Newsweek: Rove Gave Cooper OK to Testify in Plame Case
Newsweek charges that it was Karl Rove who released Time Matt Cooper reporter from his confidentiality pledge in the Plame affair.
Newsweek: Rove gave Time reporter OK to testify (Chicago Sun-Times)
Top presidential adviser Karl Rove was the anonymous source who released a Time reporter from his promise of confidentiality, allowing the journalist to avoid jail, Newsweek says. In a story published today, Newsweek reveals more details about the celebrated case stemming from the leak of an undercover CIA agent’s name in 2003.
The publication of Valerie Plame’s name by Chicago Sun-Times syndicated columnist Robert Novak set off an investigation because it’s a crime to knowingly identify an undercover CIA official.
It was 11:07 on a Friday morning, July 11, 2003, and Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper was tapping out an e-mail to his bureau chief, Michael Duffy. “Subject: Rove/P&C,” (for personal and confidential), Cooper began. “Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation …” Cooper proceeded to spell out some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil Washington. He finished, “please don’t source this to rove or even WH [White House]” and suggested another reporter check with the CIA.
For two years, a federal prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been investigating the leak of Plame’s identity as an undercover CIA agent. The leak was first reported by columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. Novak apparently made some arrangement with the prosecutor, but Fitzgerald continued to press other reporters for their sources, possibly to show a pattern (to prove intent) or to make a perjury case. (It is illegal to knowingly identify an undercover CIA officer.) Rove’s words on the Plame case have always been carefully chosen. “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name,” Rove told CNN last year when asked if he had anything to do with the Plame leak. Rove has never publicly acknowledged talking to any reporter about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife. But last week, his lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Rove didÃ¢€”and that Rove was the secret source who, at the request of both Cooper’s lawyer and the prosecutor, gave Cooper permission to testify.
I don’t know what I find more incredible, that Time would have protected the hated Karl Rove for two years or that Time would allow Newsweek to scoop it on a story about itself. Still, it’s quite baffling that Rove would have allowed this story to remain out there for so long if his version of events is true.
Update: WaPo weighs in with a story that will clarify what I mean by “his version of events:”
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove spoke with at least one reporter about Valerie Plame’s role at the CIA before she was identified as a covert agent in a newspaper column two years ago, but Rove’s lawyer said yesterday that his client did not identify her by name. Rove had a short conversation with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper on July 11, 2003, three days before Robert D. Novak publicly exposed Plame in a column about her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson had come under attack from the White House for his assertions that he found no evidence Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger and that he reported those findings to top administration officials. Wilson publicly accused the administration of leaking his wife’s identity as a means of retaliation.
To be considered a violation of the law, a disclosure by a government official must have been deliberate, the person doing it must have known that the CIA officer was a covert agent, and he or she must have known that the government was actively concealing the covert agent’s identity.
Cooper, according to an internal Time e-mail obtained by Newsweek magazine, spoke with Rove before Novak’s column was published. In the conversation, Rove gave Cooper a “big warning” that Wilson’s assertions might not be entirely accurate and that it was not the director of the CIA or the vice president who sent Wilson on his trip. Rove apparently told Cooper that it was “Wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip,” according to a story in Newsweek’s July 18 issue.
Rove’s conversation with Cooper could be significant because it indicates a White House official was discussing Plame prior to her being publicly named and could lead to evidence of how Novak learned her name. Although the information is revelatory, it is still unknown whether Rove is a focus of the investigation. Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, has said that Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has told him that Rove is not a target of the probe. Luskin said yesterday that Rove did not know Plame’s name and was not actively trying to push the information into the public realm. Instead, Luskin said, Rove discussed the matter — under the cloak of secrecy — with Cooper at the tail end of a conversation about a different issue. Cooper had called Rove to discuss other matters on a Friday before deadline, and the topic of Wilson came up briefly. Luskin said Cooper raised the question. “Rove did not mention her name to Cooper,” Luskin said. “This was not an effort to encourage Time to disclose her identity. What he was doing was discouraging Time from perpetuating some statements that had been made publicly and weren’t true.”