During a generally praiseworthy explication of the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [news story, Oct. 29], special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald said, "There was nothing wrong with government officials discussing Valerie Wilson or Mr. Wilson or his wife and imparting the information to Mr. Libby."

Wrong. The nondisclosure agreements signed by all holders of top-secret security clearances specifically prohibit imparting classified information to people not authorized to receive it, whether or not such persons hold security clearances.

This is the need-to-know requirement. No one outside a narrow range of supervisors and colleagues at the CIA needed to know Valerie Plame's status at that agency. Neither Vice President Cheney nor Karl Rove nor any other government figure outside the CIA had that need to know. Their retailing of this bit of gossip, far too coincidental to be believably innocent, amounts to a violation of their nondisclosure agreements and perhaps to a crime. One hopes that Mr. Fitzgerald takes proper note.

ALAN BICKLEY

Madison, Wis.

While it is popular in Washington to delve into the minutiae of controversies, let us not forget to see the forest made up of the pine needles:

The Bush administration apparently believes it is acceptable to endanger the life of an individual's family member in retaliation for that person's speaking out against administration policy. Such political thuggery is improper and immoral.

GORDON P. PHELPS

Falls Church