Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rove/Plame: a Primer

In February of 2002, the CIA sent Joe Wilson to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from the African country of Niger. Despite the fact that Wilson concluded that such a claim was unequivocally false, the following 16 words made their way into Bush’s 2003 State of the Union Address:

The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Ahh, the old “the British learned it” trick. So, since the British did actually receive such intelligence, faulty as it may have been, according to administration apologists, it was technically not a lie. Hey, anything to spread the fear of a nuclear attack in the run up to an unnecessary war, right?

Disgusted with the fact that this information made it into the State of the Union, Joe Wilson wrote a blistering OpEd in the New York Times on July 6, 2003 that led to a firestorm over the accuracy of the State of the Union and was the beginning of the discrediting of much of the administration’s claims about the sort of threat Iraq actually posed. On July 14, a mere 8 days later, conservative columnist Robert Novak reported that Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative.

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 Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.

Cut to two years later. Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been on the trail of the leaker of Valerie Plame’s identity to the press in order to determine whether a crime was committed -- in other words did an administration official knowingly out an undercover federal agent? This trail has apparently led him to two journalists, neither of whom revealed Plame’s identity mind you, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time Magazine. Fitzgerald subpoenaed both of them but they refused to cooperate, having promised anonymity to their sources. In fact, on July 6, 2005 Judith Miller went to jail rather than reveal her source. Matt Cooper, however, was granted a waiver by his source that allowed him to cooperate and testify before a grand jury. As it turns out, the generous benefactor of this waiver was none other than Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and re-election architect extraordinaire himself, Karl Rove.

Karl Rove does not deny having spoken to Cooper about this issue. Time released an e-mail Cooper wrote to his editors identifying Rove as his source for the information, which Rove does not dispute. But even Cooper admits that Rove did not name Valerie Plame, but merely indicated that Joseph Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative. Hardly an important distinction. The fact is that Rove leaked the information and the fact is also that the President has promised to fire anyone in his administration that is responsible for the leak. Will he keep his word?

Sounds like deja vu all over again:
Karl Rove was fired from the 1992 re-election campaign of Bush Sr. for allegedly leaking a negative story about Bush loyalist/fundraiser Robert Mosbacher to Novak. Novak's piece described a meeting organized by then-Senator Phil Gramm at which Mosbacher was relieved of his duties as state campaign manager because "the president's re-election effort in Texas has been a bust." Rove was fired after Mosbacher fingered him as Novak's source.


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