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

Thursday, December 01, 2005

In C.I.A. Leak, More Talks With Journalists - New York Times

Published: December 2, 2005
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 - A conversation between Karl Rove's lawyer and a journalist for Time magazine led Mr. Rove to change his testimony last year to the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case, people knowledgeable about the sequence of events said Thursday.

Mr. Rove's lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, spoke in the summer or early fall of 2004 with Viveca Novak, a reporter for Time magazine. In that conversation, Mr. Luskin heard from Ms. Novak that a colleague at Time, Matthew Cooper, might have interviewed Mr. Rove about the undercover C.I.A. officer at the heart of the case, the people said.

Time reported this week that the prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has summoned Ms. Novak to testify about a conversation she had with Mr. Luskin, but provided no explanation of what Mr. Fitzgerald might be looking for. The account provided Thursday by people with knowledge of the discussions between Ms. Novak and Mr. Luskin suggests that Mr. Fitzgerald is still trying to determine whether Mr. Rove was fully forthcoming with investigators and whether he altered his grand jury testimony about his dealings with reporters only after learning that one, Mr. Cooper, might identify him as a source.

Ms. Novak declined to comment, as did Mr. Luskin and Randall Samborn, Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman. Jim Kelly, Time's managing editor, said he would not comment on the matter. Mr. Cooper and James Carney, the magazine's Washington bureau chief, also declined to comment.

The people who agreed to discuss the case were granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter and could face reprisals if they did so. Ms. Novak's involvement is the latest twist in a case that has cast light on the close relationships between journalists, lawyers and government officials in Washington. I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is the only person who has been charged with a crime, in an indictment that says he misled a grand jury and investigators about his conversations in 2003 with journalists about Valerie Wilson, the undercover Central Intelligence Agency officer.

Lawyers in the case have said that Mr. Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, remains in legal jeopardy because his initial statements to investigators and to the grand jury were not accurate.

Months before the conversation between Ms. Novak and Mr. Luskin, Mr. Rove testified to the grand jury that he had held a conversation about the C.I.A. officer with only one journalist, Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist. Mr. Rove did not disclose that he had also spoken to Mr. Cooper either in his first appearance before the grand jury, in February 2004, or in an earlier interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

But after his conversation with Ms. Novak, who is not related to the columnist, Mr. Luskin asked Mr. Rove to have the White House search for any record of a discussion between Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper around the time that Ms. Wilson's identity became public in July 2003.

The search turned up an e-mail message from Mr. Rove to another senior White House official, Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, that recounted a conversation between Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper. On Oct. 14, 2004, Mr. Rove went before the grand jury again to alter his earlier account, by saying he had also discussed the C.I.A. officer with Mr. Cooper.

Associates of Mr. Rove said that he did not initially recall the conversation with Mr. Cooper amid the hundreds of calls and e-mail messages he deals with each day, and that once the message to Mr. Hadley was uncovered he brought it to prosecutors and testified fully.

They have said Mr. Rove had signed a waiver to allow reporters to testify about their confidential discussions with him and that he testified about his conversation with Mr. Cooper long before Mr. Cooper did.

But Mr. Fitzgerald appears to be evaluating whether Mr. Rove came forward with the information only after it became apparent that Mr. Cooper might be compelled to testify about it. It is not clear precisely what Ms. Novak told Mr. Luskin, or what the context for their conversation had been.

People involved in the case said that at a minimum Ms. Novak communicated to Mr. Luskin that Mr. Rove might face legal problems because of potential testimony from Mr. Cooper, her colleague. They said Ms. Novak had told Mr. Luskin that Mr. Cooper might have been in contact with Mr. Rove about Ms. Wilson in the days before her identity became public. Mr. Cooper helped write an article on Time's Web site in July 2003 that was the second, after Mr. Novak's column, to divulge Ms. Wilson's identity, using her maiden name, Valerie Plame.

The article said "some administration officials" had told Time and the syndicated columnist Robert Novak that "Valerie Plame is a C.I.A. official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

The article also noted that she was the wife of Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had recently written an article in the Op-Ed page of The New York Times questioning one of the rationales, on Iraq's weapons program, offered by the Bush administration for the Iraq war.

More than a month after he indicted Mr. Libby, Mr. Fitzgerald continues to weigh whether to indict Mr. Rove on charges related to lying or misleading investigators. He appears to be focused most intently on two months in the late summer and fall of 2004 and the events leading up to Mr. Rove altering his testimony.