One person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told the grand jury that he was not Mr. Novak's source. And Mr. Fleischer, who was never shy about championing his Republican bosses, seems not to fit Mr. Novak's description, in a subsequent column, of his primary source as "no partisan gunslinger."
...A White House telephone log shows that Mr. Fleischer received a call from Mr. Novak on July 7, 2003, but a person familiar with Mr. Fleischer's testimony said he told prosecutors he never returned the call. Mr. Fleischer was aboard Air Force One with Mr. Bush and several other senior administration officials as they traveled across Africa that week.
And while a classified State Department memorandum that identified Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, as a C.I.A. operative, was also on board, Mr. Fleischer has told the grand jury that he never saw the document, according to the person familiar with his testimony.
["I'm cooperating with the investigators, and refer all questions to them," Mr. Fleischer said on Tuesday, after turning away a reporter at his house on Monday.]
The people who discussed the testimony of Mr. Fleischer and other witnesses asked not to be named because Mr. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, has asked anyone involved in the case not to talk about it. At least one person who provided an account of Mr. Fleischer's role did so in the belief that it would remove suspicion from Mr. Fleischer.
As to Mr. Fleischer not having seen the INR memo, Bloomberg reported the opposite last week (Our thoughts, which include this - IF Mr. Fleischer read the memo, he could have passed key bits to another WH staffer, who then passed it on internally or leaked to a reporter. The information flow begins somewhere!). [And "Ari for Perjury" at the Wonkette.]
The Times also delivers a mini-bombshell, buried near the end:
Few if any reporters who traveled with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Bartlett and the White House entourage that week have been called to testify before the grand jury. A background briefing during the trip in which Mr. Bartlett spoke with reporters and urged them to look into the C.I.A.'s role in sending Mr. Wilson to Niger has not drawn substantial interest from prosecutors recently.
Shocked scream added for emphasis - "Few if any"? Just last week, Timesman Adam Liptak told us that "Four reporters have testified in the investigation: Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post, Tim Russert of NBC News and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine." So who are the "few, if any"? I am pretty sure neither Pincus nor Cooper went to Africa; is the Times rowing back from Liptak's pronouncement, and admitting that more reporters have testified, or given evidence? Well, no kidding - I was making that very point last Friday.
Finally, the Times notes the Judy Miller situation in passing, telling us this:
With Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times, in jail for refusing to divulge her source for the same information about Ms. Wilson, and the grand jury set to expire in October, the outcome of the investigation remains unclear.
"Refusing to divulge her source"? It is possible that, in a very broad sense, this is true (and conspiracy buffs love it!). However, based on the record established in the court hearings, the Special Counsel has subpoenaed Ms. Miller to discuss her conversation with a specific, named individual who, we have been told, has waived confidentiality (but not to Ms. Miller's satisfaction).
She is not "refusing to divulge her source" - Fitzgerald has identified this source. She is refusing to discuss her conversation with a particular person, known to the prosecutor, who may or may not have been her source for information about Ms. Wilson. That strikes me as a subtle but important distinction.
Let's tally up - the Times found friendly leakers for Ari - good. They missed, or failed to rebut, the Bloomberg story; they missed or ignored Adam Liptak's piece; and they mischaracterized their own reporter's legal situation - all bad.
The Paper of Record.
MORE: Walter Pincus and Diamond Jim VandeHei of the WaPo deliver a series of headscratchers and jawdroppers. Let's note Mr. Pincus' involvement in this story as a leak recipient (and more from the Captain), and press on:
(2) Wilson had a secret friend who talked to Novak on July 8, and Novak told him about Wilson's wife being with the CIA? Wilson put it in his book, and Fitzgerald has interviewed the person, so I guess we believe it. Very obvious question - if Wilson knew Novak was thinking of publishing this tidbit on July 8, where were the phone calls from the CIA to Novak's publisher? My recollection is that Wilson explained his own non-involvement by assuming the CIA would take care of it.
[UPDATE: Per his book (or here), Wilson explains that, upon learning of the encounter on July 8, he immediately called Eason Jordan of CNN, Novak's "titular boss", to urge him to wave Novak off. Mr. Jordan declined.
OK, questions for our hard-charging newsies out there - I can't imagine why Fitzgerald would *not* tie down that detail, so - has anyone asked Eason Jordan whether he has given evidence to Fitzgerald's grand jury or investigators?
