Friday, July 15, 2005

“I Heard That, Too.”

From the New York Times:

Karl Rove, the White House senior adviser, spoke with the columnist Robert D. Novak as he was preparing an article in July 2003 that identified a C.I.A. officer who was undercover, someone who has been officially briefed on the matter said.

Mr. Rove has told investigators that he learned from the columnist the name of the C.I.A. officer, who was referred to by her maiden name, Valerie Plame, and the circumstances in which her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, traveled to Africa to investigate possible uranium sales to Iraq, the person said.

After hearing Mr. Novak’s account, the person who has been briefed on the matter said, Mr. Rove told the columnist: “I heard that, too.”

If this is true, that’s the ball game. Mr. Rove confirmed the identity of a CIA employee to a reporter. Even if he was just repeating a rumor, gossip, or just nodding in assent, he’s committed a felony, or at the least violated the spirit of the law that protects intelligence workers. Anyone who knows anything about intelligence operations — even if that knowledge comes from watching re-runs of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — knows that if you have top-secret information, no matter how you got it, you do not reveal it. If Robert Novak called Karl Rove just to confirm his sources, the next sound Novak should have heard from Mr. Rove should not have been, “I heard that, too,” but a dial tone.

The conversation between Mr. Novak and Mr. Rove seemed almost certain to intensify the question about whether one of Mr. Bush’s closest political advisers played a role in what appeared to be an effort to undermine Mr. Wilson’s credibility after he challenged the veracity of a key point in Mr. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech, saying Saddam Hussein had sought nuclear fuel in Africa.

The conversation with Mr. Novak took place three days before Mr. Rove spoke with Matthew Cooper, a Time magazine reporter, whose e-mail message about their brief talk reignited the issue. In the message, whose contents were reported by Newsweek this week, Mr. Cooper told his bureau chief that Mr. Rove had talked about Ms. Wilson, although not by name.

I think it might be a good idea for Scott McClellan to call in sick today.

I can hear the Republicans response to this already. “He didn’t know her name.” “He didn’t know she was a covert agent.” “He heard it from another reporter.” Even if all of those are true (and that’s not apparent either), it doesn’t matter. You don’t talk about intelligence information. Period. The end. And it makes me wonder why anyone, especially the people who accuse the Democrats of being soft on terror and coddling criminals, would make excuses for someone who would even toy with the idea of talking to a reporter about such things. And why wouldn’t they demand a thorough investigation into the original source of the leak to the mysterious reporter who had the information that Novak was asking Rove about? Considering the lengths the Republicans went to back in the 1990’s to find out who asked for the FBI files on political operatives in the Clinton White House — remember Filegate? — you’d think the hue and cry would be deafening. But apparently not.

That tells me a couple of things. Either Paul Krugman is right (see below) and the truth is subject to the whims of the politics of the time, or the Republicans are so afraid of Karl Rove and his power that even if he was caught sharing a bong with Osama bin Laden they’d say he was doing his part to blast the terrorists back into the Stone Age.