July 15, 2005
Rove’s CIA CYA
Just your regular journalist-source relationship, turned on its head:
WASHINGTON – Presidential confidant Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he learned the identity of a CIA operative originally from journalists, then informally discussed the information with a Time magazine reporter days before the story broke, according to a person briefed on the testimony.
… The person said Rove testified that Novak told him he had learned and planned to report in a weekend column that Wilson’s wife, Plame, had worked for the CIA, and the circumstances on how her husband traveled to Africa to check bogus claims of alleged nuclear material sales to Iraq.
Novak’s column, citing two Bush administration officials, appeared six days later, touching off a political firestorm and leading to a federal criminal investigation into who leaked Plame’s undercover identity. That probe has ensnared presidential aides and reporters in a two-year legal battle.
… Rove told the grand jury that by the time Novak had called him, he believes he had similar information about Wilson’s wife from another reporter but had no recollection of which reporter had told him about it first, the source said.
When Novak inquired about Wilson’s wife working for the CIA, Rove indicated he had heard something like that, according to the source’s recounting of the grand jury testimony.
Rove told the grand jury that four days later, he had a phone conversation with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and – in an effort to discredit some of Wilson’s allegations – told Cooper that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA, though he never used her name.
Set aside, for a moment, the “two Bush administration officials”—not reporters—that Novak cited as sources. Why did Rove confirm to Novak that Plame worked for the CIA? And why did he then proactively tell Cooper the same thing? Both amounted to outing Plame (and no, whether or not she was undercover at the time isn’t relevant).
Paul Krugman captures it:
Mr. Rove… understands, better than anyone else in American politics, the power of smear tactics. Attacks on someone who contradicts the official line don’t have to be true, or even plausible, to undermine that person’s effectiveness. All they have to do is get a lot of media play, and they’ll create the sense that there must be something wrong with the guy.
And now we know just how far he was willing to go with these smear tactics: as part of the effort to discredit Joseph Wilson IV, Mr. Rove leaked the fact that Mr. Wilson’s wife worked for the C.I.A. I don’t know whether Mr. Rove can be convicted of a crime, but there’s no question that he damaged national security for partisan advantage. If a Democrat had done that, Republicans would call it treason.
Which is what every Democrat should be calling it.
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