Friday, August 12, 2005
If you've been visiting TomDispatch lately, you know that proprietor Tom Engelhardt has been publishing a new essay every fifteen minutes, and while they are uniformly terrific and informative, not one of them has cheered us up as much as this piece by Elizabeth de la Vega. The former federal prosecutor and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California here departs from conventional wisdom, arguing that it really wouldn't be all that hard to build a case against a "senior administration official" under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Then she explains exactly how to do it:
Pundits right, left, and center have reached a rare unanimous verdict about one aspect of the grand jury investigation into the Valerie Plame leak: They've decided that no charges can be brought under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982, because it imposes an impossibly high standard for proof of intent. Typically, writing for Slate on July 19th, Christopher Hitchens described the 1982 Act as a "silly law" that requires that "you knowingly wish to expose the cover of a CIA officer who you understand may be harmed as a result." Similarly, columnist Richard Cohen, in the July 14 Washington Post, said he thought Rove was a "political opportunist, not a traitor" and that he didn't think Rove "specifically intended to blow the cover of a CIA agent." Such examples could be multiplied many times over.
Shocking as it may seem, however, the pundits are wrong; and their casual summaries of the requirements of the 1982 statute betray a fundamental misunderstanding regarding proof of criminal intent.
Do you have to intend to harm a CIA agent or jeopardize national security in order to violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act? The answer is no.