A couple of months ago, I summarized the Plame Affair best as I could speculate. A lot of new information has come to light, so I decided to update that narrative.
The Background--Niger Claims and Power Struggles
I'll start with some background. There are two reasons why members of the Bush Administration were reckless enough to out a NOC out of petty revenge. First, Wilson's criticisms risked exposing their elaborate plot to plant Niger forgeries. There is now a lot of circumstantial evidence that Iran-Contra operative Michael Ledeen and Harold Rhode planted the Niger forgeries with SISMI, Italian intelligence. I think the original plan was just to plant the forgeries so friendly members of SISMI could funnel the intelligence--but never the documents--to the US. But as people within the US Intelligence Community continued to question the Niger claims, the plotters finally had to produce actual documents. Which is why, in October of 2002, Elisabetta Burba, an employee of the Berlusconi-owned Panorama, received the documents.
Even here, though, they thought they had an out. Rather than sending
the documents to the US through the CIA, the documents were sent via
the US embassy directly to John Bolton's office (SSCI 58). An INR analyst--who
recognized the documents as bogus as soon as he saw them--attempted to
distribute and discredit the documents right away. But then he was
unexpectedly on leave the day when he had planned to distribute the
documents. Perhaps as a result, WINPAC, which was responsible for leading the vetting of the documents, either didn't receive or didn't do
anything with the documents until early 2003. So, the vetting process
didn't happen until March, after the time when BushCo had intended to start the war. When the IAEA discredited the
documents in early March 2003, the Bush Administration claimed ignorance, "Well, gosh, we got taken in by those forgeries, can you believe it? Well, let's just have our war anyway." So long as they could claim ignorance, they could hide the way they had manipulated events to bring us into war. But as soon as Wilson started saying that BushCo had know all along that the Niger claims were false, it threatened to undermine BushCo's ignorance ploy.
But that's not the only reason BushCo were reckless enough to out a NOC. Up to and during the war, Cheney and Rummy's DOD were in an epic fight with State and some factions within the CIA over control of the Iraq reconstruction. This was no mere bureaucratic struggle. In fact, the Pentagon was making tactical decisions to support Rummy's attempt to outflank or pre-empt State's efforts to establish a wide-ranging Iraqi interim government. They did this most notably when they flew Chalabi and his forces into Iraq to undercut a State Department conference on Iraqi governance, and did it again when they flew Chalabi into Baghdad so he would be the first exile leader in the capital. The struggle between Defense and State may have extended so far that Judy--by repeating an accusation made by an anonymous INC member--may have exposed Chalabi rival Saad Janabi as a CIA asset.
The Smear: March to July 2003
So when a long-term State Department employee with ties to CIA's reality-based faction started publicly attacking the Bush Administration's Niger claims, they struck out. As Wilson describes:
After my appearance on CNN in early March 2003, when I first asserted that the U.S. government knew more about the Niger uranium matter than it was letting on, I am told by a source close to the House Judiciary Committee that the Office of the Vice President -- either the vice president himself or, more likely, his chief of staff, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby -- chaired a meeting at which a decision was made to do a "workup" on me. As I understand it, this meant they were going to take a close look at who I was and what my agenda might be.
The meeting did not include discussion of how the president or his senior staff might address the indisputable, if inconvenient, fact that the allegation I had made was true. In other words, from the very beginning, the strategy of the White House was to confront the issue as a "Wilson" problem rather than as an issue of the lie that was in the State of the Union address. That time frame, from my CNN appearance in early March, after the administration claimed they "fell for" the forged documents, to the first week in July, makes sense, as it allows time for all the necessary sleuthing to have been done on us, including the discovery of Valerie's name and employment.
At this point, this is in no way remarkable for this Administration. Nor, as Howard Fineman described, did they probably think consciously about breaking the law.
It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration.
They just did what they always do. Find the dirt (or, if need be, invent it) and run with it.
