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

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Bush Must Keep His Word

Rep. Louise Slaughter / Huffington Post

When he took office, President Bush told the American people that his White House would be defined by honor and dignity. After the attacks of September 11th, 2001, he told us that he would do everything in his power to keep Americans safe. In the wake of the revelation that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's Chief of Staff, revealed the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame to a reporter, the strength of the President's word is being tested.

If Mr. Bush attempts to cover up what is a gross abuse of power and a vicious, destructive, and near-sighted act of political vengeance, then he will have failed to live up to the promises he has made. The exposure of Valerie Plame was an attack on more than the values which the White House professes to uphold: it was an attack on the security of the United States itself.

When forced to choose between protecting its reputation and protecting Ms. Plame so that she could continue her work, the White House valued its own security first. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, had gone to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether Iraq had sought uranium there. He reported that it had not, but his report was ignored, and in his 2003 State of the Union Address, the President told the nation that, "Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Wilson became increasingly critical of the administration's pre-war intelligence gathering, and for that he was branded an enemy. In a deliberate and unabashed attempt to punish him and to keep him quiet, the identity of his wife was revealed. Ms. Plame's vital work on behalf of the country had apparently become irrelevant, as had her personal safety and the safety of her contacts. Her crucial role in the war on terrorism didn't seem to matter any more, either.

The degree to which Mr. Rove's absurd priorities have endangered America becomes clear once we understand how important Valerie Plame was. She was at the heart of the war on terrorism. At a time when the President has repeatedly called for a strengthening of American human intelligence capabilities, Ms. Plame was a critical human intelligence asset within the CIA. She was an experienced, deep-cover agent who had spent years cultivating an expansive network of relationships designed to root out terrorist cells and plans. She was a clear example of what the intelligence community of the United States needs to improve its effectiveness. Now, thanks to Mr. Rove, both Ms. Plame and the web of assets she helped to establish are no longer operational.

Furthermore, Ms. Plame had built her career around fighting exactly what the President and the highest members of his cabinet argue is the greatest threat to the security of the United States and its allies: the transfer of weapons of mass destruction from states or other sources to terrorist groups. The prevention of such a transfer was the most definitive reason Mr. Bush provided for his decision to invade Iraq. "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda," he said in the same 2003 State of the Union. "Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own." As an agent, Ms. Plame spent her life working to make sure that this would never happen.

Even if Ms. Plame had not been so critical to U.S. security, exposing her identity is still a federal crime. It is also a despicably irresponsible practice. President Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, understood this. "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources," the former CIA director told a group of Agency employees in 1999. "They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."

In June of 2004, President Bush told reporters that, "if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

The President must now decide if he will stay true to his word. Does he mean it when he says that keeping Americans safe is his highest priority? Is he truly interested in promoting the elements of our intelligence community that make this goal achievable – elements like the networks Valerie Plame worked so hard to create? Does he really care about running a White House defined by honest conduct and one which is committed to dismissing and prosecuting those who illegally abuse their positions for partisan or personal gain? If so, then he must do everything in his power to ensure that Mr. Rove and all those who worked with him against Ms. Plame are immediately brought to justice. We know what Mr. Rove cares about. The course the President takes in the days ahead will reveal where his loyalties truly lie.

Rove Did Leak Classified Information

David Corn/The Nation

The Nation -- "The fact is, Karl Rove did not leak classified information." So said Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican Party.

"I didn't know her name. I didn't leak her name." So said Karl Rove of Valerie Wilson/Plame last year on CNN.

"He did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA." So said Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, after Newsweek reported Rove had been a source for Time magazine's Matt Cooper but before Newsweek revealed a Cooper email that said Rove had told Cooper that "wilson's wife...apparently works at the agency on wmd issues."

The White House may be stonewalling on the Rove scandal, but the Rove camp--aided by its echo-ists in the conservative media--has been busy establishing the twin-foundation for his defense: he did not mention Valerie Wilson/Plame by name; he did not disclose classified information. The first of these two assertions is misleading and irrelevant; the second is wrong.

Did not disclose her name

According to Cooper's email, Rove told Cooper that "Wilson's wife"--not "Valerie Plame," or "Valerie Wilson"--worked at the CIA. But this distinction has absolutely no legal relevance. Under the relevant law--the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982--a crime is committed when a government official (not a journalist) "intentionally discloses any information identifying" an undercover intelligence officer. The act does not say a name must be disclosed. By telling a reporter that Joseph Wilson's wife was a CIA officer, Rove was clearly disclosing "identifying" information. There was only one Mrs. Joseph Wilson. With such information in hand, Cooper or anyone else could easily have ascertained the name of this officer. (A Google search at the time would have yielded the name--and maiden name--of Wilson's wife.) Revealing the name is not the crime; it's disclosing information that IDs the officer. Imagine if a government official told a reporter, "At 3:15, a fellow in a green hat, carrying a red umbrella and holding a six-pack of Mountain Dew, will be tap-dancing in front of the Starbucks at Connecticut Avenue and R Street--he's the CIA's best undercover officer working North Korea." That official could not defend himself, under this law, by claiming that he had not revealed the name of this officer. The issue is identifying, not naming. Rove and his allies cannot hide behind his no-name claim.


Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at Read recent postings on Rove and the Plame/CIA leak, the latest GOP pro-Rove spin, how a conservative columnist tried to recruit Corn for Rove's defense, and other in-the-news subjects.


Did not disclose classified information

A reading of this law also indicates that if Cooper's email is accurate then Rove did pass classified information to Cooper. It's possible that Rove did so unwittingly. That is, he did not know Valerie Wilson's employment status at the CIA was classified information. But he and his posse cannot say the information he slipped to Cooper was not classified.

The Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to identify "a covert agent" of the United States. The law defines "covert agent," in part, as "a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information." (My emphasis.)

This definition clearly recognizes that the identity of an undercover intelligence officer is "classified information." The law also notes that a "covert agent" has a "classified relationship to the United States." Since the CIA asked the Justice Department to investigate the Plame/CIA leak and the Justice Department affirmed the need for an investigation and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, once handed the case, pursued the matter vigorously, it is reasonable to assume that Valerie Wilson fits the definition of a "covert agent." That means she has a "classified relationship" with the government.

By disclosing Valerie Wilson's relationship to the CIA, Rove was passing classified information to a reporter.

"There is little doubt," says Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, that the employment status of an undercover CIA officer, "is classified information." He notes that the "most basic personnel information of the CIA--the number of personnel, the salaries--is classified. Anything more specific--like the identity of a NOC [an officer working under "nonofficial cover," as was Valerie Wilson] or the numbers and identities of officers working in a particular region of the world--is classified."

To sum up, it does not matter if Rove did not mention Valerie Wilson by name, and it is not true that the information he passed to Cooper was not classified.

Rove may still have a defense against criminal prosecution. Under the law, a government official is only guilty if he or she discloses information "knowing that the information disclosed so identifies" a "covert agent." Rove could claim that he was not aware that Valerie Wilson was working at the CIA as a covert official. After all, there are CIA employees--analysts, managers, and others--who do not work under cover. If special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicts Rove or anyone else, the most difficult part of the case will likely be proving that the person charged with the crime meets this he-knew-she-was-undercover test.

Not all wrongdoing is a crime. But leaking classified information is always serious business. George W. Bush took an unambiguous stand on the leaking of classified information when he was asked on September 30, 2003, about Karl Rove's possible role in the Plame/CIA leak. Bush noted,

I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action.

Well, now Bush knows. Rove, according to the Cooper email, did not leak a name but he did leak classified information. Much of his defense is in tatters. And where is Bush's "appropriate action"?

White House Follows Scandal Script For Rove

Assurances Of Innocence Change To Lack Of Comment
Helen Thomas, Hearst White House columnist ( via KCRA)

POSTED: 12:45 pm PDT July 13, 2005

Scott McClellan, the president's chief spokesman, has found that public statements defending the White House can sometimes return to haunt him.

McClellan told reporters in the fall of 2003 that deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, the President George W. Bush's chief political adviser, had nothing to do with the public outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA officer.

However, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, now says that Rove did in fact discuss Plame's CIA role with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper, but did not tell Cooper her name.

Luskin also said he had been assured by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that Rove is not a target of a grand jury investigating the leak.

Under the law, publicly identifying a covert CIA officer is a criminal offense if the disclosure is deliberate and the person knew that the CIA officer was a covert officer and that his or her identity was being kept secret.

