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July 13, 2006

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Is Typepad down due to some ultra-secret NSA counter-terror program?

Hey, it's working again!

EW, what do you think of Novak's characterization of his as-yet-unnamed source (basically, a senior admin official who it is very hard to get to talk to)?

As per usual, thanks for a terrific post and the Fitz fix.

kim

Yup, Typepad sucks bad! It was down most of the day yesterday.

I'm watching the video now. I think the characterization (he also says they talked about foreign policy and they talked in person) strongly supports the Armitage theory and almost certainly rules out Ari (whose name was one of the only ones that fit in the redacted trascripts).

I'm most curious about how Novak characterized the descriptions Armitage (presumably) and Harlow gave. Armitage supposedly said, "Nuclear nonproliferation office" and Harlow said, "office of weapons of mass destruction." That differs from what he has said in the past, and may suggest WINPAC (on the analysis side) rather than CPD (on the operations side). In other words, it would lead someone to think she was an analyst, not an operative, as Bob called her. So why did he use the term "operative"?

But does Armitage seem like someone who would be hard to get to talk to? Maybe ol' Bob is just fogging the waters (muddying my metaphors) again?

It's gotta be Bush, Cheney, Powell, or Tenet! (Rice? Novak did say they were talking about foreign policy....)

Well, Andrea Mitchell was bitching contemporaneously because he wouldn't do any interviews with her.

It can't be any of the people you list. Their names don't fit the redacted filings.

From today's Los Angeles Times:

Last month, Wilson and Plame — who retired from the CIA last year, saying that her career had been ruined by Novak's disclosure — indicated through their lawyer that they were considering legal action against Rove and other officials.

Although it is far from clear how such a suit would be structured and who the defendants would be, Novak would probably be a key witness. Some people close to Wilson and Plame think they would like to subpoena Novak and ask him under oath to identify the source who started it all. The law seems to be working in their favor: Judges are increasingly saying that journalists have no right to withhold the names of their sources.

"We are keeping all of our options open," Wilson said when asked about prospects for a lawsuit in an interview with The Times last month, "and I am leaning forward as I say that."

The full Robert Novak interview on Fox can be viewed on YouTube (Part I and Part II).

Emptywheel, did Novak say he met with his original source a few days after the Wilson column ran? Does that make sense?

thanks for the summary and for keeping track of this hydra,

it may all be over, as most assume, but, if so, there are some pieces that have been removed, ex cathedra, from this puzzle.

There is a lot of interest in Novak’s Fox interview, but I want to point out one seemingly new detail Novak provides which addresses the question: what did the CIA do to try to dissuade Novak from publishing, and specifically, what did Harlow say to Novak? Novak has argued that he got a weak request. Up until now, Novak’s canonical version of what Harlow told him was given in his October 1 2003 column:

He asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause "difficulties" if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name.

This makes it sound like Harlow told him that she probably will never again be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause “difficulties” if she traveled abroad, right? Well, in the interview yesteday, on this point Novak initially repeats his canonical version:

Bill Harlow said to me that she would likely never have another assignment abroad. He said it might be embarrassing if her CIA connection was written about and he asked me not to write it.

Now, on the question of what Harlow asked Novak not to write about, this is interestingly different from what we’ve heard previously: Harlow asks Novak not to write about her CIA connection, not just not to write her name. I suspect anyway that Novak has always been willfully misunderstanding and misrepresenting the point of what Harlow told him in asking him not to publish – namely, Novak has suggested Harlow asked him not to publish her name, but was okay with publishing “Wilson’s wife.” Whether Harlow talked about not using her name, I strongly suspect the obvious point was, “If you write about Wilson’s mission, don’t use Plame,” i.e. don’t use information about Plame and her CIA affiliation.

In any case, the point I want to focus more on is that when Novak comes back to the issue later in the interview, he really significantly departs from the canonical version on what Harlow told him about risks to Plame from publishing:

But as a matter of fact, her life wasn't in danger and he said it is very unlikely she would ever go to Europe. That meant to me that she was not doing any kind of work as an agent in Europe. So, all he was saying is it might be embarrassing to her if she went on a vacation trip with her husband if she was identified as a CIA person and that wasn't a good enough reason for keeping her name out.

Got that – on this account, what Harlow told Novak was not that Plame would probably never go (on assignment) abroad altogether, not “she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment,” but that Plame would probably not go (on assignment) to Europe. If I were a smart reporter and Harlow told me that, the question I would ask myself is, “Is Harlow telling me she may go on assignment abroad outside of Europe?”

Novak himself now seems to suggest that he interpreted what Harlow was saying differently, via a two-step inference, from what Harlow said to the reasonable inference that she was not doing any kind of work as an agent in Europe and from there to the unreasonable inference that “it might be embarrassing to her if she went on a vacation trip with her husband.” I strongly suspect that Novak is now offering the merest rationalization for his willful misunderstanding of what Harlow was doing - trying to indicate to Novak that he really shouldn’t publish because she might indeed be involved in the future in covert assignments abroad.

To be fair to Novak, there is, I think, another piece of the puzzle of what Harlow told him, the piece paraphrased in Novak’s canonical version as the fact that “exposure of her name might cause "difficulties" if she travels abroad.” If Harlow told Novak that there might be difficulties if she traveled to Europe, then Novak can make a more defensible case for understanding what Harlow was telling him the way he did. But if Harlow told Novak there would be difficultlies if Plame traveled abroad, then Novak is an even more indefensible scoundrel than I thought. Because then the obvious implication of what Harlow was telling Novak is, "Plame won’t be going on assignments in Europe in the future, but if you write about her, there will be diffulties – that is, trouble for her – if she travels on assignment abroad, which we are hereby implying she will do, just not to Europe.” If Harlow told him there would be difficulties if Plame traveled abroad, and that she would probably not go on assignment to Europe, then Novak’s inference that Harlow was telling him that exposure of her identity would make it difficult for her and her husband to vacation in Europe is so blatantly idiotic that it can only mean that Novak was willfully misinterpreting what Harlow was telling him and ignoring the warning he was issuing.

Will we ever find out? Libby’s defense has Harlow’s notes of his conversation with Novak, which quite a while back Waas reported (assuming he is talking about Harlow, as I am almost positive he is) confirm Harlow’s version – though we’ve never gotten the detail about Europe from Harlow himself as of yet. And Harlow may testify, as part of Libby’s effort to suggest the CIA didn’t act like it needed to protect Plame’s status. But if Harlow’s notes are as damning for Novak as I am suggesting they might be, then Libby may well stay away from that episode, even if he calls Harlow to testify about what he told Cathie Martin. Maybe we’ll get a fuller version of Harlow’s version in Tenet’s book. Or maybe Harlow will go public again and in more detail in response to Novak’s most recent version.

Some more notes from Novak's Fox interview:
1. Novak called Rove.
2. Novak appears never to have had an explicit confidentiality agreement with Armitage, he just assumed one based on how candid Armitage was being. Novak may never had had one with Rove either - he just may have assumed this like most of his conversations with Rove was not for attribution.
3. Novak resists Hume's efforts to get him to say he called Rove about something else (i.e. Townsend), saying at one point he called Rove about several things including the Niger mission and then saying that he called Rove about the Niger mission.
4. Novak makes it sound like when he called Harlow initially, Harlow didn't really say anything about Plame, only talking about Plame when Harlow called Novak back. This is consistent with one past report and seemingly inconsistent with another.
5. The person who got in touch with Novak shotrly after the investigation was announced to tell him about Armitage's inadvertence wasn't Fitzgerald, but someone close to Armitage. (Powell, Wilkerson, or someone less prominent?) Wow, so Novak not only coordinated his story with Rove, he was coached by Armitage.
6. Novak clarifies that Armitage's inadvertence wasn't mentioning Wilson's wife, as his column seemed to suggest and which makes no sense, but rather was the revelation of classified information about Plame. That is, Armitage deliberately brought up Wilson's wife's CIA affiliation and her role in her husband's trip, thereby blowing her cover, but he wasn't deliberately or knowingly blowing her cover or revealing classified information. Presumably this is the strategy he pursued in getting off the hook with Fitzgerald. Libby will be quite happy to hear this, especially if Armitage learned about Plame from Grossman or the INR memo, as seems likely.
7. Novak is saying he learned Plame's CIA affiliation from Armitage, and had it confirmed by Rove. I take it this answers Swopa's question.
8. Novak says that no one in the administration was critical of Wilson, that he wasn't critical of Wilson in his column, and that Rove at no time belittled Wilson. We've had some disagreements over how to interpret Novak's column. But in any case, if all this is true, then someone should ask Novak how he came up with the judgment and manner of expressing it he gave Wilson's friend on the street on July 8: "Wilson's an asshole etc." I take it the short answer is, Armitage. Unless Novak came up with it all on his own.

I saw somewhere (Huffpost-AP?) that Novak says he only talked with Rove for 20 seconds, sounds like just calling to verify a fact - not much time even for background. I still don't think these details fit Armitage, though Armitage does seem to fit the redacted spaces.

Kim--the part about Plame was only 20 seconds long. The rest was about other aspects of the Niger trip.

