Austin Bay
Partisan political advantage, gained at the real or potential life-threatening expense of American personnel undertaking high-risk assignments, was the deep moral issue driving prosecutors in the 2005 Valerie Plame name exposure scandal.

An even more disturbing and exploitative example of high-level Washington political operatives exposing low-level American field personnel to greater physical risk is the moral issue at the core of the on-going Benghazi scandal.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said national security concerns drove his pursuit of Bush Administration officials involved in exposing Plame's status as a covert CIA agent.

For Fitzgerald, Plame's precise operational status at the time her name was revealed was relevant, but not the critical determinant. Institutional damage worried him. Permitting high-level political self-interest to trump a commander-in-chief's duty to support, protect and respect U.S. personnel in high-risk security occupations would harm America's ability to recruit intelligence agents. In a column published in November 2005, I commended Fitzgerald. "Covert intelligence work is difficult. Agents are vulnerable. Fitzgerald's hard-nosed investigation" improves national security. "In an era when human spies are America's first line of defense, Fitzgerald argues, "The notion that someone's identity could be compromised lightly, to me compromises the ability to recruit ... " Bully for the prosecutor. He's right.

The threat to Plame was potential. We know from released State Department documents and some declassified congressional testimony that in 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens argued for months that the terrorist and militant threat to the lives of U.S. personnel in Benghazi was real, potent and increasing week by week. Stevens lost the bureaucratic argument with State for security reinforcements. He was also one of the four Americans to lose his life on September 11, 2012 when an al-Qaida-affiliated militia attacked the Benghazi consulate. The others murdered on that iconic date (the eleventh anniversary of 9-11) were State Department employee Sean Smith and two former Navy SEALs working with CIA, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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