Plame is the wife of former diplomat Joseph Wilson, who was sent to Niger by the CIA to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium from the African nation. Wilson concluded that the allegations were false and made that point in an op-ed essay published in the New York Times.

Several days afterward, according to Newsweek magazine, Rove told Cooper that Wilson's wife had been instrumental in sending her husband to Niger. This was an apparent effort by Rove to knock some of the official trappings off Wilson's trip to Niger, and his later report that clashed with White House claims that Saddam was trying to build nuclear weapons.

Cooper didn't identify Wilson's wife in Time magazine. That was done by columnist Robert Novak several days later -- on July 14, 2003 -- when he publicly disclosed Plame's identity in a column that exonerated then-CIA Director George Tenet from any responsibility for Wilson's mission.

The explosive revelations about Rove put a shaken McClellan on the spot. After almost two years of denying that Rove had played any role in the Plame affair, McClellan switched tactics and said that he couldn't talk about the matter because it was under investigation.

Of course, it has been under investigation for almost two years, during which McClellan commented frequently, always to tell questioners that Rove had nothing to do with the Plame outing.

Reporters piled on, reminding McClellan of his past statements and Bush's promise on June 10, 2004, to fire anyone involved in the leak about the CIA operative.

McClellan refused to budge, repeating that he could not discuss an on-going investigation, but assuring reporters, "No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States."

In addition to Rove, McClellan said he had quizzed Elliot Abrams, a National Security staffer and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and was assured by them that they were not involved in the leak.

Somehow, I feel we have been here before with White House scandals. Every time an official investigation gets underway involving the White House, a president always promises "full cooperation" with the inquiry -- and then circles the wagons.

And his spokesman always assures the press that the president is determined to get to the bottom of the problem. To complete the script-thus-far, McClellan said Rove continues to have the confidence of the president, though it was put in the context of "everyone working at the white House has the confidence of the president."

Bush on Wednesday joined the zipped-lips club at the White House and ducked questions by declaring: "This is a serious investigation. I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once this investigation is complete."

History shows that happy-talk rhetoric at the White House can be misleading.

Take, for example, the Watergate scandal, in which top aides were eventually fired and Richard Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency.

There also was the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Ronald Reagan promised full cooperation in the inquiry on the sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of the funds to Nicaraguan rebels.

President Bill Clinton also ordered his staff to cooperate with the investigation involving his liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Of course, Bush can always resort to Reagan's conclusions abut the Iraq-Contra mess -- "Mistakes were made" -- glossing over the key question: Who made them?

(Helen Thomas can be reached at the e-mail address

Cooper Details Rove Conversations About Plame

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

WASHINGTON — Journalist Matt Cooper (search) on Wednesday confirmed to a grand jury that White House aide Karl Rove (search) was his source for a story about a CIA operative that has investigators deciding whether any laws were broken by the leak of the agent's identity.

Cooper told reporters he would give them details of his grand jury testimony — in a future article for Time magazine.

"I'm not going to scoop myself today," Cooper, a White House correspondent for the news weekly, said outside the U.S. District Court Wednesday afternoon.

Cooper spoke after a two-and-a-half hour appearance before the grand jury investigating the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's (search) identity. He was one of several journalists to whom Plame's identity was leaked following the publication of an editorial written by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson (search), in which Wilson criticized the Bush administration.

One of those journalists, Judith Miller (search) of The New York Times, is in jail for her refusal to name the person who revealed Plame's identity to her. Last week, Cooper escaped a similar citation for contempt of court when he told the judge his source had waived confidentiality, freeing him to testify before the grand jury.

"Today I testified and agreed to testify solely because of a waiver I received from my source," Cooper said outside the courthouse. "Once a journalist makes a commitment of confidentiality to a source, only the source can end that commitment."

The grand jury is tasked with finding out if whoever leaked Plame's identity to the press two years ago did so with the intent of burning her cover, possibly in retaliation for Wilson's criticisms of the administration's claims that Iraq's nuclear program.

Cooper also said he hoped his testimony would speed up the grand jury's investigation, which would allow Miller to be released from jail. When he announced last week that he planned to testify and would thus be spared from having to go to jail, he proclaimed his solidarity with Miller.

"We should all remember this is Judith Miller's eighth day in jail. The sooner this grand jury recesses, the sooner she can get home," he said Wednesday.

Cooper confirmed that his source on the leak was Deputy Chief of Staff Rove, one of President Bush's most trusted advisers and the man credited with Bush's four consecutive campaign victories.

The waiver that freed Cooper to cooperate with the grand jury was signed by Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin. Cooper's attorney, Richard Sauber, was on hand Wednesday to pass out photocopies of the waiver to reporters.

Cooper also said he would be testifying next week before a Senate committee on a federal shield law for reporters, a measure he supports. Although 49 states plus the District of Columbia have some form of protection for journalists' sources on the books, no federal law governs reporters' privilege.

Earlier, Bush said he would not comment on Rove's role in revealing Plame's identity.

"I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate in this investigation. I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports," Bush said at the end of a Cabinet meeting. "Again I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once the investigation is complete."

Rove was present at the meeting, but did not speak.

Last weekend, Newsweek magazine revealed that Rove discussed Plame with Cooper, though Luskin says Rove never gave Plame's name.

The White House has refused to comment on the matter, to the palpable frustration of the Washington press corps.

Feeling the brunt of the heat is White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who has been hit with sometimes hostile questions from reporters asking what he knows of Rove's role in the leak and whether Rove will be fired if identified as the leaker. Bush had vowed more than once to take action against the person responsible for the leak.

In September and October 2003, McClellan said he had spoken to Rove about the Plame matter and that Rove wasn't involved in the leak. On Wednesday, for the third day in a row, McClellan refused to discuss the denials of two years ago, saying that to do so would impinge on the ongoing criminal investigation of the leak.

Bush ignored a question Tuesday about whether he would fire Rove — his longtime confidant, campaign adviser and now deputy chief of staff — since it was known his adviser did talk to Cooper. But McClellan said later that "any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president."

The leak case is problematic for the administration on two fronts. First, is the question of whether Rove, or another administration official, broke the law in revealing Plame's identity. The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act makes it a crime to knowingly reveal an undercover agent. Only one person has ever been convicted of violating the act.

Second, is the political problem of keeping on a staffer at the center of a scandal. Even before Rove helped Bush to his first major victory over Democratic superstar and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards in 1994, he was a trusted consultant to President George H.W. Bush. The Bush clan is known for prizing loyalty; turning Rove out of the administration would be a hurt felt both professionally and personally.

So far, the Bushes are sticking by Rove, while Democrats are calling for his ouster. Some Democratic senators are also seeking a new investigation from White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, claiming the current probe failed.

"The bottom line is clearly Mr. Rove was involved," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., "The American people deserve answers ... if the leak was an act of retribution, it was a dastardly act."

Democratic members of the House Intellligence Committee asked Bush on Wednesday to suspend Rove's security clearances.

"We abhor the disclosure of the identities of undercover officers," wrote all the Democratic members of the committee, led by ranking member Rep. Jane Harman. They cited another letter signed by 10 former intellegience officers calling the leak of Plame's identity a "shameful and unprecedented event in American history."

But Republicans said Democrats and others have no basis for outrage over Rove's actions.

"This is typical of Democrats. They smell blood and they act like sharks," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told FOX News. "Karl Rove is a good man. He was doing his job ... I don't see that he has done anything wrong."

Rove's conversation with Cooper took place five days after Plame's husband suggested in a New York Times op-ed piece that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Eight days after the op-ed piece, Plame's name and her connection to the CIA first appeared in a newspaper column by Robert Novak (search).

The column said two administration officials told Novak that Wilson's wife had suggested sending him to investigate whether Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Cooper's byline appeared on an article a few days later naming Plame.

An e-mail by Cooper that was reported in Newsweek magazine said Rove spoke of the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson as being someone who apparently works at the CIA and who arranged a trip for her husband to Africa.

Cooper's e-mail said Rove warned him away from the idea that Wilson's trip had been authorized by CIA Director George Tenet or Vice President Dick Cheney.

"He gave proper guidance to a reporter who got disinformation in a leak" meant to assign responsibility to Cheney, former Bush aide Ed Rogers told FOX News.

RNC chairman Ken Mehlman said Rove "was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise."

Democrats say Luskin's insistence that Rove never actually used Plame's name is nothing more than an attempt to parse Rove's comments. Legal experts agree that Rove did not have to mention Plame by name to have violated the law.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California repeated Democratic calls for Rove to be fired.

"Whether it's a criminal offense or not, it's an act against the national security of the United States. No person who has divulged the name of a CIA covert operative should be in the employ of the U.S. government. It's up to the special prosecutor to find out whether that person should also be indicted in addition to being fired. So yes, I think he should be fired," Pelosi said.

FOX News' Jane Roh and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bush Passes on Public Endorsement of Rove

By TOM RAUM, Associated Press Writer

President Bush passed up a chance Wednesday to express confidence in senior aide Karl Rove in a political fight over a news leak that exposed a CIA officer's identity. The lack of endorsement surprised some White House officials who had been told Bush would back his embattled friend.

"This is a serious investigation," Bush told reporters after a Cabinet meeting, with Rove sitting just behind him. "And it is very important for people not to prejudge the investigation based on media reports."

Later in the day, White House spokesman Scott McClellan insisted that Rove did have Bush's support. "As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president," McClellan said.

Bush said he would not discuss the matter further until a criminal investigation is finished.

Across town, a federal grand jury heard more testimony in its probe into whether anyone in the administration illegally leaked the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame in July 2003. Her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the administration's rationale for invading Iraq, has said the leak was an attempt to discredit him.

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who wrote an article that identified Plame, appeared before the grand jury for 2 1/2 hours.

"I testified openly and honestly," Cooper said outside the courthouse, without divulging details. "I have no idea whether a crime was committed or not. That's something the special counsel's going to have to determine."

The dispute has taken a toll on the White House and its allies, threatening to jeopardize the president's domestic agenda and leading to an aggressive GOP campaign to blunt Democratic calls for Rove's firing or resignation.

Bush previously had suggested he'd fire anyone found to have been a leaker in the case.

Bombarded with Rove questions for a third straight day, McClellan said, "I think we've exhausted the discussion on this the last couple of days." Joking about the toll of the controversy, he said, "It may not look like it, but there's a little flesh that's been taken out of me the past few days."

McClellan said Bush had not expressed confidence in Rove in the Cabinet session because no one had asked him that directly. The question put to Bush was whether he had spoken with Rove about the Plame matter, whether he believed Rove had acted improperly, and whether it was appropriate for the White House to say in 2003 that Rove was not involved in the leak.

McClellan said Bush agreed with Laura Bush, who earlier Wednesday told reporters traveling with her in Africa that Rove was a good family friend.

"I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate in this investigation," Bush said. "We're in the midst of an ongoing investigation and I will be more than happy to comment further once the investigation is completed."

The failure by Bush to publicly back Rove left some White House advisers privately wondering whether the president was distancing himself from his longtime adviser.

The White House has previously said Rove was not involved in the leak. But an internal Time magazine e-mail disclosed over the weekend suggested Rove mentioned to Time reporter Cooper that Wilson's wife was a CIA agent.

She was first publicly identified by name as an operative in a July 2003 opinion piece by syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak. Rove, through his lawyer, has confirmed that he talked to Cooper but has denied providing Plame's name or leaking classified information.

Each political side intensified its attempts to discredit the other on Wednesday, producing a flurry of press releases and news conferences.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and three other Senate Democratic leaders — Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan — sent a letter to Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, asking him to release results of an initial internal investigation into the leak and to begin a new probe "to explain public inconsistencies."

MoveOn, a liberal advocacy group, announced its members would stage a protest in front of the White House on Thursday to demand Rove's firing.

Meanwhile, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Democratic attacks on Rove "out of control and entirely inappropriate ... accusations based on rumor and innuendo."

Rep. King Says Russert and Others in Media Should 'Be Shot,' Not Karl Rove

By E&P Staff

Published: July 13, 2005 2:00 PM ET

NEW YORK From the transcript of an interview on Tuesday night on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country," between host Joe Scarborough and Congressman Peter King, a Republican from New York, on the Plame case and the possible leak of the CIA agent's name by White House aide Karl Rove.

SCARBOROUGH: The last thing you want to do at a time of war is reveal the identity of undercover CIA agents.

KING: No. Joe Wilson, she recommended—his wife recommended him for this. He said the vice president recommended him. To me, she took it off the table. Once she allowed him to go ahead and say that, write his op-ed in “The New York Times,” to have Tim Russert give him a full hour on “Meet the Press,” saying that he was sent there as a representative of the vice president, when she knew, she knew herself that she was the one that recommended him for it, she allowed that lie to go forward involving the vice president of the United States, the president of the United States, then to me she should be the last one in the world who has any right to complain.

And Joe Wilson has no right to complain. And I think people like Tim Russert and the others, who gave this guy such a free ride and all the media, they're the ones to be shot, not Karl Rove.

Listen, maybe Karl Rove was not perfect. We live in an imperfect world. And I give him credit for having the guts.

And I really—I tell you, Republicans are running for cover. They should be out attacking Joe Wilson. We should throw this back at them with all the nonsense that has been said about George Bush and all the lies that have come out.


KING: Let's at least stand by the guy. He was trying to set the record straight for historical purposes and to save American lives. And if Joe Wilson's wife was that upset, she should have come out and said that her husband was a liar, when he was.

E&P Staff (

Bush says he won't talk about Rove role in leak

Time reporter testifies ‘openly and honestly’ before grand jury

The Associated Press
Updated: 2:15 p.m. ET July 13, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Wednesday that he will withhold judgment about top aide Karl Rove’s involvement in leaking the identity of a CIA agent until a federal criminal investigation into the matter is complete.

“This is a serious investigation,” Bush said at the end of a meeting with his Cabinet, with Rove sitting just behind him. “I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once this investigation is complete.

“I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports,” he said.

Bush’s comments follow the disclosure that Rove talked about the officer in a July 11, 2003, conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. Cooper wrote an article in 2003 in which he identified the officer as Valerie Plame, although Rove did not discuss her by name.

Bush's statement was a surprise for some White House advisers and senior Republicans who had expected the president to deliver a vote of confidence for Rove, his deputy chief of staff.

Two Bush advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt the president, said shortly before his remarks that the president intended to signal his support of Rove — without prejudging the merits of the case — during that picture-taking session. Indeed, they said, he was prepared to do so a day earlier but the question was not posed in the question-and-answer session Tuesday.

Bush has confidence in Rove, aides say
However, other senior aides to the president said he had been prepared to show his confidence in Rove but, they said, the question from reporters focused on the investigation. Yet, Bush has never appeared constrained to limit his answers strictly to questions asked. The aides said Bush does have full confidence in Rove.

Bush said last year he would fire anyone found to have leaked Plame’s identity.

Bush refused to directly answer questions about whether he had spoken to Rove about his discussion with Cooper.

“I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate with this investigation,” Bush said. Rove sat stoically behind Bush during the questions about his involvement.

Bush spoke shortly after Cooper showed up at U.S. District Court on Wednesday for a meeting with the grand jury investigating the leak. His appearance lasted 2 1/2 hours.

Few details from Cooper
"I testified openly and honestly," Cooper said outside the courthouse, without divulging details of what transpired there. "I have no idea whether a crime was committed or not. That's something the special counsel's going to have to determine," he said.

Cooper had refused to reveal his source for the story but agreed to do so after a confidentiality agreement was waived by Rove. That came just before Cooper could have been sent to jail for not cooperating with the investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked Plame's name and whether that constituted a crime.

Another reporter, Judith Miller of The New York Times, is in prison after refusing to disclose her source to investigators.

Cooper implored special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to wrap up the case soon so the grand jury can be dismissed. When that happens, Miller will be freed.

White House reaction
In September and October 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said he had spoken to Rove about the Plame matter and that Rove wasn’t involved in the leak. McClellan refused for a second day Tuesday to discuss the denials of two years ago, saying that to do so would impinge on the ongoing criminal investigation of the leak.

Bush ignored a question Tuesday about whether he would fire Rove now that it’s known his adviser did talk to Cooper. But McClellan said later that “any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president.” McClellan said that includes Rove.

First lady Laura Bush, talking to reporters while traveling in Africa on Wednesday, called Rove “a very good friend” whom the Bushes have known for many years.

“It would be irresponsible for me to speculate on any of it,” she said, “so I think I’ll leave the speculation to you all and I’ll leave the investigation” to the prosecutor.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan maintained Bush didn't express his confidence in Rove because he wasn't directly asked if he supports him.

"Every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president," McClellan said.

Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Rove did not disclose Valerie Plame’s name, a point that Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., called a distinction without a difference.

