YES, VALERIE PLAME WAS COVERT….In a court filing today, Patrick Fitzgerald provides a summary of Valerie Plame Wilson’s status with the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division at the time she was outed to the press by members of the Bush administration. Guess what? She was covert:
While assigned to CPD, Ms. Wilson engaged in temporary duty (TDY) travel overseas on official business. She traveled at least seven times to more than ten countries. When traveling overseas, Ms. Wilson always traveled under a cover identity — sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias — but always using cover — whether official or non-official cover (NOC) — with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.
At the time of the initial unauthorized disclosure in the media of Ms. Wilson’s employment relationship with the CIA on 14 July 2003, Ms. Wilson was a covert employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.
So that settles that. I hope the wingosphere can finally stop bleating about how she wasn’t “really” covert and there was no harm in what Libby et. al. did.
On another note, this probably means I was wrong about the reason Fitzgerald didn’t try to prosecute anyone for leaking Plame’s name. (Libby was tried only for perjury, not for outing a covert agent.) I figured it was because Plame had been working inside the U.S. for six years at the time of the leak, and one of the technical elements of “covert” under the IIPA Act is that the agent has “within the last five years served outside the United States.”
But obviously she had been working under cover outside the U.S. quite extensively during the previous five years, which means that Plame almost certainly qualified as “covert” under the specific definitions outlined in IIPA. Nonetheless, for some reason Fitzgerald decided not to bring outing charges against anyone. This suggests that Mark Kleiman has been right all along: Fitzgerald’s decision had nothing to do with technical aspects of IIPA, but rather with its scienter requirements. That is, the leakers had to know that leaking Plame’s name could be damaging, and Fitzgerald didn’t think he had the evidence to make that case. That might have been especially true since the leaks seem to have been authorized at very high levels, something the leakers could have used in their defense at trial.
Anyway, it’s still a bit of a mystery. But we’re a tiny step closer to understanding it.