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What's what about Who's Who

One aspect of the whole Valerie Plame kerfuffle that is being vastly overplayed and mischaracterized -- and that's the role that Who's Who played in the whole thing.

Who's Who is, to be blunt, an ego stroking for the rich and famous and powerful, as well as those who want to be. Its main use is as a source of information for the press, like Robert Novak, who might want to contact some of these folks who like to be thought of as "movers and shakers."

In that context, it is entirely logical that Joseph Wilson would submit his personal and contact information to Who's Who. But why did he mention his wife?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that having Valerie Plame's name listed in Who's Who was no violation of CIA security. In fact, it was probably recommended.

Spies don't live in a vacuum. They don't sit quietly in safe houses until they are summoned to duty, when they carry out their missions and then return to base. They live in homes. They have families. They have friends. They look, walk, talk, eat, sleep, and do everything just like everyone else.

So it's impossible to make spies invisible. Normal people don't just vanish. So what do you do?

You make them normal. You make them indistinguishable from non-spies. You make them look as average, as mundane, as boring as possible. You do absolutely nothing to call attention to them.

Now, as we are so often reminded, Joseph Wilson was a former ambassador. As such, he was qualified to be listed in Who's Who. Part of the information Who's Who records is spouses, and sometimes children. If someone knew that Wilson was married, but Who's Who failed to list his wife, that would be an aberration, a red flag, that there was something about Mrs. Wilson that was being concealed.

Of course, if Who's Who listed her occupation as "Super-Secret CIA Operative X-14," that'd be a different story.

Novak's use of Who's Who was no great scoop. It was one of the most fundamental, simplest steps in journalism, especially for someone of Novak's age and experience, who probably isn't comfortable with Google and other search engines, but would prefer to have actual ink on paper. So if he found that he needed to find out the name of a former ambassador's wife, Who's Who would be the first thing that came to mind.

This is not to give the slightest credence to the Wilsons' suit, or their laughable claims. But the whole "Joe Wilson outed his wife by listing her in Who's Who" -- a claim I've seen in some comments here, as well as on other sites -- is a canard, and should be swept aside.

Actually, Kevin himself pointed out much of this when he reprinted Wilson's entry in Who's Who, but that got lost in all the heat. It's definitely worth bringing up again.


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Comments (14)

Jay:You are right.... (Below threshold)


You are right.

But that entry should at least settle the question as to whether the name "Valerie Plame" was itself somehow classified or secret, as some have implied.

There were three things that Novak's July 2003 column revealed. One was that Wilson's wife's name was Valerie Plame. Another was that Ms. Plame worked for the CIA and the third was that she worked as "an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction".

Which, if any, of those facts -- separately or in combination -- was classified has not yet been determined.

I haven't seen anything tha... (Below threshold)

I haven't seen anything that 'classified' her. Unless they have a "list" of 'classified' agents.

Being part of a large bureaucracy, I'm sure all their 'lists' are up-to-date.

Do 'classified' agents report for work at Langely?

I know nothing about spooks... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

I know nothing about spooks, but I'm curious. Did Plame use her real name while traipsing around spying on other countries? What kind of covers did she use?

If she DID go by "Plame," wouldn't it be risky to allow her husband to advertise in Who's Who that she's married to a US ambassador? It depends on her cover, I guess, but it seems things could have been tidier.

If one (such as Rove) knew ... (Below threshold)

If one (such as Rove) knew that person "X" worked at CIA as an analyst, nothing else appearing, why would his relating that fact to a 3rd party be actionable? We are having to assume a number of things here, such as that 1) she was actually covert, or 2) that her identity was not widely known within the Washington establishment.

For instance, my father knew a man who worked many years at CIA. My father told people he worked there. Is that actionable? I don't think so. It's only if the CIA were actively trying to keep the relationship secret that it would be potentially actionable (if it was known the employee were being kept a secret).

The logical leaps of faith here are remarkable for the dearth of clear thinking in some quarters (MSM).

I've also seen the implicat... (Below threshold)

I've also seen the implication that "Plame" was her 'working' name. I seem to remember for the longest time the MSM avoided using her Plame name and Image. So I assume there was something to that aspect or the MSM was making out there was something to that just to expand their list of indictments.

A lot of misinformation has... (Below threshold)

A lot of misinformation has been published in the MSM and the blogosphere concerning this lawsuit. I would like to try to comment on a few aspects of the lawsuit in a more objective manner.

Who is the Judge?

