While today’s indictment of Lewis Libby, Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, is damaging to the Bush administration, some of the worst effects of Valerie Plame’s exposed CIA identity have yet to be seen overseas.
“While the investigation of Plame’s CIA identity has focused on the potentially unethical and illegal activities of senior Bush administration officials and the damage to the Bush administration’s ability to govern, U.S. human intelligence around the world, already glaringly deficient, may be further crippled,” said defense and national security expert Dr. Ivan Eland, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute in Washington, D.C.
“People in other nations who are sympathetic to the United States and might provide valuable intelligence to U.S. operatives might now be reluctant to do so,” said Dr. Eland, who is also the author of The Empire has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed.
“They would justifiably fear that in the rough-and-tumble U.S. political system, either their identities could be directly exposed or could be divulged indirectly through association with an exposed US handler, such as Valerie Plame.”
“Such disclosures of identities can endanger the lives of both U.S. operatives and foreign agents, thus deterring the agents’ cooperation,” said Dr. Eland.
After 9/11, human intelligence became central to the fight against terrorism. In the fight against al Qaeda and even the Iraqi insurgency, human sources reporting on the activities of small, covert cells of combatants are often more valuable than the technological methods of information gathering that were dominant in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
While potentially unethical and illegal activities practiced by administration officials must be investigated, the effects of such actions on people in countries around the world must be discussed as well.
“In defending their rationale for conducting a war of choice in Iraq that was unnecessary for the battle against terrorism, senior administration officials have hobbled critical U.S. efforts against al Qaeda, the real enemy,” said Dr. Eland.
In what some have termed a war for “hearts and minds” in Iraq, unethical and illegal activities in the United States turn away the very minds with the information that the U.S. desperately needs. Such actions have a much broader effect than is commonly perceived and harm people around the world, rather than simply the U.S., its government and its citizens.