Taranto repeated stale falsehood that there's “no evidence” Plame was a “covert agent”

On the July 6 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, while discussing President Bush's commutation of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby's 30-month prison sentence, Wall Street Journal Opinionjournal.com editor James Taranto falsely claimed that "[t]here's still no evidence that [former CIA operative] Valerie Plame [Wilson] was a covert agent." In fact, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, in a May 25 sentencing memorandum, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald wrote that "[a]t the time of the leaks, Ms. Wilson in fact qualified as a 'covert agent' within the meaning of the IIPA" (Intelligence Identities Protection Act). To support this claim, Fitzgerald included an "unclassified summary" of Plame's employment at the CIA -- which had been given to Libby's defense team in June 2006 -- stating that the CIA “declassified and now publicly acknowledges the previously classified fact that Ms. Wilson was a CIA employee from 1 January 2002 forward and the previously classified fact that she was a covert CIA employee during this period.” The “unclassified summary” established that she had headed a counterproliferation operation focused on Iraq and had traveled overseas in an undercover capacity in the five years prior to the disclosure of her identity.

Furthermore, Taranto claimed that "[t]he person who leaked her name was Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state." However, as Media Matters has documented, while Armitage leaked Plame's identity to syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who revealed that information in a July 14, 2003, column, according to evidence and testimony at Libby's trial on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements, Libby was a source of the information about Plame's CIA employment for at least two other journalists -- The New York Times' Judith Miller and Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. As journalist Murray Waas noted in his book The United States v. I. Lewis Libby (Union Square Press, June 2007), Miller testified on January 30 that Libby had disclosed Plame's CIA employment to her at a July 8, 2003, breakfast meeting at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., well before Novak publicly revealed it in his July 14, 2003, column. Cooper, in his first-person account of his testimony before the grand jury in the leak investigation, identified White House senior adviser Karl Rove as his original source for Plame's identity and Libby as his corroborating source. As Media Matters has noted, there is no requirement that the identity of a covert agent actually have been published for there to have been an illegal leak under the IIPA.

From the July 6 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, with guest host Kitty Pilgrim and Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman:

PILGRIM: But much political capital is being made and lost in this debate, right, James?

TARANTO: I don't know how much it's going to end up making a difference in terms of, you know, next year's election. I know Scooter Libby. He's a good man. I'm glad to see he's not going to go to prison for what was a bogus investigation. There's still no evidence that Valerie Plame was a covert agent. The person who leaked her name was Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state. Somehow, you know, nobody is calling for him to be put on trial for this. This whole thing was political, and I don't think a man should go to prison for it.

ZIMMERMAN: There is no question Richard Armitage should be held accountable for leaking Valerie Plame's name, but the issue here is that Scooter Libby, in front of the jury of his peers and in fact with a Republican conservative judge upholding the verdict, was found guilty of committing perjury in front of an FBI agent, in front of a grand jury, obstructing justice, and by all means, this administration gave this man a get out of jail free card, and that is truly is reprehensible.

TARANTO: I'm sorry, Robert. I have a softer heart than you do.

ZIMMERMAN: No. I don't wish that on anyone, but I do believe this administration should be held accountable to their own words.