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.

Matt Cooper’s Source – What Karl Rove told Time magazine’s reporter (Newsweek)

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 did—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:”

Rove Told Reporter of Plame’s Role But Didn’t Name Her, Attorney Says (p. A1)

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.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Stanton Braverman says:

    I lived through the Watergate era and thought something like that would never again arise in my life time. But here is a situation which is for worst and deals with serious issues of national security which is exactly the thing that the White House is to protect.

    The leak to the press on who is a CIA agent for political reasons has seriously discouraged Americans from becoming agents for fear that the White House will leave them out to hang for some narrow political reason.

    Stanton Braverman, Charlottesville. VA.

  2. Darla Nuan says:

    Rove should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for outing Plame since her sending Wilson to Nigeria was clearly a setup. His treasonous claim that there was no connection between Niger and Iraq has been proved wrong and both he and Plame should be jailed.

    Furhtermore, it is great to see Judy Miller languish in jail. It was her reporting that proved to be the intelligence failure that prompted Bush to invade Iraq. She clearly wanted to set up Bush to perpetuate liberal myths that he is unconcerned with terrorism’s roots. Her actions are clearly indicative of the power the liberal media has in this country.

  3. Bruce says:

    I have not seen proof that wilson lied. Rove gave her identity to a reporter, not CIA officials. That should be proof enough that it was a political not a legal issue. No matter how much we might approve of the Bush agenda, it seems to me that we should think very carefully before we decide that the ends justify the means. Exposing our own covert operators is a slippery slope in political maneuvers and, pretty darn close to illegal if somehow it isn’t.

  4. PIP says:

    Exposing our own covert operators is a slippery slope in political maneuvers and, pretty darn close to illegal if somehow it isn’t.

    Rove is, first and foremost, a patriot and a defender of freedom. If we don’t let him do what he needs to do to keep the country safe, then the terrorists have won.

    Wilson and Plame compromised the safety and security of the US by daring to question the President. Criticism of the president undermines the morale of the troops and is, hence, anti-American and anti-troop.

    If Rove technically “broke” a law, we should consider the law quaint and not applicable in the war against terror.

    Upholding the law plays into the hands of terrorists.

  5. mic says:

    Rove is first and foremost the president’s Chief Political Advisor He is not known for his niceties. And, as a slippery slope goes, I just watched the new star wars and that is uncannily similar behavior to the chancelor’s (Darth Siddious)

  6. PIP says:

    Rove is first and foremost the president’s Chief Political Advisor He is not known for his niceties. And, as a slippery slope goes, I just watched the new star wars and that is uncannily similar behavior to the chancelor’s (Darth Siddious)

    Give me a break. To equate Rove to a character in some Hollywood liberal’s movie is irrelevant. He is now the President’s Chief Policy Advisor.

    It was clear that Plame had become a threat to national security and that if people had believed what her idiot husband had said they might have voted Democrat. It was important for Rove to set the record straight because the terrorists want nothing more than for Bush to leave office. ANYTHING that Rove could have done to see that that did not happen was part of protecting the country from our most vicious threat.

  7. mike says:

    If Rove’s chief concern was to show that the report was off base then why tell a reporter? Why wouldn’t he go to the CIA and let them handle it? Better yet, why is a political advisor involved at all.
    There were dozens of better ways to handle this and Rove picked the worst option and broke the law while doing it. I don’t think we need to have someone w/ access to as much classified material as Rove sees on a daily basis in such a possession when he is so willing to reveal such info when he thinks it is politically necessary – that is why we have such laws.

  8. Karen Miller says:

    I think it is interesting that Jeff Gannon should write this, because he was there, and interviewed Jos. Wilson:

    HighVizPR + Promotion = the new journalism. Politics = Show Biz!
    Monday, July 11, 2005
    Jeff Gannon was there. This is his opinion, just Plame/Wilson seeking PR (politics as usual?–think again.)

    From – and it all boils down to “Gannongate” and “Politics as PR, plain and simple – just ask Atrios*. But you have to stop and think about Gannon’s final paragraph —

    July 11, 2005

    Joe Wilson Outed Valerie Plame

    Democrats and their operatives in the mainstream media are breathlessly reporting that White House political advisor Karl Rove leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, allegedly a covert agent for the Central Intelligence Agency. Her name and ties to the intelligence agency became public after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, made allegations that the Bush administration exaggerated claims that Saddam Hussein sought to acquire “yellowcake” uranium from Africa.

