WHY THE PLAME AFFAIR IS IMPORTANT….Over at Priorities and Frivolities, Robert Tagorda reminds me to keep my eyes on the ball in the Plame affair:

If we want to focus on the possible hypocritical move by the administration — proclaiming the people’s safety to be its top priority, yet allowing vengeful leaks potentially to endanger lives — that’s fine. We should point it out.

But let’s not stop there. This isn’t just about the alleged hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness, or ineptitude of the administration; it’s about the alleged damage to CIA operations that are important to national security. In other words, let’s move beyond the political aspects and focus on the policy implications.

Quite right. The fact that administration officials took it upon themselves to expose a CIA agent shows appalling judgment. They didn’t know whether or not that endangered any CIA operations, which is why you just don’t do this. And the fact that they did it for such base (and trivial) reasons says a lot about the kind of people they are.

But beyond that, of course the fundamental issue here is that ? especially in a post-9/11 world ? you don’t play games with national security. Regardless of whether blowing Plame’s network caused any serious problems, this is the reason the CIA is fighting back so hard on this: because they want to make sure no one ever does it again. Next time it might get a city full of people killed.

So: this affair exposes bad character and high school freshman levels of poor judgment among allegedly senior officials. But it also betrays a lack of seriousness about national security at a time when national security should be the most important thing they’re thinking about.

Which is worse? Take your pick.

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