July 18, 2005
Drudge is at it again with the false and misleading headlines. Right now, at the top of his alleged non-blog, you’ll find a headline that says this:
Bush: Anyone Convicted of Leak to Be Fired…
The story, he links to, however, contains a somewhat different headline of its own:
Bush: Any Criminals in Leak to Be Fired
The story then goes on to clarify that Bush specifically promised to fire anyone in his administration who is convicted of a crime in connection with the Valerie Plame (non-)incident, assuming a crime was in fact committed. Yes, I know that technically speaking, you can’t be “convicted” of an act that wasn’t a crime, but seriously, is that the impression you got from Drudge’s headline, particularly given that he saw fit to make it a top level headline to begin with?
As to the alleged crime, the article alludes to, but does not cite, the statute allged to have been violated:
Some Democrats have called for Rove, whose title is deputy chief of staff, to be fired. They have suggested that he violated a 1982 federal law that prohibits the deliberate exposure of the name of a CIA agent.
As is usual for the MSM, the reference to “a law” is a bit too generic to allow the average reader to look up the law himself to see what it does or does not prohibit, or whether it is remotely plausible that Rove violated it. Bear in mind that at this juncture, it appears that Rove learned Plame’s identity from the press, not vice-versa, that the alleged leak occurred in 2003, and that Plame ceased to be a covert agent sometime between 1997 and 2002. With these “facts” (they probably are facts, but the scare quotes are there to remind you that anything could change between now and the end of the grand jury investigation), the most likely candidate appears to be 50 U.S.C. § 421(a), which reads:
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 or gabbed on the phone with a news-boy who identifies a non-covert agent, intentionally or unintentionally discloses any information identifying such covert or non-covert agent to any individual authorized or not authorized to receive classified or unclassified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States stopped taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States six or more years ago, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Sounds to me like they got Rove dead to rights. Then again, we can’t read 50 U.S.C. § 421 in a vacuum. We also have to check 50 U.S.C. § 422, which provides certain affirmative defenses to a § 421 charge. In particular, note subsection (a), which provides:
Disclosure by United States of identity of covert agent It is a defense to a prosecution under section 421 of this title that before the commission of the offense with which the defendant is charged, the United States had publicly acknowledged or revealed the intelligence relationship to the United States of the individual the disclosure of whose intelligence relationship to the United States is the basis for the prosecution, provided, however, that no defense shall lie under this subsection if the defendant shall be a top political advisor to the President, and such advisor has assisted such President in stealing any election within the past five (5) years.
Wow, I guess the Dems in Congress saw this one coming a long time ago. I wonder how they managed to con President Reagan into signing it?