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March 04, 2006



Your scenario sounds plausible enough with regard to Novak, but the Woodward leak took place in mid-June, so Ari most likely was not Woodward's source. But then again, I don't think it's 100% clear that Novak and Woodward have the same source (but they probably do). I hope we find out someday.


I realize I have not considered any of the more recent posturing about MR. X from Novak and Woodward. Here's my take on it:

1. partisan gunslinger. As anyone who has followed my PLame stuff knows, I treat the whole October 1 column from Novak as disinformation. So it doesn't matter in any case. But Ari would certainly qualify as someone who wasn't partisan TO NOVAK. Not in Bush's club, not in your party.

2. was not in the White House. This comment, from Woodward, may be deceptive or may be misreported. Did Woodward mean the SAO was never in the White House? Then Ari wouldn't qualify. Did he mean he wasn't leaking from the WHite House? (In my scenario, he would have been on AF1). Or did he mean he is not now in the White HOuse? Anyway, this may be a Woodward protection lie.

3. Bush should know. That's kind of why I threw in the possibility that Bush told Ari (and even, perhaps, that Ari told Woodward Bush told him). In any case, Bush ought to know, given that Ari was his press secretary.

Thanks for the post, donation made per your request.

I think we've been down this road before, but is it possible they were getting Ari to leak to people who knew already? So Libby or Rove tell Novak the whole story (more than any of them have admitted to), then get him to talk to Ari and get as much information from him as possible, to make it look like the leak came from Ari. Ari actually doesn't tell Novak much more than he told Dickerson, but it's enough to cover their tracks. I don't know how to explain Woodward, I still have a feeling it was Bush who told him. That also could have started a frenzy of ass covering, to make it look like Ari was talking.


Yeah, I do think we've been down this road before. One point I don't make in this post is that, if you buy Libby's Judy testimony morning Steno Sue leak was intended to coach Judy, then he wanted her to make sure she said nothing about Libby speaking to Novak. Which would mean he had spoken to him. That's something I feel is very likely.

One other BUsh possibility is that he was participating in those conference calls between DC and Africa, strategizing what to say to people. Looking at it this way, I'm sure there was nightly conferencing (because they changed directions so often, and the direction changes were consistent across DC and Africa). Was Bush involved?

One aspect of the theory of everyone covering for Bush that I like is it's the one thing all these different camps could agree on. If it weren't about keeping Bush propped up, why didn't all these horrible people turn on each other? Did I miss where I'm supposed to send a check?

Well, I think they DID turn on Ari, to some degree. And tried to turn on Powell. But that's one of the biggest reasons why I doubt Armitage. The OVP crowd would have loved an opportunity to turn on him. THough you could be right, that so long as he protects Bush, then they'll let Armitage go.

emptywheel --

Most interesting, per usual. Of all the things in all the internets, there are few items that I look forward to more than your next Plame discussion. Always a delight to read.

P.S. I think you have a potentially-confusing typo in this sentence, "In a Libby-Rove leak last summer, it was claimed that Libby was involved in drafting the NIE." I think you mean to say "mea culpa" instead of NIE. I try never to mention typos that don't affect meaning (we all type faster tahn ew htink smoetimse), but you may want to change this one.

Thanks, &y. You're right, that made no sense.

Rumsfield went to Morrocco about the same time Johnson went for the Iran- WMD - Plame leak, so it got people wondering who took the bait first. Rumsfeld may have got some answers needed by historical fans, but that is how some people live their lives.

Pakistan killed that Diplomat anyway even after CIA fired the Counter terror director for bombing Pakistan.

See, they really are mean!

I think that Fitz knew ALL within a month. He has prosecuted enough mobsters to know the conspiracy and cover-up game. He pretended he didn't know about Woodward and the Judy meeting in June but he knew it ALL. He let each and everyone of them lie, lie, lie and then sideswipes them when they are before the grand jury. After a few days of twisting in the wind, he offers a deal. My bet is Ari told him EVERYTHING--including Woodward--if Ari was the leaker to Woodward. Ari had NO cover from the WH so he needed to tell all.

