Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Even Rove Nods 

The most compelling Rove theory of the day is the one put forth by our distinguished colleague Swopa of Needlenose, who argues that either Colin Powell or (more likely, in his opinion) WH Chief of Staff Andrew Card must have been the "senior administration official" who leaked details of the Wilson smear campaign and the Air Force One memo to the Washington Post. Preliminary speculations here; extensively revised speculations here.

Because Atrios has already done so, we assume we needn't alert you to the Wall St. Journal article excerpted at Raw Story:
A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document . . . .

News that the memo was marked for its sensitivity emerged as President Bush yesterday appeared to backtrack from his 2004 pledge to fire any member of his staff involved in the leaking of the CIA agent's name. In a news conference yesterday that followed disclosures that his top strategist, Karl Rove, had discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with two reporters, Mr. Bush adopted a different formulation, specifying criminality as the standard for firing.

The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, may also be looking at whether other crimes -- such as perjury, obstruction of justice or leaking classified information -- were committed.

On July 6, 2003, former diplomat Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times, disputing administration arguments that Iraq had sought to buy uranium ore from Africa to make nuclear weapons. The following day, President Bush and top cabinet officials left for Africa, and the memo was aboard Air Force One.

The paragraph in the memo discussing Ms. Wilson's involvement in her husband's trip is marked at the beginning with a letter designation in brackets to indicate the information shouldn't be shared, according to the person familiar with the memo. Such a designation would indicate to a reader that the information was sensitive. The memo, though, doesn't specifically describe Ms. Wilson as an undercover agent, the person familiar with the memo said.
Atrios also links to the eminent investigative journalist Murray Waas, who explains in the American Prospect why Mr. Rove now finds himself neck-deep in his own shit:
White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove did not disclose that he had ever discussed CIA officer Valerie Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper during Rove’s first interview with the FBI, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The omission by Rove created doubt for federal investigators, almost from the inception of their criminal probe into who leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, as to whether Rove was withholding crucial information from them, and perhaps even misleading or lying to them, the sources said.

Also leading to the early skepticism of Rove's accounts was the claim that although he first heard that Plame worked for the CIA from a journalist, he said could not recall the name of the journalist. Later, the sources said, Rove wavered even further, saying he was not sure at all where he first heard the information.
Lastly, read Matt Yglesias on the forged yellowcake documents that set the whole controversy in motion.

UPDATE: A couple of late additions to the nightly Rove roundup from Josh Marshall. First, a letter to Congress, signed by a roster of intelligence professionals that includes Larry Johnson, Ray McGovern, and Vince Cannistraro, debunking the Republican talking point that Valerie Plame could not have been a covert operative because she went to an office at Langley every day:
These comments reveal an astonishing ignorance of the intelligence community and the role of cover. The fact is that there are thousands of U.S. intelligence officers who “work at a desk” in the Washington, D.C. area every day who are undercover. Some have official cover, and some have non-official cover. Both classes of cover must and should be protected.

While we are pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting an investigation and that the U.S. Attorney General has recused himself, we believe that the partisan attacks against Valerie Plame are sending a deeply discouraging message to the men and women who have agreed to work undercover for their nation’s security.
Second, an e-mail from a retired ambassador who explains how the notorious State department memo found its way onto Air Force One, and who was likely to have seen it.

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