The case appears to have been assigned to U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, a former Deputy Independent Counsel for the Whitewater Investigation from 1995 to 1997, who was appointed to the bench in December 2001 and, since February 2006, also serves as a judge on the FISA court. This is not a judge one would expect to be overly friendly to Wilson and Plame's position.

Who Are The Attorneys for Wilson and Plame?

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit are not some 14th Street ambulance chasers looking to cash in on a big contingent fee. Appearing on the Complaint as counsel of record for Plame and Wilson are three attorneys from the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP, one of the nation's largest law firms, with its main office in New York City. Joining Proskauer as counsel is Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, a very well known and highly respected scholar of constitutional law who is currently a professor at Duke University School of Law. Chemerinsky has written several casebooks and treatises on constitutional law and federal jurisdiction, hundreds of law review articles that have appeared in all of the major law journals, and in April 2005, was named by Legal Affairs as one of "the top 20 legal thinkers in America." Chemerinsky has argued numerous cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Say what you want about Plame and Wilson, but the attorneys who prepared and filed this lawsuit on their behalf did not just fall off a turnip truck, and they are intelligent, skilled, and experienced enough to craft a complaint that will not subject them to sanctions for filing a factually or legally frivolous lawsuit. Speculate all you want as to the political and financial motivations for the filing of this lawsuit, but I strongly doubt these attorneys would risk their professional reputations or their personal or firm's finances on a lawsuit that is so legally flawed or factually unsupported that it would result in them being sanctioned by the Court.

It should be noted, however, that Christopher Wolf, the Proskauer partner who is lead counsel, has been Wilson and Plame's next door neighbor and close personal family friend for the past eight years. In addition, Wolf appears to be politically connected to former Clinton administration officials and has personally made donations to Democratic candidates.

How Are Wilson and Plame's Attorneys Being Paid?

It is highly doubtful the attorneys involved would take a case like this on a contingency. Three characteristics of contingency cases are potential class action status, the potential for a huge damages award, and the lawyers view establishing liability as a "slam-dunk" or close to it. These characteristics do not appear to be present in this case. There is no class action involved. The amount of potential damages does not appear to be huge. Whatever else the attorneys may think about this case, it is highly doubtful they view it as a "slam-dunk" as to liability or anything close.

Wilson and Plame do not appear to be financially-destitute or penurious and have established and publicized the existence of a fund and a website for the purpose of receiving contributions toward their attorneys' fees. These facts appear to preclude the notion that the attorneys have taken the case pro bono. Even if Wolf is Wilson and Plame's neighbor and friend, Proskauer is unlikely to allow Wolf to commit the services and resources of his firm for free. The Proskauer attorneys typically bill their clients anywhere between $400-800 per hour and are probably billing Wilson and Plame at their customary hourly rates and keeping detailed time records, as they usually do. I confess I am not familiar with the type of fee arrangements utilized by high profile law professors like Chemerinsky when they represent clients outside of their law school employment. Given the political subject matter of the lawsuit, it is certainly possible, or even likely, that Wilson and Plame may have received or been pledged, or will receive, financial backing for their attorneys' fees and court costs from liberal financiers or foundations, just as Paula Jones received such aid from conservative financiers or foundations. I have not heard anything yet to substantiate or disprove this. The actual fee arrangement pursuant to which the attorneys agreed to this representation is not likely to be disclosed and would not be subject to discovery unless and until such time as Wilson and Plame were to prevail on their claims and seek recovery of their attorneys' fees and court costs as prevailing parties in the lawsuit.

What Are Wilson And Plame's Legal Claims?

In summary, Wilson and Plame allege that Libby, Rove, Cheney, and ten unnamed government officials or political operatives (John Does 1-10) violated their First and Fifth Amendment constitutional rights, and their common law privacy rights, by conspiring to discredit, punish, and seek revenge against Wilson for making public statements perceived to be critical of the Bush Administration and that Libby and Rove acted in furtherance of this conspiracy by disclosing to various media reporters Plame's secret and classified status as a CIA employee. Wilson and Plame allege they were both significantly damaged by the public disclosure of Plame's classified status as a CIA employee.

Don't Libby, Rove, and Cheney Have Automatic Immunity From Suit Since They Were Government Officials Acting Within the Scope of Their Employment?

No. In the first four counts of the Complaint, Libby, Rove, and Cheney are being sued as individuals, under what is known as the Bivens doctrine, for allegedly depriving Wilson and Plame of certain constitutional rights. In Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), the United States Supreme Court held that a cause of action for money damages exists against agents of the United States, in their individual capacities, for conduct in violation of the Fourth Amendment while acting under color of law. The right to recover exists although no statute establishes it - it is a judicially created cause of action. In Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14 (1980), the Court noted that punitive damages "are especially appropriate to redress the violation by a government official of a citizen's constitutional rights" and reiterated the plaintiff's right to a jury trial in Bivens actions.