I've a got a new entrant in the Mr. X sweepstakes. I think this one is going to catch most everybody by surprise. I have a bit of trepidation about making this comment. My Mr. X isn't on anybody's suspect list and, if I've spotted him, Patrick Fitzgerald's job is even harder than we thought. Of course, I have no proof, but I think the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. Drum roll, please.

Alberto Gonzales is Mr. X. Take a moment and ponder the consequences of that statement. Now, here's my case. According to my experiments, his name is the best fit in the redactions of the latest affidavit. Now, let's see how he matches up with the various statements that Novak and Woodward have made about their source:

1. Novak says he's not a partisan gunslinger. In Novak's view, Gonzales certainly fits that bill. Look at the column Novak wrote about a potential Gonzales nomination for the SCOTUS.
2. Novak is sure Bush knows about his source. Certainly, if Gonzales is his source, Novak would assume that Bush knows. Bush and Gonzales go waaay back.
3. Woodward's comment that Novak's source is not in the White House is sort of true. Gonzales is now the AG, back then he was WH Counsel.
4. If Gonzales is Woodward's source, that would explain Woodward's certainty that the whole thing was just gossip. Gonzales got the AG's job after the Plame outing. Woodward would have to assume that the whole thing was no big deal.

I'm sure emptywheel will spin up a more complete scenario, but here are a few things to ponder on a Saturday night (or early Sunday morning, depending on your time zone). Woodward has claimed that his source refused to release him from his pledge of confidentiality until late October, 2005. Fitzgerald clearly believes he knows who Novak's source is. If Gonzales was Novak's source, Novak must have given him up pretty earlier on in the investigation. Gonzales testified before the grand jury in 2004. Did he deny being Novak's source or admit it? He was appointed to be the Attorney General of the United States after that. When Gonzales 'fessed up last fall, did he implicate Bush? What else could he do, but say he was acting on Bush's orders? Is that why Fitzgerald went to see Bush's personal lawyer?

Take a bit of time to mull over all the possibilities and minefields that Fitzgerald has to deal with, if Gonzales is Mr. X. I'm going to go sleep on this one.

Government noir. Maybe not exactly a new genre, but rarely done better.

James Ellroy should take notes.

Plausible and entertaining. I look forward to the next chapter.


I'm still mulling through this. I still think that Fleischer is more likely, though I agree that Armitage and Gonzo both fit better.

But I'm not sure I agree with this:

If Gonzales is Woodward's source, that would explain Woodward's certainty that the whole thing was just gossip. Gonzales got the AG's job after the Plame outing. Woodward would have to assume that the whole thing was no big deal.

As the GOP did in Watergate before, they have used promotions to reward people who have helped a coverup. Consider all the promotions in this cause:

  • Abu Gonzales to AG
  • Rove to Deputy Chief of Staff
  • Bolton to UN post
  • Abrams to chief of democracy
  • Rice to SOS
  • Hadley to NSA
  • John Hannah to Veep Chief of Staff

    And there are more I'm forgetting. So Abu G's promotion can only be taken as a sign that he was being rewarded for his loyalty, probably up to and including his willingness to obstruct the investigation. Anything beyond that and I think it needs to be weighed on its merits.

    My biggest doubt about Abu G is he's just not a press person. He's not good at it, for one. But he's also not known for it. With all my doubts about Armitage, at least with him we know that he is loves to work the press (and loves Woodward more specifically).

Oops. Got to turn off those list tags.

A great thread, real intensity to the writing EW. One comment would be that whoever X is, it is hard to imagine X hiding the story about Woodward from Fitzgerald when that interview was taped. Whether this would be easy to forget depends on how often Woodward tapes his interviews I guess.

The Woodward leak also came at the time when the CIA was briefing Cheney on Wilson, Bob was quick onto the story! Interesting that he says someone from the CIA called him about the "bombshell" rumor.


I don't think Woodward thinks the same way you and I do. He doesn't understand what this Administration is up to. As far as Gonzales not being a press person, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Mr. X was giving an interview for Woodward's book. Everybody in the Bush Administration understood that if you didn't talk to Woodward, you'd come off looking bad in one of the few books your boss actually might read.

