David Corn of The Nation has provided a gripping argument for why the leak of Valerie Plame's identity is a major transgression. Corn transcribed the testimony of former CIA case officer James Marcinkowski before an unofficial hearing -- an event organized by Democrats -- last week on Capitol Hill. It is required reading for anyone wishing to put the Karl Rove scandal in proper context.
Marcinkowski laid out what all of us outside the realm of clandestine intelligence want to know -- the real-world consequences of outing a CIA operative.
Conservatives have claimed that liberal opposition to the war in Iraq sends "the wrong message" not only to American troops but also to insurgent forces. But what message, Marcinkowski asked, has the United States government sent by lifting an operative's cover, and also through two years of bickering and inaction over the case? What's the message to potential CIA informants in the Middle East?
"What has suffered perhaps irreversible damage is the credibility of our case officers when they try to convince our overseas contact that their safety is of primary importance to us," Marcinkowski said. "How are our case officers supposed to build and maintain that confidence when their own government cannot even guarantee the person protection of the home team?"
Marcinkowski added: "Each time leader of a political party opens his mouth in public to deflect responsibility, the word overseas is loud and clear -- politics in this country does in fact trump national security."
Marcinkowski also indicted the news media for its role in providing a medium for "commentators and other apologists who have no clue as to the real workings of the intelligence community." His testimony makes network and cable television news coverage of the Plame leak seem obscene, a spectacle populated by fatuous "prime-time patriots," a parallel universe where the chairman of the Republican National Committee is able to claim over and over like a robot that Karl Rove has been "exonerated and vindicated" and is owed an apology.
For all those who are spinning the Rove scandal, Marcinkowski had this to say -- "Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people."