Plame On

It looks like Bob Woodward got there first once again.

A front-page piece in the Washington Post today reports how the investigative reporter/author/talking head has testified that - contrary to what the special prosecutor has said - he learned about CIA operative Valerie Plame from a senior administration official a month before she was outed.

He won't name the official - and it's not either I. Lewis Libby or Karl Rove. The source cleared Woodward to give a deposition, which he did, Monday.

Lots are writing about it. My favorite so far? Slate's Eric Umansky expresses Blinq's deepest thoughts when he writes:

The fact that Woodward was involved and first obviously means ... who knows?

What interests guest blogger Betsy Newmark at Michelle Malkin's site is that Woodward says he passed the info, which he didn't know was classified, along to Post investigative reporter Walter Pincus. But Pincus has a different recollection. ("Are you kidding? I certainly would have remembered that.")

Newmark asks: So, if Woodward and Pincus both testify to different memories of their conversations, how is that different from Libby and Russert both testifying to different memories of their conversations? If we can believe that the great Bob Woodward is misremembering when he told someone something, isn't it possible that Tim Russert could misremember something, too? Or that Scooter Libby could? Why is one discrepancy worthy of indictment and the other one chalked up to "confusion about the timing"?

On the other side of the aisle, Talk Left has it all figured out - or at least a scenario that makes sense. 

Armando at the Daily Kos reasons that Woodward's actions will have no effect on Libby, the Cheney chief of staff indicted for perjury in the case. But it will hurt Woodward's rep, Armando says.

(Forgot the boilerplate graf: This is the case of Valerie Plame, outed as a CIA agent by someone in the Bush administration. Her husband, Joe Wilson, a former diplomat, went on a fact-finding mission to Niger to see if Saddam Hussein was seeking enriched uranium for a weapons of mass destruction program. Became a vocal critic of the administration's main plank for going to war with Iraq.)

The New York Times, whose ex-reporter Judith Miller did 85 days rather than testify about what a confidential source told her about the case, writes today that Libby's lawyers will be seeking to compel more reporters to talk about who in the government said what to them about Plame. That should be interesting.

The Times's Eric Lichtblau reports: Defense lawyers plan to seek notes not only from the three reporters cited in the indictment - Tim Russert of NBC News, Matt Cooper of Time Magazine and Judith Miller, formerly of The New York Times - but also from other journalists who have been tied to the case.

Chief among those is Robert D. Novak, who first disclosed in a column in July 2003 that Valerie Plame worked for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Oh yeah, him.

Judywoodward Billmon at Whiskey Bar goes off-the-grid with his post.

Usually, one can find elegant essays at the site. Today he shows his mastery of Photoshop.

The headline is Judy Woodward.

Posted 11/16/2005 11:53:59 AM

If Libby's charges ever go to trial, cross-exam is gonna be a bear for a lot of reporters. And Fitz left open the door by saying that Plame's CIA employment was not widely known, when there is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that it was known within the pool of Beltway reporters and talking heads.

Daniel Rubin
Posted 11/16/2005 12:01:50 PM

I agree with that first point. On the second, knew she was undercover, or that she was a CIA employee?

Posted 11/16/2005 12:35:32 PM

"On the second, knew she was undercover, or that she was a CIA employee?" This is the exact verbiage from Fitz's indictment of Libby: "Prior to July 14, 2003, Valerie Wilson's affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community." IMO Fitz was scrambling to justify an indictment of Libby at the last minute. Recall that he had agents interviewing Plame's neighbors a couple of weeks before the Grand Jury expired. However, if Plame's identity as a CIA employee was somewhat well known among the Washington set (and there is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that it was), then Libby's alleged false statements become much less material and harder to prove. And since Fitz put this in the indictment, it gives Libby's lawyers carte blanche to subpeona reporters to show it is not true, and also a lot of latitude to cross-exam reporters called by the government as prosecution witnesses.

Posted 11/16/2005 12:46:50 PM

If Woodward's statements are truthful (and I do agree he has had a few problems with the truth in the past, but I doubt he would lie here because Fitz could counter false statements), then this completely changes Plamegate - because Plame's name was being mentioned by the Administration BEFORE Wilson's editorial was published in the NY Times. IMO Plamegate is a public manifestation of a large battle going on behind the scenes at the CIA. IMO Plame and Wilson were part of a faction opposed to the Bush Admin, and an unnamed source at the CIA who was opposed to their Niger gambit was feeding Judith Miller and Scooter Libby about what they were up to. Recall that Wilson didn't have to sign a confidentiality agreement, which left him free to pen an Op-Ed later, something a normal agent could never have done. Also recall that Wilson claimed his wife had nothing to do with his selection, which is clearly not true. And having a spouse of a CIA agent go public with a political bombshell is bad tradecraft if the CIA really wanted to keep Plame's identity secret - and Novak said the CIA didn't try very hard to do such (no call from the director, which he had received in the past in a similar situation). And most importantly, recall that Miller agreed to testify only when Fitz agreed to not question her about anyone other than Libby. And then read Hoagland's cryptic editorial in the Wash Post which said Bush was justified to be concerned about political shennanigans by the CIA. It reeks of turf battle, and we only see bits and pieces of it. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR: Daniel Rubin

Posted 11/16/2005 12:53:26 PM

i don't know that the date, if correct, 'completely changes plamegate.' wilson is described as an increasingly vocal critic of the administration. even before his op-ed piece he was critical, and a potential problem if one wanted to dampen bad news.

Posted 11/16/2005 01:12:55 PM

"i don't know that the date, if correct, 'completely changes plamegate.' wilson is described as an increasingly vocal critic of the administration. even before his op-ed piece he was critical, and a potential problem if one wanted to dampen bad news." The typical notion of Plamegate is that it was a response to Wilson's NY Times Op-Ed. If Plame was being mentioned well before that Op Ed, then there was more going on. Given that Wilson first appeared in this saga, albeit anonymously, in Pincus's June 12th Wash Post column, then one would think that would have possible generated some interest by the Administration. However, that was three weeks before Wilson's NY Times Op-Ed. Woodward says he found out a week or so before that, and told Pincus apparently BEFORE the June 12th column. So something apparently had the Admin's interest in Plame piqued BEFORE Pincus wrote his column. And also note that Pincus had another column on this story published the same day that Wilson's Op Ed was published in the NY Times. Joe DiGenova, a former prosecutor, has some interesting speculation that there was a CIA scheme going on with this. Unfortunately, I doubt we'll ever know, since DC prefers to keep those matters quiet when possible.

Daniel Rubin
Posted 11/16/2005 01:21:22 PM

Some intense Plameology. Thanks.