Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rove's (not yet) culpability

I'd like to walk down the chain of facts for this current "outing" fiasco - at least one chain - to point out why I'm not yet willing to say Rove needs fired/jailed.

Plame worked for the CIA - fact. At least, I've not yet seen anyone disagree with that.

Plame's CIA employment was classified information - fact. Now while I've written elsewhere on this I need to repeat it for readers here. "Common knowledge" (and it's equivalents of "everyone knows" or "everyone in the know knows") does not remove a classification status. Changing the status of classification is a documentable (read, there's a paper trail) event. You and I can speak all we want of (for example) 'that missile silo outside nowhere, Wyoming' that we drive by almost every day with no consequences. But if an airman joins us and says, "Yep, I was there and it's a missile silo outside Nowhere, Wyoming." then he revealed classified information. The fact it was common knowledge did not remove the silo's classification status.

Rove told people that Plame worked for the CIA - fact. At least, his attorney as well as Cooper's notes say he did.

Rove revealed classified information - maybe. This is the crunch, and it requires a subtle point: did Rove know that Plame's relationship with the CIA was classified? If he didn't know - if he was repeating "common knowledge" - then he skates. Let's set aside "he should have known" as "should have" isn't "did" - ask most any parent. If Karl Rove knew that employment with the CIA was classified information then he revealed classified information. If he knew that Valerie Wilson's employment by the CIA was classified, then he revealed it. If he did not know these items, then as despicable as I might find the revelation, Karl Rove isn't guilty of revealing classified information.

That last paragraph is key. It has to be met before the rest of the relevant criminal statutes can be tested - both the "outing a covert agent" and the various "releasing classified information" statues (Espionage, mostly, but there are a few others).

And until we know, Karl Rove isn't culpable.


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