Here's my speculation of how they learned about Plame. After Libby chaired the meeting in Cheney's office, they likely asked for input on this "work-up" from people that included John Bolton and Stephen Hadley. So when John Bolton received a copy of the famous INR memo around June 10, he made note that Wilson's wife (not named as Plame at this point) was a CIA employee. Bolton may have asked his Chief of Staff, Fred Fleitz, for more information. Or, he may have circulated the news (and possibly the memo) to the other people doing a "work-up" on Wilson, including Stephen Hadley. Both Fleitz and David Shedd, a Hadley aide, were dually asigned CIA analysts, either of whom may have known Ms. Wilson as Valerie Plame, either of whom may have known of her NOC cover with Brewster and Jennings.
I strongly suspect that Hadley put together a talking points memo that consolidated this "work-up." I believe that because the INR memo cannot be the sole source of the information Novak used for his column. And because when Bolton and his allies tried to discredit another critic of their flimsy intelligence (this time on Cuba), they did issue and distribute a talking points document. Further, there are several pieces of information the NSC buried by lying about them to the SSCI (notably, the early versions of the SOTU that mentioned Niger). So they probably thought anything they issued out of NSC would fall under executive privilege and would therefore be easy to hide.
I have also speculated that, in addition to circulating the Plame-Wilson news back to Cheney and Hadley, Bolton leaked it to Judy. Then, when Judy tried to write an article about Wilson in late June, op-ed editor David Shipley learned about it and requested the NYT hold the story if he could get Wilson to write the op-ed he had promised. The NYT, feeling a little exposed by Judy's crummy Iraq reporting, told Shipley to go ahead. Which is, according to my speculation, the impetus that finally convinced Wilson to go public.
It's also the reason that Rove and Libby would later claim they learned this news from a journalist, "they're not sure which one." I don't think they planned to use Judy as a cut-out (remember, they didn't really think that they were breaking the law). But it was a convenient detail they could use to try to hide their own crime.
In reality, though, I think that when Wilson went public, people in DC and on Air Force One were using the tools at hand to strike back at Wilson. I suspect the NSC talking points were in Condi's book on Air Force One and in Rove's grubby little paws. The folks in Air Force One no doubt debated how they would respond, their message, while Rove and Libby spoke with six journalists: Judy, Cooper, Russert, Pincus, Kessler, one unknown journalist (probably either Phelps, Royce, or one of writers who shared Cooper's byline on his article), and Novak, to shop varying versions of the story.
Playing Dumb: July to September 2003
Novak published his column on July 14. Within two days, David Corn recognized what had happened and wondered whether it was a violation of the law. Novak’s first instinct was to defend his own actions. From Corn,
Novak tells me that he was indeed tipped off by government officials about Wilson's wife and had no reluctance about naming her. "I figured if they gave it to me," he says. "They'd give it to others....I'm a reporter. Somebody gives me information and it's accurate. I generally use it." And Wilson says Novak told him that his sources were administration officials.
And from Phelps and Royce of Newsday, who published a story pretty much confirming the outing,
Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."
The WH didn't seem to take this seriously yet. When asked, they issued blanket denials that a crime took place, ridiculing the idea. Otherwise, they kept silent, hunkering down in the hopes that by ignoring the issue, calls for an investigation wouldn't gather enough momentum to actually take hold.
Behind the scenes, though, the CIA started the process of asking for an investigation into this leak.
The Fix Is In October to December 2003
The WH’s hunker down period ends on September 28, with the publication of a WaPo article reporting that DOJ would conduct an investigation. The article also quotes a Senior Administration Official damning the smear operation:
a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife.
"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.
It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."
The same source reiterated his statement the following week, in response to a Novak article refuting this story.
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." [emphasis mine]
The anonymous official is widely believed to be either Tenet or Powell. Either would qualify as a “Senior Administration Official.” Tenet might have made such a statement to cap the pre-investigation stage, to reassure CIA personnel he took this seriously (also, the Dana Priest byline would support a Tenet quote). Powell might have been genuinely disgusted by the smear—as Fineman characterized Powell’s involvement,
who should carry the freight on the following Sunday's talk shows? The message: protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue. Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words."
