Sunday, April 24, 2005

The state of the Plame Game

Here is the single best article I've read on the Plame investigation, "Plame Game Redux", by Murry Waas (Waas' blog is here). Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald appears to know the identity of the leaker of Plame's name, and the fact that the leak was part of an operation to discredit Joseph Wilson, but has no proof that the leaker knew that Plame was a clandestine CIA officer. The crime under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act requires the leaker to have had such knowledge. The leaker denies knowing, and Fitzgerald may believe that Robert Novak is trying to protect the leaker by falsely claiming that the leaker did not claim to know that Plame was a clandestine CIA officer. This is all supposition, as no one knows what Novak told the investigators, but it is supposition that manages to tie together the mysteries of Fitzgerald's long and seemingly unfruitful investigation. Since the only two witnesses to the conversations between Novak and the leaker are Novak and the leaker, if the two of them lie about the knowledge of the leaker, Fitzgerald is stuck with no way to prove the essential elements of his case. The may explain why Fitzgerald is so relentless in attempting to force both Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper to testify. If Miller and Cooper talked to the same guy, and he admitted to them that he knew that Plame was a clandestine CIA officer, Fitzgerald could prove his case.

If all this is true - and of course nobody knows anything at this point - Novak is a real rat. Not only would he have committed perjury to protect an unsavory member of the Bush Administration, and thus acted in a party partisan way, he might also have acted as an accessory to the crime itself in lying to protect the perpetrator after the fact (Novak is protected by the Act in reporting on the matter, but not in lying to subvert Fitzgerald's investigation). As well, he would be allowing a very bad precedent to be set on whistleblowing, and allowing two fellow journalists to go to jail so he can protect his political friends. All this is so bad that I find it difficult to believe that anybody, even a scum like Novak, would do it, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out. If Fitzgerald is able to convince Matthew Cooper that Novak is lying to set Cooper up to go to jail in order to protect the leaker, Cooper may feel slightly differently about protecting this particular source. He has refused to answer certain questions, but maybe the questions just need refining. A clever lawyer might even be able to frame the questions to Cooper in such a way that he could testify as to what the leaker said without technically giving up the identity of the leaker, particularly if the leaker himself admitted talking to Cooper.