At the end of

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At the end of July I devoted my column in The Hill to the Wilson/Plame scandal. And I asked a question that is as appropriate today as it was two months ago.

I’d put it this way …

The word from the White House today is that they cannot comment on the two top White House officials who exposed Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA employee under non-official-cover, and that the matter should be left to the official investigative process at the Justice Department.

In Condi Rice’s words: “This has been referred to the Justice Department. I think that is the appropriate place for it … Let’s just see what the Justice Department does.”

The only response to this is: Why? Why can’t the White House act on its own?

We now know that administration officials know who did it. We can guess. But they know. They even have a pretty good tally of how many journalists were called.

So the president knows that two of his top aides blew the cover of a CIA employee under non-official-cover to take revenge against one of his critics, and that in doing so they almost certainly broke federal law. In the unlikely — but possible — event that he does not yet know their identities right now he could pick up the phone and find out in a matter of minutes.

But he’s leaving them in place and, as far as we know, hasn’t disciplined them in any way. He’s waiting for the Justice Department to decide whether there should be a criminal investigation.

Why?

If this is really as outrageous and unacceptable as it seems why doesn’t the president act now? The folks at the White House clearly know who did this. So why is it still secret from the public?

Of course, there’s also the question of why the White House did nothing about this for going on three months. On this, see this exchange between Rice and Tony Snow on Fox this morning …

SNOW: Well, when the story came out — his wife’s name is in the paper — was it known in the White House that she was a CIA employee?

RICE: I’m not going to go into this, Tony, because the problem here is this has been referred to the Justice Department. I think that’s the appropriate place…

SNOW: Well, but it is revealing, or it’s important to figure out what the White House reaction was at the time. For years and years and years, for instance, the administrations chased Phillip Agee all around the globe because he had revealed the name of a CIA officer. This is a grave offense, if you have CIA officers.

Was there, at least within the White House, a gasp when somebody said, “Uh oh”? And if so, did the White House take any action, back then in June, when the story appeared?

Apparently there wasn’t.

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