“The fact that he didn’t give her name, but identified the ambassador’s wife ... doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who that is,” Biden said on CNN’s “Inside Politics.” “If that occurred, at a minimum, that was incredibly bad judgment, warranting him being asked to leave.”

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said it’s time for Rove to leave.

White House allies weighed in, with expressions of support for Rove from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa.

Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman said Rove was the victim of partisan political attacks by Democrats.

E-mail evidence
An e-mail by Cooper that surfaced over the weekend in Newsweek magazine said Rove spoke of the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson as being someone who apparently works at the CIA and who arranged a trip for her husband to Africa.

Cooper’s e-mail said Rove warned him away from the idea that Wilson’s trip had been authorized by CIA Director George Tenet or Vice President Dick Cheney.

The RNC chairman said Rove “was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise.”

Rove’s conversation with Cooper took place five days after Plame’s husband suggested in a New York Times op-ed piece that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Eight days after the op-ed piece, Plame’s name and her connection to the CIA first appeared in a newspaper column by Robert Novak.

The column said two administration officials told Novak that Wilson’s wife had suggested sending him to investigate whether Iraq had tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Cooper’s byline appeared on an article a few days later naming Plame.

Rove Case May Test Bush's Loyalty to His Closest Aides

By David E. Sanger / New York Times

WASHINGTON, July 12 - Loyalty has long been the most hallowed virtue in the Bush White House, but rarely has it been tested the way it has this week.

No one has been closer to the president longer, or bailed him out of more tight spots, than Karl Rove, his chief political adviser. Now the question is whether President Bush can protect Mr. Rove from a gathering political storm, no matter how furious it becomes.

Current and former White House officials who know both men say they have no doubt that as long as Mr. Rove faces no serious legal charges - and so far he has yet to be charged with anything, and may never be - Mr. Bush will defend him. They point to the words Mr. Bush used to silence conservative critics of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last week, warning them curtly, "I'm loyal to my friends."

Mr. Bush, who once said he would fire anyone on his staff who had knowingly leaked the name of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson, also known by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, ignored a question about Mr. Rove posed to him on Tuesday by a reporter on the edges of an Oval Office meeting with the prime minister of Singapore.

But hours later, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, who on Monday declined to answer any questions about the matter, broke briefly out of no-comment mode to come to Mr. Rove's defense. He noted that reporters had asked whether the president still had "confidence in particular individuals, specifically Karl Rove." He answered his own question, saying, "Any individual who works here at the White House has the confidence of the president. They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't."

Mr. Bush's loyalty has limits, however, especially for those unlucky enough not to be part of the tight inner circle of this White House. Paul H. O'Neill discovered what happens to those on the outside looking in when he was abruptly removed as treasury secretary. Others have suffered similar fates.

It is impossible to know whether any closed-door conversations have begun in the White House about whether to find a graceful way for Mr. Rove to exit partially, or as one former official said, to "get the benefit of the brain without the proximity of the body."

It is too early to know whether that is where this is headed, but on Tuesday the Republican National Committee put in motion the political machine Mr. Rove has built up over the last four and a half years to rally to his defense. It offered detailed rebuttals to any suggestion that Mr. Rove had done anything wrong, and that there was an organized White House effort to leak Ms. Wilson's identity in retaliation for criticism of the Bush administration's Iraq policy by her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV.

"He wasn't talking at all about her identity," said Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the committee and a protégé of Mr. Rove's, accusing Democrats of playing an unseemly game in criticizing the chief strategist of Mr. Bush's victory last year.

Speaking of Mr. Rove's conversations on July 11, 2003, with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine correspondent who wrote about the case, he added: "He was saying, this is a bum story, you shouldn't write this story. He didn't use her name because he didn't know her name."

Mr. Rove can take heart in one fact: so far every other senior official caught up by the cascading series of questions that were touched off by 16 words in Mr. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address has survived, even prospered. Three of Mr. Bush's closest advisers were involved in the drafting or reviewing of the now-discredited language, which said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

The most senior of them, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser at the time, accused the Central Intelligence Agency of feeding bad information to the White House. In an interview earlier this year, she said that "I was the national security adviser and the president said something that probably shouldn't have been in the speech, and it was as much my responsibility" as anyone else's. Mr. Bush not only stuck by her, he made her secretary of state.

Stephen P. Hadley, Ms. Rice's deputy, stepped into the Oval Office in August of that summer to tell the president that he, not Ms. Rice, was the one responsible for letting the language into the speech, and by several accounts he offered to resign. Mr. Bush refused, and gave him Ms. Rice's old job late last year.

And George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, who had been sent a copy of the speech but did not read it before it was delivered, reluctantly issued a statement two years ago this week saying that "These 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the president." He later resigned, for unrelated reasons. Last December Mr. Bush rewarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

But Mr. Rove's case is a lot more complicated. By all accounts he had nothing to do with the wording in the speech. Instead, it appears he may have been part of the White House effort to push back after Mr. Wilson wrote a July 7, 2003, Op-Ed article in The New York Times declaring that Mr. Bush's description of Mr. Hussein's search for uranium was false, and that it ignored information that he passed on to the C.I.A. casting doubt on the story about an Iraqi search for uranium.

The entire contretemps at the White House this week centers on whether Mr. Rove tried to discredit Mr. Wilson by suggesting that his mission to Niger was the product of nepotism, and that Ms. Wilson had arranged for it. Why a mission to Niger would be such a plum assignment is still a mystery, but the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a report last year, quotes a State Department official as saying that Ms. Wilson had suggested sending her husband. She denies it.

Mr. Wilson was the first to accuse Mr. Rove of outing his wife. "The political director of the White House, Karl Rove, condoned the attack on Valerie and was retailing it to reporters, whether or not he had actually been the source behind it," Mr. Wilson wrote in the opening pages of his book, "The Politics of Truth," a 513-page account of his role and his accusations that the White House had betrayed a covert agent.

But until this week, it was Mr. Wilson's word against the White House's insistence that Mr. Rove was not involved. That is what has changed. An e-mail message that Time magazine turned over to the prosecutor investigating the naming of Ms. Wilson asserts that Mr. Rove discussed Ms. Wilson's role, though apparently without naming her or suggesting she was a covert officer. If that version is correct, it is not clear that anything Mr. Rove said could be considered a crime.

It could also save his job. Mr. Bush was asked in June 2004 whether he would fire anyone who leaked Ms. Wilson's name. Without hesitation, he said "yes." But if Ms. Wilson was discussed - but not named - current and former White House officials say Mr. Bush may not feel he is violating his pledge by keeping the political engineer who, as deputy chief of staff, is now formulating much of the domestic policy agenda of Mr. Bush's second term.

In the end, a former official and others said, Mr. Rove's fate at the White House is tied to the investigation by the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

But those who know Mr. Bush say that sticking with his old friend would be completely consistent with his personality.

"He is as set in his way about people as he is to his principles," David Gergen, an adviser to many presidents and now a lecturer at Harvard, said in Washington on Tuesday. "Karl is his right arm."

A former official who has worked for Mr. Bush said: "This president is Mr. Alamo. He sees the hordes coming over the hill and he heads for the barricades. And not to raise a white flag."

Bush says won't prejudge CIA case, Rove's role

By Adam Entous/Reuters

President Bush said on Wednesday he would withhold judgment for now on the role of his top political adviser, Karl Rove, in a brewing controversy over who leaked a CIA agent's identity.

With Rove seated behind him during a Cabinet meeting, Bush said there was a "serious investigation" under way into who leaked the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame and that he would not "prejudge" the outcome until the federal investigation is completed.

Bush stopped short of issuing a public vote of confidence in Rove as some Republicans had expected. "He was not asked that specific question," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

"As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president."

Some prominent Democrats have called on Bush to fire Rove, the architect of his two presidential election victories and now his deputy chief of staff, or block his access to classified information. Bush had pledged to dismiss any leakers in the Plame case but has not said whether he would follow through if Rove was found to be responsible.

"I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate in this investigation. I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports," Bush told reporters in response to a question.

"We're in the midst of an ongoing investigation and I will be more than happy to comment further once the investigation is completed."

The comments were Bush's first on Rove since reports earlier this week that the adviser, talked to at least one reporter -- Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper -- about Plame's role at the CIA before she was identified in a newspaper column in July 2003.

Rove's lawyer was quoted as saying his client did not mention Plame by name.