Further, either Tenet or Powell might be willing to speak out against this outing as one more volley in the struggle between Defense and State.
The WH response—publicly, at least, was to switch from a general denial to a technical denial. Now, they no longer mocked the idea that an operative had been outed was ridiculous. Now, they claimed that Rove, Libby, and Abrams had not been involved in the leaking of classified information.
Q: Earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?
A: I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.
Q: So none of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?
A: They assured me that they were not involved in this.
Q: They were not involved in what?
A: The leaking of classified information.
I'm fairly certain this is the point where the WH coordinates this technical defense strategy with Novak (and, less interestingly, with Clifford May) Novak writes the column I mentioned above, mirroring the WH’s new technical denial strategy perfectly [note, Townhall seems to have fairly recently redirected the link directly to Novak's article--I'll look for another copy of it].
First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: "Oh, you know about it." The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.
A big question is her duties at Langley. I regret that I referred to her in my column as an "operative," a word I have lavished on hack politicians for more than 40 years. While the CIA refuses to publicly define her status, the official contact says she is "covered" -- working under the guise of another agency. However, an unofficial source at the Agency says she has been an analyst, not in covert operations.
Note some important features of this story: they didn't call Novak, he called them. And he asked the same question that--remarkably--Libby says Judy asked, "why did Wilson get sent"?
One more detail that may become important. Novak seemed to be responding directly to the WaPo article I cited above, mocking the idea that six reporters had been called. He doesn't refute it, mind you. He just mocks it. Then he goes on to claim his first source wasn't a "partisan gunslinger"--a comment which many people have (unfortunately) taken as truthful, in spite of the fact the rest of the article is so clearly misdirection.
Novak was trying to suggest his source wasn't Rove or Libby, both of whom would clearly be considered a partisan gunslinger. Given the leaks that occurred in July (which I'll describe below), I think this was an attempt to implicate precisely the person who was willing to testify that the smear was planned and deliberate. This was an attempt to cast blame on the person who will, I'm confident, end up being one of Fitzgerald's key witnesses.
Murray Waas provides us with more evidence that Novak's story was the result of deliberate coordination.
Federal investigators have been skeptical of Novak's assertions that he referred to Plame as a CIA "operative" due to his own error, instead of having been explicitly told that was the case by his sources, according to attorneys familiar with the criminal probe.
Really? You think? Waas continues:
Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations.
At this stage, it seems likely that the WH was coordinating with Novak and other conservative columnists to spread the technical exoneration story.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the White House seems have been working to ensure the investigation would amount to no more than a whitewash. They did this in several ways.
First, Alberto Gonzales and DOJ several times stalled the flow of evidence. It took four days between the time the investigation started and the time Gonzales announces it officially to the WH. Then, Gonzales waited 11 hours between the time he sent a general email alerting WH personnel of the investigation and the time he sent an email detailing the specific kinds of evidence that should be saved.
Interestingly, it took 4 days after that ``official'' launch for the Justice Department to call White House Counsel Gonzales and notify him of the official investigation. Gonzalez then asked for an extra day before the Justice Department gave the White House the official notice, which means all documents and records must be preserved.
Then, Gonzales held the evidence for two weeks to “review it for relevancy.” In other words, after
the WH seems to have “fixed” its story with Bob Novak, it bought time before it
turned over evidence to the FBI.
The WH (or DOJ) also made sure that Bush or Rove supporters will control all aspects of the investigation. As a Democratic House Judiciary Committee dissent details (PDF),
[Karl Rove] worked on Attorney General Ashcroft’s campaigns throughout the 1980's and 90's raking in nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in fees. While at first blush, it might appear that the Attorney General wouldn’t be involved with the investigation on a regular basis, Associate Deputy Attorney General Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he regularly briefs the AG on the investigation. These conflicts existed not only between the Attorney General and likely targets of the investigation, but between lower level investigators and the President. Robert McCallum, the Assistant Attorney General who initially oversaw the investigation is an old friend of the President’s from Yale.
