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The Law: The CIA Leak Case Indicting Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff

Authors

  • LOUIS KLAREVAS

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    1. City University of New York—College of Staten Island
      Louis Klarevas is assistant professor of political science at the City University of New York—College of Staten Island.
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  • AUTHOR’S NOTE: I would like to thank Lou Fisher for comments on a previous draft.

Louis Klarevas is assistant professor of political science at the City University of New York—College of Staten Island.

Abstract

In June 2003, citing “two senior administration officials,” syndicated columnist Robert Novak openly identified Valerie Plame as a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “operative.” As it can be a felony under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 to knowingly identify a covert agent of the United States, a grand jury was impaneled to investigate whether or not any Bush administration officials had actually broken the law by outing Plame. After a nearly two-year-long investigation, the grand jury returned an indictment against Vice President Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, charging him with the ancillary crimes of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice. No one, however, has yet been charged with the underlying crime of leaking the classified identity of a CIA agent. This article explains why indictments have been issued for alleged cover-up crimes, while no one, to date, has been indicted for outing an intelligence operative. After a brief review of the story behind the leak and an overview of the five-count indictment, the article analyzes the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the related Espionage Act, focusing on why no one has yet been indicted for violating these laws. The article concludes with a cautionary note on why this case is not necessarily over—and why it is even possible, although unlikely, that Bush administration officials might be indicted under the Espionage Act.

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