Oh when the frogs!
Come marchin' in!
Oh when the frogs come ...
Okay, enough of this silliness. Let's get down to business.
Friday's New York Times runs an article that implies a lot but says frustratingly little about the current state of the Valerie Plame investigation.
The key revelation, which comes in the first graf, is that investigators have "expanded their inquiry to examine whether White House officials lied to investigators or mishandled classified information related to the case."
The point here would be that prosecutors are now considering indictments not directly related to the underlying crime but of members of the White House staff who lied to investigators during the course of the investigation.
It's classic 'not the crime but the coverup.'
Unfortunately, the piece doesn't make clear whether these might be indictments in addition to ones tied to underlying crime or whether the prosecutors are going for this because they can't make a case on that underlying bad act.
What's more, prosecutors are apparently preparing to take further grand jury testimony. But the authors say it's not clear whether this signals that indictments are coming or that they're getting some final testimony before closing the investigation without indictments -- what you might call a rather substantial difference.
None of this is meant as a criticism of the piece. These are devilishly difficult articles to write. And it seems like the authors got some key leads but not enough to quite present the full picture.
But lets shift gears a bit and discuss another subject.
Earlier this month Murray Waas reported in the American Prospect that Karl Rove had admitted "that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists [but] also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak."
In itself, this is not surprising. It's been pretty clear from the start that Rove pushed the Plame story with reporters after the Novak column appeared. The question is whether he was also the original source of the story.
If he only did only the former, I've always assumed that he was legally in the clear, notwithstanding the ethical sliminess of the behavior.
But perhaps that's not so.
A couple weeks back a legal memo fell into my hands from the sky. And it suggests that even the facts Rove has apparently admitted to put him in clear legal jeopardy.
First, a brief note about the memo: this is not a memo that is in any way a product of the investigation itself. The facts it discusses are exclusively ones which have appeared in media reports. I'm not a lawyer so I cannot myself vouch for the strength of the arguments advanced in the memo. (They certainly seem, to my non-legal mind, to press for an interpretation which yields legal jeopardy.) But it was prepared by lawyers with the proper professional expertise to compose such a memo and interpret the statutes and precedents in question. Finally, this memo is not the product of any political campaign or organization. Not that it would matter particularly, but it's not.
Now to the memo.
The essential argument is that the law, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, does more than simply prohibit a governmental official with access to classified information from divulging the identities of covert operatives. The interpretation of the law contained in the memo holds that a government insider, with access to classified information, such as Rove is also prohibited from confirming or further disseminating the identity of a covert agent even after someone else has leaked it.
I won't try to explain it anymore than that. The memo is only a few pages long and I've marked the key passages.
There is one point the author of the memo doesn't raise. My layman's reading of the memo suggests to me that it would be critical to ascertain whether Rove learned of Plame's identity before the Novak article appeared or whether he learned of it for the first time when he read Novak's column.
If the latter, then I'm not sure the argument contained in the memo holds up.
Again, that's what occurred to me reading this memo. But bear in mind that my legal education is limited to a summer studying for the LSAT and a mortifying few hours about a decade ago taking the damn thing itself.
Here's the memo. I'm curious to hear your opinions.