Mike, Mike, Mike ... just when you were doing so well!
Mike Allen, who wrote several of the best articles about the Plame case, has a new article in the Post today about the Plame story. Actually, the piece contains some really good stuff. But first the egregious lede.
The point of Allen's article is that the perps in the Plame case may not have committed a crime because they may not have known that Plame was undercover. They may only have known she was CIA.
And who's the expert who pushes this angle?
(If you already know who Toensing is, I'll give you a few moments to laugh uncontrollably. Then rejoin us when you're done.)
Allen calls Toensing a "legal expert" and "the chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence when Congress passed the law protecting the identities of undercover agents."
But that's a rather incomplete description, now isn't it?
Toensing, of course, is not only a pricey DC defense lawyer. She's also a professional Republican, one tightly connected to the DC GOP power structure, and someone you could find at pretty much any point in the late nineties as an anti-Clinton "legal expert" on every chat show under the sun.
Using Toensing as the legal expert on this question is like bringing Bruce Lindsey in as your commentator to discuss Lewinsky.
Now for the substance of what Toensing said.
Toensing says this may not have been a crime because the perps may not have known Plame was undercover.
But this isn't really a reason why this wasn't a crime. It's more properly termed the logical defense at trial or perhaps in a plea negotiation. It may well be impossible to prove the perps' knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt. But it's very hard to believe, for a number of reasons, they didn't know exactly what she did.
Here's just one of the many reasons why.
Allen writes ...
The July column by Robert D. Novak that touched off the investigation did not specify that Valerie Plame was working undercover, but said she was "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." That raises the possibility that the senior administration officials he quoted did not know Plame's status.
This rather misses the point.
In the intelligence community, the word 'operative' is a term of art. And it means someone who is undercover. It doesn't refer to an analyst. And as I showed in this post from October 9th a review of all of Novak's columns in the Nexis database shows that he always use the term in this way.
When this mess first hit the fan, Novak tried to claim that he had just made a mistake. And his friends in the press generally gave him the benefit of the doubt. But for someone like Novak that explanation hardly passes the laugh test. And if Novak knew, that means his sources knew.
And one other point.
Back on October 9th and 10th I told you that Scott McClellan's denials that Rove, Libby and Abrams were the perps wasn't nearly as air-tight as they seemed, that it was basically a non-denial denial. But no one seemed to catch on.
Now they're coming clean. Again, from Mike Allen's piece in the Post ...
When White House press secretary Scott McClellan was being barraged with questions about the case this fall, he said repeatedly that he knew of no Bush aides who had "leaked classified information." McClellan would not answer questions about the ethics or propriety of encouraging reporters to write about Plame.
"The subject of this investigation is whether someone leaked classified information," McClellan said. Another time, he said, "The issue here is whether or not someone leaked classified information." McClellan left open the possibility that White House aides had discussed Plame with the media. "You all talk about what's in the news, I talk about what's in the news, people always talk about what's in the news," he said.
A senior administration official said Bush's aides did not intend to mount a legalistic defense, but two GOP legal sources who have discussed the case with the White House said the careful, consistent wording of McClellan's statements was no accident.
"If they could have made a broader denial, they would have," said a lawyer who is close to the White House. "But they seem to be confident they didn't step over the legal line."
So let's stop the charade. They're guilty as sin. It's now crystal clear that from the very beginning the folks at the White House have known who did it. And pretty clearly the president didn't see anything wrong with it, or didn't care, because he didn't try to do anything about it.