Jason Leopold, writing in TruthOut, and Josh Gerstein of the NY Sun both break news in the Plame investigation. Evidently the State Department was quite casual about Ms. Plame's CIA role, describing her in one set of notes as "CIA WMD managerial type and the wife of Amb. Joe Wilson".
Let's go to Mr. Leopold first:
Defense attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby said in a court filing late Wednesday that the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney doesn't remember a conversation he had with a State Department official in June 2003 in which the official told Libby that Valerie Plame Wilson worked for the CIA.
But the conversation did take place, according to current and former administration officials and attorneys who have remained close to the two-year-old CIA leak probe. At least a half-dozen witnesses who testified before a grand jury over the past two years said that they were at the meeting when Marc Grossman, the former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, told Libby that Plame Wilson worked for the CIA, according to attorneys and US officials close to the two-year-old CIA leak probe. Grossman also told Libby that Plame Wilson got the CIA to send her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding trip to Niger in February 2002 to check out reports that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from the African country.
Per the Libby indictment, that meeting took place on June 11 or 12. If there were half a dozen people in the meeting, all of them become possible leakers, yes? And of course, anyone with whom those six discussed this internally become possible leakers as well. Of course, Marc Grossman's superior, Richard Armitage, is a leading candidate as the fellow who leaked Plame's identity to both Bob Woodward and Bob Novak, so one might imagine that Mr. Grossman is a bit defensive on this point.
Folks who have focused on the circulation of the INR memo on Air Force One will want to know more about the attendees at this June meeting. And well we might wonder - is this the manner in which the identity of a deep-cover NOC is treated? Sure, we assume these people had clearances, but where was the need to know, and why was this discussed so casually?
Josh Gerstein shines a light in that direction - apparently the Sun has received a declassified copy of the INR memo (per a FOIA request by The Sun) originally addressed to Marc Grossman, and rewritten and re-addressed to Colin Powell in order to bring him up to speed for his trip to Africa in early July. Let's take for granted that the initial memo to Grossman was the basis for the Grossman-Libby meeting. Plame's classified status was not mentioned:
Contrary to published reports, a State Department memorandum at the center of the investigation into the leak of the name of a CIA operative, Valerie Plame, appears to offer no particular indication that Ms. Plame's role at the agency was classified or covert.
The memo, drafted by the then head of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and addressed to the then secretary of state, Colin Powell, was carried aboard Air Force One as President Bush departed for Africa in July 2003. A declassified version of the document was obtained by The New York Sun on Saturday.
Mr. Fitzgerald's investigators have attempted to establish a precise chain of custody for the document because it is one way some White House officials might have learned that Mr. Wilson's wife was a CIA employee, working in the agency's weapons of mass destruction division.
"In a February 19, 2002, meeting convened by Valerie Wilson, a CIA WMD manager, and the wife of Joe Wilson, he previewed his plans and rationale for going to Niger," the memo from the State Department intelligence chief, Carl Ford Jr., said. Mr. Ford also drafted an earlier version of the memo, addressed to an undersecretary of state, Marc Grossman. Mr. Grossman apparently sought the information about Mr. Wilson's trip after receiving inquiries from the then chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, I. Lewis Libby.
A Wall Street Journal article on July 19, 2005, citing an unnamed person familiar with the memo, reported that the memo "made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared." The Journal account said the paragraph discussing Ms. Plame's role in her husband's trip was marked in a way to indicate it shouldn't be disclosed.
A story the following day in the Washington Post, "Plame's Identity Marked as Secret," said correctly that the paragraph carried the mark "S," signifying the middle level of three major tiers of classification.
Not noted in the previous press reports was the fact that six of the seven paragraphs in the memo are marked "secret," while only one appears to mention Ms. Plame. In addition, virtually every paragraph in the attached supporting documents from the State Department about alleged Iraqi uranium procurement in Niger carries the "secret" designation.
With most, if not all, of the Niger-related documents marked "secret" in a host of places, there is no particular reason a reader would think the classification was derived from Ms. Plame's status or involvement.
Some attached notes futher undermine the notion that Ms. Plame's identity was known to be a Big Deal (emphasis added):
One attachment to the memo consists of typewritten notes a State Department representative took at a February 19, 2002, meeting where sending Mr. Wilson to Niger was discussed. "Meeting apparently convened by Valerie Wilson, a CIA WMD managerial type and the wife of Amb. Joe Wilson, with the idea that the agency and the larger USG could dispatch Joe to Niger to use his contacts there to sort out the Niger/Iraq uranium sale question," an American diplomat serving as the west and southern Africa division chief in the State Department's intelligence and research bureau, Douglas Rohn, wrote.
Mr. Gerstein does a good job getting predictable quotes from Karl Rove's attorney and Joe Wilson.
Well. Per a recent defense filing, we have the news that Libby has "testified to the grand jury unequivocally that he did not understand Ms. Wilson’s employment by the CIA to be classified information".
Back when Fitzgerald was arguing the urgency of obtaining Judy Miller's testimony, he told the judges that "[t]o date, we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed that Wilson's wife was engaged in covert work."
And let's not overlook Murray Waas' contribution to the Loosening Noose. Maybe Cheney learned about Plame's classified status himself, and shared it with Libby? It's possible, but the person who told Cheney isn't helping out:
Cheney told investigators that he had learned of Plame's employment by the CIA and her potential role in her husband being sent to Niger by then-CIA director George Tenet, according to people familiar with Cheney's interviews with the special prosecutor.
Tenet has told investigators that he had no specific recollection of discussing Plame or her role in her husband's trip with Cheney, according to people with familiar with his statement to investigators.
Hmm. So Libby was part of a vicious conspiracy to punish Joe Wilson by not leaking to Cooper, Russert, Woodward, or Miller any news about the connection between Ms. Plame and the Niger trip, and by not being aware that her status was classified. Got it.
NOTE: Let me hat tip Jeralyn Merritt, who continues her fine work on this with the Leopold post, and Clarice Feldman for the Sun shine. And when does Josh Gerstein start getting the accolades heaped on Murray Waas?
MORE: On the question of whether Wilson debunked the forgeries, as originally reported by Nick Kristof, the INR memo says that Wilson's report was handled by the CIA (so don't blame the INR!), and that "the reporting we have from his trip makes no mention of documents, fraudulent or otherwise".
STILL MORE: "Grossman's The One!", or, "Who Put The One in the One by Two by Six?". From Leopold:
Attorneys as well as current and former administration officials close to the case said Grossman was the lone dissenting unnamed official quoted in a September 28, 2003, Washington Post story who told two Post reporters that "two top White House officials" called "at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife."
At first, the investigation seemed narrowly focused on trying to identify who at the White House provided the information about Ms. Plame to Mr. Novak. But more recently, prosecutors have focused on a Sept. 28, 2003, article in The Washington Post, which said the newspaper had been told that "yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife."
Prosecutors, referring to the story as "one by two by six," have sought to learn the identity of the senior administration official or the two top White House officials, believing that whoever provided the information to the Post knew who spoke with Mr. Novak.
That is so at odds with Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Sate, being the source for Novak and Woodward that I wonder what it could mean; let's score it as a (small) straw in favor of Hadley as Novak's source.