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

Saturday, July 23, 2005

BELLACIAO - Did Karl Rove Lie to the FBI? - Collective Bellaciao

Did Karl Rove Lie to the FBI?
By Jason Leopold

Looks like Karl Rove did break the law, the same federal law that got Martha Stewart sentenced to six months in prison.

It now appears that Rove, President Bush’s chief of staff, may have lied to the FBI in October 2003-a federal crime-when he was questioned by federal agents who were investigating the source responsible for leaking the true identity of an undercover CIA operative to the media.

During questioning by the FBI about his role in the Valerie Plame affair, Rove told federal agents that he first started sharing information about Plame’s undercover status to reporters and White House officials after conservative columnist Robert Novak identified her as a covert spy in his column on July 14, 2003.

But Rove wasn’t truthful with the FBI what with the recent disclosure of Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper’s emails, which reveal that Rove spoke to Cooper about Plame nearly a week before Novak’s column was published. Rove, we now know, was the source for Cooper’s own July 2003 story identifying Plame as a CIA operative. Cooper’s email correspondence with his editor proves as much. In addition, according to previously published news reports, Rove spoke to a half-dozen other reporters about Plame as early as June 2003.

“It was, KR said, (former Ambassador Joseph) wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized (Wilson’s) trip," Cooper’s July 11, 2003, email to his editor, obtained by Newsweek, says. “Wilson’s wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.) The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: "not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there’s still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger .. "

Moreover, evidence suggests that President Bush was aware as early as October 2003 that Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, were the sources who leaked Plame’s undercover CIA status to reporters and after the president was briefed about the issue the president said publicly that the source of the leak will never be found.

Furthermore, a few aides to Condoleeza Rice, then head of the National Security Council, may have played a role as well by being the first officials to learn about Plame’s role as a CIA operative and then gave that information to Rove, Libby and other senior administration officials who used it to undermine former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s credibility.

Wilson, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war had alleged that President Bush misspoke when he said in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to acquire yellow-cake uranium from Niger.

Wilson knew the statement was false because was recommended by Plame, his wife, to travel to Niger more than a year earlier to investigate the yellow-cake claims. Rove, Libby and other administration officials sought to discredit Wilson because they claimed that Wilson had said publicly that he was sent to Niger at the request of Cheney’s office. Cheney did in fact contact the CIA at first to arrange the mission but Plame ultimately recommended Wilson. Still, in February 2002, Wilson traveled to Niger and reported back to the CIA that intelligence reports saying Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger were false.

Here’s the fullest account yet of how the events leading up to the disclosure of Plame’s identity unfolded, and how it all leads back to Rove. But first let’s get to the real story behind the leak, the catalyst behind this issue.

Bush and senior administration officials mislead Congress and the public into supporting a war predicated on the fact that Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destruction that threatened its neighbors in the Middle East and posed a grave threat to the United States.

In his State of the Union address in January 2003, two months prior to the Iraq war, Bush said Iraq tried to buy yellow-cake uranium, the key component used to build a nuclear bomb, from Niger. The uranium claim was the silver bullet in getting Congress to support military action two months later. To date, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq and the country barely had a functional weapons program, according to a report from the Iraq Survey Group.

Like other officials who were attacked for speaking out against Bush’s rationale for war, including former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke, both of whom provided evidence that Bush and senior members of his administration of being obsessed with attacking Iraq shortly after 9/11 and manipulating intelligence reports as a way to get Congress and the public to back the war, the White House launched a full-scale attack against Wilson beginning in June 2003, when Wilson was quoted anonymously in various news reports as saying that the 16 words in Bush State of the Union address alleging that Iraq bought yellow-cake uranium from Niger was totally untrue.

On July 14, 2003, Novak first disclosed Plame by name in his column as well as her undercover CIA status, citing two “senior administration officials.” Novak said Wilson wasn’t trustworthy because his wife recommended him for the trip to Niger.

According to a preliminary FBI investigation, White House officials, including Rove and Libby, first learned of Plame’s name and CIA status in June 2003 when questions surrounding Wilson’s Niger trip were first brought to the attention of Cheney’s aides by reporters, according to an Oct 13, 2003 report in the Washington Post.

