“The fact is, Karl Rove did not leak classified information.” So said Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican Party.
“I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name.” So said Karl Rove of Valerie Wilson/Plame last year on CNN.
“He did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.” So said Robert Luskin, Rove’s attorney, after Newsweek reported Rove had been a source for Time magazine’s Matt Cooper but before Newsweek revealed a Cooper email that said Rove had told Cooper that “wilson’s wife…apparently works at the agency on wmd issues.”
The White House may be stonewalling on the Rove scandal, but the Rove camp–aided by its echo-ists in the conservative media–has been busy establishing the twin-foundation for his defense: he did not mention Valerie Wilson/Plame by name; he did not disclose classified information. The first of these two assertions is misleading and irrelevant; the second is wrong.
Did not disclose her name
According to Cooper’s email, Rove told Cooper that “Wilson’s wife”–not “Valerie Plame,” or “Valerie Wilson”–worked at the CIA. But this distinction has absolutely no legal relevance. Under the relevant law–the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982–a crime is committed when a government official (not a journalist) “intentionally discloses any information identifying” an undercover intelligence officer. The act does not say a name must be disclosed. By telling a reporter that Joseph Wilson’s wife was a CIA officer, Rove was clearly disclosing “identifying” information. There was only one Mrs. Joseph Wilson. With such information in hand, Cooper or anyone else could easily have ascertained the name of this officer. (A Google search at the time would have yielded the name–and maiden name–of Wilson’s wife.) Revealing the name is not the crime; it’s disclosing information that IDs the officer. Imagine if a government official told a reporter, “At 3:15, a fellow in a green hat, carrying a red umbrella and holding a six-pack of Mountain Dew, will be tap-dancing in front of the Starbucks at Connecticut Avenue and R Street–he’s the CIA’s best undercover officer working North Korea.” That official could not defend himself, under this law, by claiming that he had not revealed the name of this officer. The issue is identifying, not naming. Rove and his allies cannot hide behind his no-name claim.