Saturday, July 16, 2005

Tierney gets the Plame Facts Wrong

In today's New York Times, John Tierney explains why it was no big deal for White House operatives to reveal that Joseph Wilson's wife (Valerie Plame) was a CIA operative. Here are a couple of the "facts" that Tierney provides:
The law [forbidding disclosure of an undercover CIA agent's identity] doesn't seem to apply to Ms. Wilson because she apparently hadn't been posted abroad during the five previous years.
Tierney doesn't explain how he knows this "apparent" fact. Whether Plame had been posted abroad in the previous five years has been a subject of speculation, but Citizen Cain is unaware of definitive information either way. Moreover, the fact that the CIA referred this matter to the Justice Department indicates that the CIA believed that a crime had been committed. An anonomous CIA source told Knight-Ridder in 2003, "If she was not undercover, we would have no reason to file a criminal referral."

. . . it turns out she had been working for years at C.I.A. headquarters, not exactly a deep-cover position.

It is true that Plame worked at CIA headquarters. According to former CIA officer Larry Johnson, Plame was among a group of CIA officers who work at headquarters but periodically undertake overseas missions. Such officers must maintain their cover. Furthermore, the revelation that Plame was a CIA operative may jeopardized other operatives as well. Vince Cannistraro, formerly the chief of counterterrorism operations and analysis for the CIA told Knight-Ridder that the work of other CIA officers could be compromised because their cover involved Plame's front company, Brewster-Jennings.