Throughout this early phase of the investigation, then, the WH had one of Bush’s old Skull and Bones buddies (McCallum) and John Ashcroft monitoring the course of the investigation.
The WH did two more things during this period. Perhaps to push back against the CIA for pushing this investigation (or perhaps to punish Tenet for speaking to the WaPo reporters?) they made damn sure not only Plame, but her front company Brewster Jennings, was outed. First, Administration officials admitted that Brewster Jennings was Plame’s front company.
The leak of a CIA operative's name has also exposed the identity of a CIA front company, potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure, Bush administration officials said yesterday.
After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.
Then, Novak wrote another article, inventing a reason (Plame’s political donations) to publish the name of the company.
The WH also started to leak the INR memo that (it is now clear) is a central piece of evidence in the case. The WSJ first mentioned the memo on October 17. Jeff Gannon and a few real news outlets mentioned it later that month. In a later Gannon piece that is no longer available, he said of the memo,
A memo written by an INR (Intelligence and Research) analyst who made notes of the meeting at which Wilson was asked to go to Niger sensed that something fishy was going on. That report made it to the outside world courtesy of some patriotic whistleblower that realized that a bag job was underway.
The classified document that slipped out sometime after the meeting put her name before the public, albeit a small group of inside-the-beltway types, but effectively ended the notion that she was still covert.
As the WaPo described in December, the memo was an ongoing point of aggravation to the CIA.
But sources said the CIA believes that people in the administration continue to release classified information to damage the figures at the center of the controversy, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Valerie Plame,
Sources said the CIA is angry about the circulation of a still-classified document to conservative news outlets suggesting Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Africa for the CIA. The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it.
CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the INR document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting.
"It has been circulated around," one official said. CIA and State Department officials have refused to discuss the document.
Note the comment: "people in the administration continue to release classified information." I've said I don't think the INR memo is critical to the leak in July. But just as anyone sharing the contents of a paragraph marked (S) in July would be in violation of their security clearance agreement, so would they be guilty in October or November.
The Real Investigation Begins January to June 2004
The WH whitewash attempts foundered on December 30, when Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation and just after Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed prosecutor for the case. Right away, WH personnel were asked to sign waivers of confidentiality agreements, a move Bush had been resisting thus far (this is the waiver, btw, that was the subject of the dispute between Libby's lawyer Tate and Judy's lawyer Abrams just last week). Fitzgerald also started to go after some WH personnel with grants of immunity to get people to talk. And the Grand Jury interviewed a number of Bush officials in sometimes combative interview.
Officials interviewed by the FBI include Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser; McClellan; Matalin; Levine; White House communications director Dan Bartlett; former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff; and Cathie Martin, a Cheney aide, according to the sources.
I suspect, btw, that at least some of these people have talked. The day Matalin testified, for example, an article announced she would do ongoing work with the Bush Administration during the election, work I've found no evidence she did. Instead, she went on to write a children's book. Oh, and her husband seems to keep getting some great leaks about the case from somewhere.
By the end of January, Fitzgerald subpoenaed records
including Air Force One phone logs.
Of note, Fitzgerald asked interviewees to keep information confidential. Partly as a result (and, just as likely, because it became clear that obstruction charges were a possibility), the WH switched back into silence mode at this point. “I can’t comment on an ongoing investigation.”
The Real Investigation Expands into Obstruction (?) Charges June to October 2004
Things started to really heat up in June, when Bush and Cheney lawyered up and are interviewed (not under oath). Alberto Gonzales testified. In July Powell testified, reportedly without the counsel of a lawyer.
One person close to Mr. Powell said he did not have a lawyer when he testified to the grand jury investigating the leak and does not have one now.
