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

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Is Rove Going Down?

By Arianna Huffington,
Posted on July 8, 2005, Printed on July 9, 2005
How is it that the second most powerful man in America is about to take a fall and the mainstream media are largely taking a pass? Could it be that the fear of Karl Rove and this White House is so great that not even the biggest of the media big boys are willing to take them on? Does the answer to that one go without saying?

Chatter about the Rove story has come to dominate the downtime at the Aspen Institute's five-day Ideas Festival. Whenever participants are not in sessions, they're gathering in small groups and dissecting, analyzing, and speculating about the outcome of this surprisingly slow-breaking scandal.

One such discussion took place just after David Gergen had finished a conversation with Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," which has sold 25 million copies in hardback. A cluster of high-powered media insiders quickly switched over to "The Gossip-Driven Reality." The well-informed suppositions were flying faster than the peloton at the Tour de France. I can tell you what was said, I just can't tell you who was saying it. (Just look at it as an anonymous twist on the HuffPost BozBlog).

According to the players, the key to whether this story has real legs -- and whether it will spell the end of Rove -- is determining intent. And a key to that is whether there was a meeting at the White House where Rove and Scooter Libby discussed what to do with the information they had gotten from the State Department about Valerie Plame being Joe Wilson's wife, and her involvement in his being sent on the Niger/yellowcake mission. If it can be proven that such a meeting occurred, then Rove will be in deep trouble -- especially if it is established that Rove made three phone calls leaking the info about Plame and her CIA gig? one to Matt Cooper, one to Walter Pincus, and one to Robert Novak.

Other than intent, the other big legal question raised was: will Rove be able to get away with claiming that he did not know Plame was an undercover agent?

We all know what happened after Rove placed those calls. The question is, what will happen now? From the way they've acted so far, the mainstream media would rather this scandal just go away (bloggers take note). Just look at the way Newsweek handled the Rove-outed-Plame story in this week's edition. The editors obviously knew they had a hot story and could have pushed it hard. Instead, it's clear that they lawyered it within an inch of its life -- a bunch of legal eagles with faint hearts removing any juice and most of the meat from it.

As one of the Aspen wags put it: "Once Newsweek flushed the Koran down the toilet, you can bet they'll think twenty times before they pull down the handle again."

Want another example? Just look at how the White House press corps is dealing with the story: by avoiding it completely.

Today's press gaggle took place aboard Air Force One on the way to Scotland. Now, given that Rove may or may not be the subject of a federal investigation, one would think that our intrepid White House reporters might, you know, ask the White House spokesman about that.

But if you do a text search for the word "Rove" in this transcript, you'll see that not a single press person thought that the fact that the President of the United States' most trusted advisor is, at the very least, a key player in a criminal investigation was worth a single question to Scottie McClellan. Not a one.

This is all the more significant because of the role McClellan may eventually play in Rove's fate. As Newsweek reported and I blogged about, when this story began heating up, McClellan went out of his way to defend Rove -- saying that he'd been "assured" that Rove was not involved in the leaking.

"Rove will have no compunction about lying through his teeth to save himself, counting on the fact that Cooper's emails are, apparently, not cut and dried," one of the group said. And it doesn't hurt that Rove's underlings would rather fall on their swords than tell the truth... which, in the Bush White House, is seen as selling out. All of which would leave McClellan to "take one for the team and eat major crow about all the assurances he'd given the press." Of course, if they continue to avoid asking him about it, he may not even have to do that.

As the group started walking to the next seminar, my mind turned back to the Gergen-Warren conversation. Near the end, a woman stood up, identified herself as Jewish and asked Warren if she would be saved. He told her that he believed that you can only be saved through Jesus Christ. I only wished I had stood up and asked Warren: What will it take for Karl Rove to be saved?

Find more Arianna at

Mystery Thickens in Secret Source Case

After two years, more questions than answers have emerged on who named a CIA agent and the role the White House may have played.

