Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Way Things Work

Reader yd who knows a little bit about this stuff writes in:

What would have happened if Valerie Plame’s name and affiliation had turned up in a Beijing newspaper column written by the Chinese Communist equivalent of Robert Novak? Well, there would be an immediate internal CIA investigation. The Director of Central Intelligence is required to notify FBI counterintelligence when certain national security information is compromised, and I believe this is one of those instances. Those investigations and notifications are mandatory, not optional, and the scope of investigation is criminal in nature.

Intelligence sources and methods are protected as Special Compartmented Information (that’s what it’s called, SCI) and specific sources are assigned random code words. Access to SCI is very tightly controlled. In addition to having the appropriate security clearance and investigation level, you must be nominated by name for further vetting, for a specific SCI/codeword program. Then you get indoctrinated into the program, briefed, and you sign shitloads of non-disclosure agreements. When you leave the program, you get debriefed and sign another shitload of non-disclosure agreements.

Every SCI/SI/code word program has a huge paper trail for the precise purpose of identifying a leak. Probably lots intelligence consumers in the government had access to Plame’s work product on WMD, although they didn’t know where the data came from. A few analysts who produced those reports knew her code word, so they could assess source reliability. Very few people knew her name, code word and associated work product, maybe one or two in the White House, and George Tenet knows exactly who they are because there is a paper trail.

Just as if Plame’s name and affiliation had appeared in that Beijing newspaper, Novak’s column should have triggered both FBI notification and investigation, and probably did. I’m guessing that the White House is stonewalling that investigation. Some people call that obstruction of justice.