The NY Times finally discovers Walter Pincus of the WaPo, a mere three weeks after we were hollering about him. And eventually, the Times will discover Google, or Lexis-Nexis, which will introduce more certainty to their reporting:
In the same week in July 2003 in which Bush administration officials told a syndicated columnist and a Time magazine reporter that a C.I.A. officer had initiated her husband's mission to Niger, an administration official provided a Washington Post reporter with a similar account.
The first two episodes, involving the columnist Robert D. Novak and the reporter Matthew Cooper, have become the subjects of intense scrutiny in recent weeks. But little attention has been paid to what The Post reporter, Walter Pincus, has recently described as a separate exchange on July 12, 2003.
...Mr. Pincus has not identified his source to the public. But a review of Mr. Pincus's own accounts and those of other people with detailed knowledge of the case strongly suggest that his source was neither Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, nor I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and was in fact a third administration official whose identity has not yet been publicly disclosed.
Mr. Pincus's most recent account, in the current issue of Nieman Reports, a journal of the Nieman Foundation, makes clear that his source had volunteered the information to him, something that people close to both Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have said they did not do in their conversations with reporters.
Well, another clue as to Pincus' source, overlooked by the Timesmen, appeared in Editor & Publisher, with an article about Mr. Pincus that included this: "Libby was not my source but was someone I spoke to on a confidential basis," Pincus said.'
Or maybe the Nov 26, 2004 WaPo can provide a hint: "Pincus also has said his source was not Libby." Just trying to help.
The Times cites this Nieman Watchdog article, this Sept 16 2004 WaPo article, and this Oct 12, 2003 WaPo piece. Careful readers may also suspect that Mr. Pincus is "another journalist" in this Sept 30 2003 WaPo piece.
Now, is the motive of the leaker of any interest? In their very last paragraph, the Times reports Mr. Pincus' impression:
He wrote in Nieman Reports that he did not believe the person who spoke to him was committing a criminal act, but only practicing damage control by trying to get him to write about Mr. Wilson.
[NOTE: The Times gets this backwards - what Pincus wrote is:
"I wrote my October story because I did not think the person who spoke to me was committing a criminal act, but only practicing damage control by trying to get me to stop writing about
Perhaps the Bush Brute Squad was making all of the the other phone calls to smear Wilson, intimidate potential whistleblowers, and get revenge. But it sounds like this leak was an attempt to get the White House side of the story in play, which jibes with what Rove told Cooper when he warned him not to get too close to Wilson.
And we sense more uncertainty and backpedaling at the Times with this passage:
In addition to Mr. Pincus, the reporters known to have been pursued by the special prosecutor include...
Was it only last week that Adam Liptak wrote with such confidence that "Four reporters have testified in the investigation..."? Now the Times standard is "Known to have been pursued".
Maybe by next week the Times can let us know whether Nick Kristof or David Sanger, both of whose names reportedly appeared on White House phone logs in the key week of July 2003, were contacted by investigators. Even if a White House staffer told investigators, "I got a message that Kristoff called, but I never got back to him", shouldn't Fitzgerald's gumshoes verify that? Shouldn't they have called Kristof?
All The News.
UPDATE: IF THE TIMES HAS THE TIME: If inquiring into the involvement of Kristof and Sanger strikes uncomfortably close to home, perhaps the Times could try to pry a clear, unambiguous statement from Tim Russert - when Adam Liptak looked into this two weeks ago, he was forced to recycle an NBC press release from August 2004. Mike Isikoff had the same problem, which he solved by ignoring the subtlety and misdirection in the original "denial":
Russert told Fitzgerald that he did not know Plame’s name or that she was a CIA operative and that he did not provide that information to Libby, it said.
Did Russert tell Libby that Wilson's wife was a CIA analyst? Lots of wiggle room there!
And Russert added virtually nothing when asked about this on Meet The Press - maybe the Times can give him a big platform and another chance for clarity.
Fitzgerald seems to be intent on finding out what Judy Miller and Tim Russert discussed with Libby - maybe the Times could help us find out.