One more note on what appears to be the emergent collapse of Novak’s previous, self-exculpatory accounts of what Bill Harlow at the CIA told him. As I mentioned, one aspect of Novak’s justification for publishing about Plame despite warnings from Harlow against it has focused on her name. Novak represents himself as having interpreted the warning to refer specifically to her name and the name alone. Here is the strongest form of Novak’s interpretation of what Harlow said on this count, from Novak’s August 1 2005 column in response to a Post article a week or so earlier that cited Harlow:

He told the Post reporters he had "warned" me that if I "did write about it her name should not be revealed." That is meaningless. Once it was determined that Wilson's wife suggested the mission, she could be identified as "Valerie Plame" by reading her husband's entry in "Who's Who in America."

Now, Novak here appears to be on solid ground, since it appears that Harlow’s own account states he specified that Novak should not use her name. But was he fixating on the name as such? Novak is now claiming that he did in fact learn her name from Who’s Who, not any of his sources – and the implication of that is that he already had “Valerie Plame” in hand when he spoke with Harlow on July 10, since Novak used her first name with Wilson’s friend whom he talked with on the street on July 8. This raises several questions regarding what Novak and Harlow said to each other, especially in light of something Novak is now saying: Harlow himself did not use, and therefore did not raise, Wilson’s wife’s name. From last night’s reprehensible performance by Novak on Hannity and Colmes (transcript via Crooks and Liars):

But, as a matter of fact, let me assure you that neither my primary source gave — mentioned Valerie Plame’s name to me, nor did Karl Rove mention the name to me, nor did the CIA spokesman. They just talked about Joe Wilson’s wife. I got her name from "Who’s Who"…

So, 1)did Novak bring up Plame’s name with Harlow? 2)If not, then her name wasn’t used at all, and how could Novak have interpreted Harlow’s warning as applying specifically to her name, as opposed to her, especially since Novak now seems to acknowledge that Harlow asked him not to write about her CIA affiliation? 3)If her name did come up because Novak brought it up, did Harlow issue a specific warning about the name in addition to the one about her CIA affiliation? And if so, how could Novak not have appreciated that something was going on that he should be cautious about? And what exactly was the warning regarding her name – was it, “If you write about her, don’t use her name”? Or something like, “If you write about the mission, don’t use her name?” Because if it’s the latter, then it is not nearly as meaningless as Novak tried to suggest.

Novak claims his interview with Mr. X took place "just a few days" after Wilson's July 6th editorial was published. That better be July 8th, because that's the day (afternoon) a friend of Wilson's showed up at his office with "a strange and disturbing tale" of having met Novak on the street near the White House. "Wilson’s an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife, Valerie, works for the CIA. She’s a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him,” Novak reportedly said. What would have pushed Novak into such a fit of anger? Novak's emotional state on July 8th (and his later dissembling about it) speaks to a deeper animus. Rove and Novak are also known to have spoken about Mrs. Wilson on July 8th.

The timeline just doesn't feel right, and I suspect Novak already knew Plame's identity and CIA role when interviewing Mr. X. It's very troubling that Mr. X later sent word to Novak, through a third party, that his admission was inadvertent. Essentially, he let Novak know it was OK to testify about their conversation and, if necessary, to make use of it as his (supposed) primary source.

Jeff,

Btw, I thought the Europe reference was just an attempt to make the travel thing sound even more farcical, as if the only danger would be if Valerie didn't get to buy ball gowns in Paris anymore. But it also suggests he knew where Valerie was posted. Now, he's probably read Joe's book (or had some flunkey read it for him), so he could have learned it then. But the reference to Europe implies a knowledge of her past work which was not public at the time.

Novak's blabbing is ruining his logic. You both raise superb points (but come raise them in my NEW Novak post). So far, we've got:

Novak's anger on July 8
Jeff's name issue
The hide the affiliation issue
THe use of "suggested"
THe use of "operative"
The transparent BS of the Who's Who

Also, why look in Who's Who anyway? Why not look in Joe's State bio for background? There's no reason to use Plame's name, and never was, particularly not after Harlow said not to use it.

All of which suggests that Novak just fucked with the CIA as much as he could. He basically ignored everything Harlow said.

Have I been EPU'd? What does that mean anyway?

But it also suggests he knew where Valerie was posted.

I was going to include one interesting item on this. In his article way back in February 2004, Waas has this, pretty obviously based in part on contact with Harlow:

The two officials say Novak was told, as one source put it, that Plame's work for the CIA "went much further than her being an analyst," and that publishing her name would be "hurtful" and could stymie ongoing intelligence operations and jeopardize her overseas sources.

"When [Novak] says that he was not told that he was 'endangering' someone, that statement might be technically true," this source says. "Nobody directly told him that she was going to be physically hurt. But that was implicit in that he was told what she did for a living."

Now, some of this may be overstating the case that was made to Novak. But that last line makes me think that Novak may indeed have been told that she did sensitive work in Europe in the past, perhaps as a setup for saying she won't work in Europe again as a way of implying that she would work elsewhere.

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