When Valerie Plame’s status as a CIA operative was revealed in 2003, Bush administration critics were adamant that a serious crime had been committed, that American national security interests had been put into jeopardy, and that the exposure warranted nothing less than the prosecution of a wide array of Bush administration officials.
“The Wilson smear was a thuggish act,” intoned David Corn, then Washington correspondent of The Nation. “Bush and his crew abused and misused intelligence to make their case for war. Now there is evidence Bushies used classified information and put the nation's counter-proliferation efforts at risk merely to settle a score.”
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently referred to the affair as a “one of the most egregious abuses of power in history.” In 2008, Democratic congressmen Robert Wexler and Dennis Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush, one of which alleged his “Misuse and Exposure of Classified Information and Obstruction of Justice in the Matter of Valerie Plame Wilson.”
This high dudgeon was memorable at the time for its righteous pretensions to principle.
Fast-forward eight years to the disclosure of the identity of another CIA officer, this time an actual clandestine agent in the field, not an analyst sitting behind a desk in Langley. Yet, these erstwhile advocates of protecting the identities of CIA employees have gone missing.
On January 27, Raymond Davis, an American citizen, was charged with the murder of two men in Lahore, Pakistan. Davis claims that the men had tried to rob him while he was driving through a dangerous neighborhood. After fleeing the scene, he was apprehended by Pakistani police.
Washington protested his imprisonment, initially claiming that Davis was an “administrative and technical” staffer working at the embassy in Islamabad, and thus entitled to enjoy diplomatic immunity. President Obama himself publicly pled that the Pakistani government release him and, according to the New York Times, both CIA director Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mike Mullen called their Pakistani counterparts to reiterate the president’s message. But a Pakistani judge has just ruled that Davis is not entitled to diplomatic immunity.
While Davis’s official cover might have seemed obviously bogus to many (he was, after all, traveling with a Glock handgun, a pocket telescope, and GPS equipment), it should come as no surprise that the United States government would want to keep his real identity a secret. And the State Department did just that, requesting that media outlets not publish details about his CIA affiliations.
Pakistan, after all, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, a place where conspiracy theories about supposed American perfidy are widespread, particularly those regarding the activities of security contractors and the CIA. In 2009, for instance, a prominent Pakistan newspaper alleged that an American correspondent for the Wall Street Journal was in the employ of the CIA, Blackwater, and the Mossad. The situation has become so bad that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton castigated the Pakistani government and media in a speech last month, stating that “shocking, unjustified anti-Americanism will not resolve” the many problems Pakistan faces.
The State Department quietly requested that media outlets not report on Davis’s CIA connection, a request that was duly ignored by The Guardian, whose reporting of this information on February 20 resulted in mass street protests calling for Davis’s execution. A day later, after State was assured that Davis had been transferred to the “safest possible location,” it reluctantly lifted its request on American news organizations from reporting about his work for the agency, an allowance rendered irrelevant by dint of the fact that the ties had already been reported.