WITNESS TO A CRIME
What has been lost in the focus on Novak is the fact that there are SIX WITNESSES TO THE LEAK. On September 28, 2003, an administration source told the Washington Post that at least 6 journalists were contacted with the leak before Novak's article: "Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge." He stated that he was sharing the information because the disclosure was "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."
Almost two years later, a clearer picture has emerged as to who those six journalists were:
(2) Judith Miller (NY Times)
(3) Matt Cooper (Time)
(4) Walter Pincus
Other possibilities include Glen Klesser and Tim Russert.*** Update [2005-7-16 11:53:15 by georgia10]: Some of the comments below point out the very real possibility that the names I originally mentioned (Jeff Gannon, Timothy Phelp, Knut Royce) were investigated not necessarily because they were recipients of the original leak, but because they were contacted as part of the subsequent push to keep the Plame line alive. Accordingly, I've shorted the list to reflect this. Back to the regularly scheduled diarying.***
Phelps, Royce, and Novak were all among the very first to be interviewed as the investigation began. The general consesus is that Novak likely made a deal to sing and prevent a Miller-esque demise. It is not unreasonable to assume Phelps and Royce also testified fully and accurately.
Don't let the White House defensive blur the facts. This is the same White House that has no respect for the rule of law when it comes to the Geneva Conventions, privacy rights, or the law of war. Do we really believe they actually respect Fitzgerald and our Justice system enough to not screw around with it to cover their asses? These are men who launched wars on pretense, who are intimately tied with those who think the only law is God's law, who have evidenced time and time again they are the most selfish and manipulative individuals to be in the White House in a while. So EVERY "defense" or apparent exonerating "document" needs to be scrutinized and analyzed in context.
Let's look at the lead up to the article. Here is what I find intriguing. Notice how contact with reporters by senior administration officials follows an all-too-predictable pattern: they "happened" to call up to discuss a separate story, then out of the blue bring up Plame at the tail end of the conversation....
Novak wrote in his Oct. 1, 2003 column that he found out about Ms. Plame in "an offhand revelation" by a senior administration official whom he was questioning about why Mr. Wilson was sent to Niger to find out whether uranium was being shipped for nuclear arms. There we go, another "offhand revelation." He later changed his story to say the leak was CIA, not from the White House. But, his words follow him, specifically when he said "I didn't dig it out. It was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." They? Not he, but "they"? Recall above that it was TWO White House officials who contacted 6 reporters. TWO attempts to plant this information. Keep that in mind as we move on.
Now to a quick timeline:
During a conversation struck up by a perfect stranger about Ambassador Wilson on a Washington, D.C. sidewalk, Robert Novak said: "Wilson's an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife, Valerie, works for the CIA. She's a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him." That stranger turned out to be Wilson's friend, who immediately told Wilson about the conversation.
That same day, Novak talked to Rove to "discuss another column" about Frances Fragos Townsend, who had been named deputy national security adviser for terrorism in May 2003. At the end of that 15- or 20-minute call (surprise), Novak said he had learned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. "I heard that, too," Rove replied, according to the lawyer, confirming the Times account. link
The question here is what came first? The phone call from Rove or the "Wilson's an asshole" conversation? It is unclear, but if Fitzgerald can show that Novak talked to Rove before he had his "Wilson's an asshole" conversation, then that would circumstantially work against Rove's credibility.
Rove emailed Stephen Hadley, then-Deputy National Security Advisor. Apparenlty, this email is a CYA email, where Rove claims Cooper called him up to discuss a "welfare reform story" and, of course, at the end of that conversation, Cooper started talking about Wilson.
Now to Walter Pincus. An administration official talks to Pincus about the Iraq, then "veers off" and starts talking about Wilson and how he has no credibility because his wife set up the trip.
ROVE & LIBBY
Rove and Libby both maintain that while they talked to Cooper and Novak before they published their stories, they originally learned about the operative's identity from the news media, not government sources.
Matthew Cooper told prosecutors that he talked to Libby on July 12 and mentioned that he had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, a source knowledgeable about his testimony said. Cooper testified that Libby said he had heard the same thing from the media. Now, remember, Cooper talked to Rove on the 11th. Two calls to administration officials in two days, both of whom offer the same response.
