Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Who was outed?

I'm beginning to believe that almost everyone's falling for the magician's favorite trick - misdirection. It's even more amazing as it's unintentional. Let's take a quick look at what I think is the critical section of 50 USC 421, common to paragraphs (a) and (b):

Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information,...

Now everyone (including me) has been focused on "identifying a covert agent" as saying: This person, Valerie (Plame) Wilson, is a covert agent. And there's lots of talk of the splash effect on other connections, for example that Brewster, Jennings and Associates was exposed as a CIA front and that all her contacts are going to be reexamined by foreign agencies to see if one or more might also be intel specialists, and ... SCREECH. Slam on the brakes, we had a critical insight.

"Brewster, Jennings and Associates is a CIA front." Meaning everyone - EVERYONE - who introduced themselves as employeed by BJ&A in the past few years might have been CIA. More importantly, ALL senior officers were either CIA or connected to the intelligence structure. They'd have to be at least partially so in order to not get extreme reactions when agent X is plugged into the finance or sales office at the senior staff level.

(Hey, who is this Valerie Plame person who says she's part of my office? Why didn't I get to interview her, read her resume, see her references, or any of that. And why the heck if she's part of my office is she getting assignments I didn't give?)

Now the loophole is not the bit about covert agent, but about "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent." At this point it's legal parsing - is confirming Valerie Plame was such an agent and so her cover was false by definition knowing the cover was false and that you disclosed that fact? (whew, that's tangled, but I think it gives the gist). The more I look at this the more likely it seems.

I don't think we're looking at a single count of violation of this statute. I think we're looking at multiple counts. Each count carrying up to either 5 or 10 years depending on level of knowledge, and each count mandatorily served consecutively per paragraph (d) of this same section:

(d) Imposition of consecutive sentences A term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be consecutive to any other sentence of imprisonment.


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