According to last week’s indictment of Scooter Libby, a person identified as “Official A” held conversations with reporters about Plame’s identity as an undercover CIA operative, information that was classified. News accounts subsequently confirmed that that official was Rove. Under Executive Order 12958, signed by President Clinton in 1995, such a disclosure is grounds for, at a minimum, losing access to classified information.
Section 5.1 of Clinton’s executive order prohibits “any knowing, willful or negligent action that could reasonably be expected to result in an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.” While the law against revealing the identity of a CIA operative requires that the perpetrator intentionally disclosed such classified information (a high standard, which may be one reason Fitzgerald did not indict on those grounds), the executive order covers “negligence,” or unintentional disclosure.
That means the only proper answer to a reporter’s questions about Joseph Wilson’s wife would have been something along the lines of, “You know I cannot discuss who may or may not be in the CIA.” The indictment makes clear that this was not the answer Official A provided when the subject was discussed with reporters Bob Novak and Matt Cooper.
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