Call me crazy, but the only way I'd take on a Fitzgerald grand jury without a lawyer is if I were absolutely certain I was not going to be charged.
By the end of June, Fitzgerald began to interview journalists who talked with Scooter Libby, after the journalists received limited waivers from Libby to speak. These included Glen Kessler, Tim Russert, and Walter Pincus and Matt Cooper. Note, Fitzgerald specifically reminds Libby he gave these specific wavers in his recent letter to Libby's lawyer.
In fact, I would welcome such a communication reaffirming Mr. Libby's waiver as it might assist the investigation and lead to Ms. Miller's release. (Indeed, Mr. Libby's similar communication with Mr. Cooper and his counsel, as well as with the Washington Post and NBC, were not viewed as obstruction and those communications avoided the prospect of several other reporters being jailed for contempt.)
Then, Fitzgerald starts going after the testimony of Cooper (related to conversations we now know were with Rove) and Judy Miller. Cooper and Time Magazine are cited in contempt on August (after which he testified about his conversation with Libby), then in October (when Cooper wouldn’t testify about Rove). Miller is found to be in contempt in October.
Take a look at Fitzgerald's comment above. Judy may be guilty of a lot of things. But she was right when she said she had not gotten a specific waiver. Indeed, she had not gotten the waiver that Libby had given happily to several other journalists. Which is pretty good indication that Libby did not want Judy to talk.
The Administration remains largely silent during this period. At least about Plame. They’re pretty busy slamming John Kerry by claiming he is a coward and liar. (Note—why didn’t Kerry hammer BushCO on their involvement with Plame during the election?)
The Waiting Is the Hardest Part October 2004 to July 2005
And then, just after Rove testified again, the Grand Jury ground to a halt while the world waited to see whether Cooper and Miller would win their appeal of the contempt charge.
On the surface at least, the Plame investigation went dead and the White House is silent.
There were, however, three events which might be related. First, on October 18 Karl Rove pulled a silly stunt on the campaign trail, laying down under the wheels of Air Force One. He had testified a few days earlier (October 15) in front of the Grand Jury. According to Murray Waas, Rove told the Grand Jury information that we now know to be false.
But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.
Then, in a move that largely stupefied observers, Karl Rove got a promotion to Deputy Chief of Staff in February. It wasn't clear why he was getting a promotion. As Dan Froomkin observed, the promotion doesn’t earn Karl any extra money. It got him a new office, but Karl has always seemed like a man whose office says little about his stature anyway. I have wondered—but so far have had no one answer my question—whether this move might provide Karl more Executive Privilege once he gets his indictments.
Then, in the week before SCOTUS recessed (and therefore, it was fairly clear by this point, in the week before SCOTUS would refuse to take Miller and Cooper’s appeal), Karl made comments that—even for him—are beyond the pale.
"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."
Democrats (and liberals more generally) reacted furiously. But Republicans and the WH, perhaps predictably, jumped to the defense of Karl Rove.
(Incidentally, at about the same time, Dick Cheney made a comment which was also remarkable even for him, insisting the insurgents in Iraq were in their “last throes.”)
It seems like, throughout this waiting period, the WH knew what was coming. Karl probably lied to the Grand Jury in October (taking one for Bush, as it were?). In the interim, the Bush Administration seemed to have made concrete moves to shore up support for Rove. And as I speculated at the time, Rove may have been preparing the ground for what happened after SCOTUS refused Cooper’s and Miller’s case.
July to September: The Public Spin
I asked in this post who was giving more advice right now: Rove’s lawyer telling Rove how to avoid jail, or Rove telling Luskin how to spin things in the public. I’m pretty confident we know the answer to that question was the latter. Once it became clear Cooper woudl testify, the WH (or certainly Karl Rove) went in full spin mode, simultaneously trying to smear critics (Cooper, Wilson, probably soon Fitzgerald?) while trying to resuscitate the now discredited narrow technicality defense they had planned in October.
