Dole Attacks Fitzgerald, Leaves Truth Behind

Bob Dole has an op-ed in the New York Times that, perhaps inevitably, begins the right-wing attack on Patrick Fitzgerald. (Former White House political director Ken Mehlman had a chance to declare Patrick Fitzgerald off limits a few weeks ago and demurred.) Dole’s argument against Fitzgerald’s approach hinges on his analysis of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Dole may have been a co-sponsor of the law, but he completely distorts its terms. Here is what Dole says:

Thus the act was drafted in very narrow terms: our goal was to criminalize only those disclosures that clearly represented a conscious and pernicious effort to identify and expose agents with the intent to impair America’s foreign intelligence activities.

Dole is wrong. The law does not require the exposing of an undercover CIA agent to be “pernicious.” And there is no requirement of an “intent to impair America’s foreign intelligence activities.” The LA Times explains:

Nowhere does this statute require proof that the defendant “wished to harm” an undercover agent or jeopardize national security. The reason why someone disclosed the information — whether for revenge, to prevent the publication of a story or to harm the U.S. — is an issue of motive, not intent.

The purpose of the law, is not merely to protect the nation’s “foreign intelligence activities” but to protect the agents themselves. In a 1983 Washington Quarterly article, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wrote:

The act sends out a clear signal that U.S. intelligence officers will no longer be fair game for those members of their own society who wish to take issue with the existence of CIA or find other motives for making these unauthorized disclosures.

We know that Karl Rove declared Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA agent, “fair game.” Whether it was a “pernicious” effort to “impair America’s foreign intelligence activities” or not, Rove may have violated the law. Dole should stop attacking Fitzgerald for doing his job.

— Mipe Okunseinde and Judd Legum