John Dean’s column on FindLaw is an excellent summation of the Plame Affair and the potential legal trouble it could portend for the WH. It’s a bit lawyerly, though not at all unreadably so, in the sense that it follows the sequence of events closely and ties them together so the pattern is clear. For that reason, I can’t excerpt and do it justice, as each piece gathers force in the context of the pieces in front of and behind it, but his conclusion is a bit startling: rather than seizing on the law which makes it a crime to publish the name(s) of serving ops (the so-called “Philip Agee Law”) as everyone else has, Dean suggests that the WH’s biggest danger may lie in the conspiracy statutes, particularly those concerned with fraud:
Most likely, in this instance the conspiracy would be a conspiracy to defraud – for the broad federal fraud statute, too, may apply here. If two federal government employees agree to undertake actions that are not within the scope of their employment, they can be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. by depriving it of the “faithful and honest services of its employee.” It is difficult to imagine that President Bush is going to say he hired anyone to call reporters to wreak more havoc on Valerie Plame. Thus, anyone who did so – or helped another to do so – was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, and may be open to a fraud prosecution.What counts as “fraud” under the statute? Simply put, “any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government.” (Emphasis added.) If telephoning reporters to further destroy a CIA asset whose identity has been revealed, and whose safety is now in jeopardy, does not fit this description, I would be quite surprised.
If Newsweek is correct that Karl Rove declared Valerie Plame Wilson “fair game,” then he should make sure he’s got a good criminal lawyer, for he made need one. I’ve only suggested the most obvious criminal statute that might come into play for those who exploit the leak of a CIA asset’s identity. There are others.
So merely condoning the leak could make Rove part of the “conspiracy” to exploit it, and legally it doesn’t matter in that instance whether he was the one who made the calls or not. In fact, everybody who played any part in this, their ass is up for grabs, too, if they didn’t speak out against it.
That’s the genius of this law–it puts everybody involved into a race to see who can “out” the perp first, thus c’ing their own a’s by aiding the investigation.
I think Dean may be right. Karl. Baby. Got a reall-ly good criminal lawyer yet?