Woodward v. Washington Post on CIA assessment of leak damage


On the October 27 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward claimed that the CIA has completed a damage assessment related to the outing of agency operative Valerie Plame and found its detrimental effects to be "quite minimal." However, two days later, Woodward's own newspaper reported that the CIA initially found the damage "serious enough to warrant an investigation," and stated that the agency typically waits until the conclusion of criminal investigations to launch formal damage assessments.

In an October 29 article by staff writer Dafna Linzer, headlined "CIA Yet to Assess Harm From Plame's Exposure," the Post reported that the CIA "has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted." Linzer also wrote that the CIA indicated in a written questionnaire submitted to the Justice Department in 2003 that the resulting damage from the leak of Plame's identity was serious.

From the October 27 edition of CNN's Larry King Live:

WOODWARD: I think one of the things that's a fact that hasn't come out is we talk about --

KING: Uh-oh, here it comes!

WOODWARD: No, no. And this is not even a firecracker, but it's true. They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that [former ambassador] Joe Wilson's wife [Plame] was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone, and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldrich Ames or Bob Hanssen, big spies. This didn't cause damage.

From the October 29 Washington Post:

But after Plame's name appeared in Robert D. Novak's column, the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation, officials said.

The CIA has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted. Yesterday, after a two-year inquiry into the leak, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald issued a five-count indictment against Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements during the grand jury investigation.

Fitzgerald has not charged anyone with breaking a law that protects the identities of undercover operatives.

Nonetheless, intelligence specialists said the exposure of Plame -- who operated under the deepest form of cover -- was a grim reminder of the risks spies face.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
CIA Leak Investigation
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