July 16, 2005
The long, suspenseful wait to see whether the reporters would divulge their sources about the summer 2003 Valerie Plame story finally ended when Time's Matthew Cooper agreed to testify. (Karl Rove had waived the confidentiality pledge many months ago, so that had nothing to do with Cooper's decision.) The facts are still very hazy, but Friday's Washington Post (late edition) provided some important details:
In accounts of both conversations that have been made public, Rove does not give Plame's name and discusses the matter only at the end of an interview on an unrelated topic. Rove has said he did not know Plame's name and did not know she was undercover. If that is the case, it is unlikely that the disclosure is a crime. ...
Republican lawyers working with Rove say he was not pushing a story about Plame but was trying to steer Cooper away from giving too much credence to Wilson. ...
Sources who have reviewed some of the testimony before the grand jury say there is significant evidence that reporters were in some cases alerting officials about Plame's identity and relationship to Wilson -- not the other way around.
In other words, it is far too early to jump to any conclusions about who told what to whom, or whether any crimes were committed. According to GOPUSA.com, "Rove mentioned "Wilson's wife" only to let Cooper know that no one in the Bush administration had sent Wilson to Niger -- and that Time shouldn't believe everything it was hearing from Wilson." The fact that New York Times reporter Judith Miller remains behind bars for failing to disclose her source, even though Cooper was freed, suggests that Rove was not her source. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that early White House claims that Rove had nothing to do with the disclosure have been proven false. I fully agree that Rove should be held accountable and punished if what he said to the reporter met the criteria for wrongdoing specified by the Federal criminal statute. Perhaps he merely committed a slight indiscretion with a political motivation, or perhaps he acted out of genuine concern that the truth about the allegations by Joseph Wilson be known to the public. If President Bush really is sincere about wanting to get to the bottom of this -- and I know of no reason to doubt him on this -- we will find out soon enough. In the murky world of Washington intrigue, however, no one of any consequence is 100 percent innocent. Everyone trades leaks and rumors to maintain their rank in the hierarchy of power and status.
Some say that Ms. Plame did not conceal her CIA job from friends and was not really a covert agent. One thing that is certain is that her husband's mission to Niger in early 2002 seems fishier all the time. Wilson practically invited public scrutiny of his wife's identity when he wrote an article in The Nation in March 2003 accusing the Bush administration of misleading the public about Iraq and WMDs. For a career diplomat, especially one married to a CIA agent, to be writing in a publication with such a sharp editorial slant is rather unusual, to say the least. For his part, The Nation's David Corn denies charges that he was the one who "outed" Ms. Plame. (via Instapundit) He and Katrina Van Den Heuvel, also of The Nation, appear regularly on WUSA-TV9's Eye On Washington panel discussion program. I wonder what former editor Victor Navasky would say about all this?
What is most ironic (or galling) to me is that Democrats are trying to act serious on national security issues for once. The joint press conference on Thrusday with Sen. Chuck Schumer and former ambassador Joseph Wilson laid bare the fundamentally partisan nature of the dispute. Rush Limbaugh is convinced that Wilson and Schumer are old pals, but that's just a conjecture. The Democrats' demand that the security clearance of Rove be revoked is absurd grandstanding that only ill-informed fools would take at face value. Coming on the heels of exaggerated outcry over alleged "torture" at Guantanamo and defeatist moans about Iraq, all this gives every indication of being another front in the escalating war to unseat the Bush administration.