By Richard B. Schmitt / Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Was it Karl Rove, after all?

Or is President Bush's longtime political advisor getting a bum rap, fueled by wishful thinking of administration critics?

Nearly two years to the day after Robert Novak identified a CIA operative in his syndicated newspaper column, the mystery of who might have leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Novak and other journalists seems only to be deepening.

The latest tantalizing clue involves Rove and a conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in the days before the Novak column appeared.

The conversation was revealed last week by Rove's lawyer, who added that his client didn't identify Plame or do anything wrong. Nobody has said precisely what the two men discussed. But special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald is apparently interested in questioning Cooper about the conversation before wrapping up his investigation.

Cooper narrowly avoided jail this week after saying that a source — thought to be Rove — had waived his pledge of confidentiality and that he was now free to testify before a grand jury investigating the leak.

The disclosure about the two men's conversation, combined with Fitzgerald's interest in Cooper's source, has prompted speculation about the identity and motives of the nation's most talked-about confidential source since "Deep Throat."

But unlike the recently revealed Watergate-era source, the Plame case has raised difficult questions for the news media, including whether journalists have ethical duties to protect sources whose own behavior is at issue.

The case has given ammunition to those who say the media are too liberal. And media groups have criticized Fitzgerald for playing hardball with Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to cooperate, but attacked him for failing to get to the bottom of possible wrongdoing by a Republican administration.

Some people close to the case theorize that the identity of Plame was introduced to administration officials by journalists who might have known of her status and mentioned it in the kind of back-and-forth that is common in reporters' conversations with sources. Repeating such gossip, however unseemly, would probably not be illegal, legal experts say.

Fitzgerald has been investigating since December 2003. The suspicion is that someone in the White House leaked the identity of Plame to the press in retaliation for an opinion piece her husband had written in the New York Times that attacked the Bush administration for intelligence failures. Novak revealed Plame's name in a July 14, 2003 column.

Rove was first mentioned as a possibility mainly through the efforts of Plame's husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who said he had received phone calls from journalists saying that Rove was talking about Plame.

Weeks later, Wilson, responding to a question about the leak investigation, said he thought it might be "fun to see Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

In a book about the case, Wilson wrote that he had changed his mind and suspected that vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby might be the culprit.

In public statements, the White House, Rove and his lawyer have emphatically denied wrongdoing.

Early in the investigation, White House spokesman Scott McClellan announced that Rove and other top aides were not involved in "the leaking of classified information."

Rove, in a television interview, said of Plame: "I didn't know her name, and didn't leak her name."

Of course, it would be possible to identify Plame without mentioning her name. Telling a reporter that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA would be tantamount to outing her.

This week, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, was more categorical: "Karl absolutely did not identify Valerie Plame…. He did not disclose any confidential information … to Cooper or anybody else."

White House statements have skirted questions about discussions that administration officials may have had with journalists about Plame. The statements seem to show an awareness of the distinction between breaking the law and repeating gossip.

And the law governing the protection of covert agents is written in such a way that hardly anyone has been prosecuted under it.

The government must show that individuals knew the agent had a protected status and that the agent's identity was disclosed intentionally.

The law also requires that the government must have been making active efforts to protect the identity of the agent. Some argue that Plame no longer was doing undercover work and operated openly at CIA headquarters.

To some, the statements from the White House and Rove are ambiguous on possible lesser misconduct — a wink or a nod to a journalist, or passing along rumors heard from others.

There is also the possibility that, if Rove and Cooper discussed Wilson's wife, they have different recollections of what was said.

The story Cooper subsequently wrote on said that "some government officials" had noted to Time that Plame was a CIA official. Luskin has said Cooper initiated the conversation with Rove.

It appears clear that one possibility pursued by Fitzgerald is whether a journalist started a chain of conversations about Plame between reporters and White House officials. Among the journalists who testified in the case was Tim Russert of NBC News, who afterward said he had told Fitzgerald that he did not reveal the identity of Plame in a conversation with Libby.

That Rove might have provided any information bearing on Plame — even if he did not break the law — might not look good for the administration.

But only the tight-lipped Fitzgerald and his team know precisely what course the investigation is on and why Rove has apparently become a person of interest at this late date.

Luskin said he was assured by Fitzgerald that Rove was not a target of the investigation.

Asked for comment this week about what connection Rove may have to the case, the White House stopped short of its previous denials of wrongdoing.

"The president's instructions from the very beginning were to fully cooperate with the investigation, and as part of that cooperating, we are not going to comment on any matters that come up during that process," spokeswoman Erin Healy said.

Ambassador Joe Wilson -- Still Fighting the Bush Administration's "Culture of Unaccountability"


In my judgment, a smear campaign operated out of the White House is unethical, to say the least. The First Amendment specifically says that nothing should be done to abridge a citizen's right to petition his government to redress a grievance. The attack on me, through the compromise of Valerie's identity, is an assault on not just my petition to redress a grievance, but it is also a deterrent to other citizens who might step forward. That is why I have always argued that Rove should be fired, even if no indictments are forthcoming.

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If there's a list of people who have fearlessly stood up for democracy, decency and the truth against the corrupt buzzsaw of the Bush Administration, Ambassador Joe Wilson is certainly at the top of the list.

From the moment that what has become known as "Plamegate" emerged on the horizon (as a result of a David Corn column), BuzzFlash has been at the lead of media outlets demanding accountability from the White House. Although the mainstream corporate media is now focusing on the legal issue of whether Karl Rove or other White House staffers will be indicted, the more preeminent issue is that the Bush White House committed treason by betraying the national security of the United States of America. This is a fact that doesn't need to be legally adjudicated to be recognized.

Yet the mainstream corporate media will claim that the White House has been vindicated, if no legal charges are forthcoming. Likewise, Rove and the "Iraq Group" responsible for pulling the rug out from under our covert tracking of Weapons of Mass Destruction will be declared "vindicated" if the Bush-dominated Washington, D.C., Appeals Court overturns any convictions that might be obtained (as Judges Sentelle and Silberman, GOP activist/partisan federal jurists, did with Oliver North and John Poindexter).

A crime against a nation does not need to be legally identified when it is staring us in the face. All Bush had to do was root out the traitors to the nation on his staff and fire them. But if he fired Karl Rove, it would be like lobotomizing his own brain. So the individuals who sold out America in an effort to bully and intimidate truth tellers are still running the United States.

In this context, BuzzFlash is proud to have conducted an e-mail interview with Ambassador Joe Wilson on Friday, July 8.

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BuzzFlash: There are at least three dimensions to the outing of your wife as a CIA operative: legal, national security and moral. Let's put aside the swirling legal issues, for a moment, and start with the national security issue of what happened in the summer of 2003. "Two senior administration officials" confirmed to columnist Robert Novak in the summer of 2003 that your wife was a CIA operative. She was working undercover, tracking the trade in weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including illicit trafficking. The Bush Administration had told the American people that we were attacking Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and we needed protection from him. Here's the question: Whatever the legal issues, isn't this a prima facie betrayal of the national security interests of the United States, to "out" your wife, who was working to protect us from weapons of mass destruction, at a time that the White House was launching a war allegedly to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction that didn't even exist?

Ambassador Joe Wilson: The question of whether the outing of Valerie was a betrayal of our national interests is precisely what the special counsel, Pat Fitzgerald, is trying to ascertain. I have great confidence in his commitment and professionalism. It should be clear that the CIA would not have referred the case to Justice, if it had not believed a crime was committed.

