Right-Wing Media Draw False Equivalence To Downplay Bush Administration's Deliberate Leak Of CIA Covert Agent's Identity

In light of the Obama administration's mistake in releasing to the press the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, right-wing media have rushed to create a false equivalence to the Bush administration's deliberate exposure of then-covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.

White House Press Office Mistakenly Releases Name Of CIA Station Chief

Washington Post: White House “Mistakenly Revealed The Name” Of CIA Station Chief. On May 26, the Washington Post reported that the White House press office had mistakenly revealed the name of the CIA chief of station in Afghanistan when it distributed a list of officials scheduled to participate in a military briefing with Obama:

The CIA's top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama's surprise visit with U.S. troops.

The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.


The CIA officer was one of 15 senior U.S. officials identified as taking part in a military briefing for Obama at Bagram air base, a sprawling military compound north of Kabul. Others included U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham and Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the commander of U.S. and coalition forces in the country.

Their names were included on a list of participants in the briefing provided by U.S. military officials to the White House press office.

The list was circulated by e-mail to reporters who traveled to Afghanistan with Obama, and disseminated further when it was included in a “pool report,” or summary of the event meant to be shared with other news organizations, including foreign media, not taking part in the trip. [The Washington Post5/25/14]

Right-Wing Media Draw False Equivalency Between Mistake And Bush Administration's Deliberate Exposure Of Valerie Plame 

Sean Hannity Pushes Myth That Plame Was “Not Even A Covert Operative” To Downplay The Significance Of Bush Administration's Deliberate Leak. In the May 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity, host Sean Hannity misleadingly compared the White House's mistake to the Bush administration's deliberate leak of a covert CIA operative. Hannity falsely claimed The White House's oversight is worse because Plame “was not even a covert operative at that point.” [Fox News, Hannity5/27/14]

Fox Contributor Charles Krauthammer: The Comparison With The Plame Case “Is Important Because” It Was Also “Inadvertent.”  On the May 27 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer drew a false equivalency between Plame's outing and this mistake, arguing they were both “inadvertent.” Krauthammer downplayed the severity of Plame's exposure, falsely claiming “she was a desk officer in Virginia,” while “this guy is the station chief in a war zone” :

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I think the comparison with the Plame case in the Bush administration is important because that was another case where it was inadvertent -- it was Richard Armitage who was actually a critic of the Iraq war. He was unintentional. He was not trying to out or hurt anybody. The prosecutor knew about that. And, yet, he pursued this with millions of dollars until he got a scalp, Scooter Libby, and helped sort of destroy his career. And everybody on the left felt wonderful about this and the media played this story up relentlessly. Forests were felled to provide the paper for all the stories on this terrible leak and she was a desk officer in Virginia. This guy is the station chief in a war zone. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier5/27/14]

Fox & Friends Draws False Equivalence To Downplay Severity Of Plame Leak. On the May 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy referenced Scooter Libby's leak of Plame's identity, drawing false equivalency and downplaying the relative severity of that leak since “Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C.” while the Obama administration's operative is currently in Afghanistan:

DOOCY: Okay, so you mentioned Scooter Libby, he was all part of that Valerie Plame thing. Valerie Plame has tweeted out. She writes simply: “Astonishing, White House mistakenly identifies CIA Chief in Afghanistan.” Keep in mind, you know, people are talking about, well remember when it happened during the Bush years with Valerie Plame. Valerie -- President Barack Obama at the time wanted to know, called an investigation were any laws broken and stuff like that. Keep in mind that, big difference. Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C., at the CIA. This guy is actually over there. So for them to put out a list -- and I've got the memo on my iPhone right now. There's his name plain as day with Chief of Staff right after it. Doesn't anybody at the White House know what they're doing right now? It looks like a  -- either they're not paying attention to details or they simply don't care. [Fox News, Fox & Friends5/27/14, via Media Matters]

Fox Contributor John Bolton: Plame Exposure Was “Just A Malicious Piece Of Gossip.”  On the May 27 edition of Fox News´ America's Newsroom, Fox contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton argued that the Plame disclosure was “just a malicious piece of gossip,” while the Obama administration's disclosure was “utter incompetence.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom5/27/14, via Media Matters]