There were actually conflicting signals, though, what the WH spin strategy is. If Luskin is to be believed when he told Murray Waas that he hadn’t yet decided how much to leak, it suggests the WH is making it up on the fly.
On Tuesday night, as I was completing a blogging post that disclosed that Novak had been cooperating with federal authorities, I spoke to Luskin and told him that I was preparing a lengthier story detailing Rove's contacts with Novak and others. Luskin asked me to delay publication for a day or two, before deciding on what he wanted to say for the article. He said he would comment for the record regarding what he understood transpired between Rove and Novak.
I think there were indications that WH unity may be—and may have been—unraveling. As soon as it became clear that Rove and Libby might face consequences for this ratfuck, Rove turned on Libby.
Apparently, according to two journalist sources of mine, when Rove learned that he might have violated the law, he turned on Cheney and Libby and made it clear that he held them responsible for the problem they had created for the administration. The protracted silence on this topic from the White House masks considerable tension between the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President.
And it appears that Libby and Rove might have started poaching each others’ plausible deniability defenses. Both, for example, apparently lay claim to the line, “Oh I heard that too.” (Cooper said Libby used it.)
Just after Cooper testified,Michael Isikoff revealed that the White House is worried about prosecutor interest in Rove.
But one of the two lawyers representing a witness sympathetic to the White House told NEWSWEEK that there was growing "concern" in the White House that the prosecutor is interested in Rove.
Why would they admit this, if they really were worried about Rove? It only served to cement the notion that Rove might be guilty. Was a lawyer representing someone else at the WH—someone sympathetic to the WH but also under suspicion himself, someone like Libby—emphasizing Rove’s guilt to steer attention away from his client?
At about the same time, a bunch of leaks appeared to implicate Powell...
Powell was seen walking around Air Force One during the trip with the memo in hand, said a person involved in the case who also requested anonymity because of the prosecutor's admonitions about talking about the investigation.
...and Ari Fleischer...
On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.
On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip.
Particularly given Novak's earlier comment that his source "was not a partisan gunslinger," these leaks seem to be a Rove or Libby attempt to implicate probably witnesses against them, rather than reliable information about how the leak happened.
September and After: The Post Judy World
I think, throughout this period, Rove and Libby had one hope to avoid indictments. So long as Judy refused to talk, they could continue to claim they learned of Plame's identity from a journalist. Then they could avoid responsibility for the primary leak and probably make a case (as JimmyJeff had done for them, many months earlier) that Plame's identity was common knowledge. Sure, there'd be some indictments, like a violation of their security clearance agreements. But nothing like willfully outing a spy.
But something made Judy talk.
I think a variety of things happened. First, it appears that NYT came under some legal jeopardy. I suspect this may relate to their claim they did not have anything related to Judy source. You'll recall that Time magazine was held in contempt along with Cooper for not handing over his notes. Somehow, the NYT avoided this. I suspect they made some claim that, because Judy was being disciplined, if she were writing an article about Plame it couldn't be considered work for hire and therefore couldn't be considered their property. Which works if Judy's and Libby's meeting related exclusively to Plame. But if, as Libby claims, it related to WMDs (the only subject Judy was allowed to write on, apparently), then the NYT claim might come under scrutiny.
I'm also beginning to wonder wheter Charles Duelfer's visit might have had an impact. The Duelfer Report misrepresents who found the uranium document Judy claims to have found in Iraq. If, as I suspect, that document was also a forgery, and if as Libby says he and Judy were talking about WMDs, they may have been discussing what to do about that forgery. So Duelfer might have said more to Judy than just brag that he had finally tainted Kofi Annan with the UN Oil for Food scandal.
At the same time, though, Waas' article seems to have provided Fitzgerald with enough leverage to pressure Libby to waive Judy's confidentiality agreement.
It remains to be seen, finally, whether Judy said enough to indict the whole crowd. Or whether Libby managed to direct Judy's testimony so it matched his. We're finally at a point where we can hold our breath.