Thursday, July 21, 2005

As the Dam Breaks 

The stories everyone is on top of, and since we are a subset of everyone we're on top of them too:

1.) According to Zemblan patriot K.Z., Atrios, among others, Keith Olbermann broke a scoop that's scheduled to run in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal. National Political Editor John Harwood will reveal that the notorious State Dept. memo identifying Valerie Plame as a CIA operative was marked not just "secret" (see item immediately below) but "top secret" -- and not just "top secret," but "SNF," or "Secret, No Foreign," the designation for inside dope so sensitive it cannot be shared even with our allies. Our indefatigable colleagues at Crooks & Liars, as usual, have the video.

2.) Via Raw Story and Think Progress, Bloomberg is about to release a report that "Two top White House aides have given accounts to the special prosecutor about how reporters told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to persons familiar with the case":
Lewis “Scooter'’ Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson. Novak, according to a source familiar with the matter, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor . . . .

There also is a discrepancy between accounts given by Rove and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. The White House aide mentioned Wilson’s wife — though not by name — in a July 11, 2003 conversation with Cooper. Rove says that Cooper called him to talk about welfare reform and the Wilson connection was mentioned later in passing.

Cooper wrote in Time magazine last week that he told the grand jury that he never discussed welfare reform with Rove in that call.

The leak case shows that administration officials have in effect been using reporters as shields by claiming that the information on Plame first came from them.
UPDATE (via our eminent colleague John Aravosis of AmericaBlog): The NYT's Friday morning front page story on Rove is a veritable cornucopia of succulent treats. Among the new dirt turned up by David Johnston, Douglas Jehl and Richard W. Stevenson:
  • Rove, Libby, and Stephen J. Hadley apparently helped with the drafting of then-CIA chief George Tenet's statement about the "16 words" related to the pursuit of Nigerian yellowcake in the President's State of the Union address. "The effort was striking because to an unusual degree, the circle of officials involved included those from the White House's political and national security operations, which are often separately run. Both arms were drawn into the effort to defend the administration during the period."

  • Fitzgerald interviewed both Karen Hughes and Robert Joseph. "Ms. Hughes is to have her confirmation hearing on Friday on her nomination to lead the State Department's public diplomacy operation. Mr. Joseph was recently confirmed as under secretary of state for arms control and international security. As part of their confirmation proceedings, both had to fill out questionnaires listing any legal matters they had become involved in."

  • Ari Fleischer allegedly testified to the grand jury that he never saw the State Dept. memo. This Bloomberg report says otherwise. Karl Rove testified that he never saw the memo either.

  • Democrats are urging reporters to look into the possible involvement of John Bolton. Our astute colleague John of Blogenlust is beginning to look like Nostradamus (minus the beard and the fleas, of course).
UPDATE (7/22; via Josh Marshall): The NYT story cited above claims that "In his disclosure form for his confirmation hearings [as ambassador to the U.N.], Mr. Bolton made no mention of being interviewed in the case, a government official said." Yesterday, however, David Schuster of MSNBC's Hardball had this to say:
According to lawyers, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and undersecretaries, including John Bolton, gave testimony about this memo. And a lawyer for one State Department official says his client testified that, as President Bush was flying to Africa on Air Force One two years ago, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer could be seen reading the document on board.

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