For all intent and purposes, the special prosecutor’s duty in the CIA leak case is straightforward. How the investigation ever got so complicated is beyond me. Mr Fitzgerald needs to keep it simple.
Valerie Plame was a CIA agent in July 2003, and the fact that she was a CIA officer was classified. The responsibilities of some CIA employees require that their association with the agency be kept secret, because disclosure has the potential to damage national security in ways that range from preventing the future use of the agents, to compromising intelligence-gathering methods, to endangering the safety of CIA employees, and people who they may be associated with.
Valerie’s status was not widely known. The special prosecutor verified that her friends, neighbors, and college classmates had no idea she had another life. Her cover was blown in July 2003. The first public outing was when Robert Novak published a story about Valerie and her husband Joe Wilson on July 14, 2003, noting her status as a CIA agent, and quoting senior administration officials as his sources.
The investigation really only required the answers to 3 basic questions: (1) which senior officials knew about Valerie’s employment with the CIA? (2) did the officials know the CIA was protecting her identity? And (3) who leaked her name and status to the press?
We now know that just as many people suspected, Karl Rove was one of the sources for Novak. However, he may have published the first outing, but Novak was not the first reporter to learn that Joe’s wife worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told earlier.
Because, also just as was suspected, Scooter Libby was the other leaker, and he was the first official to leak Valerie’s name and status to the media when he told Judy Miller in June of 2003, after Dick Cheney leaked the information to him, with Bush’s full approval and knowledge.
As a condition for working with classified information, on January 23, 2001, Libby signed a ‘Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,’ which states in part: ‘I understand and accept that by being granted access to classified information, special confidence and trust shall be placed in me by the United States Government.’
In signing the Agreement Libby goes on to state: ‘I have been advised that the unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation.’
Scooter clearly violated this oath.
To begin with, it obvious that the White House did not follow the proper procedures for safeguarding Valerie’s identity. Under EO 12958, the White House should have ensured that only those with a "need to know" had access to her covert identity.
It’s a no-brainer, that as Bush’s political advisor, Rove, should not have had access to the information. What compelling "need to know" would justify revealing her identity to him?
This little problem is probably what led to Rove’s ‘promotion’ a while back, just as his up-coming arrest is probably what led to his ‘demotion’ yesterday.
As far as responding to the leak itself, under EO 12958, the White House should have taken prompt action to determine (1) whether nondisclosure agreements were violated; (2) whether individuals without security clearance obtained classified information; and (3) whether national security information was compromised.
But then no investigation was necessary because the Bush White House knew the answers to those questions before the first leak occurred.
By intentionally publicizing the fact that Valerie worked at the CIA, the administration not only destroyed her career, they compromised whatever operations she may have worked on, and whatever networks she may have established over her lengthily career with the agency and the tax dollars spent on the above went right down the sewer.
Early on in the investigation, the FBI interviewed Scooter. In addition to being Cheney’s Chief of Staff at the time, he was also an Assistant to the President and Assistant to the Vice President for national security affairs.
According to filings in the criminal case, the focus of the FBI interview was on what Libby knew about Valerie, what he said to people about her, why he said it, and how he learned of the information.
He told the FBI that he was at the end of a long chain of phone calls. He spoke to reporter, Tim Russert, on July 10, 2003, and during the call, Russert said, hey, do you know that all the reporters know that Wilson’s wife works at the CIA. Scooter said that he learned this information as if it was new, and that is why it ‘struck him.’ Then, according to Scooter, he took the information from Russert and passed it on to Matt Cooper of Time Magazine, and New York Times reporter Judy Miller. He told the FBI that on July 12, 2003, two days before Novak’s column appeared in the press, that he passed the information on with the understanding that this was information he had received from a reporter, and that he didn’t even know if it was true.
However, six months later in March 2004, when he testified before the grand jury on two occasions, Scooter added a new twist to his original tale. To the grand jury, Libby said that he had learned about Valerie from Cheney earlier in June 2003, but he had forgotten all about it; and so when he had learned the information from Russert, he’d learned it as if it were new. Then Scooter said, he passed the information on to Cooper and Miller, later in the week. However, we now know that Scooter discussed the fact that Valerie worked for the CIA, at least 6 times before the call with Russert ever took place, not to mention the fact that according to Tim, they never discussed Valerie at all during that call. The bottom line is that Scooter did not learn about Valerie from Tim Russert. In the Libby indictment, Fitzgerald says that on June 12, 2003, Cheney informed Libby that Valerie worked at the CIA’s Counter-proliferation Division. The CPD is part of the operations directorate, the CIA’s clandestine services.
In fact, the indictment says that Scooter learned of the information about Valeria from other administration officials as well in June of 2003. On June 11, he learned about her from an Under Secretary of State and sometime prior to July 8, Scooter learned the information from someone else in Cheney’s office. On June 14, 2003, he discussed the matter with a CIA briefer and was complaining that the CIA was leaking information or making critical comments about the administration and brought up Joe and Valerie to the briefer. He also discussed the her at lunch with White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, on Monday, July 7, 2003, which means that we have Scooter telling Ari something on Monday that he claims to not have learned from Russert until Thursday. There was also a discussion the next day on July 8, in which Scooter asked the Counsel for the Vice President what paperwork the CIA would have if an employee had a spouse going on a trip. In the end, Scooter had 7 discussions with government officials prior to the day when he claims he learned the information as if it were new from Russert.
In addition, the story he gave to the FBI and grand jury was that he told reporters Cooper and Miller on July 12. However, according to filings in the case, Scooter discussed Valerie at least 4 times with these reporters prior to July 14, 2003; three times with Miller, and once with Cooper.
The first discussion with Miller was on June 23; within days after an article was published online by The New Republic, quoting some critical comments from Wilson.
He spoke about Valerie with Miller again on July 8, in a discussion that was in background as a ‘senior administration official,’ after which he instructed Miller to change the attribution to a ‘former Hill staffer.’
During that conversation, Scooter said that Valerie was working for the CIA, and he discussed her employment status again with Miller on July 12.
In his conversations with Miller, Scooter never said this is what other reporters told me. He never said I don’t know if it’s true, or I don’t even know if Wilson has a wife, according to Miller.
So, Rove and Scooter were the 2 administration officials who leaked the information to the press and the top officials in the Bush administration knew it from day one and allowed a charade of an investigation to stretch on for years on the tax payer’s dime.
However, another cat is said to be ready to leap out of the bag and Rove’s ‘demotion’ yesterday is probably the least of his worries.
According to an article published today by investigative reporter, Jason Leopold, for Truthout.org, Fitzgerald is said to have presented more evidence alleging Rove lied to FBI investigators and the grand jury when he was asked about how he found out that Valerie worked for the CIA and whether he gave that information to the media.
‘Fitzgerald told the grand jury,’ Leopold said, ‘that Rove lied to investigators and the prosecutor eight out of the nine times he was questioned about the leak and also tried to cover-up his role in disseminating Plame Wilson’s CIA status to at least two reporters.’
Mr Fitzgerald needs to keep it simple, wrap up the investigation, and reserve a row of prison cells in Cuba.
Evelyn Pringle can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org