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

Friday, July 08, 2005

'Plain Dealer': We're Holding Big Stories Because of Fear of Jail

By Mark Fitzgerald/Editor & Publisher

Published: July 08, 2005 5:02 PM ET

CHICAGO Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton says the Cleveland daily is not reporting two major investigative stories of "profound importance" because they are based on illegally leaked documents -- and the paper fears the consequences faced now by jailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

Lawyers for the Newhouse Newspapers-owned PD have concluded that the newspaper would almost certainly be found culpable if the leaks were investigated by authorities.

"They've said, this is a super, super high-risk endeavor, and you would, you know, you'd lose," Clifton said in an interview Friday afternoon.

"The reporters say, 'Well, we're willing to go to jail, and I'm willing to go to jail if it gets laid on me,'" Clifton added, "but the newspaper isn't willing to go to jail. That's what the lawyers have told us. So this is a Time Inc. sort of situation."

Both Miller and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper faced jail on contempt charges for refusing to identify confidential sources, but Time agreed to hand over Cooper's subpoenaed notes when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the reporters' appeal. Cooper later agreed to testify to a grand jury, saying his source had given "express personal consent" to be identified.

Clifton declined to characterize the two stories, saying only they were based on material that was illegally leaked.

Clifton's revelation that the PD was holding two investigative projects was actually first published in a column he wrote June 30 about the Miller and Cooper case. While the column garnered positive reaction, he said, almost nobody picked up on the disclosure tucked into the end of the piece.

"As I write this, two stories of profound importance languish in our hands," Clifton wrote. "The public would be well served to know them, but both are based on documents leaked to us by people who would face deep trouble for having leaked them. Publishing the stories would almost certainly lead to a leak investigation and the ultimate choice: talk or go to jail. Because talking isn't an option and jail is too high a price to pay, these two stories will go untold for now. How many more are out there?"

Clifton said he wrote the column to show that "there are consequences" to the actions taken against Miller and Cooper by a federal judge and special prosecutor.

"Some people might argue that you're being chicken-shit," Clifton said. "Well, I, I can respect that," he said, his voice trailing off.

Clifton said the Miller-Cooper case has not presented any problem in its ongoing reporting of the biggest current scandal in Ohio, sometimes called "Coingate."

"So much of that we are pursuing unambiguously with public records," he said. "We've had to rely very little on anonymous sources."

The scandal, first reported by The Blade in Toledo, revolves around a rare-coin dealer who was given authority to invest $50 million in state money in rare coins and other collectibles. Gold coins valued at $300,000 that were part of that investment were lost in the mail, the Blade reported. It later came out that millions of dollars in the fund cannot be accounted for.

Karl Rove: Uncovered

Friday 8th July 2005

News from the DNC:

Until recently, Karl Rove had denied even knowing Valerie Plame’s name. Now, after the release of emails from Time Magazine reporter Matt Cooper revealing the name of the White House source, Rove’s lawyer confirmed that Rove did speak with reporters about the case. With his history of questionable campaign tactics and his penchant for leaking information critical of his rivals, Rove should come clean with the American people: Did he endanger our national security by leaking a CIA operative’s name?

First, Rove Denied Any Involvement

August of 2004: Rove Claimed He Did Not Know Who Plame Was. In August of 2004, facing questions of his role in the Plame leak scandal, Rove denied his involvement, saying that he did not even know who Plame was at the time of the leak. "Well, I’ll repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didn’t know her name and didn’t leak her name." [CNN, 7/4/05]

McClellan Said Rove Never Told Reporters that Plame Worked for CIA. In October of 2003 White House Press Secretary, Scott McCllelan was asked during a White House Briefing, "Scott, earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?" McClellan responded by noting that Rove and the others had assured him that they had not leaked any classified information. "Those individuals - I talked - I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that’s where it stands." [WH Briefing, 10/10/03]

McClellan Said He Knew Karl Rove, and Karl Rove Would Never Do Something Like Leaking. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that, "I’ve known Karl for a long time, and I didn’t even need to go ask Karl, because I know the kind of person that he is, and he is someone that is committed to the highest standards of conduct...It is not something I needed to ask him, but I like to, like you do, verify things and make sure that it is completely accurate. But I knew that Karl would not be involved in something like this." [WH Briefing, 9/29/03]

But Now That the Heat Is On, Rove Changes His Story

Rove’s Lawyer Confirmed He Had Contact with Reporters About Plame. During interviews with the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek magazine, Rove’s personal lawyer, Robert Luskin, revealed that Rove had spoken to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper days before Bob Novak ran his column outing Valerie Plame, and that Cooper interviewed Rove for his story on Plame. The same Newsweek article also contained quotes from "lawyers representing clients sympathetic to the White House" that said internal Time magazine emails between Cooper and his editors, identify Rove as Cooper’s source. These admission contradicted earlier statements by White House staff that Rove had not revealed Plame’s identity to any reporters. [Los Angeles Times, 7/3/05; Newsweek, 7/11/05]

White House "Concerned" That Rove is Focus of Prosecutor’s Investigation. According to Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, Rove has testified before the Grand Jury "two or three times." According to a lawyer "representing clients sympathetic to the White House", Rove’s repeated visits to the Grand Jury has begun to make the administration "concerned" that Rove is a target of the special prosecutor. [Newsweek, 7/11/05]

Not The First Time: Rove and Novak

Rove Was Fired For Leaking A Damaging Story About GOP Fundraiser. Esquire’s Ron Suskind reported that, "Sources close to the former president [George H.W. Bush] say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted." [White House Briefing, 9/29/03; Esquire, 1/2003 Issue]


(via American Progress)


We Do The Research So Reporters Don't Have To

Stunningly, no member of the White House press corps has asked press secretary Scott McClellan about Karl Rove's role in outing former CIA operative Valerie Plame since Rove's lawyer admitted on Saturday that Rove was one of Time reporter Matt Cooper's sources. Below are ten vital facts that the media needs to communicate -- and that Americans deserve to know -- about PlameGate. (Click here to get the email addresses of your local media outlets, and let them know they're missing out on a serious story.)

THE PLAME LEAK IS OF VITAL IMPORTANCE: Commenting on the remarks of the federal judges who have ruled on Cooper/Miller case, Lawrence O'Donnell today pointed out that "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." And remember, it was George W. Bush's father who, speaking at CIA headquarters in 1999, said, "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors." Likewise, when asked whether exposing Valerie Plame's identity would be "worse than Watergate," President Bush's close colleague Ed Gillespie said, "Yeah, I suppose in terms of the real world implications of it," adding that "to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA operative -- it's abhorrent, and it should be a crime, and it is a crime." Those who try to play down the importance of PlameGate are deceiving themselves.

KARL ROVE HAS NOT YET ANSWERED WHETHER HE IS A SUBJECT OF THE INVESTIGATION: Rove's attorney Robert Luskin acknowledged over the weekend that Karl Rove has testified "two or three times" before the grand jury. These multiple visits prompted one lawyer "representing a witness sympathetic to the White House" to tell Newsweek that there is "growing 'concern' in the White House that the prosecutor is interested in Rove." Luskin has insisted in several recent interviews that Rove is not a "target" of Fitzgerald's investigation. But this leaves open the possibility that Rove is a "subject" of the investigation. The difference? While a "target" is a "putative defendant" according to the U.S. Attorneys' Manual, a "subject" is a person not yet thought to have committed a crime but "whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury's investigation" (these two definitions are distinct from the third possible status, a mere "witness"). Lawrence O'Donnell, who broke the news of Rove's contacts with Time reporter Matt Cooper, notes: "Three trips to the same grand jury is frequently an indicator of subject status." So, Mr. Rove, if you're not a target, are you a witness or a subject?

ROVE HAS NEVER DENIED LEAKING THE IDENTITY OF WILSON'S WIFE: The public statements by Karl Rove and his attorney Robert Luskin regarding Rove's role have been worded vaguely, in such a way that leaves unclear whether Rove is denying that he ever revealed (in any way) the true identity of Joseph Wilson's wife, or whether he is merely denying that he revealed the specific name -- Valerie Plame (also her maiden name) -- that she used only while carrying out her covert work. Rove's attorney told Newsweek that Rove "did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA"; he told the Los Angeles Times that Rove "absolutely did not identify Valerie Plame." And in August 2004, Rove denied knowing Plame's name: "Well, I'll repeat what I said to ABC News when this whole thing broke some number of months ago. I didn't know her name and didn't leak her name." Under a strict interpretation, these statements confirm only that Rove did not leak Plame's name, not whether he revealed her role as a covert operative.

ROVE'S DISCLOSURE OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION IS UNCLEAR: As several commentators have noted, Rove's attorney has almost uniformly stated that Rove never "knowingly" disclosed classified information (although on one occassion, Luskin did apparently say to Bloomberg News that Rove "did not reveal any confidential information," leaving off the word "knowingly"). As Lawrence O'Donnell pointed out: "Not coincidentally, the word 'knowing' is the most important word in the controlling statute (U.S. Code: Title 50: Section 421). To violate the law, Rove had to tell Cooper about a covert agent "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States." So, did Rove ever unknowingly disclose classified information? Moreover, a legal memo obtained by Hill reporter Josh Marshall interpreted the relevant laws to hold that "a government insider, with access to classified information, such as Rove is also prohibited from confirming or further disseminating the identity of a covert agent even after someone else has leaked it." According to today's New York Times, "Cooper's decision to drop his refusal to testify followed discussions on Wednesday morning among lawyers representing Mr. Cooper and Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser, according to a person who has been officially briefed on the case." Did Rove ever confirm or disseminate classified information?

ROVE COULD COME CLEAN AT ANY TIME: A simple, clear statement by Rove would do much to end speculation about his role in any potential wrongdoing. Yet Rove is refusing to answer questions about the case, and, more suspiciously, his attorney is justifying his silence with the specious claim that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has "asked us not to talk about what Karl has had to say." As O'Donnell points out, "Prosecutors have absolutely no control over what witnesses say when they leave the grand jury room. Rove can tell us word-for-word what he said to the grand jury and would if he thought it would help him." The only thing that prevents him from doing so, O'Donnell adds, is "a good lawyer who is trying to keep him out of jail."

BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS COULD KEEP MILLER OUT OF JAIL: Whether one supports or opposes Judith Miller's refusal to reveal her source, the fact remains that she never had to face this fate. At any time, the Bush administration officials who leaked Valerie Plame's identity could step forward and relieve Miller of her difficult circumstances. As Joseph Wilson noted last night, "The sentencing of Judith Miller to jail for refusing to disclose her sources is the direct result of the culture of unaccountability that infects the Bush White House from top to bottom. ... Clearly, the conspiracy to cover up the web of lies that underpinned the invasion of Iraq is more important to the White House than coming clean on a serious breach of national security." Likewise, John Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon during the Watergate controversy, said on Tuesday: "Whoever it is, he or she is a huge coward. And the fact that they would let somebody [go to prison] -- this is the sort of thing that Mafia people do, that drug kings do, not somebody who's serving in the White House as a public servant."

ROVE AND NOVAK HAVE A TRACK RECORD: Karl Rove and Robert Novak apparently have a history of spreading damaging information. In January 2003, Ron Suskind reported in Esquire that "Sources close to the former president [George H.W. Bush] say Rove was fired from the 1992 Bush presidential campaign after he planted a negative story with columnist Robert Novak about dissatisfaction with campaign fundraising chief and Bush loyalist Robert Mosbacher Jr. It was smoked out, and he was summarily ousted."

AT LEAST ONE WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL HAS BEEN CAUGHT IN A LIE: Rove's acknowledgement of his role in spreading information about Wilson and Plame seems to clearly contradict a claim in October 2003 by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who said that "those individuals [Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams, and Lewis Libby] assured me they were not involved with this." So, did Karl Rove and his White House colleagues deceive Scott McClellan, or did Scott McClellan deceive the American people?

AN APPARENT DISCREPANCY EXISTS IN THE TIMELINE OF ROVE'S CONTACTS WITH JOURNALISTS: Though Rove's involvement in spreading information about former ambassador Wilson and his wife is now known, the timeline remains unclear. Recent statements from Rove's lawyer have only muddied the picture. In October 2003, Rove reportedly admitted to the grand jury "that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding [Plame] with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists," part of an "aggressive campaign to discredit Wilson through the leaking and disseminating of derogatory information regarding him and his wife." According to investigative journalist Murray Waas, Rove told the grand jury that "he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in [Robert] Novak's column." But according to Rove's attorney Robert Luskin, "Rove spoke to Cooper three or four days before Novak's column appeared." What's the real story here?

PRESIDENT BUSH'S THOUGHTS ARE UNKNOWN: For well over a year, the White House line has been that "no one wants to get to the bottom of [this investigation] more than the President of the United States." Considering his great interest, it seems surprising, then, that President Bush has had nothing to say about Saturday's revelation that his own top advisor, Karl Rove, apparently did indeed participate in the coordinated campaign to smear former ambassador Joe Wilson. This fact alone speaks volumes about the character of this White House.


