Valerie Plame doesn’t deny that blowing the cover of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan is a serious matter. It’s just that, discussing the issue at a Wednesday evening forum sponsored by The Atlantic, Plame seemed to view the outing of the CIA’s top spy on the front lines in the Afghan war as more of an embarrassment than an outrage.
“My understanding is … it was a military aide who compiled this list of those that were greeting the president when he came,” Plame said. “Colossally stupid, but I think it was inadvertent. It was an error … really stupid. The White House apparently has said that they’re going to do an investigation, and they’ll find someone who’s really embarrassed at the end of it.”
The leak, if that’s what it can be called, happened over the weekend as President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan. In a routine email to the press, the administration included a name with the description “Chief of Station” after it — a clear reference to the ranking CIA official in Kabul. It’s hard to imagine a more sensitive assignment in a more dangerous place, and blowing the station chief’s cover — in an email to 6,000 reporters, no less — will surely have repercussions.
The White House quickly explained that a mistake had been made, but did not offer any details. Top officials announced that White House counsel Neil Eggleston, a veteran of many Washington investigations, will “look into” the matter. “It shouldn’t have happened,” deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told CNN on Tuesday. “We’re trying to understand why it happened. In fact, the chief of staff, Denis McDonough, asked the White House counsel to look into it, to figure out what happened and to make sure it won’t happen again.”
Many observers seem satisfied with the White House’s explanation that the incident was just a regrettable error. And that is indeed what it appears to be. But such assessments represent a remarkable change in tone from the discussion several years ago, when the George W. Bush administration leaked Valerie Plame’s identity as part of a bitter fight over the origin and direction of the Iraq war. Back then, it was quite common to hear the words “traitor” and “treason” used to describe top Bush officials involved in the controversy.
—Byron York, pointing out that hypocrisy is alive and well. Relatedly, why hasn’t Richard Armitage been forced to face charges? And why is it that neither Joe Wilson nor Valerie Plame even pretend to be angry with Armitage for having been the actual leaker of Plame’s identity?