BuzzFlash: What about the moral dimensions of the "leak" to Novak? Karl Rove was quoted as telling a reporter that your wife was "fair game." Isn't national security, our ability to protect ourselves as a nation, a game that takes second place to vengeance and intimidation for the senior administration officials in question? What is the morality of such an attitude and action in terms of an administration's sacred duty to protect the citizens of the United States? Even if senior White House officials are not indicted, aren't they morally culpable for betraying our safety?

Ambassador Joe Wilson: In my judgment, a smear campaign operated out of the White House is unethical, to say the least. The First Amendment specifically says that nothing should be done to abridge a citizen's right to petition his government to redress a grievance. The attack on me, through the compromise of Valerie's identity, is an assault on not just my petition to redress a grievance, but it is also a deterrent to other citizens who might step forward. That is why I have always argued that Rove should be fired, even if no indictments are forthcoming. It goes without saying that I found his comment to Chris Matthews, that Valerie was fair game, to be repugnant.

BuzzFlash: Again, let's put aside the legal investigation for the time being. At the time that this became an issue -- due to David Corn's reporting and repeated editorials on BuzzFlash -- Bush demurred from taking any personal action to find out who on his staff endangered national security. For two years, whoever did this has presumably still been working at the White House. Hasn't Bush left us vulnerable, by having senior administration officials still on staff, who betrayed the citizens of the United States of America? Hasn't this made possible another potential security breach? Couldn't Bush just have called his senior staff into his office and said: "I have taken a solemn oath to protect every American. Whoever did this, come forward, you're fired"?

Ambassador Joe Wilson: I have made the same arguments repeatedly, most recently in my statement yesterday. We are where we are because of the culture of unaccountability that is pervasive in the White House. The President must assume responsibility.

BuzzFlash: Up until now, hasn't Rove succeeded? His goal and modus operandi is to use any weapon possible to intimidate persons critical of his candidates or elected officials, even if it is harmful to the national interest. Doesn't the acquiescence of the media to the White House spin and the relatively few whistle blowers indicate that Rove's reckless bullying has silenced many people who would otherwise come forth with the truth?

Ambassador Joe Wilson: I have always said that I believed the outing of Valerie was a signal to others that, should they step forward, the White House would do to their families what they did to mine. I have also had a number of journalists share with me their own experiences of being intimidated by senior officials in the White House. We should not be surprised that a climate of fear prevails in Washington.

BuzzFlash: Finally, because of the speed of news cycles, we seem to have a very short memory about what happened in the past. Why is there not more outrage about how senior Bush administration staffers sold out the national security interests of the United States in order to send a message that they would stop at nothing to silence truth tellers? In short, why is the media only interested in this issue if someone, or some ones in the Bush Administration, are legally found culpable? Isn't this just common sense that we were sold out as a nation? After all, if there aren't indictments, it will because of legal technicalities, not innocence.

Ambassador Joe Wilson: Irrespective of whether there are indictments, the lack of ethical grounding among our senior officials is appalling. There is no excuse for the campaign against me, including dragging Valerie into this. There are two irrefutable truths: 1)The sixteen words should never have been in the State of the Union Address; and 2) Valerie's name should never have been compromised. Neither Valerie nor I had anything to do with either act. The campaign against us, beginning with the compromise of her identity, has been designed to shift the focus from the administration to Valerie and me. It is undemocratic and it is unAmerican. It remains to be seen if it is illegal.

BuzzFlash: Thank you for addressing our questions.


Ambassador Joe Wilson released the following statement to BuzzFlash and other outlets on Wednesday, July 6:

Statement of Joseph Wilson on the sentencing of New York Times Reporter Judith Miller

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. President Bush's refusal to enforce his own call for full cooperation with the Special Counsel has brought us to this point. 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. Thus has Ms Miller joined my wife, Valerie, and her twenty years of service to this nation as collateral damage in the smear campaign launched when I had the temerity to challenge the President on his assertion that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa.

The real victims of this cover-up, which may have turned criminal, are the Congress, the Constitution and, most tragically, the Americans and Iraqis who have paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly.

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