News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Turning Up the Heat

Judith Miller's jailing and Matthew Cooper's testimony could solve the mystery of the Plame case—and embarrass the Bush administration

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Updated: 9:54 p.m. ET July 6, 2005

July 6 - While New York Times reporter Judith Miller went off to jail today, the decision by another journalist, Matthew Cooper, to testify before a federal grand jury could increase the pressure on the White House in the nearly two-year long furor over the leak of a covert CIA operative’s identity.

In a startling turn of events, Cooper initially said in court today he was fully prepared himself to go to jail as well. Then, right after he had hugged goodbye to his young son on his way to day camp, he got a last-minute “communication” from his source giving him his direct and “personal” assurance that he was relieving Cooper of his pledge of confidentiality on matters relating to a Time article that identified Valerie Plame as a CIA official. Plame is the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former diplomat who made news when he said that, contrary to President George W. Bush’s assertion, Iraq had not bought uranium from Niger as part of its nuclear program. Bush had cited the African nation in his 2003 State of the Union as one of his reasons for believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Cooper did not publicly identify the source. NEWSWEEK reported this week that one of Cooper’s sources identified in internal computer e-mails turned over by Time this week is deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove. Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, told NEWSWEEK today that Rove “did not call Cooper” prior to today’s court hearing, nor had the two of them “spoken” about the subject of waiving confidentiality.

But Luskin would make no other comments, including whether there had been any other form of communications between Cooper and Rove. Last week, Luskin confirmed that Rove and Cooper had spoken prior to the publication of the original Time article, but said that Rove “did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA” nor did he “knowingly disclose classified information.”

Luskin had also noted last week that Rove, like other White House aides, had signed a “waiver” relieving any reporters that he spoke to of any claims of confidentiality. But Cooper said today that such “waivers”—requested by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s office and distributed by the White House counsel’s office—were “not worth the paper they were written on” because they would inevitably have to be signed under some form of coercion. That’s why Cooper placed such emphasis on receiving the unspecified personal “communication” from the unspecified source.

The dramatic intervention that spared Cooper jail, however, may do little to immediately clear up the confusion over precisely who did leak Plame’s name—especially since Cooper made clear that he was only prepared to identify his source to the grand jury, not the public. But today’s developments, including the imprisonment of Miller, could turn up the heat on the White House to resolve a mystery that has provoked intense speculation for nearly two years.

Fitzgerald has made repeatedly clear in his court filings, and again in court today, that he views the leaking of Plame’s name as an effort to “retaliate” against Wilson for publicly criticizing the White House over their Iraq policy. (It is a crime to knowingly disclose the identity of an undercover CIA agent.) At one point, Fitzgerald today even cited the title of Cooper’s original article, “A War on Wilson?” referring to the Bush administration’s “feud” with the former diplomat. NEWSWEEK has previously reported that, after columnist Robert Novak’s article identified Plame, Rove helped fan the flames against Wilson, calling NBC Hardball host Chris Matthews to tell him that Wilson’s wife was “fair game.”

But the White House has consistently refused to comment about those and other reports about White House attempts to strike back against Wilson. After a round of initial denials that Rove or anybody else was “involved” in the leaking of Plame’s name, the White House press office has refused to make any public comments about what White House aides may or may not have told journalists—a position it repeated this evening. “The president’s instruction from the beginning was to fully cooperate with the investigation,” a White House spokeswoman said. “As part of the cooperating, we are not going to comment on any matters that come up during that process.”

But with today’s developments, the political atmosphere could change. For openers, Cooper would inevitably have to tell the grand jury exactly which “government official” had “noted” to Time that Plame worked for the CIA, as his original article put it. That could well produce some level of nervousness. Assuming the official works for the White House, and Fitzgerald’s probe has focused heavily, if not exclusively on White House staff members, it means there will be direct testimony from a reporter that somebody on the president’s staff did something that was publicly denied—a potential political embarrassment. For another, the specter of Miller being carted off to jail means she is going to jail to protect somebody else in the president’s employ—another situation that in other respects might be viewed as politically untenable.

The president’s defenders have, in the past, derided Fitzgerald’s investigation, saying the alleged retaliation was a typical political defensive strategy against an obnoxious public critic. Wilson had suggested that Rove should be “frog-marched” out of the White House, in handcuffs. The statement was much criticized at the time as an example of the partisanship of the former diplomat. But regardless of the ultimate culprit, Wilson has not backed off an inch. “The fact that there was a White House smear campaign was unethical to say the least,” Wilson said in an interview today, adding that, in his view, “there’s no reason” the White House should not provide a public accounting of what took place.

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More Trouble for Rove in CIA Leak Case?

by: David Corn (The Nation)

The Nation -- What happened on Wednesday in Courtroom 8 at the federal district courthouse in Washington, DC, gave rise to more questions than answers about the shrouded-in-secrecy Plame/CIA leak investigation. But those questions may not be good for Karl Rove.

The most dramatic moment of the hour-plus hearing was when federal District Court Judge Thomas Hogan ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail for failing to reveal a source to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been trying to find out which Bush administration officials outed undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the Bush White House. Conservative columnist Bob Novak first published the leak in a July 14, 2003 article that cited "two senior administration officials." Three days later, Time magazine posted a piece cowritten by Cooper that noted that "government officials" had told Time about Valerie Wilson's employment at the CIA. Miller wrote no article on this matter but apparently she talked to at least one source about it. Her decision to honor her pledge of confidentiality to her source and resist a court order might have afforded her source--whoever that might be--a measure of protection. But minutes earlier, Cooper--who had also been held in civil contempt for not cooperating with Fitzgerald--made a dramatic statement that could lead to trouble for a source he had previously protected, and that source might be Rove.

Cooper told the court that he had left home that morning--after saying good-bye to his six-year-old son and telling the boy that he might not see him for a while--resolved not to comply with Fitzgerald's request that he testify before the grand jury. (Time had already surrendered Cooper's notes and emails to Fitzgerald--over Cooper's objections--but Fitzgerald still sought Cooper's testimony.) But on the way to the courthouse, Cooper said to the judge, his source had contacted him and provided what Cooper called a "personal and unambiguous waiver to speak before the grand jury." So Cooper declared that he was now prepared to answer Fitzgerald's questions. He would not be sent off to the hoosegow.

What does this mean for Cooper's source--a person apparently of intense interest to Fitzgerald?

This past weekend, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek reported that the emails and notes turned over by Time indicated that "one of Cooper's sources [for Time's article that named Plame] was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove." Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for that article. But Luskin maintained that Rove "did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." (But does that statement cover all possibilities? Might Rove have confirmed Valerie Plame had a job at the CIA? Might he have said that "Valerie Wilson"--not Plame--worked for the CIA?)

Is Rove indeed the Cooper source being pursued by Fitzgerald and the person who apparently gave Cooper the greenlight to tell all to the grand jury? After Cooper's announcement, Rove's lawyer told Newsweek that Rove and Cooper had not "spoken" about waiving confidentiality prior to the court hearing. Luskin may have been playing it cute. Perhaps the communication between Rove and Cooper was an email. And The New York Times reported that lawyers representing Cooper and Rove--not Cooper and Rove--had talked prior to hearing. Or could it be that another Cooper source is Fitzgerald's target?

What's come out so far still points to Rove. And it does seem clear that only one Cooper source is in the middle of this imbroglio. In a recent court filing, Fitzgerald repeatedly noted that he needed Cooper's testimony regarding "a" source (not more than one). And in Cooper's last-minute courtroom drama, he noted that his "source"--one person, that is--had released him.


Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at Read recent postings on Supreme Court pessimism, blaming Hillary, and Safire's latest mis-fact.


This focus on one person is curious. The Time story written by Cooper reported,

And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Note the plural "officials." And Novak's column cited "two" senior Bush administration officials. Given this, shouldn't Fitzgerald be asking Cooper about more than one source? Shouldn't Cooper have to obtain waivers from more than one person? Cooper's article did carry two other bylines--Massimo Calabresi and John Dickerson--and it's possible that Calabresi and/or Dickerson spoke to other sources about Valerie Wilson. But neither have been subpoenaed by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald apparently has reason to believe that Cooper is the fellow responsible for the two-sentence portion of the article that covers Valerie Wilson.

So who else told Time about Wilson/Plame? I can think of explanations that might render this question moot. Perhaps the story was mis-edited in a fashion that mistakenly pluralized the sourcing on the key sentence. Maybe one government official disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA identity to Time prior to the Novak column, and another merely confirmed it after Novak had published the leak. But inquiring minds should want to know: what happened to Time's other source(s)?

But for now the most critical question is, what will Cooper tell the grand jury? Presumably, he will have to say which "government officials" talked to Time about Valerie Wilson and what they said. Will that place his source (or sources) in legal jeopardy? Fitzgerald has vigorously argued that Cooper's information is important for his investigation. Since no White House official has acknowledged revealing Valerie Wilson's CIA identity to any reporter, if Cooper fingers any one of them, that will be bad news for the White House. Any official named might be able to wiggle out of an indictment due to the narrow nature of the relevant law. (I explained how this might be done in my previous column.) Still, outing a CIA officer to score a political point ought to be a firing offense at any White House, even this one.

