NOVAK-GATE V: END OF STORY?

Steven Taylor has a report that, if true, pretty much ends this one:

According to a radio report I just heard, Novak said on Crossfire today that he did not get the Plame info from a leak, but from an interview, and that when he called the CIA to confirm that she worked for them, they confirmed that fact–which would be strange if she was indeed some covert operative.

No joke.

Ogged has a similar Novak quote from Drudge:

‘Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson’s report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing. As a professional journalist with 46 years experience in Washington I do not reveal confidential sources. When I called the CIA in July to confirm Mrs. Wilson’s involvement in the mission for her husband — he is a former Clinton administration official — they asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives’…

Aside from simple clerical personnel, I don’t even know who CIA employs that’s neither an analyst nor an operative nor a supervisor. Still, Ogged thinks this amounts to a confession:

Nobody called him to leak it, rather, it was divulged during a call either initiated by Novak or made by the leaker for (ostensibly) another purpose. And that is completely irrelevant. What Novak’s statement does is confirm that a “senior administration official” is the leaker and that another “senior administration official” confirmed that the original leaker had given true information. Further, Novak also confirms that the CIA asked him not to use Plame’s name, but, apparently, didn’t phrase it strongly enough for Novak to take it seriously. Further yet, the apparently mitigating list at the end of Novak’s statement, “not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives,” pointedly does not say whether she was associated with undercover operations in a way that could compromise those operations should her name become public.

In other words, Robert Novak just confirmed that two senior administration officials committed a crime.

I don’t know what the law is on this, but publishing a name that one got through non-classified sources of someone who works for the CIA in a non-covert capacity is almost certainly not a crime.

This still doesn’t let the Administration off the hook, though. If they were “outing” someone who didn’t wish to be a public person simply to punish her husband for embarrasing them politically, it’s still problematic. Probably not impeachable, but certainly not admirable.

FILED UNDER: US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. ogged says:

    I definitely don’t think Novak committed a crime. The quote from him makes it sound like he was talking to a senior official who outed Plame. That’s the crime.

  2. JohnC says:

    D’oh! I’m sure the CIA hadn’t thought about this when they pressed for charges to be investigated! They must be slapping their heads at being cleverly out witted by Novak. Old man McGreevy sure beat out those meddling kids this time.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I can’t imagine that “outing” an agent who isn’t covert is a crime.

  4. How can Plume be an agent who needed her identity kept secret if on her husband’s bio (http://www.mideasti.org/html/bio-wilson.html) it clearly states who he’s married too including her maiden name?

  5. James Joyner says:

    Sean,

    Not sure exactly, since it’s incredibly murky what her status was. I know we have people–as does everyone–who work as “themselves” but ostensibly as diplomatic personnel attached to an embassy but are in reality field agents. But one would think that would still be classified as a “covert” agent–and the story now says she wasn’t that. I dunno.

  6. Steven says:

    JohnC,

    From what I have been reading, there was not an attempt by the CIA to press charges, per se, but a memo was sent (one of about 50 such memos this year) if “there may have been an unauthorized disclosure”. See this at PoliBlog, for example (amongst numerous other postings).

    At this point, I am still not sure who (in terms of rank) gave Novak the info and what their motives were, and I still hold out the very real chance something sleazy or even illegal took place. Still, thus far the evidence that a major scandal has broken out is rather scant. It seems that some Dems heard that Karl Rove might have been involved, and they went a bit nuts before having sufficient facts.

    I still see this as developing.

  7. Anonymous says:

    does’nt this contradict the washington post story by Allen & Priest where the claim made was that Robert Novak was one of 5 or 6 reporters who were called by the “senior administration officials” to leak the name of the CIA operative?

  8. I’m waiting to see when the other reports come out into the open. That none have come to the surface makes me wonder.

  9. Anonymous says:

    It seems that the main sources of this “scandal” are changing their story every day, back tracking their blame, etc. (both Novak and Wilson are retracting previous comments about senior officials, etc.). Political partisans like Drumm got ahead of themselves trying to get a scandal cooking and will probably end up looking like the hateful, vile filled people they really are.

    The easiest thing to do would be to put Novak under oath and have him tell what happened. As Instapundit noted this is not against the 1st, but probably wouldn’t happen due to pressure from the press itself. In the mean time, this story seems to become less and less of an inssue.

  10. Bwahaha says:

    BWAHAHAHA! Still believe it’s the end of story?

  11. James Joyner says: