Rove Learned CIA Agent's Name From Novak

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Rove Learned CIA Agent's Name From Novak

Post by Haydnseek » Fri Jul 15, 2005 7:10 am

Rove Learned CIA Agent's Name From Novak
By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer

July 15, 2005 ... _leak_rove

Chief presidential adviser Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he talked with two journalists before they divulged the identity of an undercover CIA officer but that he originally learned about the operative from the news media and not government sources, according to a person briefed on the testimony.

The person, who works in the legal profession and spoke only on condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy, told The Associated Press that Rove testified last year that he remembers specifically being told by columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of a harsh Iraq war critic, worked for the CIA.

Rove testified that Novak originally called him the Tuesday before Plame's identity was revealed in July 2003 to discuss another story.

The conversation eventually turned to Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who was strongly criticizing the Bush administration's use of faulty intelligence to justify the war in Iraq, the person said.

Rove testified that Novak told him he planned to report in a weekend column that Plame had worked for the CIA, and the circumstances on how her husband traveled to Africa to check bogus claims that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear materials in Niger, according to the source.

Novak's column, citing two Bush administration officials, appeared six days later, touching off a political firestorm and leading to a federal criminal investigation into who leaked Plame's undercover identity. That probe has ensnared presidential aides and reporters in a two-year legal battle.

Rove told the grand jury that by the time Novak had called him, he believes he had similar information about Wilson's wife from another member of the news media but he could not recall which reporter had told him about it first, the person said.

When Novak inquired about Wilson's wife working for the CIA, Rove indicated he had heard something like that, according to the source's recounting of the grand jury testimony.

Rove told the grand jury that three days later, he had a phone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and — in an effort to discredit some of Wilson's allegations — informally told Cooper that he believed Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, though he never used her name, the source said.

An e-mail Cooper recently provided the grand jury shows Cooper reported to his magazine bosses that Rove had described Wilson's wife in a confidential conversation as someone who "apparently works" at the CIA.

Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, said Thursday his client truthfully testified to the grand jury and expected to be exonerated.

"Karl provided all pertinent information to prosecutors a long time ago," Luskin said. "And prosecutors confirmed when he testified most recently in October 2004 that he is not a target of the investigation."

In an interview on CNN earlier Thursday before the latest revelation, Wilson kept up his criticism of the White House, saying Rove's conduct was an "outrageous abuse of power ... certainly worthy of frog-marching out of the White House."

But at the same time, Wilson acknowledged his wife was no longer in an undercover job at the time Novak's column first identified her. "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity," he said.

Federal law prohibits government officials from divulging the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. But in order to bring charges, prosecutors must prove the official knew the officer was covert and nonetheless knowingly outed his or her identity.

Rove's conversations with Novak and Cooper took place just days after Wilson suggested in a New York Times opinion piece that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Democrats continued this week to sharpen their attacks, accusing Rove of compromising a CIA operative's identity just to discredit the political criticism of her husband.

On Thursday, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada pressed for legislation to strip Rove of his clearance for classified information, which he said President Bush should have done already. Instead, Reid said, the Bush administration has attacked its critics: "This is what is known as a cover-up. This is an abuse of power."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Democrats were resorting to "partisan war chants."

Across the Capitol, Rep. Rush Holt (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., introduced legislation for an investigation that would compel senior administration officials to turn over records relating to the Plame disclosure.

Pressed to explain its statements of two years ago that Rove wasn't involved in the leak, the White House refused to do so this week.

"If I were to get into discussing this, I would be getting into discussing an investigation that continues and could be prejudging the outcome of the investigation," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by Haydnseek » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:11 am

Who Exposed Secret Agent Plame?
How about the least likely suspect?

July 15, 2005, 8:27 a.m.

By Clifford D. May

This just in: Bob Novak did not reveal that Valerie Plame was an undercover agent for the CIA.

Read — or reread — his column from July 14, 2003. All Novak reports is that the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is “an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.”

Novak has said repeatedly that he was not told, and that he did not know, that Plame was — or had ever been — a NOC, an agent with Non-Official Cover. He has emphatically said that had he understood that she was any sort of secret agent, he would never have named her.

As for Novak’s use of the word “operative,” he might as easily have called her an “official,” an “analyst, or an “employee.” But, as a longtime newsman, he instinctively chose the sexiest term (one he routinely applies to political figures, too, i.e. “a party operative”).

Reread Novak’s article, and you’ll also see that Novak in no way denigrates Wilson. On the contrary, he talks of Wilson’s “heroism” in Iraq in 1991. And nowhere in his column does he say — or even imply — that Wilson was unqualified to conduct the Niger investigation or that Plame was responsible for getting him the assignment — merely that she “suggested sending him.”

Even so, it is unclear whether Novak’s sources may have committed a crime by talking to Novak about Plame. That would depend on a number of variables involving what they knew about Plame and how they came to know it. A prosecutor would have the power to compel Novak to testify regarding what was said to him and by whom.

Is this splitting hairs? Not at all. In Washington, plenty of people are acquainted with CIA operatives who are not working undercover. For example, when a CIA analyst wrote a book under the pseudonym “Anonymous,” it was widely known that Anonymous was the Agency’s Michael Scheuer. Before long, someone revealed that in print. No crime was committed or alleged — no classified information had been disclosed, no NOC had been exposed.

So if Novak did not reveal that Valerie Plame was a secret agent, who did? The evidence strongly suggests it was none other than Joe Wilson himself. Let me walk you through the steps that lead to this conclusion.

The first reference to Plame being a secret agent appears in The Nation, in an article by David Corn published July 16, 2003, just two days after Novak’s column appeared. It carried this lead: “Did Bush officials blow the cover of a U.S. intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security — and break the law — in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?”

Since Novak did not report that Plame was “working covertly” how did Corn know that’s what she had been doing?

Corn does not tell his readers and he has responded to a query from me only by pointing out that he was asking a question, not making a “statement of fact.” But in the article, he asserts that Novak “outed” Plame “as an undercover CIA officer.” Again, Novak did not do that. Rather, it is Corn who is, apparently for the first time, “outing” Plame’s “undercover” status.

Corn follows that assertion with a quote from Wilson saying, “I will not answer questions about my wife.” Any reporter worth his salt would immediately wonder: Did Wilson indeed answer Corn’s questions about his wife — after Corn agreed not to quote his answers but to use them only on background? Read the rest of Corn’s piece and it’s difficult to believe anything else. Corn names no other sources for the information he provides — and he provides much more information than Novak revealed.

Corn also claims that Wilson “will not confirm nor deny that his wife …works for the CIA.” Corn adds: “But let’s assume she does. That would seem to mean that the Bush administration has screwed one of its own top-secret operatives in order to punish Wilson …”

On what basis could Corn “assume” that Plame was not only working covertly but was actually a “top-secret” operative? And where did Corn get the idea that Plame had been “outed” in order to punish Wilson? That is not suggested by anything in the Novak column which, as I noted, is sympathetic to Wilson and Plame.

The likely answer: The allegation that someone in the administration leaked to Novak as a way to punish Wilson was made by Wilson — to Corn. But Corn, rather than quote Wilson, puts the idea forward as his own.

Keep in mind that from early on there were two possible but contradictory scenarios:

1) Members of the Bush administration intentionally exposed a covert CIA agent as a way to take revenge against her husband who had written a critical op-ed.

2) Members of the Bush administration were attempting to set the record straight by telling reporters that it was not Vice President Cheney who sent Wilson on the Africa assignment as Wilson claimed; rather Wilson’s wife, a CIA employee, helped get him the assignment. (And that is indeed the conclusion of the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee.)

Corn’s article then goes on to provide specific details about Plame’s undercover work, her “dicey and difficult mission of tracking parties trying to buy or sell weapons of mass destruction or WMD material.” But how does Corn know about that? From what source could he have learned it?

Corn concludes that Plame’s career “has been destroyed by the Bush administration.” And here he does, finally, quote Wilson directly. Wilson says: “Naming her this way would have compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career. This is the stuff of Kim Philby and Aldrich Ames.”

Corn has assured us several times that Wilson refused to answer questions about his wife, refused to confirm or deny that she worked for the CIA, refused to “acknowledge whether she is a deep-cover CIA employee.” But he is willing to say on the record that “naming her this way” was an act of treachery? That’s not talking about his wife? That’s not providing confirmation? There is only one way to interpret this: Wilson did indeed talk about his wife, her work as a secret agent, and other matters to Corn (and perhaps others?) on a confidential basis.

If Wilson did tell Corn that his wife was an undercover agent, did he commit a crime? I don’t claim to know. But the charge that someone committed a crime by naming Plame as a covert agent was also made by Corn, apparently for the first time, in this same article. No doubt, the independent prosecutor and the grand jury will sort it out.

Criminality aside, if Wilson revealed to Corn that Plame worked as a CIA “deep-cover” operative “tracking parties trying to buy or sell” WMDs, surely that’s news.

And it is consequential: On the basis of Novak’s story alone, it is highly unlikely that anyone would have had a clue that Plame — presumably under a different name and while living in a foreign country — had been a NOC. At most, her friends in Washington would have been surprised to learn that she didn’t work where she said she worked.

But once Corn published the fact that Plame had been a “top-secret operative,” and once he quoted Wilson saying what exposing his wife would mean — and once Plame posed for Vanity Fair photographers — anyone who had ever known her in a different context and with a different identity would have been tipped off.

But they would not have been tipped by Novak — nor, based on what we know so far, by Karl Rove. Rather, it appears they would have been tipped off by Joe Wilson who, the publicly available evidence strongly suggests, leaked like a sieve to The Nation’s David Corn.

