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July 10, 2005
Dafydd: If It's Rove... Part Deux

In an earlier post, Dafydd: If It's Rove..., I wrote the following:

Lawrence "Creepy Liar" O'Donnell now implies (without much credibility, and without explicitly making the claim) that the original leaker of Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak was Karl Rove.

According to Michael Isikoff in a Newsweek story, luridly titled "Matt Cooper's Source: What Karl Rove told Time magazine's reporter," this implication appears to be false; while Rove was (one of) Cooper's sources, as O'Donnell claimed, it was nothing like the way the Left has portrayed it: it was not an attempt to retaliate against Wilson for speaking the truth; it was an attempt to warn Newsweek that Wilson's op-ed was, in fact, a lie.

Cooper claims, in the now-famous Newsweek e-mail, that Rove told him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA... but it appears that Rove did not even know her name, let alone that she was supposedly undercover:

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 Tenetor Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip." Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.) The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: "not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger ... "

Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used Plame's name or knew she was a covert operative. Nonetheless, it is significant that Rove was speaking to Cooper before Novak's column appeared; in other words, before Plame's identity had been published. Fitzgerald has been looking for evidence that Rove spoke to other reporters as well. "Karl Rove has shared with Fitzgerald all the information he has about any potentially relevant contacts he has had with any reporters, including Matt Cooper," Luskin told NEWSWEEK.

Why is this important? It is because of exactly what I wrote about the law in the previous post. It is simply wrong to say that it is a crime to reveal that someone works for the CIA: it depends entirely upon how you came across that information and why you revealed it.

Here is what I wrote:

But let's play a little thoughtgame: suppose it turned out that Karl Rove was actually the person who outed Ms. Plame. Would Rove be "prosecuted," as a couple of people on the right and a few million people on the left insist? Well... not likely. The reason is the way the law itself is written....

Note that bit about having "authorized access to classified information" that discloses the name of a covert agent. Here is the rub: the disclosure occurred in or before July 2003... and at that time, Karl Rove was the Special Advisor to the President. This was a political position; he was Bush's chief political advisor. But in this position, it is extremely unlikely that Rove had any authorized access to CIA personnel files whatsoever, since those are extremely highly restricted (for reasons that should be obvious), and Rove did not have any kind of a national-security or defense position.

Which means that even if it were to eventuate that Rove was the guy who leaked the Plame name, he would almost certainly not be a "covered person" as far as Section 421 is concerned: however he might have found out about her CIA employment, it would have to have been by means other than "authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent."

And that is exactly what appears to be the case: Rove evidently did not even know Plame's name, nor is there any evidence from Cooper that Rove was aware that she was (allegedly) a covert agent (most CIA employees are not covert) or that the CIA was making any effort to conceal her identity -- both of which are required for the law to cover the "leaker."

There is another point to note here. Consider this line from the above quotation:

The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: "not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger ... "

But the fact of the matter, as found by the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq intelligence information, is that Joe Wilson's CIA report itself found that the yellowcake-Niger charge was true! Wilson flatly lied about what he found when he wrote his infamous op-ed piece in the New York Times.

But evidently, Karl Rove was completely unaware of this discrepency. After all, he was trying to discredit Wilson's lying attack, and this piece of evidence was utterly devastating to that attack. If Rove had actually seen the report, he would have mentioned it to Cooper. What more killer proof of Wilson's perfidy could Rove have possibly given?

That would have been a bombshell. There is no way that Cooper would have failed even to make reference to it in an e-mail he had every reason to believe would never see the light of day.

Instead, Rove simply said there was "still plenty to implicate" Iraq in its attempt to obtain Uranium from Niger. In other words, 'don't believe Wilson because there are other sources who contradict him' -- not 'don't believe Wilson because he himself said the opposite, then lied in his op-ed,' which would have been infinitely stronger.

So if Cooper is to be believed, Rove not only did not know Plame's name, he was also not privy to the actual report Wilson filed with the CIA. This is the portrait of a man who did not have access, authorized or otherwise, to classified information (certainly not that specific classified information), and who was probably simply repeating what he had heard, just as I suggested, on the Washington D.C. cocktail circuit... where it was fairly common knowledge, according to several D.C. players at the time (including one personal friend of mine) -- the beautiful model/ambassador's wife who worked for the CIA.

It was damage control, but it simply was not a crime.

I believe Rove is completely off the legal hook. But what about the moral question, as opposed to the legal? Is Karl Rove an "agent outer," in the sense of Aldrich Ames or Jack Anderson? Did he leak an agent's identify (name or no name) for reasons of revenge, or to cause her harm, or because he hated the CIA, or for some other disreputable reason? Again, it seems clear that Rove did not; his motive was to protect the president from an attack that Rove, and everyone else in the White House, knew was a vicious and tendentious lie.

There is no question that Rove failed to speak up publicly and say "oh, that was I; I was the source. Me, me, me!" Perhaps he should have, though he certainly had no legal obligation to do so. Well, then why didn't he?

The answer, while irritating, is pretty understandable:

1. The charge was that the Bush administration deliberately blew the cover of a covert CIA operative just to "retaliate" against Wilson for "speaking truth to power."

2. In reality, Rove, probably without bothering to tell Bush (for a number of reasons, political operatives don't keep POTUS apprised of every media contact), discussed the provenance of Wilson's trip with Cooper, and possibly other reporters, in order to show that the trip was not official and not initiated by Cheney or Tenet, as claimed, and to note that even if Wilson didn't find anything (not being unaware that Wilson actually did find something), there was still other evidence.

3. But when the fit hit the shan, during the Democratic hysteria surrounding the supposed outing, Rove would have realized that there was no way to explain the distinction between what was charged and what Rove actually did... and it would end up seriously wounding the very man he was defending. It would have been a PR disaster.

So Rove kept his mouth shut to the press, though evidently he testified honestly to U.S. Attorney Peter Fitzgerald, who officially investigated the leak:

A source close to Rove, who declined to be identified because he did not wish to run afoul of the prosecutor or government investigators, added that there was "absolutely no inconsistency" between Cooper's e-mail and what Rove has testified to during his three grand-jury appearances in the case. "A fair reading of the e-mail makes clear that the information conveyed was not part of an organized effort to disclose Plame's identity, but was an effort to discourage Time from publishing things that turned out to be false," the source said, referring to claims in circulation at the time that Cheney and high-level CIA officials arranged for Wilson's trip to Africa.

It is also now clear why Fitzgerald was so anxious to hear testimony from Cooper and Miller: Rove presumably testified that he did tell Cooper and Miller that Wilson's wife was in the CIA; but that he didn't know she was an undercover agent, such knowledge being a necessary element for a crime to have been committed. Evidently, Rove simply thought she worked in some WMD-related department.

Fitzgerald doubtless wanted Cooper to testify whether he heard Rove say she was covert... which if true, would mean Rove had lied under oath. However, Cooper's e-mail indicates the answer is no, Rove did not say that, and that "nothing... suggests that Rove... knew she was a covert operative." Since Miller will likely now testify herself -- no reason not to, after this article reveals all -- I suspect we'll find out he said the same to her as to Cooper.

It is easy to predict that the Left is going to have a field day with this, as indeed they should. In their usual nuance-trampling, black-and-white mode of attack, they will spin the Newsweek story like a top, twisting it to make it seem as if it "vindicates" all of their charges. But in reality, it explodes them like a soap bubble.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Dafydd at July 10, 2005 3:18 PM

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