Who are the targets of the inquiry?

With apologies to Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, who has insisted the special prosecutor told him his client was not a "target" of the investigation, Rove clearly is a target. So is Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby. Both have been named in multiple grand jury leaks in recent weeks, though they may not be the only administration figures facing possible charges. Other Cheney staffers, most notably national security aide John Hannah, have been mentioned in press and blog accounts, and recent leaks [1] [2] hint that former press secretary Ari Fleischer may be on the short list too.

What's the law that Rove, Libby, et al. supposedly broke?

AP Photo/Lauren Shay

Drafted by Rhode Island Republican Senator John H. Chafee, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 makes it a crime to expose the identity of any US intelligence agent known to be working in an undercover role. It's yielded very few prosecutions in the 23 years since: A search of the full Nexis news database for the years 1983-2002 turns up only 36 mentions of the law and just two reports of cases in which anyone was charged with violating it. The IIPA was passed largely in response to the activities of a handful of lefty activists who specialized in documenting through FOIA and other means the various covert programs the CIA was running around the world--most prominently, former CIA agent turned author Philip Agee, whose 1975 Inside the Company: A CIA Diary was the first tell-all book about the agency's inner workings, and the publishers of the magazine Covert Action Information Bulletin (later renamed Covert Action Quarterly. Both Agee and CAIB named a lot of undercover CIA personnel in the process, and the IIPA forced them to scale back their efforts and eliminate a Covert Action column titled "Naming Names."

While it was moving through Congress, the IIPA elicited harsh criticism from left-liberals and First Amendment advocates. It was not a fringe opinion: The mainstream US intelligence historian Thomas Powers called it "a first step on the road to an Official Secrets Act." The editors of the Nation published a special section condemning the bill on March 14, 1981, terming it "extremely dubious and dangerous." Now, ironically, many of the same people are calling for the heads of the White House leakers, some even going as far as to term Rove's violation of a law they once opposed "treason." (The blogger John Rosenberg has a good piece about the treason chorus and the odd history of left-lib views toward IIPA, here.)

If it was columnist Bob Novak who published Plame's identity, then why is it Judith Miller in jail and on the hot seat instead of Novak?

Because NYT reporter Miller was jailed for refusing to testify to the grand jury, whereas Novak--although he's refused to discuss it--did talk to Fitzgerald, according to several leaked accounts. In court arguments earlier this month prior to Miller's jailing, Fitzgerald told Judge Thomas Hogan her story is essential to his case. As the Chicago Tribune noted on July 7, "Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, has said for months that his investigation has concluded except for the testimony of Miller and Cooper. On Wednesday, he told the court that with Miller's refusal to testify, ‘we are having this whole thing derailed by one person.'"

What does Miller know? Rove's supporters maintain that she's the person who told the administration about Plame's CIA status. The other side has all sorts of theories, but the most interesting may be the one hatched by criminal defense lawyer and TalkLeft blog author Jerrilyn Merritt, who believes Miller knows the details of an alleged meeting of Cheney staffers to discuss ways of discrediting Joseph Wilson and his Niger report. (Wilson first claimed to USA Today in April 2004 that such a meeting had taken place. Cheney's office denied it publicly--though it's not clear what, if anything, witnesses have said to the grand jury about it.)

Miller, whose silence in the Fitzgerald inquiry have given her the cachet of a First Amendment martyr, makes for a dubious hero in any setting. She last made headlines in 2004 when press critics such as Jack Shafer of Slate and Michael Massing anointed her a symbol of everything that was wrong with the mainstream press's cheerleading coverage of the march to war in Iraq. Before the invasion, while battles raged within the US intelligence establishment over the Bush administration's handpicked case for war, the eminently connected Miller never wrote of hearing a word about them; after the invasion, when military commanders with whom she was embedded in Iraq told Miller about a defector with extensive knowledge of Saddam's secret weapons programs, she turned their yarn into front-page news without so much as being permitted to speak to the alleged defector. The old joke about the Washington press corps seems literally true of Judy Miller: She never met an official source she didn't like. This has only heightened suspicions that Miller is keeping quiet out of devotion not to the First Amendment but to friends in high places who might wind up ruined if she talked.

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