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July 11, 2006
Novak: I Got Plame's Name From Who's Who

(Well, okay -- one last post. -- CE)

Robert Novak has finally spoken out on his involvement in the investigation on the Valerie Plame leak case. In tomorrow's column, Novak explains that Plame's name came from a reference book, and that he used his contacts in the administration merely for passive confirmation. The Drudge Report saw the text, and printed excerpts (via Stop the ACLU):

BOB NOVAK, My Leak Case Testimony: ‘I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in ‘Who’s Who in America’… MORE Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue… MORE… My primary source has not come forward to identify himself… Bill Harlow, the CIA public information officer who was my CIA source for the column confirming Mrs. Wilson’s identity. I learned Valerie Plame’s name from Joe Wilson’s entry in ‘Who’s Who in America’… I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow and my primary source… I considered his wife’s role in initiating Wilson’s mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story. I reported it on that basis.

Howard Kurtz also saw Novak's report, and has his own analysis in tomorrow's Washington Post:

In a column to be published today, Novak said he told Fitzgerald in early 2004 that White House senior adviser Karl Rove and then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow had confirmed for him, at his request, information about CIA operative Valerie Plame. Novak said he also told Fitzgerald about another senior administration official who originally provided him with the information about Plame, and whose identity he says he cannot reveal even now. ...

Critics say that Novak helped the administration retaliate against Wilson, who had become a prominent critic of Bush's conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war, by revealing that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Novak said yesterday he does not feel that he was used.

"The primary source was not a political operative," he said, and he mentioned Plame's role in the middle of a conversation about other subjects. "I don't believe it was part of a plan to discredit anybody."

Oddly, Kurtz never mentions the Who's Who research, although the excerpts reported by Drudge make it clear that Novak found her name on his own. Neither does CNN, for that matter. The excerpt apparently has been taken down by Drudge, and Novak's full column has not yet hit the website. Did Drudge get the story wrong? I guess we'll find out tomorrow. Either he did, or Kurtz and CNN didn't bother to include that detail.

Even without it, Novak claims that the CIA provided confirmation of Plame's name and employment before he published the story -- and just to be clear, neither Kurtz nor CNN actually describes how Novak got Plame's name, just how he confirmed it. If Plame's status was a secret, then Bill Harlow shouldn't have confirmed anything for Novak. Just getting that part of the story out pretty much deflates the entire notion of a vendetta at the White House. It also begs the question of how this constitutes an illegal leak when the CIA's own spokesman gave out the information. The fact that Patrick Fitzgerald never indicted Bill Harlow seems a pretty clear indication that the original reason for conducting the probe was nothing more than a trumped-up political attack on George Bush and Dick Cheney.


UPDATE: Novak's column is out, and it confirms that Drudge had it right and that Kurtz and CNN apparently decided that part of Novak's story -- which destroys the notion of a political vendetta aimed at neutralizing Plame at the CIA -- wasn't newsworthy enough. Novak states that a so-far-unnamed source, someone outside of White House politics, mentioned that Joe Wilson got his assignment through his wife at the CIA to explain what Wilson was doing in Niger in the first place. Then:

Following my interview with the primary source, I sought out the second administration official and the CIA spokesman for confirmation. I learned Valerie Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in "Who's Who in America."

I considered his wife's role in initiating Wilson's mission, later confirmed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, to be a previously undisclosed part of an important news story. I reported it on that basis.

No one gave Novak Plame's name. Who's Who had it as part of Joe Wilson's listing. If her identity was such a secret, then one can reasonably assume that (a) Joe Wilson wouldn't have listed her under her professional name, but as Valerie Wilson; (b) CIA spokesman Bill Harlow wouldn't have confirmed her identity to Novak when Novak inquired about it; and (c) Joe Wilson wouldn't have leaked details of the mission to the Washington Post and New York Times, and would have refrained from writing his own op-eds at the Times under his own name.

Again, this should put an end to this silliness. The people responsible for outing Valerie Plame are Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame herself, and her cohorts at the CIA who tried running a little disinformation campaign against George Bush in order to control foreign policy themselves.

UPDATE II: The Real Ugly American notes this paragraph with some amazement:

For nearly the entire time of his investigation, Fitzgerald knew -- independent of me -- the identity of the sources I used in my column of July 14, 2003. A federal investigation was triggered when I reported that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was employed by the CIA and helped initiate his 2002 mission to Niger. That Fitzgerald did not indict any of these sources may indicate his conclusion that none of them violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

So he knew these sources the entire time, but never bothered to seek an indictment on the ostensible purpose of the investigation? Fitzgerald will have to answer for that. If true, then he should have concluded his investigation as soon as he determined that no laws had been broken in the leak. It appears from Novak's comment that Fitzgerald went on a two-year hunt for an indictment rather than an honest criminal investigation. This is what happens with special investigators; they never know when to stop.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 11, 2006 10:23 PM

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