Kevin Drum points to a trio of articles indicating that Administration officials -- who are security-obsessed when it comes to maintaining secrecy about their own actions -- appear to have blown a CIA agent's cover as part of an effort to discredit an Administration critic. CalPundit comments:
This just gets uglier and uglier, and I hope the mainstream press — having finally smelled blood — will follow this up. If Corn's accusations are true, this is an appalling abuse of power by the administration that not only blows an agent's cover, but reduces the effectiveness of an important CIA program and makes it harder for the CIA to recruit similar agents in the future.
I hope they think it was worth it.
I would point out, of course, that lack of "human intelligence" assets has been one of the problems plaguing the CIA recently.
This development is simply outrageous. Perhaps this time, principled conservatives who genuinely care about national security with join in condemning this reprehensible action. Heads need to roll on this one -- an administration official who blows the cover of a CIA agent should lose his or her job at the very least.
Update: Mark Kleiman has a "Say it ain't so, Joe" moment:
If true, it would be just too ugly for words: much, much lower and shabbier, by the rules these folks play by, than anything else this Administration has done to date.
...If Wilson's wife isn't a CIA agent, her ability to do her actual job (she works for a consulting firm) has been compromised, as have her personal relationships. The lives of people she has met with abroad, who might be suspected of having given her sensitive information, have been put at risk. Perhaps she has been put at risk, too.
If she is a CIA agent, her life has certainly been put at risk, and the lives of her foreign sources have been put at grave risk. That reduces our ability to collect intelligence in the future. Of course, on this hypothesis her career is over, now that her cover has been blown. In addition, whoever gave Novak the information (though not Novak himself) is guilty of a felony punishable by five years in prison.
...[T]his latest -- if true, which we, or at least I, don't know -- would involve a completely different magnitude of villainy. Deliberately outing one of your own spies as an act of political revenge would be a truly unforgivable deed, and one that wouldn't become any more forgivable if tomorrow MI5 produced an invoice for 300 tons of yellowcake with Saddam Hussein's signature and thumbprint on it as the recipient.
As I just commented on a thread at Electrolite:
As Mark Kleiman said more eloquently than I, it *doesn't freakin' matter* if Mrs. Wilson is CIA or not. What matters is that two -- count 'em, two -- sources in the Amdinistration told a journalist for use in publication -- in short, blew her cover. The only alternative explanation I can come up with is that Novak just made the whole thing up (in which case he's set himself up for a dandy libel suit).
If she is not a CIA agent, her professional and personal reptuations have been damaged.
If she *is* a CIA agent, her professional and personal reputations have been damaged, her value as an intel asset is now zilch, and the information may literally have put her life -- or more likely, the lives of her contacts -- in danger.
And for what?
There's simply no good interpretation to this sordid event. At the very least, Mrs. Wilson's repuation has been sullied, whether the information is true or not. But what's worse is that this Administration that is definitely obsessed with secrecy and, we're supposed to believe, concerned about national security apparently did so out of sheer pique. It's simply unforgivable.
Unforgivable indeed. Novak could and indeed should protect the identities of his sources, but the Bush Administration, if it has an ounce of integrity, should either expend every effort to discover and discipline the authors of this smear or apoligize abjectly to Mrs. Wilson -- at the very least.
I'm not holding my breath.
Update 2: Mark Kleiman (thanks for the courteous email, Mark!) now thinks there's no longer reason to doubt the story, and so heads must roll. I agree.