2005/07/16

Did people know of Valerie's career?

One thing that's really bothered me about the Plame/Rove case has been the suggestion that Valerie's cover wasn't a secret or not an important secret. David Corn sets us straight:

Conservative columnist Byron York was also on that NPR show. He's one of the more reasonable rightwing reporters I know. But he, too, parroted the pro-Rove spin, saying, in his mild manner, that it was unclear to him whether Valerie Wilson was undercover in any significant way. From the start of this controversy, conservatives have been insinuating that Valerie Wilson was not under serious cover. their point: this leak was no biggie. In the early days of the controversy, Clifford May, a former New York Times reporter who went on to become a GOP spokesperson, maintained that it was widely known throughout Washington that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA. Since then, there's been absolutely no evidence to support May's claim. But back to York's observation. Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA under what's called "nonofficial cover." She was a NOC. This means that when she worked overseas she did not have a diplomatic passport and did not pass herself off as an embassy official. If anything happened to her, she'd be in mucho trouble. And she worked with a front group that was set up to give her--and maybe other CIA officials working in the field of WMDs--cover as energy analysts. When the leak occurred, she was indeed at a desk job at the CIA. But NOCs can come and go from CIA headquarters. They maintain their cover so they can return to the field if necessary and to protect the operations they previously worked on and the people (sources, agents, fellow officers) they previously worked with. Outing a NOC can endanger more than the particular person.

Moreover, the CIA thought the leak justified an investigation. It requested that the Justice Department pursue the matter. The Justice Department eventually handed the case to Fitzgerald, and he has seen reason to mount a fierce inquiry. And several federal judges who have reviewed his court filings--in the cases involving Matt Cooper and Judith Miller--all supported Fitzgerald's claim that the leak amounted to a serious breach. True, we still don't know exactly what Valerie Wilson did as a NOC. But York's gentle suggestion that her CIA identity was a minor and not-all-that-important secret is contradicted by the public record.

Keep in mind also, that no one has popped up to say "I knew that Valarie was a CIA agent". Saying "Everybody knew" is simply not the same as being able to state that "Joe Whoziswhatsis knew"

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