“One reason investigators are looking back (to June 2003) is that even before Novak’s column appeared, government officials had been trying for more than a month to convince journalists that Wilson’s mission wasn’t as important as it was being portrayed,” the Post reported.

Several CIA officers assigned to the White House and working mainly on the National Security staff may have been the first individuals to have learned that Plame was an undercover operative and that Wilson was her husband. According to Oct. 13, 2003 story in the Post, a “former NSC staff member said one or more of those officers may have been aware of the Plame-Wilson relationship” and briefed Cheney and Rove about her status, that she was married to Wilson and that she recommended him for the fact-finding trip to Niger.

A May 6, 2003, column by Nicholas Kristoff in the New York Times was the first public mention of Wilson’s trip to Niger but Kristoff’s column did not identify Wilson by name. Kristoff had been on a panel with Wilson four days earlier and said that Wilson told him that intelligence documents that proved Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger were forged and the White House should have known that before allowing Bush to include it in his State of the Union speech.

Wilson told Kristoff he could write about his trip and the forged documents but asked the columnist not to print Wilson’s name as the source behind those statements. The column also mentioned for the first time the alleged role Cheney’s office played in sending Wilson to Niger.

“That was when Cheney aides became aware of Wilson’s mission and they began asking questions about him within the government,” the Post reported, citing an unnamed administration official.

Shortly after Kristoff’s column appeared in the Times, a handful of reporters started searching for Kristoff’s anonymous source.

At this time Wilson spoke to two congressional committees that were investigating why Bush had mentioned the uranium allegation in his State of the Union address. Also in early June, Wilson told his story to The Washington Post on the condition that he not be named. On June 12, 2003, the Post published a detailed account of Wilson’s trip and the fact that there was no truth to the claims that Iraq had tried to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger.

Beginning that week, officials in the White House, Cheney’s office, the CIA and the State Department repeatedly played down the importance of Wilson’s trip in interviews with several reporters, and his oral report to the CIA, which was turned into a 1 ? page CIA intelligence memo for the White House and the National Security Council. By tradition, Wilson’s identity as the source, even though he traveled to Niger on behalf of the CIA, was not disclosed.

As soon as the Post’s story was published a number of officials in the Bush administration became concerned and started questioning who Wilson was and why he was criticizing the president, a senior administration official told the Post.

By Wilson’s own account, he said he ratcheted up the pressure on the White House to come clean about its error in giving credence to the Niger uranium claims by calling some present and former senior administration officials who knew then National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice, asking his colleagues to tell Rice she was flat wrong in saying on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on June 8 that there may be some intelligence "in the bowels of the agency" but that there was no doubt the uranium story was true.

Wilson said Rice told him through intermediaries that she was uninterested in what he had to say and urged Wilson to tell his story publicly if he wanted to state his case. So he did.

On July 6, 2003 Wilson was interviewed for a story that appeared in the Washington Post and accused the White House of "misrepresenting the facts on an issue that was a fundamental justification for going to war." That same day he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times which said that "some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

The very next day, July 7, 2003, the White House admitted it had erred in including the references about uranium in Bush’s State of the Union speech. Two days later, two top White House officials disclosed Plame’s identity to at least six Washington journalists, an administration official told The Post in an article published Sept. 28, 2003.

Those two officials were Karl Rove and Lewis Libby.

“The source elaborated on the conversations last week, saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson,” the Post reported in the Sept. 28, 2003 story.

On July 12, 2003, two days before Novak wrote his column, a Washington Post reporter was told by an administration official that the White House had not paid attention to the former ambassador’s CIA-sponsored trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction. Plame’s name was never mentioned and the purpose of the disclosure did not appear to be to generate an article, but rather to undermine Wilson’s report.

That source was Karl Rove and the unidentified reporter was Walter Pincus who covers the White House for the Washington Post.

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper’s emails show that Rove gave Cooper the same exact information about Plame that he gave to the Post. Moreover, Rove called several other reporters that week in July 2003 and reportedly said that Wilson’s wife was “fair game” because Novak had already blew her undercover status by identifying her in his column.

