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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Novak: Diligent researcher?

Still wondering about the leak of Valerie Plame's identity?

Right-leaning blogs are currently buzzing about a somewhat interesting NY Times report from today (August 2) by Anne E. Kornblut.
Mr. Novak offered a possible explanation for the disconnect on Monday, suggesting in his column that he could have obtained Ms. Wilson's maiden name from the directory Who's Who in America, which used that name in identifying her as the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador.

Mr. Novak did not explicitly cite the directory as his source. Nor was this his first public reference to the Who's Who listing. In a column in October 2003, three months after he had first disclosed Ms. Wilson's name and her role, Mr. Novak cited the published listing as evidence that Ms. Wilson's identity was "no secret."
Read the right's blogs, and the accompanying comments, and you come to the conclusion that "the left" (which includes the media in their world), has made a big deal of nothing.

Valerie Plame's name wasn't a secret. After all, Ambassador Joe Wilson listed it right there in Who's Who.

I don't now how to put this diplomatically, so I'll be blunt: this line of thinking is stupid.

The question about Plame's identity is not about her name per se. It is about the fact that she was a CIA operative. That is the key piece of information revealed in Novak's original July 14, 2003 editorial. That is the reason for the Fitzgerald grand jury and that is the fact that was included in the secret State Department memo I discussed here last week, which may have circulated on Air Force One during the President's trip to Africa.

Obviously, anyone learning that Joe Wilson's wife was a secret agent could search any number of sources for her name. It might be on her marriage license, in her church bulletin, or on her junkmail (as an aside, the FBI started searching Albert Einstein's trash in 1933). Is it really so unusual to find a former Ambassador in Who's Who? I've sent student research assistants to the library to search this volume to help me find information about people. They don't always find the people I'm looking for, but it's a good place to start. After all, it includes listings for 100,000 "high achievers," plus, typically, their spouses and children.

Valerie Plame's status at CIA was NOC (non-official cover), which is the most covert status. To observers, she had a normal job and life that required her to travel and/or work abroad. Frankly, marriage to former diplomat Joe Wilson probably helped -- all the more reason for her to travel abroad. This was her cover story, and Novak blew it.

Someone told him.

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