Did Karl Rove break the law in the Plame case?

It seems to me that he did. Rove has admitted that he “circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists [but] also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak.”

He did this apparently with the belief that there is some sort of “cat out of the bag” provision, so as long as he didn’t actually create the leak, his exploitation of it for political damage control is kosher since it happened after the fact.

But if any of you have ever signed a confidentiality agreement of the sort Rove signed when he started working with sensitive national security information, you know that there is no such loophole. If a newspaper runs a story, you can’t assume that the information is now “public” and you are free to discuss it. Doing so would officially confirm the truth of the story and hence violate the ethics of confidentiality. For instance, in law, let’s say that I worked for a law firm that represented some guy X, and I was mildly associated with X’s case because I did some consulting. Sensitive information about X is leaked to the press by an unattributed source. The information was not previously known to me, but I know from the reaction of my firm internally that it was true, and perhaps someone within the firm told me that it was. If I then go to the press and confirm that information, my client, my law firm, and the bar all have grounds to destroy my career, take my license, and other nasty stuff.

Now back to the issue at hand: national security, the courts have ruled that such “confirming a leak” behavior is criminal because a government official could quietly leak classified information and then use that leak to justify publically discussing it. If it were allowed, the security of all official secrets would break down: speculative and unattributed reports could be held to have removed all protection from certain information.

So, as I see it, the basic elements of the crime are all there:
-Plame falls under the definition of covert agent under the relevant statute: her identity as an agent was both classified information, and she had worked outside of the U.S. for the agency within the last five years
-Rove has admitted that he openly discussed the identity of Plame’s wife in the course of spinning Wilson’s attacks with reporters and other non-authorized people
-The only affirmative defense recognized is when the government has officially confirmed the identity of the agent, and in this case the government had not done so.

Under the relevant law that Reagan signed to punish those who compromise covert agents, the penalties for such a crime depend on Rove’s classification level, but there is a possible of term of a fine and/or five years in jail even in the best case scenario (where he was not actually authorized to know idenities, but was authorized to know classified info in general, which Rove is). If they find that his discussion with multiple sources constitutes a “course or pattern of activities” then that tacks on another three years. In the worst case scenario, (which would be if he had access to classified info but was not cleared to know the actual identity of Plame) he could pay a fine and go to jail for thirteen years.

The worst worst case scenario would be if Rove was not authorized to know Plame’s identity and thus yet ANOTHER person must be implicated in revealing it to him. I can imagine a scenario where Rove and some other figure are bitching about that pain in the ass Wilson, and someone mentioning to Rove that his wife is a covert CIA agent for goodness sakes.

The only scenario in which Rove might be in the clear is if he as not cleared to know Plame’s identity, and only discussed her identity because he read it in Novak’s collumn. However, even then his position as someone with publically assumed access to insider information would serve to suggest that he broke confidentiality by confirming Novak’s story, and the law doesn’t seem to include this loophole, since it explicitly lays out a punishment for those who did not have access to the agent’s identity but nonetheless disclosed it publically.

My additional question is: isn’t Wilson guilty of the same thing for confirming that his wife was an agent? Though I suppose he doesn’t have to sign a confidentiality agreement to be married to his wife.

Findlaw’s John Dean’s of the opinion that “But even if the White House was not initially involved with the leak, it has exploited it. As a result, it may have opened itself to additional criminal charges under the federal conspiracy statute.”

Even though he may not have signed a “confidentiality agreement,” he surely was authorized to have classified information. IIRC, this was discussed as an issue between Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame early on in their romantic venture.

I’m not sure why he’d pick the broad conspiracy charge to talk about when there is a much more specific law in question: the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, and specifically 50 U.S.C. 421-26. The conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges are still relevant as well, but they are broader nets to begin with.

I wonder if the the President still has “nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our [the CIA’s] sources.” Given that this seems to be exactly what Rove has admitted to doing, even if it wasn’t the original source of the leak, I wonder if the President was realy sincere about that, or if it only applies to political enemies.

Can you link to the Karol Rove quotes referenced in the OP?



Er, 12 what?

I was just wondering why he thought conspiracy was the most obvious charge, given that it is broader and usually harder to prove than a specific law on revealing the identities of covert agents.

Are any of us under the hilariously misguided impression that “Karl Rove” and “indictment” would ever be joined together in the same sentence?

There must be at least two characters in each post. What’s inside quote boxes doesn’t count. 12 are two chracters.
In a previous article on the same subject, he lists these:

I assumed that the conspiracy charge was a combination catch-all, cherry-on-top, gravy, and icing sort of thing. It’s a law intentionally written to cast a wide net it seems. It offers the potential to catch most everyone involved in this sort of a direct attack on an American spy agency.
This is a serious breach of national security with the potential to directly cost humans lives. This is a matter of grave concern for all Americans, not just the brave men and women on the front lines of our clandestine battles with rogue states and terrorists. The work of Ms. Plame, her colleagues, and her sources that has been compromised is in the field of WMDs.