It's Everyone's Business

On January 15, 2003, when Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele were sworn into office, Steele said "Forty years ago, Martin Luther King had a dream. How fitting today we celebrate not only the inauguration of a new era, but the birthday of a man who dreamed this day would come." Times have changed. Late last month, Ehrlich held a $1,000-a-plate fundraiser at the all-white Elkridge country club. Neither Ehrlich or Steele see anything wrong with it. During a radio interview about the controversy Tuesday, Ehrlich said "I don't know what their membership is, and guess what? It's not my business." Steele told the Associated Press, "I don't know that much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't play golf." It's time to stop playing dumb. Days earlier, The Baltimore Sun told Ehrlich's staff the paper had confirmed that "the club has had no African-American members in its 127-year history." Email Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele and ask them if, in light of their commitment to Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, they will continue to support institutions that practice racial discrimination.

CLUB'S HISTORY OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION WAS NOT A MYSTERY: Ehrlich and Steele pretend that Elkridge's club membership is a mystery. In fact, its racially discriminatory practices are well known. In 1985, "Frederick Motz quit Elkridge in 1985 after he was nominated to the federal bench" to avoid questions about its all-white membership. In 1977, Maryland passed a law "prohibiting country clubs from getting a property tax break if they discriminated in their membership policies." Elkridge "gave up its tax break...rather than give its membership list to the state."

WHEN IN DOUBT, ATTACK THE MESSENGER: Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, Gov. Ehrlich attacked the messenger. Specifically, his staff accused the Baltimore Sun, who broke the story about the Ehrlich fundraiser of having "some association with Elkridge over the years." It's true that "Former [Baltimore Sun] publisher Reginald Murphy...joined the club when he moved to Baltimore in 1981." But once he found out about its membership composition "he dropped his membership after helping establish the Caves Valley Golf Club, which he said was founded to be inclusive regardless of religion, race or gender." It's not the first time Ehrlich as tried to bully the Sun into silence. Last November Ehrlich banned all state officials from speaking with two Baltimore Sun journalists because, in his view, they were "failing to objectively report" on state issues. Citing the First Amendment, the Sun asked "a federal judge to lift the [Ehrlich] administration's order." The lawsuit, which is still pending, alleges that Ehrlich's actions discourage "speech by any citizen of Maryland who disagrees with the Governor, and it will leave the door open for any public official to punish any individual who says something the government does not like."

WHEN IN DOUBT, BLAME OTHERS: Ehrlich said that his fundraiser is a "non-story" other Maryland politicians have held events at the Elkridge Club. Although, Ehrlich didn't name any names, Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. admitted that he held a fundraiser at the club on May 4. Smith's conduct was wrong but it doesn't excuse Ehrlich. Moreover, there is a difference in how the two men have dealt with the situation. Smith admits he made a mistake and has promised "he will not have future campaign events" at Elkridge. Ehrlich remains unrepentant and has emphasized that he has spoken at Elkridge "many, many times over the years."

WHEN IN DOUBT, BLAME YOUR STAFF: Just in case Ehrlich's other excuses didn't work for you, he's got one more: it was all his staff's fault. Ehrlich told WBAL radio that "the decision to hold an event at the Elkridge Club on June 20 was made by his campaign staff, not by him." So much for personal responsibility.

Questions Remain on the Leaker and the Law

Rove's Talks With Time Writer May Be a Focus

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 8, 2005; A02

The jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller on Wednesday put the issue of press freedom and the confidentiality of sources on front pages across the country, but the heart of the case remains what it has been from the outset: whether senior Bush officials broke the law in the disclosure of a CIA covert operative's identity.

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has spent the better part of two years trying to answer that question, in a case that grew out of the angry debate over whether President Bush and his advisers hyped or falsified intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify going to war with Iraq in the spring of 2003. At issue is whether administration officials misused classified information to try to discredit one of their potentially most damaging critics.

Now, a fast-moving series of decisions over the past week involving Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper have brought a renewed public focus on what role White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove may have played in disclosing the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

A White House spokesman long ago asserted that Rove was "not involved" in disclosing Plame's identity. Rove, who has testified before a grand jury investigating the case, likewise has maintained that he did not break the law, saying in a television interview, "I didn't know her name, and I didn't leak her name."

