Leak Away

Christopher Hitchens gets it right on in Slate today: The Intelligence Identities Protection Act needs to go. Sadly, it’s Hitchens, and for some reason the voices inside his head forced him to end the essay by insisting that Iraq actually did have a deal to buy uranium from Niger. Er, whatever. It’s Hitchens. About the IIPA, though, he’s absolutely right. The CIA, given its sordid history, shouldn’t be exempt from the sunlight of public perception, and that means that both journalists and virtuous government officials should be allowed to expose covert agents. Reading the law itself, it seems that journalists are exempt from prosecution unless they start uncovering agents with a mind to “impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States.” Okay, but again, one doesn’t have to think very hard to come up with intelligence activities of the United States in the past that should have been impaired or impeded.

At any rate, the main issue in this Plame case is that, in this case, the Bush administration was wrong about Iraq’s WMD capabilities, and when those errors were exposed, Karl Rove and others decided to wreak havoc on the very agency that had been pushing back against the march to war. What matters is why he was leaking Valerie Plame’s name—if it was Rove, of course—and not the fact that agents’ names were leaked. It’s nice and very convenient that the Plame leak triggered Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation, but as a general principle, less rather than more government secrecy is always a good idea.