In "Rove Told Reporter of Plame's Role but Didn't Name Her, Attorney Says" [front page, July 11], Karl Rove's attorney seems to believe that because Mr. Rove did not identify Valerie Plame by name, he is not culpable under Title 50, Section 421 of the U.S. Code, which deals with protecting the identities of certain undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants and sources. The statute says that providing information that "intentionally discloses any information identifying" a covert agent is illegal. As we all now know, merely telling a reporter that Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife was a CIA agent was enough information to identify her.
Furthermore, even if Mr. Rove claims he did not know that Ms. Plame was a covert operative, one would hope that someone in Mr. Rove's position would check on such things before risking Ms. Plame's life and the lives of her contacts, all of whom are working on the front line to protect America's national security.
Among other things Michael Kinsley tells us in his July 10 column on the investigation of Robert D. Novak's report identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA operative, "journalists say that anonymous sources are essential to freedom and democracy. But that is not the current case, and it may not even be the case most of the time."
The real issue at the basis of special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation is not the leak but the promise by a journalist to protect the identity of the leaker. Such a promise, Kinsley says, should not have been made.
I am inclined to agree. I do not give credit to stories supported by unidentified sources.
Without anonymous sources, reporters must be more informed about their subject to gather news; must spend more time interviewing participants in events they cover; and generally must do much more legwork than they are accustomed to in these days of high-speed communication.
If no source is allowed to be anonymous, then Mr. Kinsley will no longer need to fret over the New York Times' claim that reporter Judith Miller has engaged in civil disobedience by withholding the name of her source in contempt of court. As he says, civil disobedience has always left "almost any law anyone does not care for . . . up for grabs."