Report says Rove got name of agent from journalist
By Mike Allen
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — White House official Karl Rove indirectly confirmed the identity of a CIA operative for Robert Novak the week before the columnist revealed her name and her relation to an administration critic, a lawyer involved in the case said yesterday.
The lawyer, who has firsthand knowledge of the conversations between Rove and prosecutors, said President Bush's deputy chief of staff has told investigators that he first learned about the operative, Valerie Plame, from a journalist.
"I don't think that he has a clear recollection," the lawyer said. "He's told them that he believes he may have heard it from a journalist." Asked who it was, the lawyer said, "I don't think he's able to identify that, or to identify precisely when he may have heard it."
The New York Times reported the conversation between Rove and Novak today. The lawyer confirmed that account and elaborated on it.
The lawyer said Novak showed up on a White House call log as having telephoned Rove in the week before the July 2003 column, which has touched off a two-year federal investigation and led to the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who has refused to testify about her conversation with a source involved in the case.
The White House turned over all such call logs, along with stacks of printed e-mails related to the case, at the request of federal investigators.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been investigating the leak of Plame's name, which could be a felony under certain circumstances, such as if the person who leaked her name did so knowing that the government was working to keep her identity a secret.
Plame is the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador who had publicly disputed the White House's contention that Saddam Hussein had sought to buy uranium from Niger for possible use in a nuclear weapon.
The account means that Rove talked to both of the journalists who are known to have published original accounts about Plame — Novak and Matthew Cooper, a White House correspondent for Time.
Rove's representatives have said that he mentioned the issue in the most general terms and did not name Plame. Democrats, however, say he was trying to fuel stories that would punish an administration critic.
In accounts of both conversations that have been made public, Rove does not give Plame's name and discusses the matter only at the end of an interview on an unrelated topic. Rove has said he did not know Plame's name and did not know she was undercover. If that is the case, it is unlikely that the disclosure is a crime.
In an interview on CNN yesterday before the latest revelation, Wilson acknowledged his wife was no longer in an undercover job at the time Novak's column first identified her. "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity," he said.
The other original account about Plame, besides Novak's column, was on Time magazine's Web site. Rove was identified as a source for that article in an internal Time e-mail that was turned over to prosecutors July 1 after the magazine battled all the way to the Supreme Court to try to preserve the privacy of the material.
Cooper, the Time correspondent who talked to Rove for the article, testified Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating the case. Rove talked to Cooper only on what Cooper referred to in the e-mail as "double super secret background," meaning that the information could not be attributed to the White House.
Rove's representatives have said that Cooper brought up the issue at the end of another conversation. Cooper has not given his account.
Republican lawyers working with Rove say he was not pushing a story about Plame but was trying to steer Cooper away from giving too much credence to Wilson.
At the end of that 15- or 20-minute call, according to the lawyer, 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. The Times article reports that Rove learned about Plame from Novak, but the lawyer with firsthand knowledge of the case said Rove was not certain of that.
The person who provided the information to The New York Times declined to be identified, citing requests by Fitzgerald that no one discuss the case. The person discussed the matter in the belief that Rove was truthful in saying that he had not disclosed Plame's identity
The conversation occurred July 8 or 9, 2003, the lawyer said. The column that named Plame ran in the Chicago Sun-Times on July 14, 2003.
It said: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the Italian report."
Novak has refused to comment about his sources or to say whether he has cooperated with prosecutors.
Wilson's comments to CNN reported by The Associated Press
LINK TO ORIGINAL