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

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 | Bush can settle CIA leak riddle, Novak says

Rob Christensen, Barbara Barrett, Jane Stancill and Dan Kane, Staff Writers
Newspaper columnist Robert Novak is still not naming his source in the Valerie Plame affair, but he says he is pretty sure the name is no mystery to President Bush.
"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh on Tuesday. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

"So I say, 'Don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is.' "

It was Novak who first revealed that Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, worked for the CIA. Wilson had angered the Bush administration when he accused it of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat before the war.Disclosing the identity of a CIA agent is illegal; the disclosure set off a furor in Washington, resulting in an ongoing investigation by a special prosecutor and the indictment and resignation of Lewis Libby, the chief aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Woodward, a Washington Post editor, recently disclosed that he, too, had been told by an administration figure about Plame's secret identity -- probably, he said, by the same source who told Novak.

Novak said his role in the Plame affair "snowballed out of proportion" as a result of a "campaign by the left."

But he also blamed "extremely bad management of the issue by the White House. Once you give an issue to a special prosecutor, you lose control of it."

Burr meets with Alito

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr met with Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito for about half an hour Tuesday, according to a release from Burr's office.

The pair discussed Alito's experience and his views on judicial activism.

Burr, a Republican, said in a statement that Alito "has the qualifications and experience necessary" to serve on the nation's highest court. Burr said he hopes Alito receives a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote on his nomination.

Alito was nominated by President Bush to fill the seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. His Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is scheduled to begin Jan. 9.

Foreign journalists coming

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday announced a journalism exchange program sponsored by the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Aspen Institute and six journalism schools, including UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The Edward R. Murrow Journalism Program will bring 100 foreign media professionals to the United States to study journalism starting in April. UNC-CH's interim journalism dean, Tom Bowers, attended Tuesday's announcement in Washington.

During the event, Rice took time to express sorrow over the killing of Lebanese journalist Gebran Tueni in Beirut. And despite the Bush administration's recent controversies involving the media, she pointed out the importance of a free press.

"We all know that the bedrock pillar of a free society is a free press and that it is crucial for the foundation of any democracy," Rice said.

Protesters' eye on Black

House Democrats might not receive a warm welcome at a party fund-raiser Thursday night at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. Protesters are planning to congregate near the entrance to call for House Speaker Jim Black's resignation.

Don Yelton, a political activist who has twice tried to win election to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, is organizing the protest. He said Black, a Mecklenburg County Democrat, is a big part of the lack of accountability in the legislature, citing among other things the federal investigation into his ties to the creation of the state lottery and the work of his former political director, Meredith Norris.

"It's time that we the people take the state back from the corrupt politicians," said Yelton, a former Democrat turned Republican. He hosts a local public affairs TV show in Asheville.

Byron York on Karl Rove & Pat Fitzgerald on National Review Online

Will Rove be Indicted?
As rumors fly, here’s what’s known at this point.

There have been rumors flying around Washington in the last few days that Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, might soon be indicted in the CIA leak investigation. At least for now, the rumors appear to be based on someone hearing that someone else had heard something, or that someone had gotten a sense that something was about to happen and told someone else. Are there any facts to back up such gossip and guessing? No one seems to know.

But it is true that there is growing nervousness among people who support Rove's side in the case. They know that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, in addition to presenting some new evidence to a new federal grand jury, has also re-presented previously-gathered evidence to that grand jury. To most observers, that suggests Fitzgerald could be planning to indict someone.

Rove's supporters also know that the time is about right for something to happen. Back in late October, when Fitzgerald indicted Vice President Dick Cheney's then-chief-of-staff Lewis Libby, he refrained from taking action in Rove's case because of a new argument made by Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin. That new argument, everyone agreed, would take a while to check out and assess. Now, it seems likely that enough time has passed; Fitzgerald has either found Rove's and Luskin's case persuasive or he hasn't.

If Rove were to be indicted — and for all anyone on the outside knows, there might be someone else in Fitzgerald's sights — most people knowledgeable about the case believe charges would stem from the presidential adviser's testimony about his brief July 11, 2003, conversation with Time magazine's Matthew Cooper.

Rove has appeared before Fitzgerald's grand jury four times. Before that, he was interviewed once by FBI agents assigned to the investigation. The problem, if there is one, apparently involves the first two appearances — the FBI interview and the first grand jury testimony. In both those instances, apparently, Rove did not tell investigators about his conversation with Cooper. By the time Rove appeared for a second time before the grand jury, he had discovered evidence — an internal White House e-mail — showing that he did indeed talk to Cooper. He gave the evidence to Fitzgerald, who then questioned him about it at length.

Rove is thought to have testified that he simply did not remember the Cooper conversation — Cooper himself described the talk as being about two minutes long and occurring right as Rove was leaving on vacation — until he discovered the e-mail. Supporting Rove's contention is the fact that Rove, apparently, testified from the very beginning that he talked to columnist Robert Novak, which suggests he was not trying to hide his involvement in the case from Fitzgerald.

As far as anyone outside the investigation knows, Fitzgerald does not have a problem with testimony from Rove's second, third, and fourth appearances before the grand jury. In addition, it appears that Rove, like Libby, would not be charged with violating any of the underlying laws in the case — either the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act. So for now, the agonizing question for Rove's supporters is whether Fitzgerald believes Rove's earlier testimony involving Cooper constituted the crimes of making false statements (in the case of the FBI interview) or perjury (in the grand jury testimony).

Rove's supporters believe it would be a weak case, a good deal weaker than the perjury and obstruction case Fitzgerald has made against Libby, which itself was somewhat undermined when it turned out that there was at least one significant part of that story — Libby's conversations with the Washington Post's Bob Woodward — that Fitzgerald didn't know about at the time he indicted Libby. Still, it's possible Fitzgerald will forge ahead, in part because his much-publicized, two-year investigation has so far produced relatively meager results. After intense probing, and working with virtually unlimited power and discretion, the hard-charging prosecutor has succeeded in indicting one person, Libby, although not for an underlying offense, and disrupting or marring the careers of journalists Judith Miller, Cooper, Woodward, and, most recently, Time's Viveca Novak. Some Fitzgerald watchers find it difficult to believe that he will close up shop and go home with a record like that.