Is Karl Rove going down? Readers weigh in.

Published July 13, 2005 7:43PM (EDT)

[Read "Smelling Like a Rove," by Farhad Manjoo.]

Well, well, well. It looks like the White House press corps finally found part of its backbone today. The question I have is -- will the reporters continue to show some spirit and start asking the hard questions or will they fold under the threat that the press secretary will ... what? Not call on them in future?

How about some members of the press corps investigating the missing billions of dollars in Iraq and a possible connection to Halliburton? How about the press corps paying a little more attention to the Downing Street memo? Think McClellan has only lied about Karl Rove's outing of Valerie Plame? A better question would be -- has the White House told the truth about anything since Mr. Bush took up residence?

-- Gloria Dittmann

It is refreshing and inspiring to learn that the White House press corps is finally speaking up about Karl Rove. Reading the transcript of their exchange with the press secretary was almost more rapture than I could endure. As reluctant as I am to take pleasure in the discomfort of another, I would be a hypocrite to pretend there was no profound sense of satisfaction in finally seeing a crack in the Bush administration's smug demeanor.

We can all be proud of the members of the press who had the courage to persist. We can also be grateful to Salon.com for knowing that a transcript would be much more satisfying than a sound bite.

-- Jay Gordon

Karl Rove is going down. The next sound you hear will be George W. pretending that he never knew Karl. "Karl Rove? Well, he did work for us, but we were never close." Karl will become a non-person, just like Kenny Boy Lay. Who knows? Karl and Kenny Boy just might become roomies in the big house.

-- John Mize

Farhad Manjoo has written an elegant dissection of the Rove legal tangle. What a pity all that intelligence and information is a complete waste of space!

Over the years of the Bush regime, I have come to realize that Rove could have written: "Joe Wilson's wife Victoria Plame is an undercover CIA operative and outing her as I ask you to do, as part of our political attack on Wilson, is treason and will endanger the lives of all her contacts living in other countries, but go ahead and do it anyway" in letters 9 feet high on a billboard, signing his name with a flourish; he could have been filmed doing so by a documentary news crew and 26 amateur videographers, and still not one damn thing would happen to him.

The Bush administration has never held anyone accountable for anything. They give medals to total screw-ups. Karl Rove knows the deepest, darkest, dirtiest secrets of everyone in the administration. Between his knowledge and his ability to spin any amount of evil into looking like it's OK, he is far too dangerous and valuable to them to let anything happen to him, even if they ever did hold anyone to account.

He will not be convicted, he will not go to trial, he will not be fired, he will not be asked to resign, he will not be reprimanded. He will go on dismantling American democracy and covering up for others who do so. Notice that, though willing to push Scott McClellan around a little - and a wonderful sight that was! - no reporter has yet so much as mentioned all the senior intelligence people who stepped forward when Ms. Plame was outed and said, "The lives of many if not all of her contacts have just been endangered."

No one dares harm Karl Rove. And what could be a more sad and profound statement of how the democracy of America has crumbled into tyranny?

-- Katharine Wiley

It appears that everyone is fixated on the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act as the law that could possibly have been broken by Karl Rove, and points to the difficulties in obtaining a conviction under that law given the circumstances of the case.

There is, however, another law that could be operative here, the 1917 Espionage Act. It states in part that "whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blue print, plan, map, model, note, or information, relating to the national defence, through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust" is guilty of a crime.

Certainly, the identity of a covert operative in the CIA is "information" under the definition of the act. This would make Rove culpable even though he did not fit the stricter requirements of the subsequent 1982 law. The last person I know of to be prosecuted under this law was Samuel Morrison, who in 1984 leaked three classified spy satellite photos of the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

Even though the photos were of a Soviet ship, didn't compromise any U.S. national security secrets, and were given to a publication -- Jane's Defense Weekly -- not to enemy agents, the Reagan administration prosecuted the leak.

It was argued that the leak of classified material alone, regardless of motive, was enough to trigger the statute. The Court of Appeals agreed. It held that such a leak might be prompted by "the most laudable motives, or any motive at all," and it would still be a crime. Guess what? Morrison went to jail. For giving a magazine photos of a Soviet carrier.

Plame's identity was not common knowledge and Rove disclosed it. Therefore, he could have violated the Espionage Act regardless of whether he knew she was covert, did it deliberately to compromise her, or used her exact name. Perhaps this is why the Circuit Court of Appeals judges cited the likelihood of serious underlying crimes in their decision to compel Cooper and Miller to testify. Federal judges tend to know the law a little bit.

Besides, doesn't it sound so much better to be indicted for espionage than violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act?

-- Morris Sheppard

If the current article describing Karl Rove's defense is accurate, he is in real danger of being prosecuted. As I read the statute, the requirements are very broad but not vague, as some will suggest. Essentially, if one were to stand on a street corner, point at someone and shout, "This guy works for the CIA," this would constitute a violation, provided the person doing the shouting was in a position to know that the individual was, in fact, working for the agency. The statements made by Mr. Rove undeniably led to the outing of Valerie Plame, and he was in a position to know that she was in a sensitive job.

As someone who has served on eight juries (just lucky, I guess), I think he should choose to be tried by a judge -- he won't make it past a jury.

His lawyer hasn't served him very well in this case. Maybe disparaging trial lawyers wasn't such a good idea after all.

-- Barry Miller

Karl Rove is alleged to have outed Valerie Plame, and Salon's journalistic gumshoes are all over the allegations. I'm curious, Salon. Does your indignation (and comparable amount of column inches) extend equally to Sandy Berger? You know, the former member of Bill Clinton's staff, who pled guilty to illegally removing classified documents from the National Archives? No allegations there at all.

-- Roy Griffis

Is Karl Rove finally going to be punished for his secretive and immoral deeds (including his savaging of John MCain, a true hero, his lying gang of so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and now possibly being behind the scenes outing of Valerie Plame)? Rove has already indicated to others that Plame was fair game. Is Robert Novak, the reporter who was the original source for the story, being protected by Mr. Rove?

I fully agree that a columnist or reporter should protect their sources, but only to prevent harm to their sources, not when the very serious crime of outing a CIA spy or government name could lead to the possibility of harm or death of the target. It is well known that Mr. Rove is involved in below-the-belt political acts, and it appears that he is proud of his misdeeds, as if nothing can touch him. Why are most columnists or reporters afraid to take him on?

This no longer is a political act between parties, but a despicable undertaking that eventually affects all Americans. Should any of us be that callous, that we would allow these underhanded acts to continue? I contend that Mr. Rove is now fair game.

-- Morris Greber

I think we are missing the moral of this story, which is that the action, legal or not, of disclosing the secret identity of someone's wife, is morally reprehensible. Mr. Rove has now admitted to being a traitorous fiend, who unsurprisingly is a close friend and chief operative of the president.

-- Chris Corrado

By Salon Staff

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