nuclear material there. Wilson found the reports groundless and in 2003 publicly accused President Bush of twisting his report's conclusions to help justify the war.
It's just bad reporting. I wish I could remember the comboxer who said this somewhere on the internet tubes: Mainstream media has become a barrier to understanding.