In a lot of the commentary on the Great Outing that I've been reading lately, the notion keeps coming up that the CIA wouldn't have requested that the Department of Justice investigate the publication of Valerie Plame's name if they hadn't believed that a crime had been committed.
But it's not as simple as that. According to Section 1.7 of Executive Order 12333 (with my emphases),
The heads of departments and agencies with organizations in the Intelligence Community or the heads of such organizations, as appropriate, shall:With a high-profile prima facie case of a possibly illegal disclosure, what choice did DCI George Tenet have? He was already pissed at being used as a fall guy over the Iraqi WMD issue and may have seen the referral of the case as a means of hitting back. But, better still, he was required by statute to go to the Department of Justice. And he did, although only informally, it seems, just days after Novak's column appeared. It wasn't until a couple of months later that Tenet officially requested an investigation. Which is what's been going on ever since.
(a) Report to the Attorney General possible violations of federal criminal laws by employees and of specified federal criminal laws by any other person as provided in procedures agreed upon by the Attorney General and the head of the department or agency concerned, in a manner consistent with the protection of intelligence sources and methods, as specified in those procedures;
(b) In any case involving serious or continuing breaches of security, recommend to the Attorney General that the case be referred to the FBI for further investigation[...]
Does any of this mean that the CIA really believes that naming Plame was an intelligence disaster? If you look at how they covered Plame, you wouldn't think so. Read this Washington Post report from September 2003:
When Novak told a CIA spokesman he was going to write a column about Wilson's wife, the spokesman urged him not to print her name "for security reasons," according to one CIA official. Intelligence officials said they believed Novak understood there were reasons other than Plame's personal security not to use her name, even though the CIA has declined to confirm whether she was undercover.It's kind of hard not to notice that the CIA is itself confirming here that Plame was with the Company ---right down to the details of her future assignments. Maybe Patrick Fitzgerald should look into that, too.
Novak said in an interview last night that the request came at the end of a conversation about Wilson's trip to Niger and his wife's role in it. "They said it's doubtful she'll ever again have a foreign assignment," he said. "They said if her name was printed, it might be difficult if she was traveling abroad, and they said they would prefer I didn't use her name. It was a very weak request. If it was put on a stronger basis, I would have considered it."
Incidentally, Novak later wrote a column in which he said that Tenet did not request an investigation of the leak, but I don't think that's true. The DCI is apparently obligated to refer such requests to the DOJ. And I very much doubt he had any qualms about doing so.