But Fitzgerald still appears to want more answers about Rove's role. The prosecutor is apparently focused on Rove's conversations with Cooper.

The debate two summers ago over why the United States went to war engaged some of the most senior officials in the government and included an incendiary accusation by former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had challenged the administration over claims that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Africa. Wilson based his claim on information gathered on a CIA-sponsored trip to Niger.

At the height of the fury over Wilson's charges, in a column published July 14, 2003, Robert D. Novak wrote that Wilson was married to Plame, and cited two senior administration officials saying she was behind the decision to send her husband on the trip. The outcry over the revelation eventually forced the administration to turn to Fitzgerald to investigate, with Bush saying he was eager to get to the bottom of the case. The president and a number of top administration officials have since been called to testify.

After Time turned over its documents late last week, Newsweek reported that e-mail records showed that Rove was one of Cooper's sources on Plame and Wilson. That article led Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, to say in an interview last weekend that his client had spoken to Cooper around the time Novak's column appeared in July 2003. But he added that Rove had testified fully in the case and had been assured by Fitzgerald that he is not a target in the investigation.

More evidence points to Rove as the source Cooper was seeking to protect -- although what information was provided is not clear. Rove and Cooper spoke once before the Novak column was available, but the interview did not involve the Iraq controversy, according to a person close to the investigation who declined to be identified to be able to share more details about the case.

Cooper on Wednesday agreed to testify in the case, reversing his long-standing refusal after saying that he had been released from his pledge of confidentiality just hours before he expected to be sent to jail for contempt of court. In an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday, Luskin denied that Cooper had received a call from Rove releasing him from his confidentiality pledge. Yesterday, however, Luskin declined to comment on a New York Times report that the release came as a result of negotiations involving Rove's and Cooper's attorneys, nor would he speculate that Cooper was released from his pledge in some other fashion than a direct conversation with Rove. "I'm not going to comment any further," Luskin said.

The admission that Rove had spoken to Cooper appeared at odds with previous White House statements. In retrospect, however, these statements -- which some interpreted as emphatic denials -- were in fact carefully worded.

On Oct. 10, 2003, White House press secretary Scott McClellan was asked whether Rove; Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; or National Security Council official Elliott Abrams had told any reporter that Plame was a covert CIA agent.

"I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this," McClellan said. "And that's where it stands." Reporters pressed McClellan to clarify that statement but he held to the words in his first answer until one reporter asked, "They were not involved in what?" To which he replied, "The leaking of classified information."

That left open the other question that comes into play in this episode, which is the degree to which White House officials were engaged two summers ago in a vigorous effort to discredit Wilson's accusations by discrediting Wilson himself. That in itself may not be a crime, nor would such tactics be unique to the Bush White House, given the accepted rules of political combat employed by participants in both major political parties.

Rove told MSNBC's Chris Matthews that Wilson's wife was "fair game," according to an October 2003 report in Newsweek. At a minimum Fitzgerald could turn up embarrassing information that may yet become public about how the Bush White House operates.

Although the president has encouraged full cooperation with the special prosecutor, administration officials have not appeared eager to explain fully their roles in the Wilson matter. A number of them have signed waivers of confidentiality freeing reporters with whom they have spoken from maintaining confidentiality, although Cooper and others have said they did not regard that waiver as specific enough. In other cases, administration officials have given reporters specific waivers.

But in some of those cases, officials have given the green light for reporters to testify to the grand jury in exchange for a pledge from the reporter not to reveal publicly the identity of the source or the details of the conversations.

Fitzgerald long has made a distinction in his investigation between conversations held before Novak's column was publicly available (it was moved to his newspaper clients on July 11, 2003) and after, on the assumption that once Plame's name was in the public domain, there was no criminal liability for administration officials to discuss it. Which may be one reason it could be difficult to obtain indictments. After almost two years, Fitzgerald finds only one person in jail as a result of his inquiry -- a reporter who never wrote an article about the leak.

The White House is preparing for a potential battle with the Democrats over a Supreme Court nominee, a conflict with great consequences and in which advocates on both sides appear ready to employ all means available to promote or discredit a nominee.

White House officials make no secret that they think Democrats went beyond the boundaries to discredit the reputations of some of their nominees to the appellate courts. Now into that maelstrom could come discomforting revelations about what top White House officials may have done to discredit Wilson by questioning his motives, his wife's role in the trip to Niger and his veracity.

Staff writer Susan Schmidt contributed to this report.