BREAKING: Novak Speaks On Plamegate (Updated with Video)

Bob Novak–who unintentionally kicked off the political melodrama called Plamegate in a now infamous column–is set to reveal the double super secret extent of his involvement in the affair tomorrow in both his column and in interviews on FOX News on both Special Report with Brit Hume and Hannity & Colmes.

Here’s what we know now via Drudge:

BOB NOVAK, My Leak Case Testimony: ‘I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in ‘Who’s Who in America’… MORE Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue… MORE… My primary source has not come forward to identify himself… Bill Harlow, the CIA public information officer who was my CIA source for the column confirming Mrs. Wilson’s identity. I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in ‘Who’s Who in America’… I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow and my primary source.

Video:  Bob Novak Reveals Plame Source on Hardball [UPDATE (James Joyner): David Shuster and Chris Matthews talk about it on yesterday’s edition of Hardball. John Amato and Think Progress have the video.]

And here’s a little more from Howard Kurtz:

In a column to be published on Wednesday, Novak said he told Fitzgerald in early 2004 that White House senior adviser Karl Rove and then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow had confirmed for him, at his request, information about CIA operative Valerie Plame. Novak said he also told Fitzgerald about another senior administration official who originally provided him with the information about Plame, and whose identity he says he cannot reveal even now.

“I’m still constrained as a reporter,” Novak said in an interview. “It was not on the record, and he has never revealed himself as being the source, and until he does I don’t feel I should.” (my emphasis)

Novak triggered one of the capital’s most tangled investigations with a July 2003 column reporting that Plame had suggested sending her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, to Niger to investigate whether Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain nuclear material from that country. Fitzgerald, who decided last month not to pursue charges against Rove, is prosecuting I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, for allegedly lying to a grand jury. Judith Miller, then a New York Times reporter, went to jail for 85 days last year for initially refusing to name Libby as her source.

Novak says in the forthcoming column that he initially refused to reveal he sources in an October 2003 interview with three FBI officials. He says he remained reluctant to testify before Fitzgerald, even with the waivers the three officials had given the prosecutor, but that his lawyer told him he was sure to lose a costly legal battle and be cited for contempt of court. Novak says he testified before a grand jury a few weeks later, in February 2004, after reading a statement about his discomfort in discussing confidential sources.

He said he is speaking out now because Fitzgerald has notified his attorneys that the investigation, as it relates to him, has been concluded.

Novak’s role in revealing Plame’s CIA employment, which was classified, was the most controversial of his 49-year career as a Washington reporter. “What was frustrating,” he said, “was that there were a lot of crazy things being said, that I had taken the Fifth Amendment or I had made a plea bargain. . . . It’s obviously caused me a lot of trouble. If I had it to do all over again, would I have done it? It’s a hard question to answer.”

The general consensus at the moment seems to be that the identity of the “primary source” is former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. This is important because it would suggest that Novak learned of Plame’s identity and employment inadvertently as gossip–as Novak has maintained all along–rather than through some concerted effort by the Bush administration to “out” Plame as retribution for her husband Joe Wilson’s attacks against the administration.

UPDATE: More reaction at Hot Air, Stop The ACLU, Wizbang, Protein Wisdom, and Blue Crab Boulevard.

UPDATE: Randy at RightWinged notes a suspicious happening at DailyKos in regard to this story.

UPDATE: Human Events has a link to Novak’s column but only provides the first two paragraphs and then notes: “Full column to be available here tomorrow…” Despite the tease at Human Events, the full column was available at a popular liberal blog so I’ve posted an “extended taste” below the fold. Enjoy.

Some journalists have badgered me to disclose my role in the case, even demanding I reveal my sources — identified in the column as two senior Bush administration officials and an unspecified CIA source. I have promised to discuss my role in the investigation when permitted by the prosecution, and I do so now.

The news broke Sept. 26, 2003, that the Justice Department was investigating the CIA leak case. I contacted my longtime attorney, Lester Hyman, who brought his partner at Swidler Berlin, James Hamilton, into the case. Hamilton urged me not to comment publicly on the case, and I have followed that advice for the most part.

