If there is a leak out of my administration I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of…
—George Bush talking with reporters, September 30, 2003
Reporter: But did Karl Rove do it?
Scott McClellan: That’s ridiculous?
–September 16, 2003 briefing
Reporter: You said this morning “the president knows Karl Rove wasn’t involved.” How does he know that?
McClellan: I’ve made it very clear that it was a ridiculous suggestion in the first place…If anyone in this administration was involved in it they would no longer be in this administration.
–September 29, 2003 briefing
Mr. McClellan and Mr. Bush have both made clear that leaking Ms. Plame’s identity would be considered a firing offense by the White House. Mr. Bush was asked about that position most recently a little over a year ago, when he was asked whether he stood by his pledge to fire anyone found to have leaked the officer’s name. “Yes,” he replied, on June 10, 2004.
–N.Y. Times, At White House, a Day of Silence on Rove’s Role in C.I.A. Leak, July 12, 2005
Reporter: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in the leak of a name of a CIA operative?
McClellan: …the White House is not going to comment…
–July 11, 2005 briefing
Today’s New York Times contains an admirable review of past Bush Administration pronouncements about the Valerie Plame leak. It seems that every one of the countless lies told the American people by George Bush and his minions may cause Karl Rove’s political death by a thousand paper cuts (I know it’s unlikely to be so definitive, but one can always hope).
For those of you who enjoy George Bush’s verbal quagmires, the Times quotes this doozy from an October, 2003 press conference:
Randy, you tell me, how many sources have you had that’s leaked information that you’ve exposed or have been exposed? Probably none. I mean this town is a – is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don’t know if we’re going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there’s a lot of senior officials. I don’t have any idea. I’d like to. I want to know the truth. That’s why I’ve instructed this staff of mine to cooperate fully with the investigators – full disclosure, everything we know the investigators will find out. I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is – partially because, in all due respect to your profession, you do a very good job of protecting the leakers. But we’ll find out.
His linguistic ham-handedness reveals a very deep ambivalence about finding out the identity of the leakers. In the last sentence he says he doubts the leaker will ever be found and then closes with “but we’ll find out.” Which is it, Mr. President? My guess is he hoped the leaker wasn’t revealed. But the delicious irony is that his final statement turns out to be true: “but we’ll find out.” Indeed we have. All of this tells me that Rove, Libby, Cheney and Bush all expected that the press would not cave to legal pressure to reveal the source. It also says they didn’t reckon with the rather masterful way in which Pat Fitzgerald would undermine the press’ legal position by securing confidentiality waivers from all the potential leakers in the White House.
Apparently, Matt Cooper’s e mail to his editor which Newsweek published recently specifies that Rove told Cooper that Joseph Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative–without naming her. Now who here among us believes that as cagey, wiley and shrewd a political operative would go into battle with Wilson without doing his homework and finding everything there is to know about Wilson and Plame, including her name? But the lawyers among us will point out that the 1982 law against revealing the identity of intelligence agents forces a prosecutor, according to the Times, to:
1. establish an intentional disclosure by someone with authorized access to classified information.
2. That person must know that the disclosure identifies a covert agent “and that the United States was taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent’s intelligence relationship to the United States.”
3. A covert agent is defined as someone whose identity is classified information and who has served outside the United States within the last five years.
Rove may fit number 1 depending on how you define “intentional disclosure.” As for number 2, while it probably fits Rove as well it would be terrifically hard to prove unless Fitzgerald can find a smoking gun. As for number 3, everything I’ve read about Valerie Plame indicates that she was an undercover operative and had served overseas, though of course there are those Republicans who dispute each of those contentions. I’m waiting for the Republican counterattack in which they’ll go after Fitzgerald and his case in much the same way that Rove went after Wilson and Plame. After all, Rove sees everything as a political battle of wills and this would be no exception.
All in all, this still makes for a hard case to prove against Rove. First, according to Cooper’s e mail Rove did not reveal Valerie Plame’s name, only her role at the CIA. Does that constitute “intentional disclosure?” I don’t know. That’s why I’ve read on other blogs that it’s likely that Fitzgerald may seek to prove an easier claim of obstruction of justice. In this, all he has to prove is that Rove dissembled in any of his interviews with FBI agents or in his multiple grand jury appearances. And given how many lies and half truths Bush and McClellan have fed us about this case in the last two years, it’d be doubtful Rove wouldn’t have slipped up somewhere.
In my post 2004 presidential election blog post I noted my only consolation would be awaiting the fatal act of hubris and overreaching that might bring the Bush Administration down–or at least down a notch or two. Little did I realize that this event had already happened.
Think about it–Joe Wilson has the unmitigated nerve to try to embarrass the president with his N.Y. Times Op-Ed piece about the fradulent claim of Niger uranium. Instead of engaging in covert and subtle battle with Wilson, Rove decides he’s going to pull out all the stops and really stick it to Wilson. He’ll go all out to damage Wilson (and his family) in every way he can. In hindsight, Karl, was it worth it? You got your ounce of revenge. Now a special prosecutor will be attempting to extract a pound of your political flesh for your acts of hubris. And you could damage the political standing of the man you serve, the president you created much like Professor Higgins to George Bush’s Eliza Doolittle.
I hope Fitzgerald cooks your goose but good.
Rob Peneguy says