Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove?

Back to connecting the dots.

WaPo Reporter Walter Pincus also blogs. Here's what he wrote on July 6, 2005 about his source for the Valerie Plame Leak. Doesn't it sound awfully familiar?

On July 12, 2003, an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.....I didn’t write about that information at that time because I did not believe it true that she had arranged his Niger trip.

I wrote my October story because I did not think the person who spoke to me was committing a criminal act, but only practicing damage control by trying to get me to stop writing about Wilson. Because of that article, The Washington Post and I received subpoenas last summer from Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor looking into the Plame leak. Fitzgerald wanted to find out the identity of my source. (my emphasis)

Today, Karl Rove's lawyer said to Byron York:

Nor, says Luskin, was Rove trying to "out" a covert CIA agent or "smear" her husband. "What Karl was trying to do, in a very short conversation initiated by Cooper on another subject, was to warn Time away from publishing things that were going to be established as false." Luskin points out that on the evening of July 11, 2003, just hours after the Rove-Cooper conversation, then-CIA Director George Tenet released a statement that undermined some of Wilson's public assertions about his report. "Karl knew that that [Tenet] statement was in gestation," says Luskin. "I think a fair reading of the e-mail was that he was trying to warn Cooper off from going out on a limb on [Wilson's] allegations."

Why don't we know Pincus's source yet? He says,

My position was that until my source came forward publicly or to the prosecutor, I would not discuss the matter. It turned out that my source, whom I still cannot identify publicly, had in fact disclosed to the prosecutor that he was my source, and he talked to the prosecutor about our conversation. (In writing this story, I am using the masculine pronoun simply for convenience). My attorney discussed the matter with his attorney, and we confirmed that he had no problem with my testifying about our conversation.

When my deposition finally took place in my lawyer’s office last September, Fitzgerald asked me about the substance of my conversation about Wilson’s wife, the gist of which I had reported in the newspaper. But he did not ask me to confirm my source’s identity, which was my condition for being deposed. My original understanding with my source still holds—to withhold his identity until he makes it public, if ever. (my emphasis.)

When Pincus wrote that last week, Karl Rove still hadn't gone public with being one of the leakers. So who is Pincus's source, if not Karl Rove? I suspect it is Karl Rove because the call occurred on July 12, 2003, two days before Novak's column appeared. Special Counsel Fitzgerald subpoenaed Air Force One records for July 7, to July 12, because Bush was flying to Nigeria. Was Karl Rove was on the plane? Knights-Ridder reported on March 6, 2004 (See Akron Beacon Journal for example)

The document requests indicate the investigation is focused on high-level White House aides because only they would have access to the secure phone lines on Air Force One.

The White House refused in March, 2004 to release the names of those on the trip. (Newsday, March 5, 2004.)

On September 16, 2004, in an article written by a different journalist, Wapo reports:

Pincus answered questions about Libby as well. Both he and Cooper said they did so with Libby's approval, and both said that their conversations with Libby did not touch on the identity of Wilson's wife.

So Pincus, like Cooper, had two sources. Like Cooper, one was Cheney Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. It sure seems like the other had to be Karl Rove. And if it was, then how spontaneous could Rove's disclosure to Cooper have been? And how many other reporters did he tell?

Update: Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly makes a similar point.

This wasn't just a single offhand comment at the end of a phone call with Matt Cooper about welfare reform. It was Karl Rove and someone else systematically making sure they mentioned Plame to every reporter they talked to.

< Murray Waas Exclusive: Novak Cooperated | Midnight Plame Gate Roundup >
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  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:09 PM EST
    This particular point is my personal hangnail to pick---why hasn't the WH complied with the subpoena for the names of those on Air Force One (with access to secure those telephone lines) from July 7 -12? And what possible rationale do they have for their refusal? Are they claiming executive privilege like Cheney did with the Energy Task Force? What possible basis for a privilege claim is there as to who used the telephone and when? Or, even if there is some colorable basis for privilege as to who used the phones (which I believe there is not), there shouldn't be any protection or privilege at all as to the records of calls made from the plane and the telephone numbers to which those calls connected. If we had that info we could finalize the timeline of any WH communications to reporters and also determine who, with access to the confidential/classified State Dept. memo on Plame/Wilson which Powell had on the plane and on this Africa trip, could've or would've had knowledge of Plame's status and identity as it related to Wilson's trip. Bottom line: was Rove on the plane and on the phone?

