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LA Times August 25, 2005

This article has new information on the State Department Memo. Here's the money quote.

Powell told prosecutors that he circulated the memo among those traveling with him in the front section of Air Force One. It is believed that all officials in that part of the aircraft had high-level security clearance.  

I wanted to add, it looks to me like Powell is the probable source here and he is pointing the finger at someone in the front section of Air Force One. The point being made is that anyone Powell showed the memo had the proper clearance to see it. In other words he didn't leak any classified information.

The State Department Memo is discussed at length in the article. The article follows the custody of the memo from June 12, 2003 through July 7, 2003. The only information that is missing here is the date on the memo, June, 10 2003 and who knew the contents in June.

After a June 12 Washington Post story made reference to the Niger uranium inquiry, Armitage asked intelligence officers in the State Department for more information. He was forwarded a copy of a memo classified "Secret" that included a description of Wilson's trip for the CIA, his findings, a brief description of the origin of the trip and a reference to "Wilson's wife."

The memo was kept in a safe at the State Department along with notes from an analyst who attended the CIA meeting at which Wilson was suggested for the Niger assignment. Those with top security clearance at State, like their counterparts in the White House, had been trained in the rules about classified information. They could not be shared with anyone who did not have the same clearance.

Less than a month later, Wilson went public with his charges.

The next day, July 7, this memo and the notes were removed from the safe and forwarded to Powell via a secure fax line to Air Force One. Powell was on the way to Africa with the president, and his aides knew the secretary would be getting questions.

Fitzgerald has become interested in this memo, the earliest known document seen by administration officials revealing that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Powell told prosecutors that he circulated the memo among those traveling with him in the front section of Air Force One. It is believed that all officials in that part of the aircraft had high-level security clearance.

There is also new information here on the blaim game between the white House and the CIA for the 16 words.

The delegation to Africa was distracted daily by reporters pressing Bush for his reply to Wilson's allegations and the mistake in the State of the Union address.

On July 11, the traveling White House launched a coordinated effort to end the controversy.

First, Rice told Tenet that she and the president planned to tell the media that Bush's speech "was cleared by intelligence services," as the president said that day in Uganda.

Hours later, Tenet -- traveling in Idaho -- released his own statement that at first appeared helpful to the White House. It took responsibility for allowing the uranium claim into the State of the Union.

"This did not rise to the level of certainty which should be required for presidential speeches, and CIA should have ensured that it was removed," Tenet said. He also described Wilson's trip as inconclusive, and said it was authorized by lower-level CIA officials and was never flagged for review by top officials.

But Tenet added that the CIA had earlier provided cautions about using the Niger evidence to conclude Iraq had obtained uranium. In effect, he was pointing a finger at the White House for failing to heed previous warnings.

"We're screwed," said one White House official, reading the statement on his Blackberry. Blame-shifting intensified amid media speculation about how the words got into the speech.

This LA Times article is a great summary of the evolution of the "plot against Joe Wilson".

UPDATE: Swopa has an excellent analysis of Powell and the LA Times article in an earlier diary.

UPDATE: Powell is probably trying to distance himself from the Rovegate leak in these new leaks to the LA Times. Personally I don't believe Powell told reporters about Valerie Plame. If the leak came from Air Force One. Who could have been the leaker? The probable administration officials in the front section of Air Force One are:

Dan Bartlett: He was on the plane and a Rove protegé. Bartlett was telling reporters on Air Force One to look into the CIA origins of Wilson's trip. Sounds to me as if he knew about Plame on the flight.

How do you publicly counter a guy like that? As "senior adviser," Rove would be involved in finding out. Technically, Rove was in charge of politics, not "communications." But, as he saw it, the two were one and the same—and he used his heavyweight status to push the message machine run by his Texas protegé and friend, Dan Bartlett.

Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was sent out to trash the Wilson op-ed. "Zero, nada, nothing new here," he said. Then, on a long Bush trip to Africa, Fleischer and Bartlett prompted clusters of reporters to look into the bureaucratic origins of the Wilson trip. How did the spin doctors know to cast that lure? One possible explanation: some aides may have read the State Department intel memo, which Powell had brought with him aboard Air Force One.
Newsweek 7/17/05
Dan Bartlett, the most senior communications strategist in the White House, has also told investigators that he did not know who Ms. Wilson was, according to a person who has been briefed on the case.

Few if any reporters who traveled with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Bartlett and the White House entourage that week have been called to testify before the grand jury. A background briefing during the trip in which Mr. Bartlett spoke with reporters and urged them to look into the C.I.A.'s role in sending Mr. Wilson to Niger has not drawn substantial interest from prosecutors recently.

One source familiar with the case said Mr. Fitzgerald knew about the briefing but was apparently not pursuing it as a significant lead.

A different person, who has been briefed on the investigation, said, "If Bartlett spoke to the issue, it was to suggest to reporters to inquire at the C.I.A. because it was the C.I.A. that had control of the issue."

That individual added that Mr. Bartlett did not see the classified State Department memorandum.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bartlett repeated that administration officials "are fully cooperating with the investigators in this process, at the direction of the president."
WAPO 7/27/05

Ari Fleischer says he wasn't the leaker
One person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told the grand jury that he was not Mr. Novak's source.


A White House telephone log shows that Mr. Fleischer received a call from Mr. Novak on July 7, 2003, but a person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told prosecutors he never returned the call. Mr. Fleischer was aboard Air Force One with Mr. Bush and several other senior administration officials as they traveled across Africa that week.
NYT 7/26/05

Condi Rice was certainly trying to push back against Wilson and the CIA. Rice was a member of the White House Iraqi Group and she made mistakes talking about Wilson in press conferences on the Africa trip that week in July 2003.

Rice states on July 11, 2003 that she heard about Wilson's trip to Africa from "sitting on whatever TV" show a month before. Wilson never said publically that he took his trip to Africa until July 6, 2003.
DR. RICE: The CIA cleared the speech. We have a clearance process that sends speeches out to relevant agencies -- in our case, the NSC, it's usually State, Defense, the CIA, sometimes the Treasury. The CIA cleared the speech in its entirety.
DR. RICE: The IAEA reported it I believe in March. But I will tell you that, for instance, on Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was sitting on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House. And you should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency. Q: When was that TV show, when you learned about it? DR. RICE: A month ago, about a month ago.

Bush was on Air Force One, but there is little information available about what Bush knew or who he spoke with during this period.

Rove and Libby were not on Air Force One.

Originally posted to pollyusa on Thu Aug 25, 2005 at 10:54 PM PDT.

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