Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Novak spills the beans (or, at least, two-thirds of them)

Robert Novak has now named two the of the three Administration officials who revealed to him the classified information that Valerie Plame was an undercover operative for the CIA whom he then exposed in his column in July of 2003. He has identified White House adviser Karl Rove and former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow as sources. There apparently is a third source he still will not identify. You can read about it here in the Washington Post.

You may recall Plame is the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson who wrote an op-ed piece questioning the Bush Administration contention that Sadaam Hussein was trying to obtain material from Niger to build nuclear weapons. It is widely believed that Plame was exposed as retaliation by the White House. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been investigating the leaks and is currently prosecuting Scooter Libby, of Vice President Cheney’s staff, for lying to the FBI and the grand jury.

The Administration has expressed no shortage of outrage (see here and here) when stories have been leaked to the press about Administration abuses of power in the area of national security. In fact, the Administration’s allies have been engaging in demagoguery against out free press.

It has become almost a cliché to say that a free press is essential to a democracy but it’s true – only an informed public can perform its communal duties in a democracy. It is important to remember confidential sources are important of information for journalists – even when those sources have political axes to grind and when those journalists are on the fringes like Novak. But if all of that is important for us to remember then it is doubly important for this Administration to understand they can’t have it both ways and talk about prosecuting newspapers for carrying leaked stories touching on national security when they themselves leak national security secrets to suit their own purposes.

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