As if Karl Rove needed more trouble

The State Department memo had the Valerie Plame paragraph marked secret. The Bush Administration had someone sent to prison for leaking to a newspaper information whose release did not in fact harm the national security because he couldn’t have been sure no damage would result.

1. In the State Department memo that was passed around on Air Force One, the paragraph about Valerie Plame was marked [S] for “secret.” That should dispose of the question about whether Karl Rove and his accomplices revealed classified information. The only remaining question is whether they can be shown to have had the requisite intent.

This, of course, isn’t news to anyone who has been paying attention to fact rather than spin. But part of the Republican line of late has been that Valerie Plame’s connection with the CIA wasn’t actually classified information.

2. John Dean has some more bad news for Karl Rove and his defenders: a case in which a public official who gave to a newspaper goverment information that was supposed to be kept secret was charged with, in effect, theft of government property (the information) and sent to prison, even though (1) the information was true and relevant to a public issue (2) revealing it did not in fact harm the national security and (3) the official received no payment for it. The sentencing judge pointed out that the defendant had no way of knowing that his actions wouldn’t cause harm, and that was enough.

The case, according to Dean, involved a DEA employee who became convinced that a British right-wing moneybags was being allowed to get away with money laundering, and gave some documents showing as much to someone who gave them to a reporter.

Like Dean, I find the use of 18 U.S.C. 641 to criminalize leaking a pretty far stretch. But that’s the law, as John Ashcroft’s Justice Department made it. So if Fitzgerald does to Rove what the U.S. Attorney did to poor Jonathan Randel, the Bushites won’t have any valid cause for complaint. Remember, as the President used to say over and over, there are too many leaks of classified information.

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: