October 2, 2003

The Columnist and the Disclosure (5 Letters)

Here are five letters to the editor of the New York Times... what do you think? Be prepared to discuss in class.

To the Editor:

Re "President Orders Full Cooperation in Leaking of Name" (front page, Oct. 1):

At the moment when someone disclosed to the columnist Robert D. Novak the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer, whose husband, a former diplomat, had been critical of the administration's use of intelligence to justify the Iraq war, Mr. Novak's responsibility as a citizen was to contact the proper authorities and report the leak.

The same holds true for the other journalists involved.

If Mr. Novak had been called by a serial killer who gave his name and the location of his latest victim's body, would it have been acceptable to publish the story and protect that killer's identity, saying the killer was an anonymous source?

Lawrence, Kan., Oct. 1, 2003

To the Editor:

Re "President Orders Full Cooperation in Leaking of Name" (front page, Oct. 1):

The term "leak" traditionally describes the actions of a whistle-blower. This case, however, involves an apparent act of politically motivated revenge and intimidation.

The source for Robert D. Novak's column seems to have been working to discredit Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat critical of the administration, an aim that was beneficial to the administration's larger goal of trying to quell the Iraq intelligence controversy.

Please call the intimidation of whistle-blowers what it is: manipulation.  

Los Angeles, Oct. 1, 2003

To the Editor:

Re "An Accusation and a Bush Memo Coming at an Especially Bad Time" (news article, Oct. 1):

You report on a memorandum from the White House counsel that said that the Justice Department had opened a preliminary criminal investigation into the possible leak of an undercover C.I.A. officer's name and that every White House staff member was being ordered to "preserve all materials that might be relevant."

I'm disappointed in Senator John McCain, who said, "It all may be perfectly innocent, but I think it calls for an investigation."

How is it possible that revealing the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer could be perfectly innocent?

It seems clear to me that, despite the Homeland Security Department and the Patriot Act, we are all less safe today because of this attack on our intelligence capability (not to mention the clear and present danger to the individual in question).

New York, Oct. 1, 2003

To the Editor:

Leaking the identity of Joseph C. Wilson IV's wife, Valerie Plame, as a C.I.A. officer was a grave act (front page, Oct. 1).

Not only has it jeopardized her career, but it has also harmed the prestige of and endangered America's entire foreign diplomatic corps.

Will those serving abroad now, even in banal roles, be suspected of espionage? And will intelligence channels be closed for those still working for the C.I.A.?

Although Democratic outrage is opportunistic, all who worry about our security should share it.

Philadelphia, Oct. 1, 2003

To the Editor:

Re "President Orders Full Cooperation in Leaking of Name" (front page, Oct. 1):

As the Justice Department begins an investigation into the public naming of an undercover C.I.A. officer, one wonders why the columnist Robert D. Novak mentioned her in the first place.

It would seem that he decided to make her name public, since government officials had already done so by mentioning it to him.

But Mr. Novak's doing so seems nothing more than a fool's errand.

What possible benefit would the reading public have in knowing the name of a C.I.A. agent? The answer seems to be none.  

New York, Oct. 1, 2003

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