It is clear that, at least by sometime in January 2004 -- and probably much earlier -- Fitzgerald knew this law had not been violated. Plame was not a "covert" agent but a bureaucrat working at CIA headquarters.Read the thread and lots of commenters continue to claim that Plame was not covert, and thus could not have been outed.
Here's the truth from the Libby indictment:
At all relevant times from January 1, 2002 through July 2003, Valerie Wilson was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified.The indictment also says that the Vice President told Libby that Plame worked in the "Counterproliferation Division," which as Josh Marshall points out, is in the Operations Directorate. The work of the OD is so secret that there's virtually no discussion of it on the CIA webpage.
The CIA webpage is kind of ambiguous on OD's organization, but the Senate Intelligence Committee in its July 2004 report on Iraq made clear that the "Counterproliferation Division" is in OD.
The right's apologists completely ignore the part of the indictment that notes Libby's legal responsibilities for handling all classified information. In other words, it wouldn't matter if she was still a NOC or not:
LIBBY was obligated by applicable laws and regulations, including Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order 13292), not to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information, and otherwise to exercise proper care to safeguard classified information against unauthorized disclosure. On or about January 23, 2001, LIBBY executed a written “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” stating in part that “I understand and accept that by being granted access to classified information, special confidence and trust shall be placed in me by the United States Government,” and that “I have been advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation.”Conceivably, Libby could have been charged with treason under some readings.
Numerous commenters also refer to Fitzgerald's "2-year investigation" as if the entire process was an unreasonable waste of time, given the outcome.
Well, the grand jury investigation began in January 2004 and was nearly finished by May. Remember, Matt Cooper (Time) and Judith Miller (The New York Times) fought their subpoenas to testify, in May 2004. This meant the beginning of a legal process that went all the way to the Supreme Court as the reporters kept losing (the Court refused to intervene on their behalf in June 2005).
Cooper finally agreed to testify in July 2005 and Miller went to jail that same month. Miller agreed to testify on September 30, which means it took Fitzgerald only one month to finish the investigation after he secured her testimony. It took about six to eight onths of total investigative work to wrap up the entire business. A year or more was lost fighting a winning battle against the reporter targets of the leaks.