Defenders of Rove maintain that he received the information that Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, worked for the CIA from reporters and not vice-versa. Also, they claim that Rove did not mention her by name and that his intent was not malicious, but merely to confirm that the CIA sent Wilson to Africa, at the suggestion of his wife, to determine whether Saddam Hussein had sought to buy yellow cake uranium to build nuclear bombs. These defenses are shaky, but even if they are true, Rove has still acted unethically and should be fired.
The claim that Rove merely learned that Plame worked for the CIA from reporters and was not initiating calls to them has been debunked. Although the possibility exists that conservative columnist Robert D. Novak told Rove that his sources said that Wilson had been sent on the mission at the suggestion of his CIA-employed wife, Rove volunteered --rather than confirmed --this information to Matthew Cooper of Time. According to Cooper, Rove did not mention her name and did not say that she was a covert agent. Cooper has noted that Rove said that she worked for the "agency " on "WMD " (weapons of mass destruction).
These latter details may keep Rove out of jail. The law is written narrowly and requires a high threshold of criminality: a government official who has disclosed an operative 's identity must have known that the agent had active covert status (which Plame did). But those legal technicalities should not keep Rove out of hot water.
The problem with being socialized into such an "anything goes " culture is that it becomes hard for political operatives to know when they 've crossed the line. And Rove has stepped way over it this time.
Even the best scenario --Rove and other administration officials, such as Vice President Cheney 's chief aide "Scooter " Libby, merely confirming that Wilson 's wife worked for the CIA without mentioning her name or her covert status --is grounds for immediate termination. First, the excuse that they were merely providing a defense against Wilson 's charges that the administration was twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat is bunk. Their lame defense consisted of mentioning that Plame suggested that her husband be sent on the mission. With his experience in both Iraq and Africa, it would have been hard to find a more qualified man for the mission to Niger than Ambassador Wilson. Rove and other administration officials were clearly trying to "out " Plame because Wilson 's mission challenged the administration 's claims about Saddam 's quest for uranium in Niger. In September 2003, an unnamed senior White House official told the Washington Post that before Novak 's piece appeared, at least six journalists were told about Plame "purely and simply out of revenge. "
Allegedly, the United States invaded Iraq to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Yet in retaliating against Wilson, an envoy who challenged the Bush administration 's claims on Saddam 's efforts to get WMD, Rove and perhaps others undermined the CIA 's efforts to get information on such proliferation by "outing " Plame. This contradiction is one more indication that the invasion of Iraq had little to do with Iraqi WMD programs.
It is fine for presidents to have aggressive political consultants, but those advisors shouldn 't be given government policy positions that require security clearances. The "Rove affair " is a confirmation of the mischief that arises when those two roles are merged.
President Bush has promised to fire any administration official who leaked the name of a CIA operative. This administration implicitly and unfairly accused opponents of the Iraq War of being "unpatriotic, " but now is the time for the president to keep his promise and fire his top political aide for engaging in real unpatriotic activities.
Ivan Eland is a Senior Fellow at The Independent Institute, Director of the Institute 's Center on Peace & Liberty, and author of the books The Empire Has No Clothes, and Putting "Defense " Back into U.S. Defense Policy.