Faced with jail if he did not discuss his sources, Cooper agreed last week to testify in the investigation. He appeared before the grand jury on Wednesday.

New York Times reporter Judith Miller refused to testify about sources she spoke to on the story and was jailed.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan broke his silence on the case on Tuesday and said Bush continued to have confidence in Rove.

Republicans accused Democrats of mounting a smear campaign against Rove.

"It is just another politically motivated part of their agenda," said Rep. Deborah Pryce (news, bio, voting record), an Ohio Republican.

Rep. Roy Blunt (news, bio, voting record) of Missouri, the third ranking House Republican, said, "I don't see a significant level of concern" about Rove within Republican ranks.

Bush and McClellan have balked at answering key questions, such as what Rove has told Bush about his involvement in the case, when Rove told him and what would happen if Rove was singled out by the prosecutors.

McClellan said the White House was asked to remain silent by prosecutors investigating who leaked Plame's identity, an act Plame's husband, diplomat Joseph Wilson, said was meant to discredit him for criticizing Bush's Iraq policy in 2003.

On Tuesday, Bush did not respond to a reporter's shouted question about whether he intended to dismiss Rove.

In September and October 2003, McClellan rejected as "ridiculous" any suggestion that Rove was involved in the Plame leak.

When asked at an Oct. 10, 2003, briefing whether Rove and two other White House aides had ever told any reporter that Plame worked for the CIA, McClellan said: "I spoke with those individuals... and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this... the leaking of classified information."

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Donna Smith)

Leak? What Leak?

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 13, 2005; 8:51 AM

From the moment the Karl Rove story exploded over the weekend, I've been intensely curious as to what tack the conservatives would take.

This is a big political embarrassment, no question about it, and while Scott McClellan could try the old can't-comment-during-the-investigation (though he had earlier denied any Rove involvement during the same investigation), what would the denizens of the right do?

I tuned into O'Reilly and Hannity on Monday night, but there was no mention, none, of the Rove/Plame affair. Imagine if an e-mail had surfaced showing that a top aide to Clinton--say, Sid Blumenthal--had told a reporter about a covert CIA agent. Would those Fox shows have given the controversy a bit of air time? (Last night, O'Reilly said "some in the media are foaming" over the story but did call on Rove to "clear the air," then hosted Newt Gingrich, who attacked Joe Wilson. Hannity said Rove "wasn't on a witchhunt" because Matt Cooper called him , and guest G. Gordon Liddy ripped Cooper and said Valerie Plame wasn't really undercover. At least the show had a liberal guest, Bill Press, who got overheated in accusing Rove of "treason" and saying he "should be marched off to prison." No trial, Bill?)

While the White House remains in lockdown mode over Rove, my first clue to the GOP defense came in a statement from RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman:

"It's disappointing that once again, so many Democrat leaders are taking their political cues from the far-left, Moveon wing of the party. The bottom line is Karl Rove was discouraging a reporter from writing a false story based on a false premise and the Democrats are engaging in blatant partisan political attacks."

So the response is that 1) the Dems are playing politics (and Rove wasn't, in dragging in Mrs. Joe Wilson?). And 2) Rove was just performing a public service by steering a reporter away from a false story (actually, Wilson was right about the bogus Niger uranium tale, and the White House was wrong).

Another tactic: Change the subject to Judy Miller, as National Review 's media blog does in critiquing a NYT piece:

"This last part of the story seems calibrated to get Miller off the hook -- if there's no crime, why is she in jail? -- while the first part is focused on all the reasons the Bush administration should now feel obligated to fire Karl Rove. The Times is going for everything it wants here -- Rove fired and Miller exonerated.

"Convenient, but it doesn't change the fact that there's more to this story -- Miller's testimony. Miller's involvement in this case is still murky, and yet the consequences could reach far if the case costs Rove his job or results in any indictments. The Times wants you to forget that it is obstructing not just the investigation of a possible crime, but the public's evaluation of whether a high-ranking public official should continue to serve.

"What is Miller hiding? Conservatives should not let the Times get away with this just because it might be bad for Rove. We can go on without Rove. We cannot go on with a press that routinely defies the rule of law in defense of a practice that turns reporters into agents for unaccountable operators who leak to serve their own interests more often than the interests of the public."

NR's Byron York , by the way, quotes Rove lawyer Donald Luskin as comparing "the contents of a July 11, 2003, internal Time e-mail written by Cooper with the wording of a story Cooper co-wrote a few days later. 'By any definition, he burned Karl Rove,' Luskin said of Cooper. 'If you read what Karl said to him and read how Cooper characterizes it in the article, he really spins it in a pretty ugly fashion to make it seem like people in the White House were affirmatively reaching out to reporters to try to get them to them to report negative information about Plame.'" In fact, says Luskin, Cooper called Rove to talk about welfare reform, then switched subjects.

Still another approach is to blame Wilson, as John Podhoretz does in the New York Post:

"There's no mistaking the purpose of this conversation between Cooper and Rove. It wasn't intended to discredit, defame or injure Wilson's wife. It was intended to throw cold water on the import, seriousness and supposedly high level of Wilson's findings.

"While some may differ on the fairness of discrediting Joseph Wilson, it sure isn't any kind of crime. . . .

"What isn't controversial is this: Karl Rove didn't "out" Valerie Plame as a CIA agent to intimidate Joe Wilson. He was dismissing Joe Wilson as a low-level has-been hack to whom nobody should pay attention. He was right then, and if he said it today, he'd still be right."

Oh, and there's the no-crime-was-committed defense. Which may be true, given the vagaries of the law. But is that the standard for service in the White House? And are these folks conveniently forgetting Bush's pledge to fire the leakers?

The Wall Street Journal editorial page also slams Wilson and defends Rove, saying: "As for the press corps, rather than calling for Mr. Rove to be fired, they ought to be grateful to him for telling the truth."

As for actual news, this New York Times lead says it all:

"President Bush offered only a stony silence today when he was asked if he planned to fire Karl Rove, a senior aide at the center of an investigation over the unmasking of an undercover C.I.A. officer."

Liberals are clearly enjoying themselves, a la Josh Marshall

"We don't know that the president knew about the decision to use Plame's work at CIA against Wilson in advance, though given the high-level working group assembled at the White House to go to war with Wilson, it's reasonable to suspect that he did. But at a minimum the president has known about this as long as the rest of us -- that is, almost exactly two years.

"And he -- unlike anyone else in the country -- had the power to call Rove into his office and ask him whether he did this or knew who did?

"Whether he knew before or after, he's known for a very long time. And pretty clearly he didn't want Rove held to any account. Indeed, he's gone to great lengths to prevent this from happening. And of course few reporters in DC have cared to press this essential point."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann slaps around the deputy chief of staff:

"Karl Rove is a liability in the war on terror.

"Rove -- Newsweek's new article quotes the very emails -- told a Time reporter that Ambassador Joe Wilson's trip to investigate of the Niger uranium claim was at the behest of Wilson's CIA wife.

"To paraphrase Mr. Rove, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared to ruin the career of one of the country's spies tracking terrorist efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction -- for political gain.

"Politics first, counter-terrorism second -- it's as simple as that."

The Nation's David Corn

sketches two scenarios, both of them bad for Rove:

"This e-mail demonstrates that Rove committed a firing offense. He leaked national security information as part of a fierce campaign to undermine Wilson, who had criticized the White House on the war on Iraq. Rove's overworked attorney, Robert Luskin, defends his client by arguing that Rove never revealed the name of Valerie Plame/Wilson to Cooper and that he only referred to her as Wilson's wife.

"This is not much of a defense. If Cooper or any other journalist had written that 'Wilson's wife works for the CIA'--without mentioning her name--such a disclosure could have been expected to have the same effect as if her name had been used: Valerie Wilson would have been compromised, her anti-WMD work placed at risk and national security potentially harmed. Either Rove knew that he was revealing an undercover officer to a reporter or he was identifying a CIA officer without bothering to check on her status and without considering the consequences of outing her. Take your pick: In both scenarios Rove is acting in a reckless and cavalier fashion, ignoring national security interests to score a political point against a policy foe."

The Note offers this assessment:

"This is a significant political problem for Rove and the President.

"Some Republicans with standing believe he'll have to make unClintonian accounting for his actions, and soon.

"Saying, in defense, that he didn't 'say her name' or was trying to 'wave off' Cooper is, for many, hairsplitting. It may save Rove from legal trouble, but it certainly does not get him free and clear of the political responsibility. . . .

"For the average American, it is unseemly for the president's senior adviser, using inside information, to discredit enemies of the president anonymously."

Jeff Jarvis is Not Exactly Excited by all this:

"I got email from a blog friend asking why I haven't been on top of l'affaire Rove (formerly known as l'affaire Plame) and the truth is that I just didn't keep up with all the ins and outs. The implication when people ask a blogger why he's not writing about a story is that there's a political motive: Why are you and Reynolds ignoring Rove? Confess! Apologize! Blog!

"But, in fact, it's usually just the case that the blogger simply doesn't care about the story and since a blog isn't a newspaper of record -- a blog is personal -- that's perfectly fine. I have not been a devotee of the Niger-Wilson-Plame-Miller-Cooper-Rove game of hot potato from the start. It's a pretty sleazy story of overlapping hidden agendas. I don't get my rocks off digging into scandals. And so I have not written about it. I haven't had anything worthwhile to add.

"Still, I will admit it's time to catch up. But I look at the mountain of charges and countercharges with exhaustion. Just today, I read the NY Times story about White House silence (what we used to call stonewalling) on the hit reality show Rove and the Reporters past the jump without getting a summary of what exactly is now known or acknowledged about Rove's involvement. The Times assumes that we're all keeping up on every back-and-forth like good Sisyphusean scandalmongers. I haven't been. But The Times can't edit every story for ignorant dolts like me who haven't been keeping track of a story. Newspapers try; they add background graphs into the middle of tales but in the case of a saga like Rove/Plame, it's impossible to sum it all up in a graph or two."

Slate Editor Jake Weisberg argues that journalists should sometimes expose their sources: "Can the nation's leading newspaper really find it an easy call to defy the nation's high court when faced with a ruling it doesn't like? Is corporate disobedience--which would have been a new one on Thoreau and King--really a principle the Times wants to establish?. . . .

"If someone goes off the record to offer a journalist a bribe, or threaten violence, the importance of what the source has told a reporter may simply supersede the promise to keep mum. To take an extreme example, any reporter of integrity would reveal off-the-record information about an upcoming terrorist attack or serious crime. In the Plame case, the crime under investigation consists in speaking to reporters. No plausible shield law would, or should, protect a reporter in this situation, because there's no way for a prosecutor to develop a case against a perpetrator without evidence from the recipients of the leak."

My analysis of the NYT legal strategy in the case, compared to those of other news outlets whose reporters were subpoenaed, is here.

Richard Stengel writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, sees secret sources as dangerously habit-forming:

"The use of anonymous sources certainly is an important tool for journalists. I used them myself when I was a reporter. But it is a tool that is often abused and one whose value is overstated. In many ways, anonymous sources have become the crack cocaine of journalism: easy, addictive and dangerous.

"Anonymous sources should be used to level the playing field between the powerful and the powerless. In a republic, the ability of individuals to speak truth to power is the reason the framers made the press the only private institution specifically protected by the Constitution. Certainly, anonymous sources have helped change the course of history - the use of such sources contributed to the unraveling of the Watergate scandal. But more often than not these days, they have become a device to preserve and enhance power rather than question it - a tool journalists use to advance their own careers rather than the disinterested pursuit of the truth.

"In my experience, most anonymous leads were either water-cooler gossip, poison darts, or self-interested information leaked to help the agendas of officeholders. Indeed, the leak at the heart of the Valerie Plame case was a government official settling scores with Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, because Wilson questioned the administration's argument that Iraq was seeking to acquire nuclear weapons."

This, from novelist Annie Lamott on TPM Cafe, is one of the more jaw-dropping posts I've read on any blog on any subject:

"Back to the paranoia: I am able to believe, about half the time, that Bush and Rove would be capable of orchestrating a second terrorist attack on America, if and when they deem it necessary to instill martial law, which they will." The phrase "over the top" doesn't quite seem to do it justice.

I've been thinking in recent days that the Huffington Post, for its all its advance hype (including from me) about celebrity blogging, has emerged as a consistently liberal site (despite contributions from a small group of conservatives). Now comes HuffPoster Richard Bradley Bradley to defend the site against criticism from Andrew Sullivan "that 'The Huffington Post is full of part-time bloggers calling for negotiating with al Qaeda, withdrawing from Iraq, and generally laying the blame for the mass murder of innocents on George Bush and Tony Blair.'

"Strong stuff. Andrew's an old friend, but this drive-by slander points up one of his intellectual lapses; though in virtually every other way an intellectually rigorous thinker, he has a longstanding habit of caricaturing liberals, taking the most extreme examples of wacky radicals and lumping them together as 'the left in America.'

"Consider this quote from a September 16, 2001 column Andrew wrote in the London Sunday Times: 'The middle part of the country -- the great red zone that voted for Bush -- is clearly ready for war. The decadent left in its enclaves on the coasts is not dead -- and may well mount a fifth column.'

"He was referring to the war in Afghanistan, about which there wasn't a huge amount of left-wing opposition. Even if there had been, that quote happens to suggest that people who opposed the war --the 'decadent left' -- are traitors, as if one could not be a patriot and be against the war. Would the same litmus test apply to Iraq?

"Now, I can't say that I've read everything on the Huffington Post, and sure, it tilts in the liberal direction. But I don't think I've seen anyone advocate negotiating with al Qaeda. . . .

"The larger point is that Andrew's portrait of HuffPo as a loony left-wing sandbox is an intellectually dishonest trick, performed by lumping together the most extreme examples and using them to characterize the entire site."

Andrew responds:

"Yes, there are some good posts on Huffington Post. In my cranky diss of the place, I cited one such by Irshad Manji. Anywhere Eugene Volokh contributes has something worthwhile in it. But even Rich B. has to concede that the place is dominated by paranoid Hollywood liberalism; and maybe it was reading guff like this, and this, and this on the day terrorists murdered dozens of Londoners that made me cranky. My claim that the blog is full of people in favor of 'withdrawing from Iraq, and generally laying the blame for the mass murder of innocents on George Bush and Tony Blair' is fully documented by those posts. As for negotiating with al Qaeda operatives, I concede hyperbole. Deepak Chopra just wants us to give them a hug."

© 2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive

Democrats Ask Steele To Skip Rove Event

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 13, 2005; A06

Democrats called yesterday for Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) to cancel a fundraiser this month featuring Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff under intense scrutiny in the case of a CIA official whose identity was disclosed.

"Michael Steele has to decide whether that is the kind of person who reflects his values and those of Maryland," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, a Washington-based group. "We urge Michael Steele to do the right thing and cancel his event."

A spokesman for Steele, who is exploring a bid for the U.S. Senate, said the July 26 fundraiser in Washington remains on his schedule. Others allied with Steele laughed off the suggestion.

"Are they afraid he's going to raise too much money?" asked GOP strategist Carol Hirschburg.

News reports in recent days disclosed that Rove discussed the role of CIA official Valerie Plame with a reporter. Rove has said he did not know Plame's name or leak it to anyone. The issue was the subject of a combative White House briefing Monday.

Steele has been heavily courted to run for the Senate seat by national Republicans, and Democrats are hopeful that his association with Rove could tarnish him in a state in which Democrats have nearly a 2-to-1 edge in voter registration.

"Presumably, if he goes through with the fundraiser, he'll have to defend Mr. Rove, which could cause problems down the road," said Jim Jordan, a national Democratic strategist. "If he cancels, it's a tremendous embarrassment for the White House."

Steele's office referred calls to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has guided him through the early stages of the race. Dan Ronayne, a committee official who has been acting as Steele's spokesman, said the Democrats' action "shows that they're very concerned about Michael Steele. I'm sure they'd like him to cancel all his fundraisers."

Brian Nick, a spokesman for the committee, said that Rove has appeared recently on behalf of other Republicans and that he expects Rove will continue to be a major draw. Rove headlined a Richmond fundraiser for the Virginia Republican Party last month that brought in more than $100,000.

Staff writer Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Rove in the spotlight

Jul 13th 2005
From The Economist Global Agenda

A scandal over the unmasking of a CIA agent, which has already seen a journalist sent to jail for refusing to reveal her source, is now putting an uncomfortable spotlight on Karl Rove, George Bush’s chief political adviser

UNTIL recently, the questions were largely theoretical. How far does a journalist’s right to protect sources extend? Is the free flow of information more important than a criminal investigation? Judith Miller, a New York Times reporter, has gone to jail for refusing to say who revealed the identity of a CIA agent to her, unleashing a flurry of articles on these academic questions. But new revelations in the scandal have dragged the spotlight from journalists back to politicians—and in particular to Karl Rove, President George Bush’s chief political guru.

