Once upon a time in a land called Plameology, I was utterly obsessed with the CIA report on Joe Wilson's trip. As I pointed out some time ago, the trip report, in addition to Valerie's identity, was classified at the beginning of leak week. And as I pointed out over the weekend, it is crystal clear that Libby, at least, leaked material from this, knowing it was classified, with no claim it had been declassified. Moreover, he probably leaked it to Novak, though both claim Libby said nothing of substance to Novak when they spoke on July 9.
My renewed interest in the trip report comes from a line recently unsealed from Tatel's opinion refusing Judy's and Cooper's attempt to quash her subpoena. In a part of the opinion that supports the argument that Rove perjured himself (presumably about both his Novak and his Cooper conversations), Tatel included the following quote from Novak's grand jury testimony:
According to Novak, when he “brought up” Wilson’s wife, “Mr. Rove said, oh, you know about that too” (II-154) and promised to seek declassification of portions of a CIA report regarding the Niger trip, which Rove said “wasn’t an impressive piece of work or a very definitive piece of work” (II-158).
That is, according to Novak, Rove promised to declassify the trip report, even while providing a judgment about it. And, by all appearances, Tatel thinks that grand jury testimony supports the case that Rove lied in his own grand jury testimony.
Rove Twice Talked about Plame and Twice Promised to Declassify the Trip Report
One of the reasons the quote is so interesting is because it sets up a pattern. According to Novak, Rove confirmed that Plame suggested Wilson for the trip. Then he said the trip report wasn't definitive, but that the Administration would seek to declassify the report soon. Here's how those lines showed up in Novak's column:
Wilson's report that an Iraqi purchase of uranium yellowcake from Niger was highly unlikely was regarded by the CIA as less than definitive
The Agency never before has declassified that kind of information, but the White House would like it to do just that now -- in its and in the public's interest.
This is almost precisely the same thing that Cooper records Rove as saying in his email about their conversation.
It was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd issues, who authorized the trip, not only the genesis of the trip is flawed ans [sic] suspect but so is the report. he implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium from Niger ..... some of this is going to be declassified in the coming days, KR said [my emphasis]
That is, with both Novak (whom Rove spoke to on July 8 or 9) and Cooper (whom Rove spoke to on July 10), Rove told a journalist that Plame suggested Wilson for the trip, then criticized the trip report and said it would soon be declassified.
The Discussions about Declassifying Wilson's Trip Report
And we have some detail about the declassification process, as well. Ari described a discussion about declassifying the document that took place on Air Force One.
Because, after Dr. Rice had gone back, I remember she was asked one question at the back of the plane about can you declassify any of the information...
There was a meeting in the senior staff cabin and I was in it --- We were all talking about whether or not we could declassify and make public why the President said what he said. One of these documents was a CIA summary of Ambassador Wilson's trip, what he found. I wanted to see that document because Dr. Rice said this part backs up what the President said.
Ari places his perusal of the document on July 11, after Rice's press gaggle in which she hung Tenet out to dry, though earlier, in response to a question of whether Bartlett stated that Plame sent Wilson before or after Rice's gaggle, Ari suggested he might have the date wrong (which could mean Ari was reading the trip report earlier).
I believe I might be wrong about this. But I believe that Dr. Rice went back to the airplane prior to the conversation, or Mr. Bartlett saying that information.
Whether Ari was reading the document on the 11th or earlier, he clearly places a discussion, on Air Force One, about declassifying the CIA trip report on Wilson's trip.
And we also have notes from the July 10 meeting in which Hadley passed along the news from Tenet via McLaughlin that, "Wilson is declassified"--presumably referring to the trip report that would be used in Tenet's statement the following day. So we know everyone at the top levels of government--including Cheney, Libby, Hadley, and those senior staff on Air Force One--were discussing the declassification of the report, presumably after both of Rove's leaks.
Most importantly, it appears that OVP learned the trip report was declassified some time on July 10 (and the first public mention of it came late on the 11th, in Tenet's statement).
Scooter Libby Leaked the Still-Classified Trip Report
But we know that Libby leaked the trip report before it was declassified. In Judy's testimony about her conversation with Libby on July 8, for example, she said:
He then referred to another report I thought it was a third report. He said this was involved the arrival in Niger of a delegation of Iraqi officials in 1999. And that this Iraqi delegation was seeking a broader trade relationship with Niger. Since Niger basically had only one thing to export, which was uranium, that officials in Niger had concluded that Iraq was interested in acquiring uranium. He said that the author of the report, which had gone up to the Hill, which was credited by the CIA, was Joe Wilson.
Two days before the report was declassified, Libby leaked it to Judy Miller. And mind you, in his dubious story about Cheney insta-declassifying something so Libby could leak it to Judy, Libby never claimed Cheney had insta-declassified Wilson's trip report--he referred only to the NIE. So, according even to Libby, the trip report was not declassified until CIA declassified it ... on July 10.
Libby's Leak of Classified Information to Novak
Which is why it is so interesting that there is further reference to the trip report in Novak's column. In addition to the passage cited above, Novak also includes the following line:
After eight days in the Niger capital of Niamey (where he once served), Wilson made an oral report in Langley that an Iraqi uranium purchase was "highly unlikely," though he also mentioned in passing that a 1988 Iraqi delegation tried to establish commercial contacts.
That is, in a column in which Novak identifies the trip report as still-classified and forecasts its declassification, Novak also cites directly from the report itself, repeating the Mayaki story that Libby had shared with Judy Miller on July 8.
Now, it's possible that Rove is the one who leaked that information to Novak. But even though he mentioned the report to Cooper--and offered up Valerie's CIA role--he didn't share the contents of the report. Moreover, if he had shared that bit with Rove, that would mean he had told Novak the report was classified even as he leaked from it.
It's much more likely that Libby, and not Rove, leaked the contents of the still-classified report to Novak, during their super-secret conversation on July 9.
Libby's Changing Theory of His Defense
There's one more thing--besides the reports that Fitzgerald was going to indict Libby for espionage--that supports the argument that Libby leaked the trip report. As I pointed out several months ago, the initial theory of defense Team Libby submitted very carefully parsed just this issue:
Mr. Libby further contends that when the investigation began, he was confident that he had not provided any information about Mr. Wilson's wife to Robert Novak, and that he had not disclosed classified information about Mr. Wilson or his wife to any other reporters.
Libby claims not to have leaked any information at all about Plame--classified or not--to Novak. But he does not say whether he leaked information about Wilson--classified or not. And this is in distinction to what he claims about the other journalists, about whom he claims he didn't disclose classified information--though he leaves open the possibility that he shared declassified information, about both Plame and Wilson. We know, of course, that on July 12 Dick Cheney ordered Libby to share the now-declassified trip report, in an deep background quote, with Matt Cooper. It certainly wasn't the first time Libby leaked that information. Though, when he leaked that information earlier to reporters, he was breaking the law.