And a follow-up - Wilson does not name his friend in the book, yet Fitzgerald knows it. Is it fair to guess that he got it from Wilson? Is it fair to ask the sometimes garrulous Ambassador what other questions Fitzgerald had for him?]
I wonder if Fitzgerald is surprised by Wilson's passivity before his wife was outed, in contrast with his tireless pursuit of talk show bookings afterwards. An excerpt:
In a strange twist in the investigation, the grand jury -- acting on a tip from Wilson -- has questioned a person who approached Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue on July 8, 2003, six days before his column appeared in The Post and other publications, Wilson said in an interview. The person, whom Wilson declined to identify to The Post, asked Novak about the "yellow cake" uranium matter and then about Wilson, Wilson said. He first revealed that conversation in a book he wrote last year. In the book, he said that he tried to reach Novak on July 8, and that they finally connected on July 10. In that conversation, Wilson said that he did not confirm his wife worked for the CIA but that Novak told him he had obtained the information from a "CIA source."
And the WaPo gives us more details about the "affirmative measures" the CIA took to protect Ms. Plame's covert status:
Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.
Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.
I know some fans of spy fiction are under the impression that if the CIA press flack had told Novak not to publish because Ms. Plame was covert, the CIA would then have been obliged to send a hit squad into the night, tires squealing, to silence Novak.
However, I have read on other occasions that, when the hit squad is not available, the CIA settles for a phone call to the publisher to squelch publication. Why that did not happen here remains a puzzle. [Or see the NY Times discussion of its own controversial article about CIA Air.]
So, as of July 8, Wilson knew that Novak was telling strangers on street corners that his wife was covert, news that would, per Wilson, endanger her networks, her life, her friendships, her kids - and he figured the CIA would handle it? Do tell. Did he tell his wife? Did she notify her superiors? Presumably Fitzgerald knows.
[Based on his book, it appears that Wilson mentioned the Novak situation to his wife prior to publication; they assumed the press office would take care of it.]
TABLE POUNDING FINISH: Right now, self-serving leaks from the CIA and self-serving columns from Novak have left us with a he-said/he said situation, with no real way to guess the truth about how forceful the CIA was in warning Novak away from this story. *IF* Fitzgerald is considering a prosecution under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, one element he needs to demonstrate is that the CIA was taking affirmative steps to conceal Ms. Plame's covert status. This confusion in the press office will be emphasized by any competent defense, which will note a few points:
(1) the CIA did not sign Joe Wilson to a confidentiality agreement (see SSCI);
(2) the CIA did not object to Wilson's NY Times Op-Ed, which could have been expected to call attention to a CIA mission, the ambassador, and, perhaps, his wife;
(3) the CIA Press Liaison people had a bit of a failure to communicate with Novak about the importance of not mentioning Wilson's wife.
Now, as to point (3), any reasonable prosecutor would try to take a simple path to move the story beyond its current "he said/he said". My guess is that the CIA press relations does not have this sort of debacle - a nationally syndicated columnist outing a covert agent *after* calling the press office for guidance - very often. My further guess is that any reasonable bureaucracy would have a bit of a follow-up to review procedures and point fingers.
So, Fitzgerald should have asked for any memos or records of phone calls between Ms. Plame, her superiors, and the CIA Press Office discussing the impending Novak column, based on the July 8 heads-up.
He should have requested any notes and memos from the CIA Press Office to higher-ups alerting them to a potential problem and requesting intervention with the appropriate editors and publishers.
There should be records of phone calls to editors and publishers.
And there should have been memos and meetings assessing "What Went Wrong", implementing new procedures, clarifying responsibilities, and generally locking the barn door post-horse departure.
All this would be in addition to a damage report related to Ms. Plame's intelligence activities - that report will, we hope, remain confidential; however, a report about new press relations procedures should not be Top Secret.
Of course, if the CIA can't produce any of this, we will be slightly less convinced that they were forceful in warning Novak off of the story, and slightly more inclined to believe that a beleaguered CIA flack is engaging in CIA CYA. And since Fitzgerald should have asked for this info, we hope that the diligent newsies who came up with these CIA-friendly leaks can come up with a few more.
Howard Kurtz had some pro-Novak thoughts in Sept 2003 from Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the WaPo, and Steve Huntley, editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times.