Taking a Leak on Us

Rove says he didn't reveal Plame's name? That's your analysis, Karl.

karl-rove--140.jpgKarl Rove was the one who outed what's-her-name, that woman, uno who, but maybe he'll wind up getting away with it. As Michael Isikoff reports in Newsweek, Rove (left) outed Valerie Plame to Time's Matt Cooper—although not by name. But Isikoff, as usual, got played. Here's what he writes:

    In a brief conversation with Rove, Cooper asked what to make of the flap over Wilson's criticisms. Newsweek obtained a copy of the e-mail that Cooper sent his bureau chief after speaking to Rove. (The e-mail was authenticated by a source intimately familiar with Time's editorial handling of the Wilson story, but who has asked not to be identified because of the magazine's corporate decision not to disclose its contents.) Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a "big warning" not to "get too far out on Wilson." Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by "DCIA"—CIA Director George Tenet—or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues who authorized the trip."

Isikoff points out that Cooper wrote this e-mail before Bob Novak outed Valerie Plame by name as a CIA operative. But Isikoff also writes:

    Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used Plame's name or knew she was a covert operative.

It's pretty clear by now that Rove has been extremely careful not to use her name, but from what Isikoff writes, it's not at all clear that Rove didn't know Plame was a covert operative.

What did Rove tell the grand jury? That's the question.

Salon's Tim Grieve, whose must-read War Room dispatches connect the dots succinctly, writes this morning:

    Rove never said publicly that he had nothing to do with leaking Valerie Plame's identity to the press, but he sure managed to give people that impression. When CNN asked him about the Plame case last summer, Rove said: "I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name."

    Maybe that was technically correct, but it's now clear that it was something less than the whole truth. As Newsweek is reporting, Karl Rove may not have referred to Plame by name when he spoke with Time's Matthew Cooper on July 11, 2003. But the e-mail messages Time has turned over to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald show that, in a phone call with Cooper that day, Rove tried to discredit Joseph Wilson's conclusion that Iraq hadn't tried to buy uranium from Niger by claiming that Wilson had been assigned to look into the Iraq-Niger connection not by the vice president or by the director of the CIA but by Wilson's wife. And Wilson's wife, Rove told Cooper, was a CIA analyst working on WMD issues.

Yes, Rove outed her. Or did he? More from Grieve:

    Well, you might think so—unless you're Rove or his lawyer. Remember, Rove said he didn't know Plame's name and didn't leak her name. And in an interview with the Washington Post Sunday, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, seized on that point, saying that his client "did not mention [Plame's] name to Cooper." Of course, just three days after Rove spoke with Cooper, Robert Novak wrote a column that sounded a whole lot like the story that Rove had tried to spin for Time. In Novak's telling of it, however, "Joseph Wilson's wife" suddenly had a name. It was Valerie Plame, "an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." How hard was it to get from "Joseph Wilson's wife" to "Valerie Plame"? Not very. As Novak himself acknowledged in a subsequent column, Wilson's wife's name was listed—without mention of her job at the CIA, of course—in Wilson's Who's Who in America entry.

Grieve aptly points out that federal law prohibits intentionally disclosing "any information identifying" a covert operative. So Rove broke the law, right? Unless he insists he didn't know she was a covert CIA agent. But how did he know Wilson's wife even worked for the CIA? After all, she was undercover.

Your honor, we'd like to recall George Tenet. Maybe Tenet got his Medal of Freedom last December from George W. Bush for telling Rove that Wilson's wife was a covert CIA operative.


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