Decisions, decisions

Republicans deny that Valerie Plame was a covert agent when her identity was published by Robert Novak at the behest of Karl Rove. Intelligence professionals affirm it. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

Take your pick. You can have Mark Steyn’s analysis of the Valerie Plame case:

As her weirdly self-obsesssed husband Joseph C. Wilson IV conceded on CNN the other day, she wasn’t a ”clandestine officer” and, indeed, hadn’t been one for six years. So one can only ”leak” her name in the sense that one can ”leak” the name of the checkout clerk at Home Depot.

(Never mind that, as Kevin Drum points out, Wilson “conceded” no such thing; he simply said that, once her workname and CIA affiliation had been published by Bob Novak, she was no longer undercover.)

Or you can have the analysis of the intelligence professionals, as reported in Time:

I’m beyond disgusted,” a CIA official said last week. I am especially angry about the b_______ explanations that she is not a covert agent. That is an official status, and there are lots of people in this building who are on that status. It’s not up to the Republican Party to determine when that status will end for an agent.” (Emphasis added.)

Time also reports:

In the wake of the disclosure, foreign intelligence services were known to have retraced her steps and contacts to discover more about how the CIA operates in their countries. Outside of a James Bond movie, spies rarely steal secrets themselves; they recruit foreigners to do it for them. That often means bribing a government official to break his country’s laws and pass state secrets to the CIA.

“It becomes extremely hard if you’re working overseas and recruiting [foreign] agents knowing that some sloth up in the Executive Branch for political reasons can reveal your identity,” says Jim Marcinkowski, who served four years in the agency and is now the deputy city attorney for Royal Oak, Mich. “Certainly this kind of information travels around the world very quickly. And it raises the level of fear of coming in contact with the United States for any reason.”

Naturally, Glenn Reynolds prefers Steyn’s analysis, because the CIA committed the unforgivable sin of not supplying adequate quantities of false information about what proved to be Iraq’s nonexistent WMD program that President Rove and Mr. Bush wanted to justify the Iraqi adventure so dear to Glenn’s heart.

The insensate hatred of the CIA on the mainstream right now matches the insensate hatred of the CIA on the extreme left.

Weird, don’t you think?

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: