Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What kind of security clearance does Rove Have?
This has bothered me for some time. When the Clinton team arrived in Washington in 1993, a bunch of former campaign staffers decided it would be fun to find out all the dirt on their political opponents, so they ordered up FBI files on everyone they could think of. Scandal ensued. We called it Filegate and the staffers were all disciplined or fired. When the Committee to Re-Elect the President got caught breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters in 1972, some White House staffers thought it would be effective to use the CIA to scare off FBI investigators. Scandal ensued. We called it Watergate, the staffers went to jail, and President Nixon resigned in disgrace.

The intelligence and law enforcement arms of the United States government are not toys that White House staffers can appropriate at will and incorporate into their campaign machinery. This is one of the most important differences between a functioning democracy and a cheesy dictatorship.

How did Rove find out about Valerie Plame's job? Rove is one of the most powerful presidential aids in White House history, but does his job description include the authority and clearance to root through CIA personnel files looking potentially useful information to use against critics? Is that what he did, or did someone provide that information to him as part of some opposition research he had done on Joseph Wilson? Who was that person? What was their clearance? Is it possible that the first crime was someone leaking TO Rove? And, if that's the case, does it make a whit of difference regarding Rove's guilt?

Update and correction - In the comments, Leah tells the real story of Filegate and how it was a tempest in a much smaller teapot than I described. I cover my embarassment by declaring victory over something else and heading for home.

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