Meanwhile, this Boston Globe editorial, reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, puts the focus where, in my view, it belongs:
The 10 former CIA officers who asked Congress for an independent investigation of the leaking of case officer Valerie Plame’s identity ought to have addressed their appeal to President George W. Bush.
As the letter noted, the destruction of Plame’s cover, through a leak to columnist Robert Novak, “damaged U.S. national security, specifically the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence-gathering using human sources.” For this reason, signers of the letter called the outing of Plame “an unprecedented and shameful event in American history.”
The act struck at the CIA functions that are most needed for Bush’s war on terrorism. So the president’s response should not be limited to lamenting that the sources of such leaks are rarely discovered and turning the matter over to a Justice Department investigation.
The national security interest at stake is the protection not only of case officers working in the CIA’s clandestine operations but of all their informants and contacts.
In the shadow world where human intelligence is gathered, the careless revelation of a case officer’s identity can have a destructive ripple effect. Continuing operations can be compromised, and sources in other countries may be exposed to arrest, torture, or execution.
Deterrence, not mere legal punishment, should be the primary aim of any action the Bush administration takes in response to a blow struck by one of its own against the national security. The letter from the former agency officers spoke of a congressional investigation that could “send an unambiguous message” that members of the intelligence community must “never be turned into political punching bags.”
But nothing could do more to deter future saboteurs of the war on terrorism than a demonstration of decisive leadership by the president himself. Bush should demand that the leakers reveal themselves to him before the FBI finds them. And then he should fire them, whoever they are, and tell the public what harm they have done.