Friday, August 03, 2007


What now?

This comes pretty close to discussing politics, which I've more or less stopped doing for a while, but I couldn't let this pass without comment.
Federal judge Barbara Jones has ruled in favor of the CIA in its attempt to prohibit former agent Valerie Plame Wilson from disclosing the dates she worked for the agency in her upcoming book. Wilson, along with publisher Simon & Schuster, filed a lawsuit in late May in New York seeking to stop the CIA from interfering with publication of her book, Fair Game.

In their suit, Wilson and S&S argued that since the dates of Wilson’s CIA service have been made public, she should be able to write about it in her memoir. Judge Jones ruled that while the dates are in the public record, they have never been declassified. She also said a letter from the CIA, which neither S&S nor Wilson saw, convinced her there were national security reasons for keeping her from including the dates.

In a statement S&S spokesperson Adam Rothberg said the publisher is “disappointed in the court’s ruling, which we believe runs counter to the First Amendment, sets a dangerous precedent, and creates an unreasonable standard by which the government can disappear public information and rewrite history.” He said no decision has been made about whether to appeal the ruling, but added that the company still expects to release the book this fall.
Did you follow the reasoning there? I'm not sure that I did. Though the dates through which Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA agent are now public knowledge, they can't be printed in a book because they're still classified. Um... what?

I'm not going to say that I agree or disagree with the judge's ruling, but I will note that there can sometimes be valid reasons for the CIA to refuse to allow Plame to publish the dates in her book, even if a CIA document giving those dates has become public knowledge. For example, it's possible that a published document could have fake dates in it, and be all part of an elaborate setup of some sort. It's also possible that the dates are tied into some other piece of classified information, and should the CIA confirm the dates they would be confirming the other information by fiat.

Just because classified information has become public knowledge doesn't mean that the "owner" of the information can automatically declassify it. Weird, but true.
She also said a letter from the CIA, which neither S&S nor Wilson saw, convinced her there were national security reasons for keeping her from including the dates.

I have a feeling I know how that letter went...

Dear Judge Jones:

Rule in our favor if you know what's good for you.

Dick Cheney

I certainly understand where you're coming from, Michael. I've only read a couple of brief articles on the subject, which only sketch the case in the most general of details, but my impression was that Wilson intended to restate information that had entered the public record and the CIA was moving to block publication, rather than Wilson looking to the CIA to confirm the information that had already been made public. I could be misreading it, though.
The impression I had was that the CIA was letting her publish the book, but they didn't want her listing her dates of employment. I admit that I too don't like the idea of the defense lacking permission to see the letter from the CIA, but I'll also admit that there could be legitimate reasons for the judge's rulings. But honestly, I wish they would give us a better idea of what those reasons are. Even a simple but cryptic, "Confirming or denying this information could possibly jeopardize current CIA operations" would be preferrable to what we're being told now.

A former classmate of mine who was a CIA officer wrote an interesting book called Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy. If you're interested in this sort of thing, I recommend the book.
I think she should then just directly quote those sources in which the information appears. She's not stating it, ostensibly she's merely pointing to it where it already exists -- a nice footnote would do the trick or a direct quote with quotation marks around it. Hope you guys are all having a good summer, Chris.

Jeff Ford
Thanks for the tip, Michael. I may have to check that book out.
Yeah, Jeff, that was pretty much my take on it. It's hard to see how a cited quotation of something in the public record could be considered devulging classified information. (But then, I admittedly don't know the ins and outs of how things are classified and declassified in the first place, so what do I know?)

Our summer's been pretty good, thanks. Sad bastard that I am, the most exciting thing to happen to me recently was finding a box of Peanut Butter Captain Crunch on the shelves of the local megamart after my own grocery store stopped carrying it the same week I decided to indulge and eat the stuff for the first time in twenty years. It's been such a chore finding the stuff that now I want to hang onto it for a special occasion, like it was a rare bottle of wine.

I was really sorry to hear about your dad, man. Hope things have been looking up a bit for you guys, and hope to see you all soon.
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