Murray Waas reviews the circumstances behind Karl Rove's fifth grand jury appearance.
I have a quarrel with his insinuation that Rove and Libby could not have caveatted their leaks because reporters wrote with confidence:
Rove also testified to the grand jury that when he told Cooper that Plame worked at the agency, he was only passing along unverified gossip.
...Cooper has also testified that Rove, as well as a second source -- I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney -- portrayed the information about Plame as accurate and authoritative. Cooper has testified that based on his conversations with Rove and Libby, he felt confident enough about the information to identify Plame as a CIA officer in a July 17 Time story.
...If Rove's and Libby's accounts to the grand jury are correct, journalists wrote about Plame's CIA employment even though both White House aides said the information was unsubstantiated gossip. Both reporters have said that the information was not qualified in any way, and that they believed it authoritative enough to publish.
Emphasis added. That would sound a lot less dramatic if Mr. Waas would emphasize two additional facts:
(1) Mr. Cooper's confidence in publishing on July 17 may well have been boosted by the appearance of the Robert Novak column on July 14. In fact, the final version of Mr. Cooper's "outing passage" reads as follows:
...some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate...
Oddly, the first version of this story to hit the Web omitted the paragraph noting Robert Novak. Might one infer that editors felt that a bit of reinforcement was needed? Were they overcome by a desire to salute the competition? Or was it just painfully obvious that they were three days late with this?
(2) Robert Novak did not have either Libby or Rove for his primary source. Whoever that source was (we are guessing Richard Armitage, then-Deputy Secretary of State), he may have been quite expansive and authoritative. Beyond that, Mr. Novak also confirmed the fact of Ms. Plame's CIA employment with the CIA press spokesman Bill Harlow. "I heard that, too" from Rove may have been plenty for Novak.
Let's reprise what Novak wrote and note the varied sourcing:
Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him.
And here is Matt Cooper describing his chat with Karl Rove:
Rove did, however, clearly indicate that she worked at the "agency"--by that, I told the grand jury, I inferred that he obviously meant the CIA and not, say, the Environmental Protection Agency. Rove added that she worked on "WMD" (the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction) issues and that she was responsible for sending Wilson. This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson's wife.
As an aside, it is interesting in re-reading his account to see how hazy Matt Cooper's memory is. For example:
As for Wilson's wife, I told the grand jury I was certain that Rove never used her name and that, indeed, I did not learn her name until the following week, when I either saw it in Robert Novak's column or Googled her, I can't recall which.
He can't recall? He was working on the big story about which all of Washington was buzzing, and he can't recall? Where's the indictment?