Money for jam

My $30 says to Steve Sturm’s $20 that Fitzgerald indicts Rove. Any other takers out there?

Steve Sturm of ThoughtsOnLine has bet $20 to my $30 that Karl Rove won’t be indicted in the Plame affair. Any other takers at the same odds?

With Steve’s permission, I have posted below a lightly redacted version of the dialogue that led to the bet, with his side in red, mine in blue. (If Steve objects to any redactions or wants to make any of his own, I’ll edit to suit.)

Your complaint rings of “damn him if he does, damn him if he doesn’t.” Were Bush to stick his nose into what the (almost) entire left side at one time or another considered a crime, you would be all over him for interfering with a criminal investigation, etc., etc. So it doesn’t seem right to blast him for doing the right thing and letting Fitzgerald do his job.

[snip]

And, for what it’s worth, Bush should have said ‘indicted’… there’s no reason to have to wait until the conclusion of a trial.

Steve, please take a look at the Executive Order GWB signed. It lays out procedures to be used when it’s suspected that someone has breached the terms of his security clearance. It’s the job of his department head (in this case Bush) to take action, not to wait for an indictment or a trial.

This isn’t a new problem. It happens all the time. There are procedures in place to deal with it. Bush is ignoring them.

What if it turns out that Rove did leak the name of a covert agent, but manages to skate past criminal responsibility. Would it be all right for him to keep working in the White House?

You’re still not saying that you’d wouldn’t have screamed at Bush either way….

If he’d called Rove into his office and said, “I want you to level with me: what did you know about this?” I would have regarded it as entirely appropriate, and indeed as required by his duty as President. Of course, Rove might have forgotten to mention his conversation with Cooper, as apparently he forgot to mention it in his first FBI interview. Naughty, naughty!

OK, I answered yours, now you can answer mine: If Rove revealed classified information but did so in way he can’t be prosecuted for, is it OK for him to keep working for Bush, or should Bush fire him?

If Rove knowingly revealed classified information, he should be fired….. unless: 1) Bush or someone up in the food chain had approved the specific leak (giving Rove the specific authority to act), or 2) Bush had a policy of allowing certain subordinates to reveal classified information under certain circumstances and Karl Rove was such a person and this was one of those circumstances (Rove having received discretionary authority to act). This is based on my understanding that the President has the authority to declassify material as he deems appropriate – and, if he can order something declassified, he can certainly disclose that material to people he chooses. If my understanding is incorrect, then I owe you another answer.

Yes, the President can declassify. He can’t give his subordinates blanket permission to disclose material still classified. Note Rove’s comment to Cooper. He knew he was doing something over the edge.

If Rove unknowingly revealed classified material, then whether he should be fired would depend on the combination of his intentions for doing what he did and the severity of the breach. In this case, where the breach seems to have had no significant negative impact on CIA activities and Rove’s reasons were in furtherance of Bush policies, then I would say no harm, no foul, no firing. If, on the other hand, there have been negative implications for US intelligence agencies, then Rove should go…. pour encourager les autres….

“No significant negative impact”? What have you been smoking, and can you get me some? We just announced to every potential asset in the world that his controller’s cover — and therefore his own — is breakable at the whim of the President’s political commisar. Plame wasn’t working as a NOC anymore, but she had been. Her assets were still out there, vulnerable to the local secret police. She was working on WMDs. That means that some of those assets were pretty damned important.

As an aside, I find it interesting and revealing that many of the left side are not waiting until Fitzgerald issues indictments and/or a report before pronouncing Rove, Libby and Bush himself to be guilty of all sorts of misdeeds. For one thing, what’s the old saying about not rushing to judgment? And, second, if it turns out that Rove, et al, did nothing wrong, just how much egg do you want to have to wipe off your collective faces?

“Did nothing wrong”? Then why have Rove and McClellan been lying about it for two years? If Rove acted on authority, why hasn’t he said so?

“Rush to judgment”? Whether someone can be punished for a crime is a matter for the courts. Judging the performance of public officials is a matter for the voters. I didn’t wait for the verdict to come in before deciding that O.J. Simpson killed his wife and her friend.

