Proving Something Else

There’s an old piece of advice given to lawyers and other debaters, not less practically acute than it is morally shabby: “If you can’t prove what you want to prove, prove something else and pretend it’s the same. “

The diehard few who are trying to confuse the public about whether Valerie Plame was a covert intelligence officer, and whether publishing that fact was therefore unpatriotic (certainly) and criminal (probably) seem to have that advice down pat.

She was covert [*], and there’s no way to prove that she wasn’t. But it’s easy to show that her name, and the name of her cover employer, weren’t secret. So the slime-and-defend brigade keeps insisting on those facts, which no one ever doubted, as if that proved something.

Just to repeat the obvious:

What was secret about Valerie Plame and her putative employer was that she was a CIA officer and her putative employer was a CIA front. There was nothing indiscreet or insecure about her husband listing his wife’s name in his biography, or about “Valerie Wilson” listing her employer’s name on her campaign contribution forms. The security violation, and the crime, was connecting either of those names with the CIA.

Another trap laid by the slime-and-defenders, one into which I admit to having fallen, is assuming that “Valerie Plame” was Ms. Wilson’s “workname,” or that, if it was, it was her only workname. We know that she was “Valerie Wilson” socially and “Valerie Plame” for some professional purposes. But that doesn’t mean she wasn’t “Julia Jane Pforzenheimer” at other times and places. Still, whoever knows that “Valerie Plame” names a CIA officer and that “Brewster-Jennings” names a CIA front knows a lot more than it is healthy for this country for anyone outside the Company ever to have known.

Is that clear, Mr. Limbaugh? Or would you like it explained again, in shorter words?

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

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