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:09 PM EST
    OK. More info now-Wikipedia says there's March 6, 2004 WaPo article which says the WH agreed to turn over a weeks worth of telephone logs from Air Force One. True? Has anybody else seen or reported on those those logs? Hmmn. Any calls to or from relevant reporters? Again, was Rove on the trip? What about the classfied State Dept memo? I can't help but think that week and the Africa trip is critical to the timeline.

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:09 PM EST
    Claiming that the trip was a boondoggle like DeLay's many trips for cash has ZERO credibility. Wilson is clearly not someone who wanted to make a few pennies taking a trip to Africa. The paper in question was spurious, and the CIA warned so. It was debunked quickly, and Hussein already had 93+ tons of yellowcake already, and centrifuges would have been detected by the inspectors. Remember this claim was combined with a LIE about aluminum tubes. They were manufacturing propaganda that was quite feeble, so the idea that Wilson's wife would send her husband just so he would get paid is hilarious. It is credible that Cheney told her to tell him to go dig up some dirt to SUPPORT the forgery, it being weak. But Cheney didn't take the time to find out if Wilson was a paid clown or an American diplomat. And that mistake by the power-bloated Cheney isn't working out so well.

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#4)
    by roger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:09 PM EST
    Anyone else remember that Rove was fired from Daddy Bush's re-election campaign for leaking to Novak?

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#5)
    by txpublicdefender on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:09 PM EST
    The idea of a "boondoggle" to Niger is especially hilarious. So many things are written and talked about as if they are mutually exclusive. The right-wing defenders keep shouting about how it was Wilson's wife, and not Cheney, who sent Wilson to Niger. But, it seems entirely possible--and very probable--that Cheney asked the CIA to send someone to Africa to investigate these yellowcake claims. The CIA talked about it, and included Plame in the discussions. She suggested her husband as someone who could go due to his familiarity with Iraq and Africa. The CIA sent him. End of story. It is also interesting to me how so many of these reporters seem to defend the leaker with the notion that it wasn't being leaked as political payback but to help a reporter out by shooing them away from a false story. But, does anyone honestly believe that Karl Rove was concerned about the reputation of the media? No. Even if he was trying to shoo them away from the story by having them doubt Wilson's credibility as opposed to intentionally trying to hurt Wilson's wife, that is still not a justification for revealing a covert operative. Even if you believe that motive, it is still sacrificing the covert operations of the CIA in order to help you politically. It might make what Rove did less "mean," but it doesn't make it any less harmful to the interests of the United States. And finally, as to the issue of whether Rove knew she was covert, I don't care. Although that may matter when it comes to the issue of whether he violated the criminal statute, it is completely irrelevant as to whether what Rove did was something he should be fired for. He had a security clearance. Perhaps before he goes around telling every other reporter in D.C. that someone is CIA, he should, I don't know, actually check to see if she is covert. Maybe he should have chekced to see if, perhaps, she was working on something critical to national security that would be severely compromised if her identity as a CIA agent was revealed--something like, say, who might be trying to sell WMDs to terrorists!

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:09 PM EST
    Don't forget that the fabulous Condi was pushing along the same lines.

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:10 PM EST
    txpubdef, check out: Fraud Party Talking Points Especially the part where they try to make Wilson's statement that the CIA sent him, into a 'lie' that Cheney sent him. It's classic doubletalk, substituting boldly for the facts. The material quoted in the talking points shows clearly that Wilson stated the CIA sent him, but that he believed that Cheney was behind asking the CIA to send someone. Which is not equivalent to Cheney asking Wilson, quite obviously. But talking points don't have to be honest, if you're an R.

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:21 PM EST
    Why is that no one questions why Amb. Wilson - who is so worked up over a breech of security with regards to his wife's id - thought it was perfectly reasonable to write an op-ed in the NYT describing his "classified" trip to Niger on behalf of the CIA? Seems to me that Wilson, like most partisans, is guilty of selective outrage when it comes to national security.

    Re: Walter Pincus' Source: Was it Karl Rove? (none / 0) (#9)
    by Tom Maguire on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:01:44 PM EST
    Re the subpoena - Newsday reported the names or reporters found in the White House phone logs (The Times and WaPo told us there were many names, but chose not to trouble our pretty heads with a list). I saved it at the bottom of this old post from March 2004. And I have some wild thoughts about the Pincus source, on which I hope to pick your brain.