While Bivens itself dealt only with the Fourth Amendment, the Court subsequently allowed Bivens claims arising under the Fifth Amendment. See Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 248-249 (1979). The Third Circuit Court of Appeal extended the action to encompass First Amendment claims. See Milhouse v. Carlson, 652 F. 2d 371, 373-74 (3d Cir. 1981). In essence, Bivens claims may arise out of virtually any deprivation of a constitutionally protected right. The rationale of Bivens is to deter unconstitutional conduct by exposing individual officers to liability for their constitutional torts. See generally, Note, New Life for a Good Idea: Revitalizing Efforts to Replace the Bivens Action with a Statutory Waiver of the Sovereign Immunity of the United States for Constitutional Tort Suits, 71 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1055 (November 2003).

Doesn't Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's Failure to Indict Libby and Rove For Violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act Necessarily Preclude Wilson and Plame's Civil Action?

No. In order to establish a violation of Title 50, United States Code, Section 421 [the Intelligence Identities Protection Act], it would be necessary to establish that Libby or Rove knew or believed that Plame was a person whose identity the CIA was making specific efforts to conceal and who had carried out covert work overseas within the last 5 years. Apparently, the Special Prosecutor was not able to find evidence that Libby or Rove knew or believed that Plame was engaged in covert work.

None of the claims contained in the civil action filed by Wilson and Plame are predicated on an alleged violation of 50 U.S.C. sec. 421. Instead, Wilson and Plame are claiming that Plame's status as a CIA employee was secret and classified and not publicly known until revealed for the first time in Novak's July 14, 2003 newspaper column. Wilson and Plame are claiming that Libby and Rove's disclosure to reporters of Plame's classified CIA employment status in furtherance of a conspiracy involving Cheney and others to discredit, punish, and seek revenge against Wilson for speaking out against the Bush Administration violated their constitutional and common law rights and caused them economic losses and fears for their and their childrens' safety.

Therefore, in order to prevail on their civil claims, Wilson and Plame will not be required to prove Plame was a "covert" operative, only that her CIA employment status was classified, a fact that Fitzgerald announced at an October 28, 2005 press conference. Of course, this is not all Wilson and Plame will be required to prove in order to prevail on their civil claims. The point here is that Wilson and Plame will not have to meet the same standard with regard to Plame's CIA status as was required to be met by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald in order to bring criminal charges against Rove and Libby for violating 50 U.S.C. sec. 421.

Jay, just thought I'd let y... (Below threshold)

Jay, just thought I'd let you know that there is currently a link to your story on Google News (it's 8:20 pm). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've never seen a link there to a right wing blog before.

For most people, Who's Who ... (Below threshold)

For most people, Who's Who is an invitational thing for people of small note in which you have to pay a fee to get into it. It is a fundraising gimmick. I opted out.

Stephen: nice post on the ... (Below threshold)

Stephen: nice post on the legal issues. I might have had a Chemerinsky law book in law school, but it has been a long time. It is probably a memory blocked in the recesses.

I have read a little in passing to the effect that Chemerinsky is a bit of a partisan or liberal. There was something he opined upon recently, but I can't remember. I work down the street from Duke, but I try to ignore it (I'm a graduate of another tobacco road school and we all hate Duke).

Since Proskauer Rose lawyers are probably like any others (the litigators love the spotlight, and probably think they can make novel legal arguments in this unusual case), I'm not surprised they'd take the case, especially when the prospect of an hourly rate is dangled in front of them.

Not to be unduly negative about my brethren, but we are talking about a modern mega law firm. They rarely do anything these days without a profit in mind.

The essence of the claims go to the heart of the First Amendment. Are permament members of the government bureaucracy to be given immunity from criticism as a condition of their employment, and are the elected officials not free to criticize them in a full and fair discussion of the issues of the day.

No one was fired, discriminated against, docked pay, harassed, etc. It is solely a matter of whether our elected officials can speak out about those who criticize their efforts. I don't see a cogent argument of a "conspiracy" to damage Wilson or Plame.

And on that topic, what exactly are the legal damages if there is some new-found right to being free of criticism in a CIA job (or some such)? There is no loss of income (in fact, there has been an increase overall) and no job lost, no advancement withheld that would have been extended her in the ordinary course.