And while we’re on the topic of accusations, how about the Swift Boat campaign Rove orchestrated so deftly? Kerry was acccused of cowardice, war crimes, lying on official reports — everything short of treason. And everyone who’s defending Rove today cheered, just as they’re cheering at the slime-and-defend aimed at Joseph Wilson. The difference is that these charges, unlike those, have a solid foundation of fact.

As to egg, how about the folks who are out there defending Rove? Was it OK for McClellan to announce that neither he nor Libby were involved, when we now know they were? Or is it OK to “rush to judgment” as long as doing so favors the President?

Twenty bucks says Fitzgerald indicts Rove.

First, I’ll take the bet, provided you specify the charge and a time frame. You’re pretty sure of things, you going to give me odds? (2-1 would be nice, but I’ll take it even up).

I have no idea which charges Fitzgerald will use. The candidates are IIPA, espionage, 641 theft of government property (a DEA analyst was just sent to prison for a year under that statute for telling the newspapers that DEA was going easy on a big contributor to the Tories who was involved in money laundering), prejury, false statements, obstruction of justice, or conspiracy to do any of the above. All are felonies.

Deadline December 31, 2006, or whenever Fitzgerald announces that no indictments will issue. (The grand jury is scheduled to expire in October, but he could empanel another one.)

I’ll give you 3-2: my $30 against your $20.

You’re doing a lot of guessing. You don’t know if she had any assets in the field, let alone whether they were important and are still out there. And if a NOC’s cover needs to be protected for time eternal, taking a desk job at Langley and telling people in the neighborhood and letting Andrea Mitchell learn that they work for the CIA seems to be a pretty poor way of keeping things secret?

I don’t know that Plame had active assets in the field. But unless she had a geriatric practice, people who gave her stuff they weren’t supposed to give her are still alive.

What Rove comment to Cooper are you referring to?

When Rove said to Cooper, “I have already said too much,” that was as close to a confession as you’re going to get. “Too much,” immediately following a comment about stuff being in the process of declassification, can only have meant “I’ve told you stuff I shouldn’t have because it’s still classified.”

I won’t defend McClellan, in fact, if you look at my posts, I ask if there’s ever been a more incompetent press secretary.

You’re most unfair to McClellan. He’s playing the hand he was dealt. It’s pretty clear that Rove lied to him.

But even based on accepting what Cooper has said as true, Rove didn’t identify Plame as a covert agent. He referred to her in the present tense (Wilson’s wife, who works at the CIA… (or something like that). Yes, someone could work backwards and figure out that once upon a time she was covert. But, to my knowledge, that isn’t what the law is intended to thwart.

I can’t believe you’re using the Clifford May argument, which is about the silliest thing I’ve heard since this story broke. The secret wasn’t that Plame was covert; her being covert meant that her work for the Agency was a secret.

If you’re the Pakistani secret service, and you learn that the woman who was wandering around a few years ago as an “energy consultant” in fact works for the CIA, it isn’t hard to figure out that she was spying. Philip Agee didn’t say “Richard Welch is a covert agent;” he said “Richard Welch is the CIA station chief in Athens.”

And isn’t this supposed to have been about who was Novak’s source? You think Rove was involved with Novak, or just with Cooper?

I think that Rove was running a disinformation operation designed to discredit Wilson, and that whoever talked to Novak had coordinated with Rove in advance. Likely Libby talked to Novak, who called Rove for confirmation.

Do we have a bet?

You’re on.

I note that Steve has yet to reply to my question about whether George W. Bush should comply with his own Executive Order covering cases where a breach of security is suspected. In a follow-up post, Steve makes it clear that his confidence that Rove won’t be indicted rests in part on his belief that no prosecutor would dare do to Rove what one of Mr. Bush’s U.S. Attorneys did to someone who, as Steve says, didn’t have the resources to fight it.

If Mr. Bush thinks that the law shouldn’t cover what Mr. Randel did, perhaps he should offer him a pardon.

Update Reportedly Sportsbook.com has Rove odds-on to survive, but I can’t figure out over what time period. (Tradesports gives about 5-to-1 against his going by the end of September, which sounds about right to me.) If Sportsbook is really giving 5-to-1 against Rove’s ever having to quit, I took the sucker’s end of my bet with Steve.

Second update: A reader points out that revealing Plame’s CIA connection also blew the cover of CIA front company Brewster-Jennings, and therefore of any other officer who had a Brewster- Jennings cover identity.

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