Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stupidest Man Alive Contestant Mickey Kaus writes

Before we cheer Fitzgerald ... : Blogger Mark Kleiman has been getting well-deserved credit for being one of the first to argue that Plame prosecutions might be brought under the old Espionage Act rather than the fancy "new" 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA). But Kleiman also notes that the Espionage Act is "close to an Official Secrets Act," and "would be extremely easy to abuse to suppress discussion of live public issues. Arguably, this is one of those cases. Lots of people in DC knew Valerie Plame worked at the CIA, after all. And it was a relevant detail if you were trying to come to a position on whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, which was in turn relevant to the non-trivial public policy question of whether the country should go to war. Criminalizing public discussion of the CIA connection--unless the harm to U.S. security from Plame's outing was immense, and the government was trying harder to keep her secret than it apparently was--is troublesome, no?


Mark Kleiman does not return the compliment. Prof Kleiman points out that Kaus simply asserts that it was useful to the public to know that Plame is a CIA agent. This is, as Kleiman notes, absurd.

Kleiman is much much to kind to Kaus however. The claim that knowledge of Plame's true employer was relevant to some debate is feeble but it is not completely idiotic.
Kaus's claim, in particular is completely idiotic. "it was a relevant detail if you were trying to come to a position on whether Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa, which was in turn relevant to the non-trivial public policy question of whether the country should go to war. " Hmm lets see what's wrong with the argument.

The question of whether to go to war was not exactly open on July 14 2003, since we were already at war. Further debate about the WMD debate was part of the lessons learned (never ever vote for George Bush say) phase of intelligence analysis not part of policy guidance. The question of whether Iraq had an active nuclear program was almost as closed by then. The remaining debate was over why the Bush administration made claims which didn't correspond to reality in Iraq.

This means that the debate was inherently political. It was known that the intelligence analysis made available to the public was faulty. The only question was who was to blame. Rove's alleged argument was that they made a mistake but anyone would have because Plame's true employment would make anyone ignore Wilson's conclusions. This is a less important argument than whether to invade nor about Iraqi nuclear programs. Even if Rove had a relevent fact up his sleave, he could hardly have hoped to convince people that the error was inevitable.

In fact, the utter feebleness of the claim that Plame's employer is relevant information long since convinced all people who can think that the purpose was retaliation and intimidation not winning any remaining arguments.

Kaus also argues that many people in DC knew what Plame really did for a living. He should have noticed that people who argue that (such as Clifford May) say it was mentioned to them at a cocktail party after Wilson's op ed. This is further evidence of a concerted campaign to blow Plame's cover.

Kaus also argues that the espionage act can be abused. It can as information is classified for illegitimate reasons. However the identity of a NOC CIA agent is obviously the sort of secret which should be secret. As Kaus would know if he had a funtioning memory, there was no compelling reason to reveal this fact. He should also know that such revelations have never been tollerated by any country.

he is clearly trying to be contrarian, but all he manages is to show how utterly sloppy, unserious and irresponsible he is.

Why the hell does anyone publish that idiot ?

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