Treason, no less. A leading Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman, howls in Congress that "The intentional disclosure of a covert CIA agent's identity would be an act of treason. If Rove was part of a conspiracy and intentionally disclosed the name -- then that jeopardizes national security."

Liberal columnists like Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times join the Waxman chorus. But suppose one of the attractive Plame's covert missions, until outed by Rove, had been to liaise with Venezuelan right-wingers planning to assassinate president Hugo Chavez, possibly masquerading as a journalist to secure an audience with the ebullient Venezuelan president. In an earlier incarnation Scheer would surely have been only too happy to jeopardize national security by exposing Plame's true employer.

Thirty-eight years ago, Scheer was one of the editors of Ramparts, and in February of 1967, that magazine ran an expose of covert CIA funding of the National Student Association, prompting furious denunciations that it had endangered national security, which, from the foreign policy establishment's point of view, it most certainly had.

The CIA's covert wing is not in the business of advancing world peace and general prosperity. The record of 60 years is one of uninterrupted evil. So we should drop all this nonsense about treason and clap Rove warmly on the back for his courageous onslaughts on the cult of secrecy. By all means delight in the White House's discomfiture, but spare us the claptrap about national security and treason.

To thread one's way through coverage of the Plame affair, the jailing of Judy Miller, the contempt citations of four journalists (though not, alas, of Jeff Gerth of the New York Times) and the AIPAC/Franklin spy case is like strolling past distorting mirrors in a fun fair. Go from one to the next, and the swollen giant of "treason" in the west wing of the White House shrinks to the dwarf-like status of a "leak," which is how AIPAC's defenders like to categorize the transmission of a top secret presidential directive on Iran from the Pentagon, via Larry Franklin, to AIPAC officials and thence to a spymaster, Naor Gilon, in the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Judy Miller, too, has had an image makeover, from the warmongering fabricator of yesterday to today's martyr to the First Amendment, with years of profitable speaking tours beckoning after she is released from her beneficial incarceration.

Stroll on to the next set of mirrors, apropos Wen Ho Lee's suit to discover who leaked the false accusations about his supposed acts of treason at Los Alamos, allegedly transmitting nuclear secrets to China. Four journalists, including James Risen of the New York Times and Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, may join Miller behind bars for refusing to divulge their sources.

One can understand why Wen Ho Lee is unmoved by charges that he is sabotaging the First Amendment. His case displayed the FBI and the press, which smeared him -- primarily Risen and Gerth in the New York Times -- in a disgusting light. He spent nearly a year in solitary confinement, with FBI agents telling him he might face the death penalty for being a traitor.

Who, in fact, was the betrayer of secrets, if one has to be found? On July 7, Steve Terrell reported in The New Mexican that the leaker so eager to disclose a top secret government probe of Wen Ho Lee at Los Alamos may well be the current governor of New Mexico and possible White House aspirant, Bill Richardson, who was Clinton's energy secretary at the time and who had spent a large portion of his political career nurturing the interests of Los Alamos as a nuclear research lab.

If you want to start waving words like "treason" around, the AIPAC spy case is surely a better target than Karl Rove. Here we have a four-year FBI probe of possible treachery by senior U.S. government officials, as well as by Israel's premier lobbying outfit in the United States, AIPAC. Yet compared with the mileage given to the Plame affair, coverage of the AIPAC spy case in the press has been sparse, and the commentary very demure, until you get to Justin Raimondo's pugnacious columns on

Raimondo's been comparing the AIPAC spy case to the indictment of Alger Hiss back in the 1940s, claiming that just as the foreign policy apparatus was riddled with Communist spies in the 1940s, the same apparatus is now riddled with Israel's agents today. I'd reckon that when it comes to agents of influence the USSR back then couldn't hold a candle to Israel today (or then, for that matter), though in that distant time Zionist and Communist were often hats on the same head.

But there is one parallel. One answer in the McCarthyite era to accusations of spying was that the Soviet Union was an ally and the supposed transmission of "secrets" was just a routine exchange of information on such matters as the schedule for the Dumbarton Oaks conference laying the groundwork for the United Nations (in which Hiss was involved.)

Similar talk about "allies" and "routine exchanges" pops from the mouths of Israel's supporters here, denouncing the FBI probe as some latterday equivalent of the persecution of Alfred Dreyfus.

It's perfectly obvious that Israel exerts huge influence on U.S. policy. Men and women working in Israel's interest throng Washington. But on the Left, just as in the Plame affair, we should be leery of words like traitor and "national security." They cut both ways.

Here's a useful parable on the fetishization of secrecy Jeffrey St. Clair unearthed in Ernie Fitzgerald's "The Pentagonists," essential reading for anyone interested in how U.S. politics really works.

In 1973, Nixon fired Pentagon auditor Ernie Fitzgerald for exposing the tidal wave of cost overruns associated with Lockheed's useless C-5A cargo plane. One of the accusations hurled against Ernie at the time was that he had "leaked" to a congressional committee "classified information" about the scandal. The charge was made by Robert Seamons, Nixon's Secretary of the Air Force. When Fitzgerald sued (and won his job back and a major settlement, which he used in part to found the Fund for Constitutional Government), his lawyers deposed Seamons, who retreated a little.

Here's how Ernie describes it: "Later, after I was fired, Sen. William Proxmire forced Seamons to retract this accusation. In his apologia pro vita sua to the official tape, he produced this wonderful waffle: 'At the time I was testifying, I really thought that Ernie had given them classified material, marked 'Confidential.' Later on, when we still had the opportunity of going over the testimony, it wasn't so clear as to whether any of the material was classified or not. So we changed the word from Confidential with a capital "C" to confidential with a small "c."

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.