Mr. Agee, Meet Mr. Novak

Just in case any foreign counterintelligence services hadn’t yet connected Valerie Plame with the CIA front company she worked for, thus “burning” any other officers, agents, or assets using the same cover or associated with those using the same cover, Robert Novak decided to broadcast it to the world. [*]

There seems to be no limit to the damage Novak is preparted to do to our intelligence-gathering capabilities in the service of his jihad against Joseph Wilson. Someone should warn him that a journalist who reveals a covert agent’s name as part of a “pattern” of behavior is criminally liable under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. And every newspaper and other media outlet that carries Novak should now drop him forthwith, unless it wants to continue to be a part of his disloyal — no weaker word will do — activities.

Since Novak has acted throughout this affair as an agent of the White House, it is a natural inference that his latest act of criminal mischief was undertaken with White House approval. If that inference is not correct, perhaps the White House would like to say so, and denounce Novak for putting lives, and national security, at risk.

Update Of course, as Tom Maguire points out, it’s possible that some foreign counterintelligence services had already done the same search Novak did. But “possible” isn’t the same as “certain,” and “some” isn’t the same as “all.”

Do Tom, and Glenn Reynolds, who links to him approvingly, really think that the Sudanese secret police force is made up of John le Carre “Cambridge Circus” types, with expert knowledge of how to search FEC files? Novak’s revelation could only do harm to the country, and he made it anyway. Why?

Remember, this isn’t just political fun and games. There are actual human beings who face death or worse if the KGB equivalent wherever they live figure out that they’ve been feeding information about WMD aquisition to the Americans. And the more Novak and friends do to put their lives at risk, the harder it will be for the United States to get the intelligence it needs to protect itself.

Note also that having “Valerie Wilson” make a contribution and list her cover employer as her employer was not a breach of security until Robert Novak made it one retroactively by publishing the name “Valerie Plame,” the name “Joseph Wilson,” and the term “CIA” in the same column.

Tom has done skilful, diligent, and intellectually honest work in covering this story, almost from its inception, from a basically pro-Bush standpoint; in this case, I think he has let his preferences cloud his normally very acute judgment.

Second update Tom replies, noting that Josh Marshall (who, obviously, can’t be accused of seeing what he wants to see) agrees with him. He also points out that Novak, having been attacked, was merely defending himself. I can’t see it.

I repeat: What Novak did might have caused additional harm to the national security, and could not have done good. Note that, having defended himself before by saying that the CIA had asked him not to mention Plame’s name but not actually begged him, this time he doesn’t even pretend to have checked first on whether naming the front company publicly would do even more damage. What Novak did was unpatriotic, and patriots should be scrambling to get away from him. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

But if your view is that journalists ought to be above patriotism, note that Novak didn’t even do his journalist’s job correctly: he claimed that “there is no such firm,” while the Washington Post seems to have had no problem finding it listed in Dun & Bradstreet. How many self-serving “mistakes” does this guy get to make?

Novak is not only disloyal, which ought to make patriotic Americans despise him, he’s either a liar or a bad reporter, which ought to make journalists despise him.

And I’m looking forward to the reaction from the Bush White House, which used to be against revealing national security information until its friends started doing it.

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:

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