Which brings us to another intriguing wrinkle. Cooper's source only granted him a waiver to speak before the grand jury. He is not free, Cooper told me after the hearing, to discuss in public this source and the contents of his conversation with this source. In essence, the source made sure that Cooper--if he were going to cooperate with Fitzgerald--would not be able to ID him (or her) in public. Not that Cooper seemed about to do so. Before the hearing, it seemed that Cooper was prepared to go to jail, even though Time had turned over his notes and emails and Newsweek had identified his source as Rove. But could it be that his source was not so sure of this and wanted to cut a deal (your freedom for your continuing public silence)? Or could it be that Cooper's source simply felt bad about Cooper being placed in the slammer? Or could it be that the source believed that Cooper's testimony might actually be beneficial for him or her? Or could it be that the source assumed he or she was already in legal peril and did not want also to be blamed for Cooper's incarceration?

There are plenty of avenues of conjecture. But one thing is for certain. Fitzgerald, who does seem devoted to the task of investigating the leak and who does not appear to be pursuing (rightly or wrongly) reporters merely for the hell of it, will now be able to obtain Cooper's testimony--information that he says is critical in determining what happened in the leak episode and whether a prosecutable crime was committed. The betting has to be that this is reason for the White House to be more nervous and not less.


And what of Novak? How has he managed to escape the clutches of Fitzgerald? Why does he not face the same legal dilemma as Miller? Well, he must have cooperated with Fitzpatrick. But to what end? And what did he say?For speculative answers to these and other questions about Novak's role in this affair, see the piece I posted at by clicking here.


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Lawrence O'Donnell: The One Very Good Reason Karl Rove Might Be Indicted

Lawrence O'Donnell
Thu Jul 7, 3:11 AM ET

Two years ago, when I first read the federal law protecting the identities of covert agents, my reaction was the same as everyone else who reads it -- this is not an easy law to break. That’s what I said on Hardball then in my first public discussion of the outing of Valerie Plame, and that’s what I said on CNN the other night. Let’s walk through the pieces that would have to fall into place for Karl Rove to have committed a crime when he revealed Plame’s identity to Matt Cooper.

First, and most obviously, Valerie Plame had to be a covert agent when Rove exposed her to Cooper. It’s not obvious that she was. The law has a specific definition of covert agent that she might not fit -- an overseas posting in the last five years, for example. But it’s hard to believe the prosecutor didn’t begin the grand jury session with a CIA witness certifying that Plame was a covert agent. If the prosecutor couldn’t establish that, why bother moving on to the next witness?

Second, Rove had to know she was a covert agent. Cooper’s article refers to Plame as “a CIA official.” Most CIA officials are not covert agents.

Third, Rove had to know that the CIA was taking “affirmative measures” to hide her identity. Doesn’t seem like the kind of thing a political operative would or should know.

Fourth, Rove had to be “authorized” to have classified information about covert agents or at least this one covert agent. Doesn’t seem like the kind of security clearance a political operative would or should have.

I’ll be surprised if all four of those elements of the crime line up perfectly for a Rove indictment. Surprised, not shocked. There is one very good reason to think they might. It is buried in one of the handful of federal court opinions that have come down in the last year ordering Matt Cooper and Judy Miller to testify or go to jail.

In February, Circuit Judge David Tatel joined his colleagues’ order to Cooper and Miller despite his own, very lonely finding that indeed there is a federal privilege for reporters that can shield them from being compelled to testify to grand juries and give up sources. He based his finding on Rule 501 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which authorizes federal courts to develop new privileges “in the light of reason and experience.” Tatel actually found that reason and experience “support recognition of a privilege for reporters’ confidential sources.” But Tatel still ordered Cooper and Miller to testify because he found that the privilege had to give way to “the gravity of the suspected crime.”

Judge Tatel’s opinion has eight blank pages in the middle of it where he discusses the secret information the prosecutor has supplied only to the judges to convince them that the testimony he is demanding is worth sending reporters to jail to get. The gravity of the suspected crime is presumably very well developed in those redacted pages. Later, Tatel refers to “[h]aving carefully scrutinized [the prosecutor’s] voluminous classified filings.”

Some of us have theorized that the prosecutor may have given up the leak case in favor of a perjury case, but Tatel still refers to it simply as a case “which involves the alleged exposure of a covert agent.” Tatel wrote a 41-page opinion in which he seemed eager to make new law -- a federal reporters’ shield law -- but in the end, he couldn’t bring himself to do it in this particular case. In his final paragraph, he says he “might have” let Cooper and Miller off the hook “[w]ere the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national security.”

Tatel’s colleagues are at least as impressed with the prosecutor’s secret filings as he is. One simply said “Special Counsel’s showing decides the case.”

All the judges who have seen the prosecutor’s secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime, and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment.