Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Friday, July 15, 2005
Cat in a tin foil hat, part deux
Updated again: The latest GOP tack in the Plamegate debacle: go on the offensive. And the target of their latest fusilade is the media itself.

The wires and major dailies provide the grist, quoting yet another unnamed source, (a lawyer who Jeralyn Merritt at Talk Left so far doubts is Rove's attorney Robert Luskin --btw a must-read post for today) -- who has so far taken the time to peddle his or her story to the NY Times, The Washington Post and the AP. The source (who it's hard not to believe isn't an administration flak) says (in the course of divulging secret testimony) that Karl Rove testified to the Fitzgerald grand jury that he leared of Valerie Plame's name, not from some nefarious source, but from a journalist (whom AP says was Robert Novak but whom E&P speculates might be our old Chalabi friend, NYT's Judith Miller...) Do tell.

So now, the right wing message machine has a new line to peddle to the Freepers: this is a non-story. Rove had nothing to do with leaking Plame's identity ... no, that was two years ago ... Valerie Plame is a nobody ... oh, no wait, that would make it tough for her to have signed off on Wilson's trip (which according to the Senate panel, she didn't, although she did recommend him for it) ... Rove only mentioned Plame didn't mention Ms. Plame by name ... oh, no, that was last week ... ah, yes, he didn't even know who Plame was until a reporter told him.


  • Funny that Rove has so little knowledge of the existence of his fellow Virginia area Episcopal churchmates, Wilson and Plame, if not from personal experience, at least from the same media he's now blaming for the leak. Has he never heard of "Bush's Brain?" ...

  • Funny that Rove was just passing on widely known, unimportant flotsam to Matt Cooper, but felt the need to do so on "double super secret background" ...

  • Funny that Rove's so-casual leak was peddled not from Novak to Rove and then innocently to Cooper, but to a total of six journalists. According to Harper's in September, 2003, "An unnamed administration official told the Washington Post that two White House officials had revealed the agent's identity to at least six journalists. 'Clearly,' the official said, 'it was meant purely and simply for revenge.'" ...

  • Funny that if the story is so inocuous, Rove, Scott MClellan and others felt compelled to lie ... er. ... stonewall the press about it...

  • Funny that if this is such a non-story, a special prosecutor has convened a grand jury and jailed a reporter in the course of investigating it ...

  • And there's still the question of whether Mr. Rove, like Martha Stewart before him, failed to tell the truth to federal investigators ...
Yeah, your'e right, wingers, this is no story at all.

Back in the real world, let's turn to an actual expert on matters of law, lying and the White House: John Dean, who writes the following in FindLaw today:

There is no solid information that Rove, or anyone else, violated [the] law designed to protect covert CIA agents. There is, however, evidence suggesting that other laws were violated. In particular, I have in mind the laws invoked by the Bush Justice Department in the relatively minor leak case that it vigorously prosecuted, though it involved information that was not nearly as sensitive as that which Rove provided Matt Cooper (and possibly others).

The Jonathan Randel Leak Prosecution Precedent

I am referring to the prosecution and conviction of Jonathan Randel. Randel was a Drug Enforcement Agency analyst, a PhD in history, working in the Atlanta office of the DEA. Randel was convinced that British Lord Michael Ashcroft (a major contributor to Britain's Conservative Party, as well as American conservative causes) was being ignored by DEA, and its investigation of money laundering. (Lord Ashcroft is based in South Florida and the off-shore tax haven of Belize.) Randel leaked the fact that Lord Ashcroft's name was in the DEA files, and this fact soon surfaced in the London news media. Ashcroft sued, and learned the source of the information was Randel. Using his clout, soon Ashcroft had the U.S. Attorney in pursuit of Randel for his leak.

By late February 2002, the Department of Justice indicted Randel for his leaking of Lord Ashcroft's name. It was an eighteen count "kitchen sink" indictment; they threw everything they could think of at Randel. Most relevant for Karl Rove's situation, Court One of Randel's indictment alleged a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. This is a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has now been used to cover just such actions.

Randel, faced with a life sentence (actually, 500 years) if convicted on all counts, on the advice of his attorney, pleaded guilty to violating Section 641. On January 9, 2003, Randel was sentenced to a year in a federal prison, followed by three years probation. This sentence prompted the U.S. Attorney to boast that the conviction of Randel made a good example of how the Bush Administration would handle leakers.

The Randel Precedent -- If Followed -- Bodes Ill For Rove. Karl Rove may be able
to claim that he did not know he was leaking "classified information" about a "covert agent," but there can be no question he understood that what he was leaking was "sensitive information." The very fact that Matt Cooper called it "double super secret background" information suggests Rove knew of its sensitivity, if he did not know it was classified information (which by definition is sensitive).

Lying to investigators, leaking sensitive information, whatever works for Fitzgerald. I can't wait to see what parts of Sandy Berger the right will try to throw at their hapless talk radio listeners if Rove is ultimately indicted...

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posted by JReid @ 3:32 PM  
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