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Mar 12, 2004 5:13 pm

Why Eugene Volokh Is Indispensable ...

We all read the headlines:
"Accused Spy Is Cousin of Bush Staffer" (AP)
"Ex-Senate Aide Charged With Giving Iraq Secrets" (MSNBC)
"Ex-Aide in Congress Charged as Iraq Spy" (AP)
"US Woman Charged With Spying for Iraq" (CNN)
"Ex-Congressional Aide Charged with Spying" (Salon)

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit asks the partisan political question about why the AP headline highlights Susan Landauer's relationship to a Bush administration official (Andrew Card). Volokh bothers to read the news reports and interrogate them:

She may well have committed various crimes, and being a covert agent of the Iraqi government is hardly good behavior in my book. But is there really any charge that she gave the Iraqis secrets, or even that she had any secrets to give them?
Volokh cites the AP report with a headline referring to Susan Landauer as an"accused spy." The body of the story explicitly notes that she was"not directly charged with espionage.""Am I missing some important details here?" Volokh rightly asks. The MSNBC headline is, apparently, an outright lie; and all the headlines beg the question of what it means to be"a spy."
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Michael C Tinkler - 3/14/2004

Is there really only one question here? I think the partisan question Prof. Reynolds asked was remarkably apt; surely it was more relevant that the woman has an employment history as a D than that she has a family relationship to one well-known R.

But on the bigger issue, why is there only one question? I think there are several --
1. she's alleged to have done bad things, but is she guilty (all affiliations aside))
2. is what the press is reporting as "spying" better understood as "unregistered agent of influence"? -- sloppy journalism
3. is she a 5th column inside the D party? -- understandable, if partisan, question for a year in which war records are going to be on the table.

I want to know the question to all three, myself.

mark safranski - 3/12/2004

Sadly, this goof worked for one of my former senators.

There are classic spies who deliver secret documents and inside information and there are agents of influence - " unregistered lobbyists " is a cute phrase - who take money on the sly to influence American policy.

Given the state of economic sanctions against Iraq at the time, her acceptance of cash from Iraqis may be more serious legally than doing the same "unregisted lobbying" for Belgium. Whether or not she had access to classified documents or security clearance may also be a factor on the specific charges filed, if any.

I hardly doubt that a woman who is savvy enough to be a congressional spokesman would not be aware that this activity was wrong, unpatriotic and a betrayal of her allegience to the United States.

Richard Henry Morgan - 3/12/2004

Interesting background to this lady. Here's the deposition she gave in the Lockerbie mess, where her meeting with a self-promoting CIA informant "proves" that Libya is innocent -- she even went to the Libyans with her "proof" -- that must have been some meeting. She ends her deposition with "For shame on all of you!" She thinks the Libyans deserve compensation.

Now she's graduated: "I did more to stop terrorism in this country than anybody else".

The lady needs help.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/12/2004

I didn't read the article itself until you brought it up, but reading the NYTimes headline, "Former U.S. Aide Accused of Working With Iraq," I figured it was a matter of being an unregistered lobbyist, the kind of thing that got Roger Clinton into trouble (I think that's what it was). In fact, the charges they cite, "conspiring to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, acting as an unregistered agent and illegally accepting money from the Iraqi government" are consistent with this interpretation.

Some of what she did certainly falls into the category of intelligence gathering, though most of it seems to be more like "back-channel diplomacy." Some of that was indeed tied to her relationship (apparently distant) with Card, so there's no particularly nefarious reading necessary to understand the headline. They're just going for the sexiest, juiciest possible reading of the events: it's low journalism, but I doubt it's partisan.

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