on television wrested his way free from the allure of prospective
impeachments long enough to focus not on any contradiction in
what Libby said to the grand jury, to the FBI and to the special
prosecutor. Rather, to the root cause of the disturbance. This
had to do with revealing that Valerie Plame Wilson was secretly
in the employ of the Central Intelligence Agency, using a cover
employer to disguise her affiliation.
of a covert affiliation can have terminal consequences, as the
interrupted career of Colonel Penkovsky (1919-1963) bloodily illustrates.
Most duplicities along this line are relatively innocent, but
the protections given are not only psychologically important,
they are marginally life-saving.
illustration. When in 1951 I was inducted into the CIA as a deep-cover
agent, the procedures for disguising my affiliation and my work
were unsmilingly comprehensive. It was three months before I was
formally permitted to inform my wife what the real reason was
for going to Mexico City to live. If, a year later, I had been
apprehended, dosed with sodium pentothal, and forced to give out
the names of everyone I knew in the CIA, I could have come up
with exactly one name, that of my immediate boss (E. Howard Hunt,
as it happened).
In the passage
of time one can indulge in idle talk on spook life. In 1980 I
found myself seated next to the former president of Mexico at
a ski-area restaurant. What, he asked amiably, had I done when
I lived in Mexico? "I tried to undermine your regime, Mr.
President." He thought this amusing, and that is all that
it was, under the aspect of the heavens.
We have noticed
that Valerie Plame Wilson has lived in Washington since 1997.
Where she was before that is not disclosed by research facilities
at my disposal. But even if she was safe in Washington when the
identity of her employer was given out, it does not mean that
her outing was without consequence. We do not know what dealings
she might have been engaging in which are now interrupted or even
made impossible. We do not know whether the countries in which
she worked before 1997 could accost her, if she were to visit
any of them, confronting her with signed papers that gave untruthful
reasons for her previous stay -- that she was there only as tourist,
or working for a fictitious U.S. company.
In my case,
it was 15 years after re-entry into the secular world before my
secret career in Mexico was blown, harming no one except perhaps
some who might have been put off by my deception.
question here is Robert Novak. It was he who published, in his
column, that Mrs. Joseph Wilson was a secret agent of the CIA.
I am too close a friend to pursue the matter with Novak, and his
loyalty is a postulate. What was going on? If there are mysteries
in town, that surely is one of them, the role of Novak.
of the law against revealing the true professional identity of
an agent is advertised by the draconian punishment, under the
federal code, for violating it. In the swirl of the Libby affair,
one loses sight of the real offense, and it becomes almost inapprehensible
what it is that Cheney/Libby/Rove got themselves into. But the
sacredness of the law against betraying a clandestine soldier
of the republic cannot be slighted.