The more difficult question is why Gonzales would leak to Novak. I have a theory about that. Remember the Murray Waas article about how Novak's call was really about Frances Townsend? If go back and read Novak's column from July 10, 2003. It was all about Novak's fantasy that the Bush administration was riddled with liberal Democrats (Rand Beers, Frances Townsend and other obvious pinkos). Now go back and look at the column where he outed Plame. The same old song, what's this pinko ambassador doing working for the Bush administration. So, besides Rove, who would Novak call to find out how the flaming liberal Frances Fragos Townsend made it through the White House vetting process? The person in charge of that process, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. I can see it now, the conversation was adversarial from the beginning. Gonzales is focused on defending Townsend against Novak, who's doing the dirty work of the Cheney-Libby-Addington faction. I bet Gonzales' eyes lit up when Novak moved on to Wilson. Here was his chance to get something done that everybody in the White House wanted done (and neither Rove or Libby had accomplished yet: Get somebody to slime Wilson in print). I can hear Gonzales now, struggling to keep the glee out of his voice and sound nonchalant, oh, nobody in the White House knew anything about Wilson. His wife, a nobody over the CIA's DO had him sent to Niger. You'll have to go ask Bill Harlow at CIA about that.

The problem is, Gonzales, the non-press person, bolloxed the whole thing up by telling Novak she was in the DO. He was supposed to stick with the cover story that she was an analyst. If he had, they might have been able to pull it off.

It will be very interesting to see what Libby's lawyers actually said at the hearing with regard to Woodward's source - how persuasive their apparent claim that he was not in the White House was, and how persuasive they are that Woodward's and Novak's source were one and the same. If Woodward's and Novak's sources are one and the same, I find it harder to believe that it was Fleischer, though this is a very persuasive account of how central Fleischer was to the war on Wilson.

One other note: Waas' October 30 article offered some more evidence that Libby turned to Addington after his meeting with Miller in search of more info to give her.

Plausible musings.

Except for the "real strike of conscience", that was comic relief, right?


I guess I just have a hard time believing ANY of the 8-letter name possibilities leaked to both Woodward and Novak. Of the choices, I think Ari makes the most sense, if for no other reason than 1) they would have least reason to attack him, because he could hurt them bad, and 2) they did seem to attack him. I can't get over the same objection with Armitage, particularly since he has such a big ongoing conflict with Libby.

Thanks for mentioning the Waas article. I thought of it while I was posting, but was pretty much struggling to get everything else in without dedicating a week.

EW, a couple of things. Where the declassification debate is concerned, I don't think too much hangs on the specific question whether Libby discussed the NIE with Miller on July 8 or July 12. Fitgerald's letter referred to Libby disclosing the contents of the NIE "in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003".

Secondly, I think either Miller or Libby just goofed her/his account of the Wilson-Mayaki conversation. I think one or the other ran together two distinct (and familiar) Admin talking points. One (which ever since Wilson's article is invariably preceded with references to the sipping of mint tea) is that Wilson didn't talk with anyone who mattered (another version of the "shoddy homework" talking point). The other is the risible claim that "actually, Wilson's report [i.e. the Mayaki mention] supported the 16 words".

ew - Maybe you're right, and I really can't wait to see the actual hearing transcript (which, by the way, should be posted before I have a chance to get one from the court reporter, though I'll check again on that tomorrow), which should, I hope, shed some light on some of the relevant questions. In the meanwhile:

During lunch, Libby made two requests of Novak. . . . Second, Novak should be prepared to take out Joe Wilson, who Libby had heard was going to be on MTP with Novak the following Sunday, the same Sunday, Libby explained, that Wilson would publish an editorial in the NYT.

The trouble with this is that per Wilson's book, he appears to have been invited to be on MTP at 10:34 p.m. the night before. Which makes the speculation that Libby talked to Libby the previous week a little more speculative. Though Novak's initial comment to Wilson's friend on the street on July 8 -- that the administration should have or could have taken care of the uranium business weeks before at the very least bespeaks a fairly detailed level of knowledge of what was going on with Wilson.

why spend time smearing Ari, unless you knew that he was one of the leakers?

But haven't you offered an alternative answer yourself - namely, that tying Fleischer to the INR memo provides a plausible alternative to Libby for how Fleischer learned about the Wilsons' connection and her connection with the CIA.

I suspect he learned that his source was the same as one of Novak's sources.

