[semi-]Breaking: There's another law that Rove almost certainly broke ... and the last guy charged under it faced a sentence of 500 years.
Today John Dean writes of a precedent involving another leaker prosecuted by the Bush Administration:
I am referring to the prosecution and conviction of Jonathan Randel
. Randel was a Drug Enforcement Agency analyst, a PhD in history, working in the Atlanta office of the DEA. Randel was convinced that British Lord Michael Ashcroft (a major contributor to Britain's Conservative Party, as well as American conservative causes) was being ignored by DEA, and its investigation of money laundering. (Lord Ashcroft is based in South Florida and the off-shore tax haven of Belize.)
Randel leaked the fact that Lord Ashcroft's name was in the DEA files, and this fact soon surfaced in the London news media. Ashcroft sued, and learned the source of the information was Randel. Using his clout, soon Ashcroft had the U.S. Attorney in pursuit of Randel for his leak.
By late February 2002, the Department of Justice indicted Randel for his leaking of Lord Ashcroft's name. It was an eighteen count "kitchen sink" indictment; they threw everything they could think of at Randel. Most relevant for Karl Rove's situation, Court One of Randel's indictment alleged a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641. This is a law that prohibits theft (or conversion for one's own use) of government records and information for non-governmental purposes. But its broad language covers leaks, and it has now been used to cover just such actions.
Randel, faced with a life sentence (actually, 500 years) if convicted on all counts, on the advice of his attorney, pleaded guilty to violating Section 641. On January 9, 2003, Randel was sentenced to a year in a federal prison, followed by three years probation. This sentence prompted the U.S. Attorney to boast that the conviction of Randel made a good example of how the Bush Administration would handle leakers.
In other words, the last big leak case the Bush Administration prosecuted involved a law few people have been talking about yet.
Karl Rove may be able to claim that he did not know he was leaking "classified information" about a "covert agent," but there can be no question he understood that what he was leaking was "sensitive information." The very fact that Matt Cooper called it "double super secret background" information suggests Rove knew of its sensitivity, if he did not know it was classified information (which by definition is sensitive).
United States District Court Judge Richard Story's statement to Jonathan Randel, at the time of sentencing, might have an unpleasant ring for Karl Rove. Judge Story told Randel that he surely must have appreciated the risks in leaking DEA information. "Anything that would affect the security of officers and of the operations of the agency would be of tremendous concern, I think, to any law-abiding citizen in this country," the judge observed. Judge Story concluded this leak of sensitive information was "a very serious crime."
"In my view," he explained, "it is a very serious offense because of the risk that comes with it, and part of that risk is because of the position" that Randel held in the DEA. But the risk posed by the information Rove leaked is multiplied many times over; it occurred at a time when the nation was considering going to war over weapons of mass destruction. And Rove was risking the identity of, in attempting to discredit, a WMD proliferation expert, Valerie Plame Wilson.
This does not look good for Rove legally.
Meanwhile, politically the man who proved to be so adept at drawing together a united Republican front, especially at times of adversity, is losing allies. After today's Senate floor spectacle of sanctimony on the part of Republicans outraged that Senator Reid would call for tighter controls of classified information, it was quite interesting to see tonight on NOW former New Jersey Governor and EPA Chair Christie Whitman (R) using a very pleasant tone while she speculated that Karl Rove might resign to avoid embarrassing the president. Media in Trouble has a rush unofficial transcript (that's accurate to my recollection of the show):
He may decide that he should step down on his own. Because this is gonna become a real issue for the President. Because the president said he would fire anyone who had leaked.
And while Karl may not have actually leaked the name, he appears to have led everyone to her.
So I think it depends on how much legs it gets, and it looks as if it's not gonna get away.
Inconvenient for Rove. Dangerous for the country to have a man apparently so recklessly partisan that he'd risk national security operations, and possibly the life (or lives) of personnel involved in helping defend this nation.
[Dean tip via Newsfare]