    But the e-mails between Time magazine White House correspondent Matthew Cooper and his bureau chief Michael Duffy that mysteriously found their way into the hands of “rival” publication Newsweek only indicate that Rove had a conversation with the reporter about Wilson and never mentioned his wife’s name. Cooper wrote that Rove tried to steer him away from Wilson’s assertions because his conclusions might have been inaccurate. He also said that neither CIA Director George Tenet nor Vice President Dick Cheney sent Wilson on any mission. Instead, he suggested it was “Wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.”This clearly indicates that Rove did not engage in the “smear campaign” that Wilson has alleged. Just saying that the ambassador’s wife worked for the CIA is not an outing and doesn’t demonstrate that Rove was aware that she might be a secret agent. The agency has thousands of employees, with only a small percentage of them having a covert status. The question still remains whether Plame was covert at the time Rove spoke with Cooper.

    If anyone is responsible for Plame’s outing, it is Wilson himself. Not content to express his opinion within the diplomatic, military or intelligence communities after his inconclusive report was dismissed, he went public. His scathing, op-ed for the New York Times was an overt political act that put him in the spotlight he craved, but also called attention to those around him. As was repeated in Gannongate, controversial figures come under intense professional and personal scrutiny. It now seems clear that Wilson was willing to sacrifice his wife’s career to gain the notoriety he sought. Journalists and government officials began to question Wilson’s motives and how he came to be sent on such an important mission. His outspoken criticism of the Bush administration’s policy toward Iraq made him an unlikely candidate for the trip, despite his qualifications. Wilson did not posses a unique set of abilities and experience to justify selection for a highly sensitive investigation.

    Wilson’s primary role and his wife’s secondary role in her outing have been completely ignored by both the media and the agency itself. In an October 2003 interview with Wilson, I confronted him about an internal memo that detailed a meeting where his wife recommended him for the mission. He denied that any such meeting took place. A CIA source later told Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank that the memo was a forgery, which he dutifully reported in a front-page story in December 2003. Yet the Senate Intelligence Committee verified the content of the memo as part of its July 2004 report and chastised the ambassador for his “misleading” statements to the contrary. Wilson was immediately dropped as a senior foreign policy advisor to the Kerry campaign and all references to him purged from its website.

    Plame’s outing was not a punishment for Wilson’s disagreement with the administration it was by-product of a publicity-seeking ex-diplomat. Wilson’s own actions focused attention on the couple and raised disturbing questions about the agency and its ability to provide the intelligence necessary to protect the Homeland.


    *SIDEBAR: Atrios, the Liberal one, writes: “This New York Times article on the Rove case is typically clear as mud, but after reading it several times and consulting with a handful of liberal intellectuals, I’ve gained new respect for Matt Cooper. Basically, he got fed up with Rove’s lawyer lying to the press, and figured that combined with the waiver he’d previously received and the emphasis Luskin placed on it, was enough. In other words, Rove’s lawyer, acting as an agent of Rove, mounted a too extreme PR campaign on behalf of his client, and sufficient deceptive remarks led Cooper to say fuck it. Luskin thought Cooper wouldn’t testify no matter what he said, and he was wrong. Good for Cooper.”


  9. jon frank says:

    the first guy who bombed the WTC is in jail. Even Slick Willie was able to get the job done with a hostile public.

    Rove is, first and foremost, a patriot and a defender of freedom. If we don’t let him do what he needs to do to keep the country safe, then the terrorists have won.

    What if he needs to open all our markets to the highest bidder regardless of the human cost? What if he needs to “inter” dissidents in the US. What if he needs to relax the anti-pollution laws until everyone on the lower Mississippi has cancer and dies? What if he needs to write billions of dollars in american bonds and give the money to his friends at halliburton? what if he needs to break the law? WHat if he needs to break the ten commandments?

  10. Kerlin says:

    I like the analogy of the Emperor. I can see the lightning shooting from his fingertips as john Mcain announces his run for the presidency

  11. McGehee says:

    It’s scary how many people are treating PIP’s lame attempt at sarcasm as a serious comment.