One of the current right smear tactics to discredit the pending indictments on the White House administration is that leaks happen all the time and they are not really a big deal. First, there is no evidence showing CIA operatives are outted â€œall the timeâ€, nor at all without repercussion. Second, Former U.S. Senator Gary Hart illustrates why they enacted the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act (via Atrios):
In the early 1970s, in part as a result of the radicalization of individuals and groups over the Vietnam War, a former CIA employee named Philip Agee wrote a book revealing the identities of several dozen CIA employees, many under deep cover and some including agency station chiefs in foreign capitals.
Richard Welch, a brilliant Harvard-educated classicist, had been stationed in Greece as CIA station chief only a few months before he was murdered, by a radical Greek terrorist organization called the 17th of November, in the doorway of his house in Athens on Dec. 23, 1975. Had Agee not divulged his name, there is every reason to believe that Welch would be alive today after decades of loyal service to his country.
Largely as a result of Agee’s perfidy and Welch’s unnecessary death, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) of 1982 was enacted, making it a felony to knowingly divulge the identity of a covert CIA operative. It carries penalties of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for each offense. There are those who dismiss the crime by saying, “Oh, Wilson only had a desk job.” That is not a defense under this felony statute. It is for the CIA, not Karl Rove or Robert Novak, to determine who requires identity protection and who does not.
There is one final irony to this story. On Christmas Eve in 1975, I got a call at my home from the director of the CIA, William Colby. He asked if I would intervene with the White House to obtain presidential approval to have Welch buried at Arlington National Cemetery, a hero fallen in service to his country. I quickly called President Ford’s chief of staff on Colby’s behalf and made the request. Within two hours, the president had agreed to sign the order permitting Welch to be buried at Arlington.
The chief of staff’s name was Richard Cheney.
Update (10-26-2005 15:29): Correction from Gary Hart:
I incorrectly stated above that Philip Agee included the name of Richard Welch in his book naming CIA operatives. That statement was inaccurate. Mr. Agee did not identify Richard Welch, but other sources did. Nevertheless, the Agee book and subsequent Agee actions did contribute substantially to the passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. I apologize to Mr. Agee for this incorrect assertion.