The Plame Blame Game, for Real

-By John Armor

The Associated Press reported today (Friday) that lawyers for certain detainees at the Gitmo Prison in Cuba, possibly violated federal criminal law by releasing the identity of CIA covert operatives. The current Justice Department investigation connects to both the Valerie Plame matter a few years ago, and the current issue of where and how Gitmo detainees should be charged and tried.

First, the Plame affair. According to the mainstream media, that was about the “outing” of a CIA “covert operative” in violation of federal law. But that law applied only to people who had been a covert operative “within five years.” The only person who identified her as a CIA covert operative within five years of her service was her husband, who let the cat out of the bag in a Who’s Who entry.

She wasn’t outed by anyone, per the law. And it turned out further that the person who gave her name and status to Bob Novak for his column, was the
Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell. What Administration he represents, and even what party, depends on when those questions are asked.

However, the fraud of the Plame blame game does not detract from the real purpose of the CIA-protective law. It is to save covert CIA agents from being killed by deadly enemies who would do such a thing in a New York minute, if they knew who these agents were. That brings us to the current situation.

The defense counsel for certain Gitmo detainees are being provided by the John Adams Project, a combined effort of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, to provide defense for the detainees. According to numerous accounts, these lawyers have assigned researchers to take photos of CIA covert operatives. Those lawyers have already shown those photos to their clients in Gitmo, and are seeking the legal right to release those photographs to the general public.

Now, some of those clients may be innocent, but at least some of them, based on convictions to date and on behavior of some who have been released, are terrorists. Some of them want to kill Americans on sight, especially those who work for the CIA. Odds are, the assistants who took the photos did not get them at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, or in Gitmo itself. More likely, these ID photographs were taken here in the US, in the home communities of these agents. That places not only the agents, but their families and neighbors, in the cross-hairs of murderers. And that is the exact reason why the law that never actually applied in the Plame affair, does apply today in the CIA photo matter.

It may be that just showing those photos to their clients turns these assistants who shot the photos and the lawyers who passed them on, into criminals themselves. Beyond that, there is the matter of what happens if these photos are offered in evidence in any trial.

There is a long history of the use of military tribunals to try illegal combatants, also known as terrorists or spies. First, these are not “public” trials. The press has no right to be present, unlike ordinary criminal or civil trials on American soil, where public and press access is guaranteed by the Constitution. Everyone in the Administration and in the press who don’t understand the differences between ordinary trials and military tribunals cannot understand why these trials should or should not take place here, rather than at Gitmo.

What are the odds that this Administration will do a competent job of investigating possibly illegal conduct by these lawyers and legal assistants? We have the evidence of this Attorney General in dropping charges against the New Black Panther Party caught violating the law on videotape, as opposed to prosecuting lawyers in the last Administration for doing their job of offering requested legal advice. It looks like friends of this Administration will be given a break. Enemies will, on the other hand, get special attention and prosecution.

As of now, it looks like this Administration will do the opposite of the last Administration. Instead of attempting to create a crime where there is none, it will attempt to cover up crimes that have been committed. If they succeed, CIA agents may pay with their lives for that error.
John Armor is a graduate of Yale, and Maryland Law School, and has 33 years practice at law in the US Supreme Court. Mr. Armor has authored seven books and over 750 articles. Armor happily lives on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge. He can be reached at:

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