One of the cornerstones of a criminal prosecution is the notion of motive. When you are working a case, you want to have some idea of what pushed the particular defendant forward in his or her actions, because motive is one of the elements that needs to be shown to the jury for conviction.
In the Traitorgate case, the initial assumption has always been (at least in the MSM) that there was some sort of political payback going on toward Amb. Joseph Wilson for publicly calling the WH's spin on the Iraq War for what it was. The identification of his wife as a CIA agent was just political hardball, according to this theory, something done in Washington fairly frequently, if not usually to the detriment of a covert CIA operative's cover.
This morning's Los Angeles Times has an article regarding one possible motive for this action that exceeds just anger with Joe Wilson. There has been a long-running series of articles around the blogosphere regarding the tension between the WHIG/neocons and the CIA and other traditional intelligence gathering and analytical agencies (i.e. the intelligence arm at the State Department). (I am working on a series on this here and here.)
According to the LA Times:
Fitzgerald has learned about ongoing tensions between Cheney's circle and the CIA. According to a former White House official interviewed by The Times, Libby and others in the White House were incensed by Wilson's public criticism, in part because they saw it as a salvo fired by the CIA at administration officials, including Cheney, who was perhaps the most outspoken advocate of the case against Iraq.Anger can be a substantial motive. But anger at being publicly criticised during an ongoing fued, in an arena where large egos are a standard issue can result in some very bad decisions. In this case, some extremely stupid and overreaching decisions -- with consequences for national security that we can't truly know from our vantage point in the general public.
This article is a good review of Cheney's history through his tenure as Secretary of Defense through to today. It also tracks his close working relationship with Scooter Libby, and their joint mistrust of CIA analysts fostered by disagreements over interpretation of intelligence information and policy recommendations over those years. It's certainly worth a read, if only for some interesting background on this ongoing story.