Monday :: Jul 18, 2005

Treasongate: Calculated

by eriposte

Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's attorney, earlier this month:

According to Luskin, the fact that Rove did not call Cooper; that the original purpose of the call, as Cooper told Rove, was welfare reform; that only after Cooper brought the WMD issue up did Rove discuss Wilson — all are "indications that this was not a calculated effort by the White House to get this story out." [eRiposte emphasis]

For a group that claims that "this was not a calculated effort", they certainly didn't behave consistent with that claim, as I show below.

1. Billmon cites Matt Cooper:

Why, what a coincidence! When Cooper asked Scooter Libby about Wilson's wife, what was his response? Exactly the same thing Rove supposedly told Novak [link] when he showed up looking for confirmation:

On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, "Yeah, I've heard that too," or words to that effect. (emphasis added)

2. Americablog cites the Los Angeles Times:

A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: "He's a Democrat."

3. Center for American Progress:

The White House did act in an organized way to push Plame's identity as a way to discredit Wilson. First, Robert Novak admitted: "I didn't dig it out [Plame's identity], it was given to me.... They [the White House] thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." Second, Rove told Chris Matthews that Plame's identity was "fair game." Third, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell noted in 2003 that she "heard in the White House that people were touting the Novak column and that that was the real story." Fourth, Time magazine reported the orchestrated campaign against Wilson in October 2003: "In the days after Wilson's essay appeared, government officials began to steer reporters away from Wilson's conclusions." Fifth, an administration official admitted the leak "was meant purely and simply for revenge."

4. Walter Pincus (Nieman Watchdog):

On July 12, 2003, an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing [eRiposte emphasis] and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.

I didn't write about that information at that time because I did not believe it true that she had arranged his Niger trip. But I did disclose it in an October 12, 2003 story [here] in The Washington Post.

5. UPDATE on 10/9/05: In the midst of my continuing research on this topic, I ran into another piece of evidence for a calculated effort by the White House - via emptywheel at The Next Hurrah (unless otherwise stated bold text is in emptywheel's post):

The third article in this volley is the same article where Pincus first reveals the WaPo received a leak, too. It's actually written jointly with Mike Allen, one of the two journalists who wrote the September 28 article. And in it, Allen returns to his senior administration source for a response to, among other things, Novak's refutation.

That same week, two top White House officials disclosed Plame's identity to least six Washington journalists, an administration official told The Post for an article published Sept. 28. The source elaborated on the conversations last week, saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson.

"It was unsolicited," the source said. "They were pushing back. They used everything they had." [Eriposte emphasis]

Yes, this article reiterates, the Administration pitched this story to six journalists. And yes, this article reiterates, it was a planned leak. So in that sense, this article refutes one of Novak's primary assertions in his column.

This paragraph appears just three paragraphs before (then-anonymous) Pincus' admission he had received a leak (this is quoted in its entirety above), which in turn appears one paragraph before two paragraphs describing some of the other journalists who had received leaks.

After Novak's column appeared, several high-profile reporters told Wilson that they had received calls from White House officials drawing attention to his wife's role [Eriposte emphasis]. Andrea Mitchell of NBC News said she received one of those calls.

Wilson said another reporter called him on July 21 and said he had just hung up with Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove. The reporter quoted Rove as describing Wilson's wife as "fair game," Wilson said. Newsweek has identified that reporter as MSNBC television host Chris Matthews.

In other words, this whole passage reinforces the claim that the WH leaked to six different journalists. And the story of the leak to Pincus appears as part of the effort to refute Novak's article.

6. UPDATE ON 10/17/05: Judith Miller wrote about her testimony to the grand jury and said this regarding her second conversation (on this issue) with Scooter Libby on July 8, 2003:

Although I was interested primarily in my area of expertise - chemical and biological weapons - my notes show that Mr. Libby consistently steered our conversation back to the administration's nuclear claims. His main theme echoed that of other senior officials: that contrary to Mr. Wilson's criticism, the administration had had ample reason to be concerned about Iraq's nuclear capabilities based on the regime's history of weapons development, its use of unconventional weapons and fresh intelligence reports.

At that breakfast meeting, our conversation also turned to Mr. Wilson's wife. My notes contain a phrase inside parentheses: "Wife works at Winpac." Mr. Fitzgerald asked what that meant. Winpac stood for Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control, the name of a unit within the C.I.A. that, among other things, analyzes the spread of unconventional weapons.

I said I couldn't be certain whether I had known Ms. Plame's identity before this meeting, and I had no clear memory of the context of our conversation that resulted in this notation. But I told the grand jury that I believed that this was the first time I had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for Winpac.

And about her third conversation with Libby on July 12, 2003 (also before Novak's column):

My notes of this phone call show that Mr. Libby quickly turned to criticizing Mr. Wilson's report on his mission to Niger.

eriposte :: 7:47 PM :: Comments (7) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!