In case you were wondering, this AP photo (hat tip to Dan Froomkin) was taken in June 2003. Karl Rove and Robert Novak are side-by-side at a party celebrating Novak's 40 years writing a newspaper column. Rove's button says, "I'm a source, not a target."
Keep in mind that Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote his op-ed disputing the Bush administration's claims about uranium from Niger on July 6, 2003. However, he was already on the White House radar screen because he had been talking off-the-record to reporters for weeks. Wilson was ticked that the 2003 State of the Union address claimed Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa -- and he was trying very hard to spread the story about his 2002 trip (sponsored by CIA in response to a request from the Vice President's office about the possible uranium deals), which he felt debunked Bush's claim.
Novak disclosed Valerie Plame's identity in his column on July 14. Rove apparently claims that Novak told him that Wilson's wife (Plame) was CIA. When Novak asked Rove about Wilson's wife and job, the presidential advisor apparently said he had "heard that too."
Time Magazine's Matt Cooper also identified Rove as a source for his story, which appeared a few days later.
"Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the 'agency' on 'W.M.D.'? Yes."In short, Karl Rove has been publicly named as someone who told reporters that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent -- and yet he continues to serve as Bush's brain.
For those following the potential criminal implications of this case, note that government officials granted access to official secrets sign an oath promising not even to confirm the accuracy of an unauthorized disclosure of classified information. They have an obligation first to try to find out if the information has been declassified. If they confirm an unauthorized disclosure, that too is an unauthorized disclosure.
According to his account, Cooper also talked to Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, on the following day. Get this, Libby also apparently said, "Yeah, I've heard that too," when Cooper asked him if Plame arranged Wilson's Africa trip.
Unauthorized disclosure #2?
None of this smells good.
Here's an ironic twist concerning Libby's alleged involvement:
Libby is strikingly reticent to volunteer personal details about himself. He refuses to use his first name, for example, using only his initial, nor does he offer any details about his marital or family status.There are lots of ways to think about what happened. I like to consider the big picture. Clearly, someone in the White House was trying to retaliate against Wilson and possibly discourage future whistle-blowers. The Boston Globe's Derrick Z. Jackson called the White House attempts to silence the truth "dirty tricks." The NY Times columnist Frank Rich said it was all "Worse Than Watergate," because the point of the original lying and the political dirty trick was to cover up a weak case for war.
Bad news continues to leak out of Washington. Even the potentially distracting nomination of a political hack to the Supreme Court hasn't pushed the story off the front page. The Washington Post reports, Thursday July 21 on p. A1:
A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.You can safely ignore those Republican loyalists on TV who keep claiming that Plame's identity was "well known," or that she wasn't really a spy.
"Secret" is an official government classification level. This is from a government intelligence page outlining the different levels:
Secret, which refers to national security information that requires a substantial degree of protection. The test for assigning a Secret classification is whether its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.The memo was apparently prepared for Secretary of State Colin Powell, based on notes from a meeting held February 19, 2002. It was written by someone in State's INR June 10, 2003 for Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman (a career Foreign Service Officer), but delivered to Powell on July 7, 2003. Powell took the memo on Air Force One for a trip to Africa with President Bush and key members of the White House staff (but neither Rove nor Libby!).
Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was apparently seen reading the memo on Air Force one.
I've read quite a number of recent news stories and blog entries about the leak story. There are numerous ties to the big picture -- the administration was selling a bunch of lies about Iraqi nukes, some key people in (and out) of Washington knew it, and the hacks tried to pressure them into keeping their mouths shut. In this case, since Wilson didn't work for the government any more, they tried to apply leverage through his wife.
The key question: will anyone be held accountable?