Cross posted on my blog.

In the past week, I’ve heard a number of Republican-friendly commenters on TV go on-and-on about the “fact” that neither Karl Rove nor Lewis “Scooter” Libby used Valerie Plame’s name in their summer 2003 conversations with journalists. To these analysts, this means that no crime could have been committed in the case.

Today, NRO Corner writer John Podhoretz explains that NBC’s Tim Russert might have used the same excuse with the grand jury when he attempted to explain his apparent conversation with Libby (who says he learned of Plame from Russert). I’ve put the key part in italics:

Is somebody lying? Maybe — but on the other hand maybe there’s a lot of weaseling going on here and some of it is Tim Russert’s. Knowing as his lawyer must have that the criminally dangerous portion of the statute being invoked requires the actual use of Plame’s name, maybe Russert told the special prosecutor he didn’t use the NAME. “Joe Wilson’s wife” is not Valerie Plame’s name.

Regardless of Podhoretz’s claim, check out the statute apparently in question. It only requires that someone reveal information that identifies the individual. It says nothing about leaking a name (see italicized parts of all 3 key sections):

Intelligence Identities and Protection Act (1982)

Section 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources
(a) Disclosure of information by persons having or having had
access to classified information that identifies covert agent

Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified
information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses
any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not
authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the
information disclosed so identifies such covert agent
and that the
United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert
agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be
fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or
both.

(b) Disclosure of information by persons who learn identity of
covert agents as result of having access to classified
information

Whoever, as a result of having authorized access to classified
information, learns the identify of a covert agent and
intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert
agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified
information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies
such covert agent
and that the United States is taking affirmative
measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship
to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned
not more than five years, or both.

(c) Disclosure of information by persons in course of pattern of
activities intended to identify and expose covert agents

Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to
identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that
such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence
activities of the United States, discloses any information that
identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not
authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the
information disclosed so identifies such individual
and that the
United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such
individual’s classified intelligence relationship to the United
States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than
three years, or both.

(d) Imposition of consecutive sentences

A term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be
consecutive to any other sentence of imprisonment.

Sorry for including the entire section, but this makes it clear that Podhoretz and the talking heads I’ve seen on TV are quite wrong.

Other commentators, by the way, have suggested that other crimes may have been committed by those leaking Plame’s identity. John Dean mentioned the Espionage Act of 1917, for example, in a mid-August 2003 column. Liberal Oasis notes that Russert himself pointed to the possibility that one or more leakers might have violated the terms of their basic Standard Form-312, which goes along with their classified security clearance.

Podhoretz also writes that Libby is an experienced hand who couldn’t possibly have been so stupid as to have revealed Plame’s identity. Then again, Podhoretz writes that “Libby saw friends and colleagues sucked into special-prosecutor investigations throughout the 1980s.”

I wonder if Podhoretz would have written in the ’80s that Elliott Abrams, John Poindexter, and Caspar Weinberger were too smart to lie to Congress?

Notes: Podhoretz is Abrams’s brother-in-law as Abrams married Podhoretz’s half-sister. I emailed Podhoretz about his misinterpretion of the statute.

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