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by Haydnseek » Fri Jul 15, 2005 9:21 am

Friday, July 15, 2005 10:10 a.m.

An Innocent Man

Let's conduct a little thought experiment, shall we? Suppose that people in Washington generally had the sense that Karl Rove was soon to be indicted in the Valerie Plame kerfuffle. How would they react?

It seems to us the White House would be working to distance itself from Rove, possibly planning for him to make a quiet exit, much as John Kerry's campaign "disappeared" Joe Wilson last summer when Wilson's credibility fell apart. The Democrats, on the other hand, would act high-minded and talk of "letting the process work," at least as long as Rove remained on the job. An actual indictment, after all, would do maximal political damage to the Bush administration.

Instead, the White House (which knows a lot more about the investigation than any of us) is confidently standing behind Rove, while the Democrats are waging a hysterical attack that would be premature if it were based on anything real. Partisan Democrats don't want to talk about the facts of the case (facts are irrelevant, as a former Enron adviser insists) or about the law. They just want to pound the table and insist that Rove is metaphysically guilty.

Here at Best of the Web Today, facts do matter, so let's look at the latest to emerge on the Plame kerfuffle:

The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press all report that, as the AP puts it, Rove "originally learned about the operative [Plame] from the news media and not government sources, according to a person briefed on the testimony," apparently a lawyer friendly to the White House. According to the Times account, Rove was the second source for Bob Novak's column identifying Plame's role in arranging Wilson's trip to Niger:

Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.

After hearing Mr. Novak's account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: "I heard that, too." . . .

On Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Novak wrote another column in which he described calling two officials who were his sources for the earlier column. The first source, whose identity has not been revealed, provided the outlines of the story and was described by Mr. Novak as "no partisan gunslinger." Mr. Novak wrote that when he called a second official for confirmation, the source said, "Oh, you know about it."

That second source was Mr. Rove, the person briefed on the matter said.

If this account is accurate, then Rove simply confirmed a fact that was already in circulation. He no more "outed" Plame than Wilson did when he peddled his "outing" allegation to various left-wing journalists after Novak's column ran.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times quotes an erstwhile colleague of Plame's who casts further doubt on the Democratic narrative:

A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an "undercover agent," saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.

"She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat," Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.

"Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren't minding the store here. . . . The agency never changed her cover status."

Mr. Rustmann, who spent 20 of his 24 years in the agency under "nonofficial cover"--also known as a NOC, the same status as the wife of Mr. Wilson--also said that she worked under extremely light cover.

In addition, Mrs. Plame hadn't been out as an NOC since 1997, when she returned from her last assignment, married Mr. Wilson and had twins, USA Today reported yesterday.

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Wilson acknowledged, "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity," though he refused to say anything about her career before that day. As we noted yesterday, though, the source for that USA Today report was none other than Wilson himself, in his book, which apparently no one bothered to read until now.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by Corlyss_D » Fri Jul 15, 2005 10:29 am

This is getting to be more and more fun. Another Dem misfire in the strategy department. Assuming anyone outside of 495 is paying attention, they will see a party that can't tell the difference between the ravings of Durbin and the deep backgrounding of a WH staffer.

Apparently what has got the Dems in full feathered display on this issue is their profound embarrassment over Durbin's colossal screwup in 1) equating US soldiers with Nazis and Pol Pot; 2) refusing to apologize for DAYS so that the story dragged on and on and on in the media; and 3) not really apologizing when he did make whatever statement that was he made (the very familiar "history will prove me right" argument so well beloved in our own little corner here). Of course none of them were so profoundly embarrassed that they stood up in the well of the House or the Floor of the Senate and denounced Durbin's traitorous remarks or dissociated themselves from his unworthy sentiments. No, that was too much to expect from them. This may be the gift that keeps on giving to the Republicans, like Kerry's delightful "I actually voted for it before I voted against it" line.
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Post by Haydnseek » Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:34 am

I was noticing the complacency of Rove and the White House in general in recent weeks. They just couldn't be rattled. It seems they were happy letting out rope for the Democrats to hang themselves with. I think the big losers aren't the congressmen (they are acting as expected like dirtbags) but Wilson, who seems more disreputable with each day that passes, and the media. The major newspapers did an about face regarding this issue in March, filling a legal brief arguing that no crime was committed. This suggests to me that they became aware that Rove was not a leaker and that one of their own might be. Despite this they joined in the Get Rove campaign, publishing stories and editorials that they knew would be contradicted by facts. Perhaps they thought he would resign under the pressure before the facts came out. I'll guess that the Special Prosecutor himself has tipped the press on the Grand Jury testimony because he couldn't stand by and see this political lynching attempt continue.

I don't think Democrats know how badly Durbin played to the nation. They just don't learn yet. They'll have to sink a little lower to reach the bottom from which they will be able to push off and rise up again.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler


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