Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 2, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

PLAME: NO HARM, NO FOUL?....Max Boot suggests today that the Valerie Plame affair is a poor excuse for a scandal:

It's true that these kinds of revelations can cost lives, as they did in the 1970s when renegade CIA agent Philip Agee blew the cover of some officers operating abroad. But by all accounts, Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is not operating undercover abroad, at least not at the moment. She seems to work as an analyst at Spook Central in Langley, Va.

I'm sure Max is writing in good faith here, so let's address this tiresome argument once and for all.

Take the best possible case: Plame was technically "clandestine" but not truly doing anything secret. She was a desk analyst, she didn't run a network, and exposing her did no harm to her or to any American assets. So, no harm, no foul?

No, because that's not the point. The point is that it's not up to politicos in the White House to make this decision. They didn't know whether exposing Plame would do any harm, and responsible high level officials are supposed to have the good sense to know that you don't play games with this kind of stuff. You don't do it on the cocktail circuit to prove that you're in the know, and you definitely don't do it in a highly public forum as part of a stupid third-rate attempt to discredit someone who's embarrassed you by writing an op-ed in the New York Times. Leaking classified information may be fairly routine (and often relatively innocuous), but playing games with CIA identities is not.

I hope that's straight, because this particular pretext is disingenuous in the extreme. Especially since Boot then goes on to argue that while naming Plame is wrong, we shouldn't make too big a deal out of it because we have bigger fish to fry these days. Sure, maybe the whole scandal thing was overdone back in the Clinton administration, but we're at war now. Making trouble for the president is a real distraction from the business at hand.

Maybe the politicos in the White House should have thought of that before they switched off their brains and switched on the slime machine back in July.

Kevin Drum 9:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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