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The SF-312, Motive, Opportunity And Intent


Morning everyone.  My flight was delayed a bit, due to inclement weather yesterday and my drive home was none-too-easy as a result of weather here at home.  (Nothing like driving through snow squalls on the interstate at 10 pm when you are tired, I always say.)  Anyway, I made it home in one piece, and The Peanut and I are enjoying lots of hugs this morning.  (Apparently, momma was missed.)

Am catching up on news and copious e-mails this morning, but in the meantime, Jeralyn has some great analysis up at TalkLeft about a new government motion filed in the Libby case that needs some reading.  From Jeralyn:

This is a defensive motion on Fitz' part. He's reacting to Wells' claim in opening statements that Libby had no motive to lie. Previously, Fitz had alleged Libby's motive was not to lose his job. But Wells claimed Libby was not concerned with losing his job. Fitz thinks these agreements constitute new proof.

Fitz argues:

The nondisclosure agreements executed by defendant tend to establish that defendant undoubtedly fully understood the serious obligations imposed by the nondisclosure agreements – and the severe potential consequences of violating them. Given other evidence that will establish that defendant was also aware at the time he made the charged false statements that Ms. Wilson’s employment may have been classified, and that the FBI and grand jury were investigating possible crimes arising from the disclosure of Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment to reporters, the nondisclosure agreements are directly relevant to the issue of whether defendant lied intentionally about his role in receiving and disseminating information concerning Ms. Wilson’s employment. Thus, the agreements should be admitted.

Fitz says Libby's state of mind is the most important issue in the case, especially given that Libby "disclosed to reporter Judith Miller" and "confirmed to reporter Matthew Cooper" that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA.

Finally, we get to the SF-312s — and it is about time.

I hope we see some substantial news coverage on this issue, precisely because the Bush White House seems so full of people who did not take their commitments to secrecy under the agreement seriously enough for my comfort level.  If, as a covert agent or person working on high level clearance operations, you cannot trust your own goverment to have your back — and you have to worry about them using any and all information for their own political purposes and gain…well, honestly, that's just wrong on so many levels, isn't it?  Either national security comes first or your political neck does — and if it is the latter, then you have no business being in charge of the former.  Period. 

As I wrote all the way back in November of 2005:

Security clearance issues are governed by a number of Federal laws and regulations, including the Standard Form 312.

The SF 312 provides a wealth of information to anyone granted a high level security clearance, including criminal laws and penalties for violating the security agreement, what constitutes an improper release of information, and what procedures are to be followed in dealing with classified information.

There is a booklet of this information which is distributed and explained at the time that an individual is given clearance. It includes this:

Question 19: If information that a signer of the SF 312 knows to have been classified appears in a public source, for example, in a newspaper article, may the signer assume that the information has been declassified and disseminate it elsewhere?

Answer: No. Information remains classified until it has been officially declassified. Its disclosure in a public source does not declassify the information. Of course, merely quoting the public source in the abstract is not a second unauthorized disclosure. However, before disseminating the information elsewhere or confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of the SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not, further dissemination of the information or confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure.

In other words, even if a reporter calls you and asks if you've heard a rumor, if you know the rumor is a classified bit of information, you cannot confirm it. Period. Or you violate your clearance. And you have an affirmative obligation to find out whether or not a piece of information is classified before you confirm it one way or the other.

I'd say losing your employment as the top number two to the top Number Two in the nation would be a pretty powerful motivating factor.  Plus, as astute commenter Deconstructionist at TalkLeft said:  "Either his motive was to cover up (a) a politically embarassing problem for his bosses; (b) potential crimes by his bosse; or (c)his own neck.   It's well played because efforts to to discount (a) and (b) might tend to buttress (c) and vice versa."

Well, this should make for an interesting weekend of motions and paper flying back and forth between the government and Team Libby.  Who has the popcorn?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com