In 2002, before the Iraq war, a former American ambassador named Joseph Wilson went to Niger for the CIA to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein had sought uranium there. Mr Wilson found the claims bogus, but Mr Bush included the Niger story in his case for going to war nonetheless. In 2003, after the war, Mr Wilson wrote an article denouncing Mr Bush’s use of the Niger claim. Soon after, a conservative columnist, Robert Novak, revealed that Mr Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA operative.

Mr Novak’s column was meant to undercut Mr Wilson’s article—he suggested that Mr Wilson’s Niger trip came at his wife’s behest, making it seem as though he would not otherwise have been sent. But in disclosing Ms Plame’s identity, Mr Novak moved the story away from Niger and uranium and towards the “senior administration officials” who had told him she was a spy. Whoever revealed this to Mr Novak also, it turned out, told several other journalists including Ms Miller. Ms Plame’s covert career was ruined, seemingly in revenge against Mr Wilson. It looked, at the very least, to be an unusually shameful bit of political street-fighting.

And, potentially, a crime. The Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 makes it illegal to expose undercover spooks. This put pressure on Mr Bush to appoint a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to find the leaker. Early speculation centred on several senior aides, but attention was before long firmly focused on Mr Rove. This delighted Democrats, who would dearly love to bring him down. The man known to Mr Bush as “boy genius” and “turd blossom” was the architect of the president’s two election wins, and is credited by friends and enemies alike with almost supernatural powers of political cunning.

How, then, did the trickle of rumours surrounding Mr Rove become a stream and then a flood over the course of the investigation? In his efforts to get to the bottom of things, Mr Fitzgerald sought to have the New York Times’s Ms Miller and Matthew Cooper, a reporter for Time magazine, jailed for refusing to co-operate. Time caved in, releasing Mr Cooper’s e-mails and notes related to the story. These confirmed that he had spoken to Mr Rove. And on Sunday, Newsweek magazine published excerpts from one such e-mail from Mr Cooper to his editor, confirming that Mr Rove told the reporter that Ms Plame worked for “the agency”.

The case is, however, not yet closed, at least not the criminal case. To have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, the exposer must be authorised to see classified information, must know the officer is undercover, and must know that the CIA is taking “affirmative measures” to conceal the operative’s identity. Mr Cooper’s e-mail does not make clear Mr Rove knew Ms Plame was undercover. However, the CIA did seem to be taking “affirmative measures” to protect her identity. The agency has since kept her from publishing an article clarifying what happened, saying it could damage their work.

Regardless of whether anyone will be convicted of a crime, the affair has the potential to become highly embarrassing for the Bush administration. Mr Novak spoke of “two senior administration sources” who told him about Ms Plame, meaning the axe could fall not only on the president’s guru but also on another neck. Mr Bush has said he will fire anyone found to have broken the law and take the “appropriate action” against anyone who leaked classified information.

This week saw the first signs that the administration is getting rattled. In tense press conferences on Monday and Tuesday, Scott McClellan, Mr Bush’s press secretary, faced a fusillade of hostile questions from the usually compliant press pool. He responded repeatedly that the administration would not comment on an ongoing investigation. This struck the journalists as particularly fishy, given that Mr McClellan had previously been happy to discuss the affair, categorically denying the involvement of Mr Rove and other advisers. Why the sudden silence?

The administration may be hoping that the less said now, the greater the chance that it will all blow over. If Mr Rove is cleared of breaking the law by the special prosecutor—perhaps because it cannot be proved that he knew Ms Plame was undercover—Mr Bush may decide that the “appropriate action” for leaking secret information is no action at all. The administration that prides itself on its discipline would then look weaselly. But that might seem a better option than admitting any wrongdoing with a sacking, especially of someone as important as Mr Rove. After all, no further investigation into the matter is likely to come from a Republican-dominated Congress. And the battle over Mr Bush’s first Supreme Court nominee—following the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor—has far more long-term political importance than Mr Rove’s fate, and may divert Democrats’ attention from the Plame affair.

But on the other hand, with the Supreme Court fight looming, Democrats may see the Plame affair as an opportunity to weaken Mr Bush at a crucial moment. And the press corps is in high dudgeon, feeling misled by the administration while one of their own is in a prison jumpsuit for protecting an administration source. They are unlikely to let the matter drop.

Copyright © 2005 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

GOP on Offense in Defense of Rove

By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 13, 2005; A01

Republicans mounted an aggressive and coordinated defense of Karl Rove yesterday, contending that the White House's top political adviser did nothing improper or illegal when he discussed a covert CIA official with a reporter.

With a growing number of Democrats calling for Rove's resignation, the Republican National Committee and congressional Republicans sought to discredit Democratic critics and knock down allegations of possible criminal activity.

"The angry left is trying to smear" Rove, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, a Rove protege, said in an interview.

A federal grand jury is investigating whether anyone in the Bush administration unlawfully leaked the name of a CIA official, Valerie Plame, to the news media. Although the White House has previously said Rove was not involved in the episode, a recently disclosed internal Time magazine e-mail shows that Rove mentioned Plame, albeit not by name, to reporter Matthew Cooper before her name and affiliation became public in July 2003. The grand jury is scheduled to hear from Cooper today.

The emerging GOP strategy -- devised by Mehlman and other Rove loyalists outside of the White House -- is to try to undermine those Democrats calling for Rove's ouster, play down Rove's role and wait for President Bush's forthcoming Supreme Court selection to drown out the controversy, according to several high-level Republicans.

The White House said Bush retains full confidence in Rove, but for a second day officials would not answer a barrage of questions about Rove's role in the leak scandal on the grounds that the investigation is not complete. But the RNC -- effectively Bush's political arm -- weighed into the controversy in a major fashion.

Mehlman, who said he talked with Rove several times in recent days, instructed GOP legislators, lobbyists and state officials to accuse Democrats of dirty politics and argue Rove was guilty of nothing more than discouraging a reporter from writing an inaccurate story, according to RNC talking points circulated yesterday.

"Republicans should stop holding back and go on the offense: fire enough bullets the other way until the Supreme Court overtakes" events, said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

Rove has not been asked by senior White House officials whether he did anything illegal or potentially embarrassing to the president and he spent most of the day strategizing on Bush's Supreme Court nomination, aides said.

"No one has asked him what he told the grand jury. No one has deemed it appropriate," said a senior White House official, who would discuss the Rove case only on the condition of anonymity. "What you all need to figure out is, does this amount to a crime? That is a legitimate debate." Still, some aides said they were concerned about the unknown. "Is it a communications challenge? Sure," the official said.

Privately, even Rove's staunchest supporters said the situation could explode if federal prosecutors accuse Rove or any other high-level official of committing a crime. William Kristol, a conservative commentator with close White House ties, said it would be hard to imagine a prosecutor conducting an investigation that has landed one reporter in jail and challenged the constitutional rights of the journalism profession without indicting someone. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald "is the problem for the White House, and we have no idea what he knows," Kristol said.

Bush has said if any White House officials were involved, they would be fired. The president yesterday twice refused to answer questions on whether Rove should be dismissed.

The controversy involves former U.S. diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had been sent by the CIA in February 2002 to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy nuclear material. Wilson subsequently became a critic of administration policy in Iraq and after the invasion in March 2003 questioned whether Bush had exaggerated the threat from Hussein.

After Wilson went public with his concerns, columnist Robert D. Novak reported that he had been told by two administration officials that the Niger trip had been suggested by Wilson's wife, Plame. It is a federal felony to knowingly identify an active undercover CIA officer, but legal experts said such a crime is very difficult to prove.

Whatever the legal considerations in the case, the emerging record suggests that the administration was involved in an effort to discredit Wilson after he went public with his criticism.

According to the Time magazine e-mail, the conversation between Cooper and Rove took place a few days before Novak's column appeared in July 2003. Cooper says Rove raised questions about Wilson's credibility, offering a "big warning" not to "get out too far on Wilson," Newsweek has reported.

The e-mail comports with a previously reported conversation between a Washington Post reporter and an administration official two days before the Novak column ran. The administration official, who has not been identified, described the Wilson trip as a boondoggle that was set up by his wife and was not being taken seriously by the White House.

