As developments in the affair involving Amb. Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame proceed, a true media dilemna arises.
Plame’s identity as a CIA operative was alledgedly disclosed to the media by White House staffers and an independant counsel has been appointed to determine how this came about and if any laws were broken. It is a violation of the law to break the cover of covert operatives and suspicion has fallen on Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.
National security issues are certainly in play when CIA personnel identities are compromised. It not only has an obvious effect on the person involved, it also risks revealing sources and methods that can harm operations and other people known to associate with the outed agent. But courts forcing reporters to reveal their sources presents a sticky situation for first amendment advocates and must be dealt with carefully. In this case, however, it could be argued that this is not a case of a reporter and his source, but a political propagandist planting a story with a press accomplice in violation of the law.