The FBI soon asked to interview me, prompting my first major decision. My attorneys advised me that I had no certain constitutional basis to refuse cooperation if subpoenaed by a grand jury. To do so would make me subject to imprisonment and inevitably result in court decisions that would diminish press freedom, all at heavy personal legal costs.

I was interrogated at the Swidler Berlin offices Oct. 7, 2003, by an FBI inspector and two agents. I had not identified my sources to my attorneys, and I told them I would not reveal them to the FBI. I did disclose how Valerie Wilson’s role was reported to me, but the FBI did not press me to disclose my sources.

On Dec. 30, 2003, the Justice Department named Fitzgerald as special prosecutor. An appointment was made for Fitzgerald to interview me at Swidler Berlin on Jan. 14, 2004. The problem facing me was that the special prosecutor had obtained signed waivers from every official who might have given me information about Wilson’s wife.

That created a dilemma. I did not believe blanket waivers in any way relieved me of my journalistic responsibility to protect a source. Hamilton told me that I was sure to lose a case in the courts at great expense. Nevertheless, I still felt I could not reveal their names.

However, on Jan. 12, two days before my meeting with Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor informed Hamilton that he would be bringing to the Swidler Berlin offices only two waivers. One was by my principal source in the Valerie Wilson column, a source whose name has not yet been revealed. The other was by presidential adviser Karl Rove, whom I interpret as confirming my primary source’s information. In other words, the special prosecutor knew the names of my sources.

When Fitzgerald arrived, he had a third waiver in hand — from Bill Harlow, the CIA public information officer who was my CIA source for the column confirming Mrs. Wilson’s identity. I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow and my primary source.

I had a second session with Fitzgerald at Swidler Berlin on Feb. 5, 2004, after which I was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury. I testified there at the U.S. courthouse in Washington on Feb. 25.

In these four appearances with federal authorities, I declined to answer when the questioning touched on matters beyond the CIA leak case. Neither the FBI nor the special prosecutor pressed me.

I have revealed Rove’s name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection. I have revealed Harlow’s name because he has publicly disclosed his version of our conversation, which also differs from my recollection. My primary source has not come forward to identify himself.

When I testified before the grand jury, I was permitted to read a statement that I had written expressing my discomfort at disclosing confidential conversations with news sources. It should be remembered that the special prosecutor knew their identities and did not learn them from me.

In my sworn testimony, I said what I have contended in my columns and on television: Joe Wilson’s wife’s role in instituting her husband’s mission was revealed to me in the middle of a long interview with an official who I have previously said was not a political gunslinger. After the federal investigation was announced, he told me through a third party that the disclosure was inadvertent on his part.

Following my interview with the primary source, I sought out the second administration official and the CIA spokesman for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in “Who’s Who in America.”

I considered his wife’s role in initiating Wilson’s mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story. I reported it on that basis.

And Ironically, it’s been almost 3 years to the day since Novak’s original column on Plame ran.

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Greg Tinti
About Greg Tinti
Greg started the blog The Political Pit Bull in August 2005. He was OTB's Breaking News Editor from June through August 2006 before deciding to return to his own blog. His blogging career eventually ended altogether. He has a B.A. in Anthropology from The George Washington University,

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Novak said he told Fitzgerald in early 2004 that White House senior adviser Karl Rove and then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow had confirmed for him, at his request, information about CIA operative Valerie Plame

    It’s not clear at all how that theory fits with the article’s text as quoted:

    Novak said he told Fitzgerald in early 2004 that White House senior adviser Karl Rove and then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow had confirmed for him, at his request, information about CIA operative Valerie Plame

    If I ask Karl Rove “is Plame an operative” and he says “yes,” then he’s burned Plame.

    And IIRC, Harlow denies having confirmed Plame’s identity to Novak.

    As always in Plamegate, the message would seem to be “stay tuned” …

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Anderson, did you miss something? Rove mentioned Wilson’s wife, not her name. Novak looked up her name is the liar Wilson’s entry in Who’s who. Novak calls Harlow to confirm that Plame works at CIA, which he does. Why is it that you are not interested in the fact that a CIA employee used her influence to send her unqualified husband to not find information that would verify her belief concerning WMD in Iraq? By the way, the statement made by the President was that uranium was sought in Africa. When did Niger become representative of all uranium producing African nations? That is similar to the DEA doing a drug search in a home, and only looking in one room.