E-MAIL: No harm, no foul?With lightning quickness, we replied:
If I throw a cinderblock off an overpass, just because no one got hurt I should be let off the hook?
And that one's easy to determine harm.
In security matters, the CIA may have to discontinue some operations, may have to disown some operatives, but publically say, "No harm done" to not make matters even worse and allow some covering up of the trail. How can we ever know? And what is the message, "Hey, misuse your security clearance for all the fun you want, only if someone actually gets provably damaged will we complain? Sorry, it doesn't work like that. There may be some mitigation of sentencing, but in general, if it's a bonehead or malicious move, it's treated seriously or all security measures fall apart.
Also, the "need to know" principal is very important. There can be spies with security clearances. By limiting information to those with a need to know, you limit the access and damage of internal spies.
REPLY: Good points. But I would want to know if there was harm, and I'd want to know if the "outing" was knowing and deliberate. By "no harm" in this case, I would mean that Plame's identity was "overclassified"—that she wasn't really a covert agent any more, and that nothing actually turned on "outing" her. I have no idea what the facts are on that, although I assume that Fitzgerald does. (As I've often said, I got the impression from his hard pursuit that he may have found that real harm was done.) I don't assume the accuracy of what Wilsons presentations on these matters, or of the CIA's statements and judgments. If there was real harm, and the outing was deliberate, I'd favor full prosecution.Our mailer replied with a proposed rephrasing: Still, I have problems with your statement: If there was real harm, and the outing was deliberate, I'd favor full prosecution. Perhaps I'd rephrase it: If Plame and the CIA were really treating her role seriously as an undercover position, and the outing was deliberate, I'd favor full prosecution. There is no way of knowing if there was real harm unless she's essentially already outed herself.
For the record, classified material is divulged all day every day. This is how prosecutors typically decide which cases are worth pursuing.
Fitzgerald is more experienced than we are. In general, wed prefer that this be prosecuted in as normal a manner as possible. (Obviously, this is a fairly distinctive case.) We think the liberal cheerleading for prosecution is unbelievably childish and unwise—a childish portent of future disaster for liberal and progressive interests. We did a post on this today—one we decided not to present. Who knows—maybe well post it tomorrow? Yes, transitions are clunky.