Wash. Times' Pruden again claimed Plame “was not really a covert agent”

In a July 3 column praising President Bush's decision to commute the prison sentence for former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Washington Times editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden claimed that former CIA operative Valerie Plame “was not really a covert agent, anyway, and even if she had been the law protecting covert agents did not actually apply to her.” In a May 25 court filing, however, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald explicitly stated that Plame “qualified” as covert under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Moreover, Fitzgerald attached to a separate filing a summary of Plame's CIA employment, which stated that, at the time her identity was disclosed in the media, Plame was chief of a component in the agency's Counterproliferation Division “with responsibility for weapons proliferation issues related to Iraq.” The summary further described Plame as having traveled overseas in an undercover capacity “at least seven times to more than ten times” since January 2002.

As Media Matters for America noted, Pruden has repeatedly claimed that Plame “was not really a covert agent,” and, as recently as June 19, repeated his nickname for Plame -- the “princess of the pastepot” -- in an effort to discredit her.

Pruden's claim that Plame “was not really a covert agent” exemplifies what Newsweek reporters Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball described in a May 29 article as a “major theme” of Libby's defenders: “that, at the time of her outing, Valerie Wilson was little more than a desk analyst who was not covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act -- the 1982 law making it a crime to disclose the identity of a covert officer.” However, Isikoff and Hosenball wrote that in a sentencing memorandum filed on May 25, Fitzgerald “finally resolved one of the most disputed issues at the core of the long-running CIA leak controversy.” From the memo:

First, it was clear from very early in the investigation that Ms. Wilson qualified under the relevant statute (Title 50, United States Code, Section 421) as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press.

Moreover, in a May 29 filing also regarding Libby's sentencing, Fitzgerald included an "unclassified summary" of Plame's CIA employment, which 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.

From the document:

On 1 January 2002, Valerie Wilson was working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations (DO). She was assigned to the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) at CIA Headquarters, where she served as the Chief of a CPD component with responsibility for weapons proliferation issues related to Iraq.

While assigned to CPD, Ms. Wilson engaged in temporary duty (TDY) travel overseas on official business. She traveled at least seven times to more than ten countries. When traveling overseas, Ms. Wilson always traveled under a cover identity -- sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias -- but always using cover -- whether official or non-official cover (NOC) -- with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.

At the time of the initial unauthorized disclosure in the media of Ms. Wilson's employment relationship with the CIA on 14 July 2003, Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States.

From Pruden's July 3 column:

The baying of the Democratic critics began at once. Barack Obama, decrying, as is his wont, partisanship and divisive politics, rushed out (as is another wont) to practice his talent for divisive partisanship. “This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division.”

This will be the Democratic mantra. Hillary won't be far behind, and as soon as he can mooch a quarter from the shampoo girl John Edwards will call from the beauty shop, eager to add a tinny voice to the chorus.

Mr. Obama has been having a little trouble lately keeping his stories straight, and unless he is deliberately trying to mislead he got this one wrong, too. If anyone compromised “national security” by “outing” Valerie Plame as Mata Hari, it was not Scooter Libby. The special prosecutor knew all along that it was Richard L. Armitage, another government functionary, who had “outed” Valerie at the CIA, except that she was not really a covert agent, anyway, and even if she had been the law protecting covert agents did not actually apply to her. (Nobody's perfect.)