A Gordian Solution to Finding the Unmaskers of Valerie Plame

Amid all the discussion of whether investigators should try to squeeze the names of the officials who outed Valerie Plame out of the reporters whom the officials told, no one has mentioned a much simpler step the President could take — could, for that matter, have taken any time since July 14 — to “get to the bottom of this,” as he reportedly would like to do.

Reader Michael Ham offers the suggestion, elegant in its simplicity:

The President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher (that’s cabinet secretaries and their immediate deputies, plus others of equivalent rank) to submit, within 48 hours, either a sworn statement that he or she had no discussion mentioning Joseph Wilson’s wife with any reporter in the period before July 14, 2003 (the date of the first Novak column) and has no knowledge of anyone who did have such discussions, or a sworn statement listing any such discussions as that person did have or any knowledge that person has regarding such discussions by other persons.

The President has, of course, no power to compel compliance with that order. He does, however, since all of the officials involved except the Director of the FBI and the Director of Central Intelligence serve at his pleasure, have the power to dismiss anyone who refuses to submit such a statement, or who submits a statement claiming the privilege against self-incrimination.

It would take intrepidity amounting to temerity for anyone to falsely certify innocence under oath, given the high probability that the truth will come out. There might be legal defenses for the original act, but not for a false statement.

The President’s power to follow Mr. Ham’s advice is clear. And it would clearly help “get to the bottom of this.”

So why not, Mr. President?

Update This idea — proposed independently by Nick Gillespie of Hit & Run — is picking up steam, with an endorsement by Glenn Reynolds. More here

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

3 thoughts on “A Gordian Solution to Finding the Unmaskers of Valerie Plame”

  1. Level of outrage rising rapidly

    On Monday, President Bush sounded tough on the Plame Game: President Bush said Monday that the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover CIA officer's identity was a "very serious matter" and "a criminal action" as the White House announced that 500…

  2. One way the President could "get to the bottom of it"

    Mark Kleiman offers a great idea one of his readers, Michael Ham, submitted for President Bush to get at the truth of who outed Valarie PlameThe President should require every official in his administration at Executive Level II or higher…

  3. See? And if anyone lies, their nose will start growing!

    Mark Kleiman offers a reader's "solution" to finding out who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA connection to the press. It's the same solution floated over at Reason a few days back, and it's a "solution" only a libertarian or a Marxist could come up with–or…

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