Political play involves libelous leak

By Eric Turner

It’s the biggest scandal in Washington since Watergate, a story ripe with espionage, war, revenge and abuse of power.

An editorial written in 2003 could result in powerful officials ranging from Karl Rove to Dick Cheney facing serious criminal charges, and yet the Valerie Plame affair, as it is being called, is something many Americans either don’t know or don’t care about.

Yet with charges likely being brought against Washington officials this week, it is important to know how and why this will dramatically impact the political landscape for years to come.

This scandal had unspectacular beginnings in 2002 when Joe Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, went to Africa and discovered Iraq had not bought uranium from Niger, a key reason for going to war.

Wilson then wrote an editorial in the New York Times lambasting the Bush administration for preparing to go to war with faulty intelligence, one of the first pieces written opposing war with Iraq for WMD reasons.

A week later, Robert Novak, a columnist, outed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent, along with details of her job. This is where the controversy really starts. Novak did not commit a crime by mentioning Plame was an agent, but whoever told him of her identity did.

Speculation began to spread that an official close to the president revealed Plame’s identity, therefore ruining her career, as a way to get back at Wilson for casting doubt on the invasion of Iraq. A criminal investigation began, and has continued for the last two years.

The scandal has already hurt the president’s credibility. When the investigation began, he promised to fire anyone involved with the CIA leaking.

Soon after this, Time magazine columnist Matthew Cooper revealed to a grand jury that Rove indirectly told him about Plame before she was outed by the Washington Times article.

After Rove’s apparent involvement in the leak, the president promised to fire only the people who commited the crime of deliberately exposing the identity of a secret agent. Yet while Rove still has questions to answer about his involvement in the leak, the main focus of the investigation has eventually led right up to the vice president’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, with recent revelations showing that Cheney himself may be responsible.

Needless to say, if even one of the president’s associates is indicted for a federal crime, it could prove to be a serious blow to an already-unpopular presidency.

Not only did someone close to the White House commit a federal crime, they may have endangered national security by exposing CIA secrets to the public, a charge some consider treason.

Beyond the criminal aspects of this case, this columnist is also alarmed as to the lengths those in power will go to coerce the media to their cause.

When Joe Wilson failed to find any evidence of Iraq’s attempts to buy uranium, he had a duty to expose this to the American public who were about to pay for a war based on fraudulent claims – only to have his wife’s life put in danger and career ruined for the sake of political revenge.

This attempt at media intimidation is unacceptable, unconstitutional and illegal. When Patrick Fitzgerald announces his indictments in this case, this columnist hopes he catches anyone and everyone responsible for this CIA leak. Any attempts to limit our freedoms and punish those who tell the truth must not go unnoticed.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.