It really is a wonder more people aren't rebelling against the arbitrary and bizarre use of Lady Justice these days.

I've known Chemerinsky for ... (Below threshold)
Starboard Attitude:

I've known Chemerinsky for 20 years (he taught at USC where I got my JD). He was a close mentor to an ex girlfreind of mine--but that was during the Clinton era and he didn't need to wear his liberal agenda on his sleeves--it wasn't that noticeable. He's always been a media whore, but who in LA isn't?

He's bright, dedicated, and in this case, dead wrong. Sorry Erwin.

I will be blunt.If... (Below threshold)

I will be blunt.

If Wilson DIDN'T report the truth, then Hussein had an active nuclear program that had already refined the tons of poor-quality uranium which he was still storing for us to find at Al Tuwaitha, and he would then of course have to run around knocking on other countries' doors with his empty cup.

If Wilson DID report the truth, then Plame's identity was revealed by Novak in order to discredit the truth in favor of the dominant Republican lie. It does not say good things about the political state in this country that this is the sort of thing we tolerate.

As for Plame's identity being confidential, of course it's fucking confidential. That's why the CIA pushed for the investigation, and why Plame was "working" at a CIA front company. Otherwise known as a "cover." That is to say, Plame was "under cover" when her identity was intentionally revealed to Robert Novak by Cheney and Rove.

This satisfies the conditions of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which I encourage the lot of you in Novak's corner to Google and read right now.

For the record, Plame had been a field agent, but it is not necessary for her to have been doing field work at the time that her cover was blown by Novak for the leak to be a federal crime. If you put a moment's thought into it, everyone Plame had ever dealt with has been in mortal danger since Novak published that report. Contacts, fellow agents, anyone employed to legitimize fronts that she had used in the past. Criminals aren't stupid; they will have sniffed out anyone they can from this, and Rove et Al will be ultimately responsible.

And all because we wanted to prop up the war a little better!

I too will be blunt. Many o... (Below threshold)

I too will be blunt. Many of us want some questions answered by Wilson and Plame.

Question One: Why did Ms. Plame, working in an official government capacity, which btw is a non-partisan position, meaning not a political appointee, recommend her husband for an assignment in which he already had a preconceived opinion on?

The report states that a CIA official told the Senate committee that Plame "offered up" Wilson's name for the Niger trip, then on Feb. 12, 2002, sent a memo to a deputy chief in the CIA's Directorate of Operations saying her husband "has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." The next day, the operations official cabled an overseas officer seeking concurrence with the idea of sending Wilson, the report said.

Multiple Choice:

A: Ms. Plame was only acting on the best information as a patriot to this nation knowing her husband was an expert in the field. Nepotism never crossed her mind because of her extreme loyalties to the U.S. and not those of a political party.

B: Ms. Plame was using her position as a government employee to work on behalf of a political party's position in the run up to the war in Iraq. She knew a report from her husband would already debunk the President and further the cause of the Democratic Party position that the President lied about the potential sale of yellow cake to Iraq.

Wendigo,That's a big... (Below threshold)

That's a big leap of logic there.
Read his actual report (9/11 comitte) and compare what he said in his NYT Op-Ed.
How can one reconcile the two?
If you cannot, then in which is he lying?
And the point of the yellow cake was never whether Saddam had tons of refined uranium, but that he was trying to procure the raw form. The only use Saddam could have for yellow cake is a nuclear bomb. If he was trying to get it, that indicates he had an active program OR was gearing up to go active.

Jay Tea,Only one s... (Below threshold)

Jay Tea,

Only one supposition of yours with which I take umbrage. People "of Novak's age", like myself, have lived through vacuum tube radios and tv's, through the transitor age, to the age of microchips, and into nanotechnology. We have seen computers develop from the size of an office building to fit in your hand. Your assumption that he is old and therefore technologically illiterate or incompetent says much about your prejudice against the elderly. Robert Novak may have mad skills with a computer, search engines, Boolean operators, meta tags, etc. I don't know your age, but you seem to think the world began with your awareness of it. Your remark was condescending and insulting, not only to Mr. Novak, to all us old geezers.

Go into any hospital laboratory, you'll see computerized instruments in which samples go in one end, answers appear on the other, as if by magic. Unplug that wonder of technology and see how many "lab techs" can pull out the Bunsen burner, some test tubes and reagents, and generate that answer with end-point and rate reactions.

Just because Mr. Novak developed the ability to find information in a book at some time in his life, does not mean his capacity to learn ended at that point.

Oh, the arrogance and ignorance of the young.






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