I completely agree. The thing is, though, unless Woodward is as bad as Miller, who denied to Tuabman in fall 2003 that she thought there was an organized smear campaign, and that if there were, that she was a target of it, it seems inconceivable that Woodward would go around telling people that if they knew everything, they would see that there had been no conspiracy to out Plame if Fleischer were his source. Armitage fits better than Fleischer with that piece as well. Unless Woodward is as bad as Miller.

This post is awesomely impressive, by the way.

You guys are good!


Thanks for pointing out the June/July thing. I hadn't realized it said June, too.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by Libby/Miller screwing that up? Not sure I understand.


Damn, I've got to figure out where I lost that book.

But I don't think it matters. I think it highly likely OVP had some kind of inkling about the op-ed. They knew what its contents would be because of Pincus' articles. And I suspect they would have found out from someone at the NYT the timing, especially (as I've always fancied) Judy was trying to write an article after the June 23 meeting but was told to hold it because Wilson was going to tell the story himself.

About Ari, I guess I should have said, "Why smear Ari unless he is a plausible leaker." And the Dickerson direction at the end of the week might have been enough. But I guess once they figured out Ari had cooperated, they wouldn't even need that much reason.

ew - You are of course right that Wilson was fully on OVP's radar quite early. Another detail to add: it may well be that Miller was trying to write an article as early as June -- do we know when she says she went to Abramson about pursuing a story? June or July? -- but I pursued the question of who the journalist was who tipped off Wilson to his name coming out and who was going to reveal it, and the short answer is that there seems not to be much to the story. That is, it sounds like the Independent journalist just indicated to Wilson that they knew who he was (and so, basically, he might as well talk to them), not that there was a specific other reporter who was going to publish his name. (For the record, I sort of flubbed the question about State, though I got a strong sense of a connection with the most likely candidate, which is quite interesting; and didn't get to ask the other one about one or two briefers.)

Another thought: what if Armitage is 1? I was just looking over Woodward's book, and toward the end Woodward not only makes clear that he was talking with Armitage in the months after the beginning of the war, but basically indicates that Armitage was a source for a different WaPo story on October 12. Maybe he was busy.


Some thoughts here on your recent posts -- I think the Fleischer testimony cited by Fitz (and quoted by you last week) makes Ari a highly probable candidate as Novak's first SAO source. But Armitage is still in the lead for Woodward.

Sorry, that was a bit telegraphic.

... Mr. Libby quickly turned to criticizing Mr. Wilson's report on his mission to Niger. He said it was unclear whether Mr. Wilson had spoken with any Niger officials who had dealt with Iraq's trade representatives.

I just can't imagine Libby backing off on the Mayaki thing (no one else has!). So I'm assuming it's supposed to be part of his Wilson-bashing, not some unmotivated exception to it. Plus, it's not clear what "backing off" here consists in. Wilson did meet with Mayaki (Niger's PM). Mayaki is the only person in all the supposed Niger intelligence who spoke, allegedly, of Iraqi trade representatives. Is Libby then cautioning that it's not clear that Mayaki had actually himself dealt with Iraqi trade representatives? That is true, of course (Mayaki in fact later denied having met with any such "delegation"), but I really have a hard time picturing Libby having even figured out the murky facts on this, let alone having been more honest than any other person on the Admin's side, including Tenet and the SSCI, about the import of Mayaki's offhand musing.

What I think might have happened is that Miller conflated two distinct arguments that Libby was making. One, that Wilson (the unqualified guy sent by his wife on a nepotistic jaunt) did "shoddy homework" (spent his time sipping mint tea), talked only to officials who would have been inclined to cover up any Niger involvement anyway, and didn't dig deeply or do any real investigation. (Thus the first part of the sentence might be interpreted as an argument that "it was unclear whether Mr. Wilson had spoken with any Niger officials [or anybody] who" mattered.) Two, that Wilson's report, by telling Mayaki's story about this businessman's suggestion that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi trade delegation (and his brief musing that "trade" might in fact refer to uranium), actually confirmed the 16 Words rather than undermining them. (Thus the second part of the sentence, referring to Niger officials and Iraqi trade representatives.) Both are standard Republican talking points about Wilson and the 16 Words. Miller might have spliced these together to come up with the confused criticism, say, that Wilson hadn't done his job because he probably hadn't spoken to the Niger officials who, we know, had dealt with Iraqi trade representatives (almost certainly about uranium, the suggestion goes).