A day earlier, on July 11, 2003, the day Rove spoke with Cooper about Plame on what Cooper referred to as "double secret super background," Cooper also interviewed Libby on the record about Wilson’s trip to Niger.

Libby told TIME: "The Vice President heard about the possibility of Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger in February 2002. As part of his regular intelligence briefing, the Vice President asked a question about the implication of the report. During the course of a year, the Vice President asked many such questions and the agency responded within a day or two saying that they had reporting suggesting the possibility of such a transaction. But the agency noted that the reporting lacked detail. The agency pointed out that Iraq already had 500 tons of uranium, portions of which came from Niger, according to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA). The Vice President was unaware of the trip by Ambassador Wilson and didn’t know about it until this year when it became public in the last month or so. "

A few months later, on Oct. 7, 2003, President Bush and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, said during a press conference that the White House ruled out three administration officials-Rove, Libby and Elliot Abrams, a senior official on the National Security Council, as sources of the leak-a day before FBI questioned the three of them-based on questions McClellan said he asked the men.

A day later Rove told FBI investigators that he spoke to journalists about Plame for the first time after Novak’s column was published-a lie, it appears-based on Time reporter Matthew Cooper’s emails, the contents of which were reported by Newsweek earlier this month.

That same day in October 2003, in an unusual move, Bush said he doubted that a Justice Department investigation would ever turn up the source of the leak, suggesting that it was a waste of time for lawmakers to question the administration and for reporters to follow up on the story.

"I mean this is a town full of people who like to leak information," Bush told reporters following a meeting with Cabinet members on Oct. 7, 2003. "And I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there’s lots of senior officials. I don’t have any idea.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, responded to the president’s statement in an Oct. 10, 2003, interview with the New York Times.

“If the president says, ’I don’t know if we’re going to find this person,’ what kind of a statement is that for the president of the United States to make?’’ Lautenberg asked. “Would he say that about a bank-robbery investigation?”

During this time the White House was facing a deadline on turning over documents, emails and phone logs to Justice Department officials probing whether or not the leak came from the White House. Bush said that the White House could invoke executive privilege and withhold some “sensitive” documents related to the leak case leading many Democrats to believe that the White House had something to hide.

At the same time, the White House first started to lay the groundwork for a defense, specifically related to the role Rove played in the leak and whether he or anyone else in the administration knew Plame was covert CIA operative and intentionally blew her cover in order to undercut Wilson’s credibility.

On Oct. 6, 2003, McClellan, in response to questions about whether Rove was Novak’s source, tried to explain the difference between unauthorized disclosure of classified information and "setting the record straight" about Wilson’s public criticism of the administrations handling of intelligence on Iraq.

“There is a difference between setting the record straight and doing something to punish someone for speaking out,” McClellan said. "There were some statements made (by Wilson) and those statements were not based on facts," McClellan said. "And we pointed out that it was not the vice president’s office that sent Mr. Wilson to Niger. (CIA Director George) Tenet made it very clear in his statement that it was people in the counter proliferation area that made that decision on their own initiative."

The difference is crucial in that knowingly making an unauthorized leak of classified information is a federal crime. But repeating the leak when it has already been reported may not be considered a serious offense.

Still, when the Justice Department failed to convict Martha Stewart on insider trading charges, prosecutors had enough evidence to convince a jury that the style maven lied to federal investigators and obstructed justice. She wound up with a felony conviction and six months in jail.

Now that the evidence shows that Karl Rove and others White House officials lied to federal investigators about what they knew and when they knew it maybe they too will meet the same fate.

Jason Leopold is the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released in the spring of 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold’s website at for updates.

For Bush, Effect of Investigation of C.I.A. Leak Case Is Uncertain - New York Times

WASHINGTON, July 23 - His former secretary of state, most of his closest aides and a parade of other senior officials have testified to a grand jury. His political strategist has emerged as a central figure in the case, as has his vice president's chief of staff. His spokesman has taken a pounding for making public statements about the matter that now appear not to be accurate.

For all that, it is still not clear what the investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity will mean for President Bush. So far the disclosures about the involvement of Karl Rove, among others, have not exacted any substantial political price from the administration. And nobody has suggested that the investigation directly implicates the president.

Yet Mr. Bush has yet to address some uncomfortable questions that he may not be able to evade indefinitely.

For starters, did Mr. Bush know in the fall of 2003, when he was telling the public that no one wanted to get to the bottom of the case more than he did, that Mr. Rove, his longtime strategist and senior adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had touched on the C.I.A. officer's identity in conversations with journalists before the officer's name became public? If not, when did they tell him, and what would the delay say in particular about his relationship with Mr. Rove, whose career and Mr. Bush's have been intertwined for decades?

Then there is the broader issue of whether Mr. Bush was aware of any effort by his aides to use the C.I.A. officer's identity to undermine the standing of her husband, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting its prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program.

For the last several weeks, Mr. Bush and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, have declined to address the leak in any substantive way, citing the continuing federal criminal investigation.

But Democrats increasingly see an opportunity to raise questions about Mr. Bush's credibility, and to reopen a debate about whether the White House leveled with the nation about the urgency of going to war with Iraq. And even some Republicans say Mr. Bush cannot assume that he will escape from the investigation politically unscathed.

"Until all the facts come out, no one is really going to know who the fickle finger of fate points at," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster.

The case centers on how the name of a C.I.A. operative came to be appear two years ago in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. The operative, who is more usually known as Valerie Wilson, is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration eight days before Mr. Novak's column of twisting some of the intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq. Under some conditions, the disclosure of a covert intelligence agent's name can be a federal crime.

The special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has kept a tight curtain of secrecy around his investigation. But he spent more than an hour in the Oval Office on June 24, 2004, interviewing Mr. Bush about the case. Mr. Bush was not under oath, but he had his personal lawyer for the case, James E. Sharp, with him.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department has said what Mr. Bush was asked about, but prosecutors do not lightly seek to put questions directly to any president, suggesting that there was some information that Mr. Fitzgerald felt he could get only from Mr. Bush.

Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington, said the lesson of recent history, for example in the Iran-contra case under President Ronald Reagan, is that presidents tend to know more than it might first appear about what is going on within the White House.

"My presumption in presidential politics is that the president always knows," Mr. Lichtman said. "But there are degrees of knowing. Reagan said, keep the contras together body and soul. Did he know exactly what Oliver North was doing? No, it doesn't mean he knew what every subordinate is doing."

Although it is possible that other officials will turn out to have played leading roles in the leak case, the subordinates whose actions would appear to be of most interest to Mr. Bush right now are Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby, who as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff had particular reason to protect the vice president.

According to accounts by various people involved in the case, Mr. Rove spoke in the days after Mr. Wilson went public with his criticism in July 2003 to both of the first two reporters to disclose that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A., Mr. Novak and Matthew Cooper of Time. Mr. Cooper has said he also spoke about the case with Mr. Libby.

By September 2003, as a criminal investigation was getting under way, Mr. McClellan was telling reporters that Mr. Rove had nothing to do with the leak, saying he had checked with Mr. Rove about the topic.

Around the same time, the president was saying he had no idea who might have been responsible. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 6, 2003, whether the leak was retaliation for Mr. Wilson's criticism, Mr. Bush replied: "I don't know who leaked the information, for starters. So it's hard for me to answer that question until I find out the truth."

Asked the next day if he was confident that the leakers would be found, Mr. Bush, alluding to the "two senior administration officials" cited by Mr. Novak as his sources, replied: "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth."

Republicans said the relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove was so deep and complex that it was hard to imagine the president cutting ties with him barring an indictment.

"Can you survive being involved in something you probably shouldn't have been involved in where you didn't break any laws?" Mr. Fabrizio said. "Well, you probably can, especially if you are Karl."

Mr. Fabrizio said that even if Mr. Rove left the White House, he would continue to consult with Mr. Bush "unless they put him in a tunnel."

Mr. McClellan and other White House officials have repeatedly declined to answer when asked if Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby had told the president by October 2003 that they had alluded to Ms. Wilson's identity months earlier in their conversations with the journalists.

But Mr. Bush's political opponents say the president is in a box. In their view, either Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby kept the president in the dark about their actions, making them appear evasive at a time when Mr. Bush was demanding that his staff cooperate fully with the investigation, or Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had told the president and he was not forthcoming in his public statements about his knowledge of their roles.

"We know that Karl Rove, through Scott McClellan, did not tell Americans the truth," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois and a former top aide in the Clinton White House. "What's important now is what Karl Rove told the president. Was it the truth, or was it what he told Scott McClellan?"

There is a third option, that neither Mr. Rove nor Mr. Libby considered their conversations with the journalists to have amounted to leaking or confirming the information about Ms. Wilson. In that case, they may have felt no need to inform the president, or they did inform him and he shared their view that they had done nothing wrong.

Mr. Bush has also yet to answer any questions publicly about what if anything he learned from aides about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Wilson in the days after Mr. Wilson leveled his criticism of the administration in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003.

Democrats spotlight CIA leak in radio address

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats slammed President Bush's response to a top aide's role in outing a covert CIA operative on Saturday, turning their radio address over to an ex-agent critical of his actions.

Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent and registered Republican, accused Bush of flip-flopping on his promise to fire anyone at the White House implicated in the leak.

Democrats have called on Bush to fire top adviser Karl Rove or revoke his security clearance after he was identified by a reporter as being a source in the leak of Valerie Plame's name two years ago after her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, criticized the White House's justification for going to war in Iraq.

Bush initially said he would dismiss anyone involved in exposing a covert CIA agent. But as attention in the case focused on White House aides in recent weeks, the president said he would fire anyone who was found by a federal probe to have acted illegally in the case.

Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper told a federal grand jury that Rove told him Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, but did not disclose her name.

Cooper has also said he discussed the Wilsons with Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

Johnson was one of a handful of former intelligence agents who testified at a Democratic-sponsored hearing on the leak on Friday. He said he knew Plame from a training program, but only as "Val P" because participants were told that would help protect their identities.

"We must put to bed the lie that she was not undercover," Johnson said in response to some Republican efforts to minimize her role at the CIA. "For starters, if she had not been undercover then the CIA would not have referred the matter to the Justice Department."

"We deserve people who work in the White House who are committed to protecting classified information, telling the truth to the American people, and living by example to the idea that a country at war with Islamic extremists cannot focus its efforts on attacking other American citizens who simply tried to tell the truth," Johnson said.

Testimony By Rove And Libby Examined

Leak Prosecutor Seeks Discrepancies

By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, July 23, 2005; A01

Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has been reviewing over the past several months discrepancies and gaps in witness testimony in his investigation of the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to lawyers in the case and witness statements.

Fitzgerald has spent considerable time since the summer of 2004 looking at possible conflicts between what White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential staff chief I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told a grand jury and investigators, and the accounts of reporters who talked with the two men, according to various sources in the case.

Libby has testified that he learned about Plame from NBC correspondent Tim Russert, according to a source who spoke with The Washington Post some months ago. Russert said in a statement last year that he told the prosecutor that "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003.

Prosecutors have also probed Rove's testimony about his telephone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in the crucial days before Plame's name was revealed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak.

Rove has testified thathe and Cooper talked about welfare reform foremost and turned to the topic of Plame only near the end, lawyers involved in the case said. But Cooper, writing about his testimony in the most recent issue of Time, said he "can't find any record of talking about" welfare reform. "I don't recall doing so," Cooper wrote.

Both Libby's attorney and Rove's attorney declined to comment yesterday, as did Fitzgerald's office. The possible conflicts in the accounts given by Russert and Libby were first reported yesterday by Bloomberg News.

Fitzgerald's review of apparent discrepancies are further evidence that his investigation has ranged beyond his original mission to determine if someone broke the law by knowingly revealing the identity of a covert operative.

The leaks case centers on the Bush administration's response in the days after July 6, 2003, when former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV accused the Bush administration in the New York Times and The Washington Post of twisting intelligence to justify a war with Iraq. He wrote in an op-ed piece that on a U.S. mission to Niger, he found no proof of the claim that Iraq was trying to acquire materials for nuclear weapons. Eight days later, Novak published a column suggesting that the administration did not take Wilson's findings seriously and noting that Wilson's wife -- Plame -- was a CIA operative who had suggested him for the trip.

After building criticism that someone in the administration had jeopardized an agent in political retaliation, Fitzgerald was appointed by the Justice Department in December 2003 to conduct an independent investigation.

Fitzgerald has long been interested in a Time magazine article co-written by Cooper shortly after Novak's column was published on July 14, 2003. In the article, Cooper and two colleagues wrote about the administration's efforts to discredit Wilson and noted that some government sources had revealed that Plame worked for the CIA.

Lawyers involved in the case said there are now indications that Fitzgerald did not initially know or suspect that Rove was Cooper's primary source for the reporter's information about Plame. That raises questions about how much Rove disclosed when first questioned in the inquiry or how closely he was initially queried about his contacts with reporters. Rove has testified before a grand jury and been questioned by FBI agents on at least five occasions over the past two years.

Two lawyers involved in the case say that although Fitzgerald used phone logs to determine some contacts between officials and reporters, they believe there is no phone record of Cooper's now-famous call to Rove in the days before Novak's column appeared. That is because Cooper called the White House switchboard and was reconnected to Rove's office, sources said.

Also, when first questioned in the days after Plame's name appeared in the press, Rove left the impression with top White House aides that he had talked about her only with Novak, according to a source familiar with information provided to investigators.

Initially, Fitzgerald appeared focused on the theory that Libby had leaked Plame's identity, according to lawyers involved in the case. He had interviewed three other reporters about their conversations with Libby, but all three indicated he either did not discuss Plame or did not reveal her identity.

He also sought testimony from Cooper about his July 2003 story in Time. In 2004, Cooper obtained a waiver from Libby to discuss their conversation, as had the three other reporters.

Cooper and his attorneys were surprised that Fitzgerald agreed to ask Cooper questions only about his conversations with Libby, sources familiar with the investigation said.

The sources said Fitzgerald looked surprised in the August 2004 deposition when Cooper said it was he who brought up Wilson's wife with Libby, and that Libby responded, "Yeah, I heard that, too."

The prosecutor pressed Cooper to then explain how he knew about Wilson's wife in the first place, and Cooper said he would not answer the question because it did not involve Libby, the sources said.

That testimony contributed to a lengthy legal battle, as Fitzgerald sought to compel Cooper to testify before a grand jury about his conversation with the source. He also sought testimony from New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

While Miller has refused to answer questions about her confidential source -- and has been jailed in Alexandria -- Cooper testified last week after he received what he concluded was a sufficient release from his source.

Cooper then told the grand jury that Rove was the first administration official to tip him off that Plame worked for the CIA. It is not clear whether Rove's tip violated the law, and his attorney has said he was only trying to warn Cooper off of information being peddled by Wilson.

Rove has at some point testified that he passed on information about Plame to Cooper, according to two lawyers involved in the case. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say when Rove gave this testimony.

But a source close to Rove said the senior adviser volunteered the information: "It appeared they were not aware of the conversation."

The prosecutors have appeared keen to see if they can fill in some gaps in Rove's memory about how he learned about Plame, and they have repeatedly asked witnesses if Rove told them how he knew about Plame. Rove testified early in the investigation that his information about Plame came from Novak, his attorney said. Rove testified he also may have heard about her from another reporter or administration official who had heard it from a reporter, but he could not recall the second source of his information, his attorney said.

Staff writer Howard Kurtz contributed to this report.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company

CIA Probe Moves from Leak Source to Perjury, Obstruction

By Douglas Frantz, Sonni Efron and Richard B. Schmitt
Times Staff Writers

6:33 PM PDT, July 22, 2005

WASHINGTON — The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation has shifted his focus from whether White House officials violated a law against exposing undercover agents to determining whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges, according to people briefed in recent days on the inquiry's status.Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, and his team have made no decision on whether to seek indictments, and there could be benign explanations for differences that have arisen in witnesses' statements to federal agents and a grand jury about how the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent who had worked undercover, was leaked to the media two years ago.

The investigation focused initially on whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, in a campaign to discredit Wilson after he wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times criticizing the Bush administration's grounds for going to war in Iraq.

According to lawyers familiar with the case, investigators are comparing statements to federal authorities by two top White House aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, with testimony from reporters who have acknowledged talking to the officials.

The sources also said prosecutors are comparing the various statements to the FBI and the grand jury by Rove, who is a White House deputy chief of staff and President Bush's chief political strategist. Rove in his first interview with the FBI did not mention a conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, according to lawyers involved in the case. The White House aide has been interviewed twice by the FBI and made three appearances before the grand jury, they said.While no one has suggested that the investigation into who leaked Plame's name has been shelved, the intensity of the inquiry into possible perjury charges has increased, according to one lawyer familiar with events, , who spoke on condition that he not be identified because he did not want to anger Fitzgerald. .

Rove was told by prosecutors in October that he was not a target of the investigation, according to his lawyer, Robert Luskin. Rove, through his lawyer, has denied that he was the source of Plame's name. "I am quite sure that if his status has changed, I would be informed about it," Luskin said in an interview Friday. "I am not aware of anything that has come to light that would change the facts in front of the prosecutor that would change that assurance."

"He has, from the beginning, been candid forthcoming and accurate," Luskin said of Rove. "There has never been any moment when the government, prosecutors or investigators have suggested that they thought he was being anything but truthful or cooperative."

The investigation's change in emphasis comes amid indications that Fitzgerald's inquiry has gone well beyond scrutinizing the actions of top White House officials, such as Rove and Libby, who is chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, to searching for the potential source of the leak in other parts of the White House and other executive branch agencies.

A former senior State Department official acknowledged that he testified before the grand jury in Washington, D.C., and a congressional source confirmed that Robert Joseph, who was a senior expert on weapons of mass destruction on the White House National Security Council, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he had been questioned by the special prosecutor. Karen Hughes, a former top aide to President Bush, also told the committee that she had been questioned, the source said.

In addition, a senior U.S. official said that several State Department officials, including then Secretary of State Colin Powell, were questioned several months ago about the creation and distribution of a classified memo that mentioned Plame. Prosecutors are interested in the memo, because it might have been a vehicle for spreading Plame's name.

Disclosing the name of a CIA undercover agent is a crime in some circumstances, but legal experts have said that the specific elements of the law make it difficult to prove a violation. Prosecutors could have an easier time winning a conviction through a separate law that makes it a crime for officials with security clearances to disseminate information. Under this statute, it could be a crime to confirm that Plame was a CIA agent if she was operating undercover.

Plame first was identified as a CIA operative by Robert Novak, the syndicated columnist, in July 14, 2003 article, eight days after Wilson's op-ed piece challenged administration claims that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium for its nuclear program from the African nation of Niger. An official close to the investigation said Fitzgerald is concentrating on what happened in the White House and other parts of the administration in those eight days.

The CIA requested the inquiry, which began in September 2003. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed a special prosecutor in December of that year. Fitzgerald is working with FBI agents and a team of attorneys from the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., as well as four prosecutors from his office in Chicago.

Fitzgerald was granted wide-ranging latitude to conduct his work. The investigation has led to the jailing of Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, who refused to reveal the sources for an article that she never wrote and was found in civil contempt. Other reporters have testified before the grand jury about conversations with sources after receiving waivers of confidentiality from their sources.

Fitzgerald asked witnesses not to discuss their grand jury testimony in public, but the law does not prohibit witnesses from speaking publicly.

Rove and Libby spoke with reporters during the crucial eight-day period when the administration was mustering its efforts to undermine Wilson's credibility, in part by suggesting that his wife had suggested him for the fact-finding mission to Niger in early 2002. His assignment was to try to determine the authenticity of claims that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the African country for its nuclear program, but Wilson later wrote in the op-ed piece that the intelligence had been twisted and the claims were false.

According to Luskin, Rove has said that he first learned Plame's name from Novak. Novak has refused to discuss his testimony, but investigators are believed to be focusing on possible variations with Novak's account.

