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Novak: Plame Covert Status All Semantics

From Robert Novak’s syndicated column in the Washington Post:

Was She Covert?

By Robert D. Novak

Thursday, March 22, 2007; Page A21

Republican Rep. Peter Hoekstra could hardly believe what he heard on television Friday as he watched a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. Rep. Henry Waxman, the Democratic committee chairman, said his statement had been approved by the CIA director, Michael Hayden. That included the assertion that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative when her identity was revealed.

As House intelligence committee chairman when Republicans controlled Congress, Hoekstra had tried repeatedly to learn Plame’s status from the CIA but got only double talk from Langley. Waxman, 67, the 17-term congressman from Beverly Hills, may be a bully and a partisan. But he is no fool who would misrepresent the director of central intelligence. Waxman was correctly quoting Hayden. But Hayden, in a conference with Hoekstra yesterday, still did not answer whether Plame was covert under the terms of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act…

Waxman and Democratic colleagues did not ask these pertinent questions: Had not Plame been outed years ago by a Soviet agent? Was she not on an administrative, not operational, track at Langley? How could she be covert if, in public view, she drove to work each day at Langley? What about comments to me by then CIA spokesman Bill Harlow that Plame never would be given another foreign assignment? What about testimony to the FBI that her CIA employment was common knowledge in Washington?

Instead of posing such questions, Waxman said flatly that Plame was covert and cited Hayden as proof. Hayden’s endorsement of Waxman’s statement astounded Republicans whose queries about her had been rebuffed by the agency. That confirmed Republican suspicions that Hayden is too close to Democrats…

Victoria Toensing, the lone rebuttal witness granted the Republicans by Waxman… testified that Plame was not a covert operative as defined by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which she had helped draft as a Senate staffer in 1982, if only because she was not stationed overseas for the CIA the past five years. Waxman hectored Toensing, menacingly warning that her sworn testimony would be scrutinized for misstatements.

Waxman relied on his support from Hayden. When Hayden’s role was pointed out to one of the president’s most important aides, there was no response. The White House from the start has treated the Plame leak as a criminal case not to be commented on. The Democrats still consider it a political blunderbuss, aimed at Karl Rove and his boss.

In passing it should be noted, since it seldom is, that Robert Novak was never for the war in Iraq. So he, like Armitage, would have been on the Wilson/Plame side in this equation.

But at least Mr. Novak has enough integrity to be interested in the truth of the matter of Plame’s actual job status.

It is my abiding belief (based on experience and highly informed sources) that Plame was technically still considered “covert” by the CIA.

But only because once upon a time long ago and far away she did work overseas using non-official cover — aka as a NOC. (Cf. her Brewster Jennings energy consultant cover.)

But due to the general inertia of the “human resources” department of the CIA, Ms. Plame was never re-classified. Even though it was clear she was no longer working as a NOC, since NOCs by definition do not drive back and forth to Langley.

More importantly, as Victoria Toensing has repeatedly pointed out, the Intelligence Identity Protection Act (IIPA) was created to protect intelligence officers working undercover (as NOCs) overseas.

So even if due to bureaucratic laziness Plame was still classified at a NOC, for all intents and purposes she was no longer working as one — and had not been for years — and so no crime under the IIPA was committed.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, March 22nd, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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