Mark Kleiman has a fine looking new site (enable those comments - on balance, having a readership that is smarter than the author seems to work. I said "seems".)
He also get props for linking to a fine new defense of the Administration side in the Plame Affair, presented, again, by Newsweek. (We all remember Howard Fineman's "Victoria's Secret", now corrected).
I love the title, "Criminal or Just Plain Stupid?", since I have been arguing "stupid" for a while. And they go a lot further than I was able to to in presenting it.
MORE: Their gist is that reporters, and the bombshell senior Administration source that said six reporters were contacted with the leak, have got the dates wrong, and that most of the contacting was done after the Novak column ran.
Well. We know Andrea Mitchell spent a day as one of the Six before realizing her confusion. We have also seen the two wave theory, which is described in the Newsweek piece - after the Novak column ran, Karl Rove and others pointed it out to reporters.
Newsweek offers as evidence Amb. Wilson himself, who did not get a flurry of calls until after the Novak column ran. Are we to believe that six reporters got the leak and so totally missed the significance that they couldn't come up with a story of (a) Wilson, deceiver, or (b) White House slime machine at it again? No one other than Novak called Wilson to see if they could develop any angle at all?
A straw in the wind comes from Amb. Wilson and the WaPo. The Ambassador says he got one phone call, but the reporter did not mention his wife. And in a report that seemed to confirm that at least some of the Six existed, the WaPo told us that:
Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.
The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."
So, from Novak plus Six to Novak plus One. Maybe.
How does this affect my theories (which are due for updating).
Suppose for a moment that Newsweek is right - this sword cuts both ways. First, we love the idea of scandal hype, of scandal overreach, and that the press is wrong, wrong, wrong.
However, part of our defense has been, what kind of a intentional criminal conspiracy would include six or seven reporters? If we are cut back to Novak plus One, then the "evil conspiracy" theory gets a whiff of oxygen.
And Novak (do we believe him?) says he got the story from one staffer, and then got a cursury "Oh, you heard that, too" from a second. Are both equally culpable?
Newsweek also comments on the need to parse the White House denials in light of the legal complexity; "I did not leak classified information" may not be as strong a denial as it appears. The trick would seem to be to contrast denials with WaPo coverage (i.e., hints). This Dana Milbank piece emerges as a comedy classic of the genre, with its subtle hint to look at Messrs. Hadley, Joseph and Abrams of the NSC.
Micro Update :
Motive - Still News Management, strengthened by the view that the WH may have been saying to Novak or someone else, "take a look at Wilson, he is not an objective retired Ambassador, he is part of the see-no-evil CIA cabal that hates neocons. Does he have a CIA link? Well, investigators have two rules - follow the money, and one other. C'mon, it's a French phrase. Waddya mean, "I give up", sure, that's a French phrase, too, but the rule is: "Cherchez la femme". "
What Happened - I stand by the "Ooops" theory, which Newsweek is now promoting.
And he appears in my own comments to vex me! Excellent! And I think I know something he does not - stay tuned.
UPDATE: The curious incident of the press in the daytime: One does wonder why the Select Six are so coy - can none of them think of a way to turn this into a column, or get themselves a bit of airtime? How I fought off the White House Slime Machine!
Michael Getler of the WaPo wondered the same thing on Oct. 5:
The good news is that the other reporters didn't bite. The bad news is that none of them wrote or broadcast stories revealing what was going on. This could have been done without disclosing Wilson's wife's name or the source of the information, assuming the reporters had agreed to ground rules of confidentiality set by the source.
The Newsweek scenario provides a bit of an explanation.