Libby and Rove have the same cookie-cutter defense. Either both are telling the truth, or both are lying.
McClellan has said he had obtained face-to-face denials from Rove, Libby and NSC member Abrams. McClellan said he spoke to each of them individually, and that "They were not involved in leaking classified information, nor did they condone it."
Karl Rove's defense was that he did not know Plame's name. (on a side note, they do both attend the same Episcopal Church). LIbby has maintained that he learned her name and occupation from the media. Also, Pincus has stated that Libby was not his source.
Confusing? Perhaps. But not if you remember what is at stake. Jail time and fines have a tendency to make people say things they may not otherwise say, or to do things they shouldn't do to keep themselves out of jail. Which leads me to my next section...
11 HOUR GAP
On the evening of September 29, 2003, the White House was instructed to preseve any and all evidence relating to the Plame investigation. Eleven hours later, Alberto Gonzales sent out an email instructing staff to preserve information. For eleven hours, the White House sat on Justice Department order. The phone records and email records (if they still exist) during that time are critical to Fitzegerald's conversation.
It is just one day after that 11 hour gap that Novak publishes his article refuting his "two senior administration officials" claim, blaming it instead on the CIA. It is just two days later that the White House changed its claims from broad innocence, instead employing legal jargon and super-technical statements filled with carefully chosen words:
Bush aides began to adjust their response to the expanding probe. They reigned in earlier, broad portrayals of innocence in favor of more technical arguments that it is possible the disclosure was made without knowledge that a covert operative was being exposed and therefore might not have been a crime." (Milbank and Allen, "Outside Probe of Leaks Is Favored," Washington Post, Oct 2, 2003)
It is because of these events that we should not give much weight to anything that comes out from the White House, or anything that seems to exonerate the White House. Just as the leak was the careful dissemination of Plame's name to 6 reporters, I assure you, the cover-up is a thousand times more meticulous.
ONE x TWO x SIX
This diary began by quoting the Washinton Post's source, who revealed a planned leak by two senior administration officials to six reporters. This source has been referred to as "One by Two by Six."
Who is the source? Look at the picture that accompanied the source story. Maybe it means something, maybe not.
The Washington Post, citing a source, has reported that the leaker described Wilson's wife as "fair game." The Washington Post, September 28, 2003. Interesting language, isn't it? That's the exact same phrase attributed to Karl Rove when he called up Chris Matthews to say Wilson's wife is "fair game." Another reporter called up Wilson to warn him, saying "watch out, they're coming after you"--but that journalist is uncertain whether any reference was made to Wilson's wife's employment at the CIA. link
What remains clear is that everyone, from the reporters to the administration officials, have something to lose here. Accordingly, we should not rush to presumptions that anyone is telling a clean, unshaded, or uncoerced version of the story. That's Fitzgerald's job. To examine the body of evidence (almost all of which is not available to us) and to piece together this huge puzzle, to see which testimonies fit, which don't, whether they are corroborated by documents, whether those documents have been tampered with.
For those who believe that Rove is innocent, or the Bush administration will get away with it, here is a reminder of who is at the heart of this investigation:
Among those who are known to have been interviewed by the FBI or testified before the grand jury are Bush White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, political adviser Karl Rove, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis I. Libby, Republican National Committee consultant Mary Matalin, former Cheney press aide Catherine Martin, White House press secretary Scott McClellan, communications director Dan Bartlett, deputy press secretary Claire Buchan, and former assistant press secretary Adam Levine. Bush and Cheney also have been interviewed, as has Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
This case implicates the very core of the Bush administration. Let us not underestimate its desire to spin and manipulate the media to fit its agenda. Whereas before, propaganda was launched to support the Iraq war, the propaganda we are seeing as of late is meant to lead the media astray in a new war: a war for the truth. Claims of Rove's exoneration are just the latest attempt to quell the resurrection of the "free press". One leaked email does not a defense make. One leaked testimony--which could be discredited or challenged by facts--is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. And sometimes, one conspiracy to cover up can be more damning than the crime itself...
*sources for the info in this diary came from the forever useful Dkospedia Plame Leak Timeline.