Rush Limbaugh: The Plame Exposure “Was Not That Big Of A Deal” Relative To The Obama Administration's Leak. On the May 27 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh misleadingly compared the Obama administration's mistake with the Bush administration's deliberate exposure, and claimed that the Plame “leak was not that big a deal.”   [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show5/27/14]

Brian Kilmeade And Karl Rove Downplay Severity Of Plame Leak: “She's At A Desk Job.”  On the May 27 edition of Fox News Radio's Kilmeade & Friends, host Brian Kilmeade downplayed the severity of the Bush administration's intentional leak, remarking “you think Valerie Plame's a big deal, fine. She's at the -- she's at a desk job in the CIA. What about a guy in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world?” Fox contributor Karl Rove responded by claiming Plame “was not an active agent” :  

ROVE: Right. Well look, one point. Valerie Plame was not covered by the statute that you bring up. She was not an active agent. She was legally outside the law, and that's why there was no action taken by the special prosecutor against anybody who had mentioned her name. And I, for example, didn't know her name. All I'd heard was the rumor that Wilson's wife had, at the CIA, had helped send him to Niger. But you're right. [Fox News Radio, Kilmeade & Friends5/27/14, via Media Matters]

In 2003, The Bush Administration Deliberately Exposed The Identity Of Then-Covert CIA Operative Valerie Plame

Vice President Cheney's Chief Of Staff And Other Bush Administration Officials Deliberately Exposed Identity Of Then-Covert CIA Operative Valerie Plame. Newsweek reported that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was convicted in March 2006 “of obstruction of justice, false statements and perjury relating to what he knew, and with whom he shared information, about Valerie Plame Wilson in the weeks prior to her outing by Columnist Robert Novak in a July 14, 2003 newspaper column” :

[A]t least three other Bush administration officials--former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (who testified under a grant of immunity) -- also disclosed information about Valerie Wilson's identity to journalists. But Fitzgerald contends that Libby's disclosures -- primarily to New York Times reporter Judith Miller -- were made “deliberately and for the purpose for influencing media coverage of the public debate concerning intelligence leading to the war in Iraq” and, according to Libby's own testimony, “may have been sanctioned by the Vice President.” [Newsweek5/28/07]

Robert Novak Identified Karl Rove As One Of The Sources Leaking Plame's Identity. CNN reported that Robert Novak identified Karl Rove as having confirmed Plame's identity:

Novak's initial disclosure -- attributed to “two senior administration officials” -- triggered a criminal probe that resulted in last year's indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who at the time was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.


Novak wrote Tuesday that none of his sources have been indicted.

The Libby indictment stated that Rove, identified as “Official A,” had discussed Plame's identity with Novak. But Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin said in June that Rove had been informed that he would not face charges in connection with the probe.

Novak said a third source, CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, confirmed Plame's identity. [CNN.com, 7/11/06]

Former Time Magazine Reporter Matthew Cooper Identified Karl Rove As The Original Source Who Leaked Plame's Identity. In Time's July 25 2005 issue, former Time reporter Matthew Cooper identified Karl Rove as the source who identified Wilson's wife as a CIA agent during a telephone conversation. [Truth-Out.org, 7/17/05]

Valerie Plame's Employment For The CIA Was Covert And Classified

Valerie Plame's CIA Employment Was Classified For Her Protection And For National Security. U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who led the investigation into the leak, explained in an October 2008 press conference that Plame's CIA employment had been classified, and like any CIA operative, had been classified for the protection of Plame as well as for “the nation's security” :

FITZGERALD: Before I talk about those charges and what the indictment alleges, I'd like to put the investigation into a little context.

Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003. [The New York Times,10/28/05]

Plame Confirmed In Testimony That She Was a “Covert Officer Whose Affiliation With The CIA Was Classified.”  Plame testified in 2007 to the House Government and Oversight Committee that “in the run-up to the war with Iraq, I worked in the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA, still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified.” [Think Progress, 3/16/07]

Valerie Plame Was Not Just A Desk Worker, But “Was A Covert Employee” Of The CIA That “Traveled Overseas On Official Business.”  In a court filing, Patrick J. Fitzgerald concluded that Valerie Plame traveled “overseas on official business”  in her assignment at the time and “was a covert employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.” [CBS News, 5/29/07]