Five former intelligence officers testified at a Senate hearing yesterday about the long-term damage that can result from outing a CIA agent. Here are just a couple of the main themes that emerged:
JIM MARCINKOWSKI, Former CIA Officer: Any undercover officer, whether in the police department, the CIA, will tell you the major concern of their informant or their agent is their personal protection and that of their family. Cover is safety. If you cannot guarantee it in some form or other, the other person is not going to work for you; it’s as simple as that. And you will lose that source of information.
COL. PATRICK LANG, Former Director, Defense Human Intelligence Service: So when you have an instance like this, in fact, in which… the elected government of the sponsoring government, of the major country in the world, deliberately, and apparently for trivial and passing political reasons, decides to disclose the identity of a covered officer, the word goes around the world like a shock, in fact, that, in fact, “The Americans can’t be trusted — the Americans can’t be trusted. If you decide to cooperate clandestinely with the Americans, someone back there will give you up — someone will give you up, and then everything will be over for you.” So you don’t do it.
The disturbing truth is that Bob Novak knew all this before he outed Valerie Plame. In an October 1, 2003 column, Novak tried to explain what he was thinking when he disclosed Plame’s identity in an earlier July 14, 2003 op-ed. Novak admitted that he had talked to an individual at the CIA prior to publishing the article:
At the CIA, the official designated to talk to me denied that Wilson’s wife had inspired his selection but said she was delegated to request his help. He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause “difficulties” if she travels abroad.
Having heard all this, Novak went ahead and published her name anyways.