July 18, 2005

Out the Agents!

Ah, sad. Wrote a post on Saturday about how I was, as a matter of principle, totally in favor of leaking the names of CIA agents, but thanks to lack of wireless couldn't put it up. And now Nathan Newman's beaten me to it. Oh well.

Perhaps the key objection to his post is that Valerie Plame was working on counterproliferation issues, rather than starting coups abroad or assassinating labor leaders or arming mujahideen or whatever the CIA usually gets up to. In one sense, that distinction doesn't much matter: let's say it had been Plame peddling phony information about Iraq's WMD capabilities in order to drag the United States into war, and Rove a hand-wringing peacenik who blew her cover to expose what was going on and avert a catastrophe. Then Rove really should have deserved a medal. In this case, though, Rove was the scumbag, and he deserves to be pilloried, but because he was part of an incompetent cadre of war-mongerers selling the country a false bill of goods, not because he outed a CIA agent. On the other hand, proliferation is a big problem these days—as I see it, nuclear terrorism is the only sort of terrorism to worry seriously about—and I'd like to see at least this division of CIA agents safe from the clutches of vindictive campaign managers and chiefs of staff.

On the other other hand, an unchecked CIA helped drag us into this whole al-Qaeda mess in the first place, and one would prefer they not get us into further messes in the future unchecked, and despite the fact that the agency has been neutered after the Church hearings in the 1970s, media pressure and constant sunshine is the only tried and true remedy for keeping our shadowy intelligence community actually in check. So going lax on the leaking rules seems in order to me. How about this: you out a CIA agent, you lose your job? Of course, the chance of a this sort of rule change happening in this day and age—when Democrats, in the shady and sordid tradition of JFK, are salivating mindlessly over the prospect of an expanded covert intelligence service in order to "look tough"—are nil, so whatever.
-- Brad Plumer 12:45 PM || ||