As the investigation tightens into the leak of the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, sources tell TIME some White House officials may have learned she was married to former ambassador Joseph Wilson weeks before his July 6, 2003, Op-Ed piece criticizing the Administration. That prospect increases the chances that White House official Karl Rove and others learned about Plame from within the Administration rather than from media contacts...
The previously undisclosed fact gathering began in the first week of June 2003 at the CIA, when its public-affairs office received an inquiry about Wilson's trip to Africa from veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. That office then contacted Plame's unit, which had sent Wilson to Niger, but stopped short of drafting an internal report. The same week, Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman asked for and received a memo on the Wilson trip from Carl Ford, head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Sources familiar with the memo, which disclosed Plame's relationship to Wilson, say Secretary of State Colin Powell read it in mid-June. Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage may have received a copy then too.
When Pincus' article ran on June 12, the circle of senior officials who knew about the identity of Wilson's wife expanded. "After Pincus," a former intelligence officer says, "there was general discussion with the National Security Council and the White House and State Department and others" about Wilson's trip and its origins. A source familiar with the memo says neither Powell nor Armitage spoke to the White House about it until after July 6. John McLaughlin, then deputy head of the CIA, confirms that the White House asked about the Wilson trip, but can't remember exactly when. One thing he's sure of, says McLaughlin, who has been interviewed by prosecutors, is that "we looked into it and found the facts of it, and passed it on." --By Massimo Calabresi. With reporting by Timothy J. Burger, Michael Duffy and Viveca Novak.
Well, that is quite a fair-use excerpt.
First, TIME is quite coy about dates - Condoleeza Rice was embarrassed on Meet The Press on June 8 - here is an excerpt, replayed on Sept 28; here is Nick Kristof, gloating on June 13. And why was he gloating? Because Ms. Rice had been asked about some (mis)information from his May 6 column.
So, Ms. Rice is woefully ignorant about the Wilson trip on June 8. On June 10, the State Dept prepares a "What Was The Wilson Trip" memo. Was that timing a coincidence, or a response to a request from the National Security Council? I have no idea (not). However,
TIME tells us that Ms. Rice read the memo by mid-June TIME tells us that Powell read it by mid-June; the NSC was discussing it after Pincus wrote on June 12.
John Podhoretz at The Corner notes that, with newsies swarming over both the State Dept and the CIA looking for insight into the 16 Words, it is possible that reporters were apprised of the Wilson connection in June. Walter Pincus and Andrea Mitchell cover the State Dept and the CIA - mightn't they have heard something even before Karl Rove, domestic political guru? And Colin Powell bringing the memo on the Air Force One trip to Africa on July 7 becomes less significant, if the content had been widely circulated before then.
On the other hand - in this July 11 press gaggle, Ms. Rice implored reporters to inquire into the Wilson trip, as I had noted that in my "Emerging Case Against Karl Rove". One might also think that the NSC knew about Wilson in mid-June if their boss did. Maybe the TIME piece should be re-headlined - "Lots of People Kept A Secret For A Surprisingly Long Time".
We should ask some more media types what they knew, when they knew it, and what they have shared with Fitzgerald's investigation. Here is a starting point.
MORE: Irish telepathy.