15 July 2005

Who told Novak?

We know that Robert Novak had two administration
sources for his column that revealed Plame’s
identity. Novak himself confirmed this in a follow-up
column dated October 1, 2003.

Novak wrote:

During a long conversation with a senior
administration official, I asked why Wilson was
assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson
had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation
section at the suggestion of one of its employees,
his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this
official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I
called another official for confirmation, he said:
"Oh, you know about it."

We now know from the New York Times that the
second “official” who confirmed Novak’s information
was Karl Rove.

Tim Grieve writes in today’s Salon:

Novak said that the "senior administration
official" with whom he spoke was "no partisan
gunslinger," which has always seemed to rule
out Rove. But Novak said that he got confirmation
of the story from "another official" who told him,
"Oh, you know about it." And although the Rove
and Novak accounts differ slightly -- "I heard
that, too" vs. "Oh, you know about it" -- the
Times' source says that Rove was indeed that
second "official."

What are the ramifications of this new information?
Media Matters explains it.

(Nice and slowly so that even CNN can understand)

…the most significant revelation in the Times
article -- and a similar article in the Associated
Press -- was that prior to Rove's July 11
conversation with Cooper, he already knew not
only that Plame worked for the CIA, but also her
actual name. This new disclosure contradicts
Rove's statement nearly a year after the Novak
conversation that he "didn't know her name."

It will be interesting to see how Republicans explain
that point -- if the press ever bother to ask about it.

But this revelation also begs the next big question
on everyone’s mind:

If Rove was the second leaker, who was the first?

The NY Daily News has some possible clues:

Along with Bush political guru Karl Rove, the
grand jury is investigating what role, if any,
ex-White House mouthpiece Ari Fleischer may
have played in the revelation that the former
covert operative Plame was married to former
Ambassador Joe Wilson.

"Ari's name keeps popping up," said one
source familiar with special prosecutor
Patrick Fitzgerald's probe.

Another source close to the probe added there
is renewed interest in Fleischer, "based on
Fitzgerald's questions."

A State Department memo that included
background on Wilson - and who in the White
House had access to it - appears to be a key
to revealing who gave conservative columnist
Robert Novak Plame's name, both sources said.

Another person of interest in the case is
Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Lewis
(Scooter) Libby, who was described as "totally
obsessed with Wilson," the sources said.