Writing in Time magazine, Cooper said that he had telephoned Rove to ask about Wilson's column, and that Rove had disclosed that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. But Cooper said he did not learn her name until he read it in Novak's column several days later, or that he might have learned it from a computer search.

But Rove, according to lawyers involved in the case, told the grand jury that Cooper had telephoned him about a welfare issue and that Wilson came up later.Libby, according to a person familiar with events, told investigators that he learned Plame's name from a reporter, apparently Tim Russert of NBC TV.

But Russert, who last summer spoke with Fitzgerald after Libby released him from a pledge of confidentiality, said that he did not give Plame's name to Libby, according to a statement issued by NBC at the time.

Cooper wrote in Time that he had asked Libby in a conversation if the Cheney aide had heard anything about Wilson's wife dispatching Wilson to Niger and that Libby replied, " `Yeah, I've heard that too,' or words to that effect." Cooper said neither Rove nor Libby used Plame's name.Fitzgerald's term as special prosecutor expires in October, too, but it could be renewed if the investigation is unfinished.

Rove Scandal Could Stick

by Mark Weisbrot

The Bush Administration has ploughed through so many scandals that it is easy to cynically dismiss the current controversy over White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove as just another inside-the-beltway, partisan tussle that will soon be as forgotten as all those Bush Administration officials with ties to Enron. Or the Harken Energy Corporation and Halliburton scandals (to which the President and Vice President were personally linked). The 9/11 intelligence failures, the missing weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib - nothing sticks to these guys. So why should this scandal be any different?
Most importantly, this one has a federal special prosecutor (Patrick Fitzgerald) working on it. And Fitzgerald seems serious -- he probably wouldn't have sent a New York Times reporter to jail for refusing to testify, if he were about to announce that nobody broke the law.

The investigation stems from a leak to the press that Valerie Wilson, the wife of former National Security Council Senior Director for African Affairs Joseph Wilson, was a C.I.A. operative. Wilson angered the Bush Administration two years ago by telling the press and then the public that -- on the basis of his fact-finding mission to Niger -- the Administration's claim that Saddam Hussein "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" was false.

We now know that the White House's emphatic public denials over the last two years that Karl Rove had anything to do with the leak were false. Time magazine's reporter Matt Cooper has stated that it was from Mr. Rove that he first learned that Valerie Wilson worked for the C.I.A. Cooper has also stated that I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, confirmed Ms. Plame's identity. And Rove also confirmed her identity to columnist Robert Novak, who was the first to write about her in July 2003, identifying her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame.

At the time, a senior White House official told the Washington Post that the leaks were "meant purely and simply for revenge" and that they were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

Rove may not have broken a specific 1982 law prohibiting disclosure of the identity of a covert C.I.A. operative. But there are other laws against U.S. officials leaking classified information. And although lying to the public is legal, lying under oath to a grand jury is a crime. If there was a White House effort to discredit and/or punish Joseph Wilson -- as the White House official and other sources cited by the Washington Post have claimed -- then there's a good chance that efforts to cover this up ran afoul of the law: with perjury, obstruction of justice, or other violations.

Based on what we already know, the logical next question is: what did President Bush and Vice President Cheney know and when did they know it?

Of course, the much bigger issue is the one from which Rove's troubles were born: a president and his advisors led us into a war based on false information. There was no attempted Iraqi purchase of uranium from Africa, nor could Iraq "launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given," as the Bush Administration claimed. Nor was Saddam Hussein in league with Al Qaeda, as the majority of Americans were led to believe. In a war that now appears to have been completely unnecessary, more than 1,760 U.S. soldiers have been killed and many thousands more have been disabled; tens of thousands of Iraqis have also perished.

In May 2005, a memo summarizing a British Prime Minister's meeting of July 2002 was leaked, with the head of British intelligence reporting from meetings in Washington that the Bush Administration had already decided to invade Iraq, and that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." More than 140 Members of Congress have written to President Bush demanding an explanation of the "Downing Street Memo."

Karl Rove's actions against Valerie and Joseph Wilson were just one small part of the Bush Administration's effort to deceive the public and make the case for war. But for now, this is the only part that is subject to legal scrutiny. And it's not going away anytime soon.