In the world of espionage, there are spies — and then there are spies. The majority of spies operate under an official cover. They may actually be agents of an intelligence service — the CIA, for example — but they’re usually placed in legitimate positions in an ordinary government department or agency. A CIA agent might be placed as an admin clerk in an embassy in Turkey, or a courier in a consular station in Poland.
Agents with an official cover may engage in covert work, their espionage activity may be dangerous, but they’re protected. They have diplomatic immunity. If they’re caught engaging in espionage, the agent may get roughed up during interrogation, but the most severe punishment will likely be expulsion from the host nation.
There are also agents operating under non-official cover. These are NOC agents. They have no official association with any government agency — and, in fact, are trained to deny any connection in the event they’re caught. They’re not protected by diplomatic immunity. If they get caught, they’re fucked. Deeply fucked. The nation they work for isn’t going to come to their aid, and they know that. They’re subject to long periods of incarceration, possibly torture, possibly execution. Hell, if their cover is blown, they may even be assassinated on the street.
NOC agents are serious spies.
I’m nattering on about this because it’s being reported that Comrade Trump is planning to pardon Scooter Libby.
You may be asking yourself, “Who the hell is Scooter Libby?” It’s a good question. He was a disciple of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served in the Bush 2 administration. President George W. Bush was, by almost all accounts, looking for a reason to invade Iraq. He and his staff settled on the claim that Iraq illegally possessed weapons of mass destruction, and was attempting to obtain more such weapons. As part of that claim, the Bush administration accused Iraq of attempting to buy a form of processed uranium from the country of Niger.
Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador to Gabon who had served in diplomatic posts in five different African nations and was very familiar with African intrigue, was sent to Niger to investigate the issue. He found there was absolutely no merit to the Bush administration’s claim.
Shortly thereafter, a conservative columnist with the Washington Post wrote an editorial casting doubt on Wilson’s findings. In that editorial, he stated that Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame — an energy analyst for Brewster Jennings & Associates — was actually a CIA operative. That was accurate, but incomplete. Plame was, in fact, a covert NOC agent working on issues of nuclear proliferation. Not only that, Brewster Jennings was a front company created for, and operated by, the CIA. By divulging Plame’s CIA affiliation, her life was put in jeopardy, as were the lives of everybody working for Brewster Jennings (most of whom were unaware it was a CIA front). Every covert espionage operation being conducted by agents at Brewster Jennings had to be scrapped.
Who told that columnist that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative? Nobody was ever charged with that crime, but it was accepted knowledge that Scooter Libby leaked the information. Why? As political payback for Joseph Wilson’s undermining of the weapons of mass destruction claim.
Libby was charged, tried, and convicted of four felony counts related to the crime. He was sentenced to thirty months in prison. President Bush commuted that sentence, so Libby escaped most of his punishment. Bush, however, refused to pardon Libby for the crime.
Comrade Trump is now, apparently, planning to do what Bush didn’t. Why? Who the hell knows for sure why Trump does anything? But it’s probably no coincidence that one of Libby’s most vocal supporters was John Bolton, who Trump has just nominated as his national security adviser.
Oh, and there’s this: guess who made the decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the Valerie Plame case? James Comey.
Would anybody be at all surprised that Trump, purely as political payback, would pardon a man who, also purely as political payback, outed a NOC CIA operative and destroyed an entire CIA front company as well as an untold number of covert operations? Nope.
That’s classic Trump. Petty, cruel, selfish, and willing to place his own wants above the needs and safety of the nation.