Guess my theory flops, huh? Judy was asking Abramson to write a Plame story in July. Though she has said her editors, plural, wouldn't let her write one. It's unclear if Joseph Lelyveld (who the NYT likes to pretend wasn't in charge during the entire build-up to the Plame leak, but who definitely was the man in charge) had any role in preventing Judy from publishing a story, but I suspect it might be a good bet, seeing as how he was in charge (June 5 to July 31, IIRC) for almost all the period when Judy wasn't allowed to write without a source chaperone.

Guess my theory flops, huh?

Just the part about Miller writing a story in June about Wilson, though, right?

By the way, I think it's not going to work on the transcripts, as the court reporters make their money off selling the transcripts, more or less, so as long as it is just a matter of waiting for it to go public rather than a matter of getting access altogether (or not), I'm inclined not to go for it.

A couple of random points of data:

After Wilson's op-ed in the NYT and before Novak's column came out, Bob Woodward was on Larry King's show. Here's the only interchange about Wilson/Niger:

KING: In a TV interview Sunday, the former U.S. envoy, Joseph Wilson, who was sent to Africa to investigate allegations about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, accused the Bush administration of manipulating the findings, spinning intelligence.

WOODWARD: Well, what his complaint is that the CIA sent him to find out if these reports in Niger were true. And he had been the ambassador there, and he had a lot of contacts. And he came back and said they're not true. They deny them. It's unclear -- I think that information definitely got to the White House. Did it get up the line where somebody said, No, that's what's got to be explained? But because something doesn't get to the boss doesn't mean necessarily that they're manipulating something. But it might.

And there's -- something like this, there's an audit trail. You can find out what report came in, who saw it, who passed it up the line, who knew what. There are Bush speeches, for instance, in many cases 20 or 30 drafts of the speech. Things fly in, things fly out. When? Who did it? Who decided? That's got to be explained.


I think that's fairly interesting, given what we know now.

Next, Judge Tatel's opinion has a very interesting characterization of Libby's testimony in regards to the Cheney-Libby conversation about Plame:


As Libby admits, in mid-June 2003, when reports first appeared about the
Niger trip, the vice president informed Libby “in an off sort of curiosity sort of fashion” that the Niger envoy’s wife worked at the CIA’s counterproliferation division. (I-50-55, 245-46.)


This quote from Libby's testimony appears to come from his interview with the FBI in October and November of 2003. At least I think that's what the citation "(I-50-55, 245-46.)" means(Any lawyers here?). If that's the case, the FBI must have had Libby's notes very early on in the case.

Fitzgerald must know that this testimony almost certainly distorts the true nature of the conversation between Libby and Cheney. Both of them certainly knew the CPD is part of DO and, therefore, that Valerie Wilson (Plame) was covert. I wonder what Cheney's testimony about the conversation was. If he's as smart as I think he is, he said, "I don't recall".

I don't know if we can pin Rove down to knowing that Plame was covert, but we have a clear evidentiary trail from Cheney to Libby to Fleischer. The big question is who else knew.


Oh, I don't think I give up on the Judy trying to write a story in June idea. The timing is just too close (I guessed June 22, it would have been June 24). I need to go back to the Independent story; I think they may have figured out it was Wilson by his earlier appearance, so there's probably nothing there. But I guess I'll go look.


Nice catch on the Woodward interview. I find it interesting that he is very non-committal at that point. More interesting is the mention of Bush speech drafts. There is, IMO, significant evidence that the Bush Administration is lying about early drafts of the SOTU. That was also a pressing issue the week of the leak (Condi made the slip-up in the July 11 gaggle, at the same time as Alan Foley was testifying that he remembered a draft with the words Niger and the amount included.

Also note, in one of the recent filings, Fitz said Woodward said he knew of Wilson's (and Plame's) identity when he read Pincus' June 22 story. Implying he didn't know for his June 12 story. Just another way to pinpoint the day of the leak.

I think the key assumption, when Libby testified in Fall 2003, was that none of the OVP people or Ari would testify. Cathie Martin and Ari Fleischer ruin Libby's story, independent of the journalists'.

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