Rove has maintained he neither knew Plame's name nor leaked it to anyone. In an interview yesterday, Wilson said his wife goes by Mrs. Wilson, so it would be clear who Rove was talking about, and noted how Rove attends the same church as the Wilson family. Wilson said Rove was part of a "smear campaign" designed to discredit him and others who undercut Bush's justification for war.

Wilson was a chief target of the new GOP offensive designed to take some pressure off Rove. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said the White House did not have to discredit Wilson. "Nobody had to do that," he said, adding that "he discredited his own report" by including unfounded allegations. The RNC talking point memo included a list of anti-Wilson lines.

"In all honesty, the facts thus far -- and the e-mail involved -- indicate to me that there is not a problem here," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). "I have always thought this is a tempest in a teapot."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Uproar Has Roots in Rove's Vast Reach

The architect of Bush's success, known for detail work, has kept close ties to the media.
By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten
Times Staff Writers

July 13, 2005

WASHINGTON — President Bush once said he would fire any White House staffer who had leaked the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. But if that source turns out to be Karl Rove, the president's longtime political guru, a firing would be a devastating blow to the White House.

Rove, after all, is more than just a top presidential aide: He was the architect of Bush's rise to power. He orchestrates policy initiatives and is aggressively charting a course for long-lasting Republican dominance.

But Rove is facing a barrage of questions over his conversation with a reporter about the case. His lawyer denies any criminal wrongdoing and any intent to leak the name of an undercover CIA employee. The disclosure this week that Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper talked in 2003 with Rove on "double super secret background" about Plame, as Cooper wrote in an e-mail to his bureau chief, revealed one aspect of Rove's vast White House duties that had been rarely discussed publicly: press relations.

As the Cooper e-mail indicates, Rove has duties beyond his official role of working on foreign and domestic policy development. He has the broadest portfolio of any presidential aide in history: He micromanages policy, leads outreach efforts to key GOP constituencies and supervises election strategy down to the precinct level, not only for the president but for congressional candidates as well.

Rove also maintains contacts at leading news organizations and often provides background guidance to top reporters and editors, as he did for Cooper. These contacts are part of Rove's less-discussed role of crafting Bush's image, enforcing the strict Bush code of discipline and jumping hard on perceived opponents of the president.

"If you are at a senior level in Washington these days, you inevitably must deal with the media," said Terry Holt, a former spokesman for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, speaking of Rove. "He has good relationships [with reporters], and he's good at it. He has great credibility with the people that he deals with."

As Democrats and reporters continued to press the Bush administration about Rove's role in the Plame disclosure, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that Bush continued to have confidence in every staff member. "They wouldn't be working here at the White House if they didn't have the president's confidence," he said.

Cooper's e-mail, which suggests that Rove did not mention Plame by name even while referring to her CIA role, became public this week when it was published by Newsweek. Cooper is scheduled to testify this morning before a grand jury in Washington, possibly detailing his conversation with Rove. In some cases, revealing the name of an undercover CIA worker is a violation of law.

Cooper's conversation with Rove occurred following a July 2003 New York Times op-ed piece written by Plame's husband, former diplomat Joseph C. Wilson IV, who questioned administration claims that Iraq had attempted to buy materials from Niger used to build nuclear weapons. Critics have claimed that the White House leaked Plame's CIA role in retribution.

Rove's most significant relationship in Washington is the one he has with Bush. The symbiotic partnership not only helped Bush win the Texas governor's mansion and the White House twice, but has also fueled a national political transformation that has made the GOP dominant in a growing number of states.

While Bush has used the bully pulpit of the White House to rally public support for his response to terrorism, his tax cuts, and his proposed overhauls of Medicare, education and Social Security, Rove has used the power he accumulated to micromanage presidential policy decisions.

He has also overseen electoral politics down to individual congressional races. Rove, who carries the title deputy chief of staff, helped steer the Republicans to victory in 2002 midterm elections and Bush to reelection in 2004, and has actively recruited candidates for key races. Most recently, he met at the White House with a potential challenger to Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.).

Those who observe the interplay between Bush and the man he dubbed "the architect" of his 2004 reelection, say the relationship is something like that of an old married couple. There is bickering, rivalry, dependency and a sense of fun.

Deborah Dombraye, a campaign aide who traveled with the two during Bush's 1994 gubernatorial campaign, says Rove and Bush "are like twin brothers." They have a joshing bonhomie and communicate with each other so intimately that much of it is unintelligible to outsiders.

"They finish each other's sentences," says Dombraye, who now works for the Ohio Republican Party.

Despite the closeness, the two men came from very different worlds. Bush is the scion of wealth and power, a graduate of the nation's most prestigious schools. Rove grew up the son of an oil geologist who moved frequently around the West. He never graduated from college.

They came together during young adulthood, when an ambitious former Texas congressman, George H.W. Bush, held the job of chairman of the Republican National Committee. It fell to the elder Bush to investigate allegations that Rove had used dirty tricks in a campaign for president of the College Republicans. The RNC chairman eventually cleared Rove, and was so impressed by the young operative that he hired him as an assistant.

Although Rove was an advisor ostensibly working behind the scenes, his name continued to be associated with public controversy. During George H.W. Bush's second presidential campaign, Rove was fired from the campaign team because of suspicions that he had leaked information to columnist Robert Novak — the same columnist who first reported Plame's CIA role in 2003, citing anonymous administration sources.

At the time, Bush's campaign was in trouble, and there was concern that the president might not even win his home state of Texas. The Novak column described a Dallas meeting in which the campaign's state manager, Robert Mosbacher, was stripped of his authority because the Texas effort was viewed as a bust.

Mosbacher complained, expressing his suspicion that Rove was the leaker. Rove denied the charge, but was fired nevertheless.

But Rove developed an increasingly close relationship with the president's son George — a relationship that began on a spring day in 1973, when the elder Bush asked Rove to pick up his son at Washington's Union Station to give the visiting Harvard Business School student the keys to the family car. By Rove's own description, young Karl Rove was awed at first sight.

"He was exuding more charisma than any one individual should be allowed to have," Rove told a writer for the New Yorker magazine in 2003.

A collaboration didn't take root immediately. But the two men, both attached to the elder Bush, would come to see the political world and its prospects in similar ways, building such catch phrases as "compassionate conservatism" in 2000 and the creation of an "ownership society" in 2004 into lures for many who had never voted Republican.

Republican strategists credit Rove not only with his constant preparations for the next election but also with laying a foundation for GOP success in future campaigns. Critics say he has brazenly pushed his obsession with electoral politics into the deepest levels of the executive branch.

For example, he and Ken Mehlman, his onetime deputy who now heads the Republican National Committee, made a point of visiting nearly every Cabinet agency before the 2002 midterm elections, providing polling data and election priorities for top agency managers.

In early 2002, Rove personally addressed the 50 most-senior employees of the Interior Department at a retreat in West Virginia. He showed them a slide presentation summarizing presidential polling and key races. Then, from the podium, he mentioned upcoming Interior Department decisions that could influence the midterm elections.

At the time, Rove noted that Oregon's incumbent Sen. Gordon H. Smith, a Republican, faced a difficult reelection. The Interior Department was then questioning whether to allow drought-stricken farmers to pull more water from Oregon's Klamath River, endangering the state's salmon population. Farmers are a critical part of the Oregon GOP base.

An inspector general's report subsequently concluded there was no inappropriate pressure on the decision makers in the Klamath case. But the controversial decision to release water to farmers resulted in the largest fish kill in the West and still angers Indian fishermen and environmentalists. Smith won reelection.

In addition to mastering regulatory issues that can affect key races, Rove also calls potential candidates for Senate seats, encouraging his favorites to run and urging others to stand down. Last month, he met privately at the White House with the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Allan Bense, hoping to entice Bense to challenge Sen. Nelson next year.

The meeting with Bense came even though another prominent Republican, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, had already announced her intention to run.

Rove serves, too, as Bush's ambassador to the conservative movement, and occasionally attends meetings of leading activists hosted by Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist. Rove helped mastermind a new GOP strategy of treating national elections like a series of county commission contests. He can recite precinct-by-precinct data in key battleground states and counties from memory, and he developed the 2004 plan of finding new voters in the fast-growing exurbs.

"If you view politics as the art of getting things done, then Karl is clearly an extraordinary success," said David Winston, a GOP pollster who works closely with senior Republicans on electoral strategies. "If you view the mixture of politics and policy as a negative thing, then Karl is not your cup of tea."

Times staff writer Richard B. Schmitt and researcher Benjamin Weyl contributed to this report.