Memo May Hold Key to CIA Leak - Los Angeles Times
Mon Oct 10, 2005 15:47

Memo May Hold Key to CIA Leak - Los Angeles Times
Memo May Hold Key to CIA Leak. Prosecutors are asking whether anyone on Air Force One learned ... By Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron, Times Staff Writers ...,1,2152689.story?coll=la-headlines-nation
October 6, 2005

President Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove has agreed to testify again before a federal grand jury in the case of a CIA agent's leaked identity. A reporter provides an update.

MARGARET WARNER: Late today, it was reported that Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove has offered to -- and in fact will -- testify again before a federal grand jury looking into the 2003 unmasking of CIA Operative Valerie Plame. Rove reportedly has testified three times before. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has spent two years trying to determine whether someone in the Bush administration leaked Plame's identity for political reasons as a way of undermining her husband, a former ambassador and critic of President Bush's claims about Iraq's weapons. Joining us now to explain these latest developments is Tom Hamburger. He's been following the story for the Los Angeles Times.

And Tom, welcome, thanks for joining us.


MARGARET WARNER: First of all, have you been able to confirm this story, that in fact Karl Rove is headed back to the grand jury?

TOM HAMBURGER: We have confirmed, Margaret, that Karl Rove has volunteered, had volunteered to cooperate further with prosecutors and that prosecutors have just last week accepted his offer. So yes, he will return to the grand jury, as you just said a moment ago, for a fourth time.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, one, is this unusual for someone to offer to go back to the grand jury? And if so, what led to this?

TOM HAMBURGER: Well, the -- Mr. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, has -- first, it is unusual at the close of an investigation for someone to be invited back to a grand jury for a final bit of testimony. And we're all puzzling over just what this means. His attorney says that this is just yet another sign of Karl Rove's willingness to cooperate. At the time that Matt Cooper, the Time Magazine reporter, testified before the grand jury in July, Mr. Luskin said he reaffirmed the prosecutor his interest, Karl Rove's interest in cooperating if there should ever be a need for further testimony, and last week he said he got the call that the prosecutor would like to take Karl Rove up on his offer.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, we know from what Matt Cooper later wrote in Time Magazine about his own testimony that he told the grand jury that Karl Rove was in fact his original source for the fact that this Ambassador Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and had supposedly had a role in spending him to Africa on this WMD investigative mission. Why would that be ominous for Karl Rove, or something he might want to come back and say something more about?

TOM HAMBURGER: Well, I think there are a couple of reasons why it was ominous not only for Karl Rove and for the White House. Remember, publicly, in 2003, we reporters and the nation were assured by the White House Spokesman Scott McLellan that it was ridiculous to suggest that Karl Rove or other very senior people in the White House were involved in this case, in this matter, leaking and discussing Plame with reporters. Matt Cooper then testifies under oath that indeed Karl Rove was his source for that information.

And so one question that it raises is: To what degree is Karl Rove involved, if at all, in the initial subject of the investigation? Is he involved illegally in leaking the name of a CIA agent? He has said, our sources tell us, that he did not leak the name. But it runs contrary to previous assertions that he was not involved in this at all.

MARGARET WARNER: Do we know, and we should say here that the special prosecutor has been totally tight-lipped about this, but do we know from other sources what Karl Rove had said to the grand jury previously about his conversations with Matt Cooper?

TOM HAMBURGER: Here's what we know, Margaret. We are told, and reporters have been told, and we've had this confirmed by a couple of sources, that in his first interview before the grand jury, Karl Rove did not mention his conversation with Matt Cooper. Subsequently, he did mention it. His attorney has said he has answered every question that has been asked of him by prosecutors but because there's been a slight difference in testimony, and because he didn't volunteer it the first time, there is some question about the degree to which he has cooperated.

Again, the White House, Karl Rove and Karl Rove's attorneys say their motto has been cooperate, cooperate, cooperate.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, explain another thing that was leaked today, and that was - and I'm going to try to read this -- that Fitzgerald told Rove's lawyers that he cannot guarantee now that Rove won't be indicted. First of all, why would the prosecutor say something like that?

TOM HAMBURGER: Well, it's a bit curious. There is, Margaret, a tradition, in fact it's a requirement in the Justice Department handbook, that prosecutors notify any witness before a grand jury, called before a grand jury, if they are a target of the investigation, if they are going to be charged.

Now, Karl Rove's attorney says and has said emphatically, his client had not received a target letter. However, he also says that the prosecutor affirmed to him that he can make no guarantee that Karl Rove will not be subsequently charged. In other words, there is still some legal jeopardy.

MARGARET WARNER: Is that new, I mean, has Karl Rove gotten such assurances before and this time there are new conditions?

TOM HAMBURGER: Margaret, we're all trying to read the tea leaves here. Here's what we know at the Los Angeles Times. Karl Rove's attorney has said repeatedly in the past that he's been assured that Karl Rove is not a target of the investigation.

Now, his attorney told me today that is still the case; however he is adding some new language; that is, the prosecutor cannot affirm to him additionally that Karl Rove may not eventually become a target or be charged in the case.

MARGARET WARNER: And finally, and briefly if you can, what are the possible crimes that may have been committed here? In other words, that Fitzgerald is following, and do we know how quickly he will wind this up?

TOM HAMBURGER: Margaret, first of all, as you mentioned earlier, the initial charge of this investigation was to look at whether someone knowingly leaked the name of a covert CIA agent, a felony. That's a very difficult case to prove. There is speculation that now in addition, spinning off that initial charge, the prosecutor may be interested in perjury, possibly looking at obstruction of justice. Is there evidence that someone didn't cooperate with prosecutors?

And third, there's been some discussion of a charge that might be easier to sell at least initially, which is a conspiracy not to out a CIA agent knowingly, which is a hard case to prove, but a conspiracy rather using classified information in violation of laws protecting classified secrets.

MARGARET WARNER: Okay. And he's supposed to -- I think the grand jury is supposed to wrap up this month.

TOM HAMBURGER: That's correct.

MARGARET WARNER: Tom Hamburger of the LA Times, thank you so much.


Memo May Hold Key to CIA Leak - Los Angeles Times
Memo May Hold Key to CIA Leak. Prosecutors are asking whether anyone on Air Force One learned ... By Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron, Times Staff Writers ...

Rove Will Testify Again in Leak Case - Los Angeles Times
... jury wrapping up its investigation into the leak of a covert CIA agent's identity — further ... By Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, Times Staff Writers ...

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Memo May Hold Key to CIA Leak
# Prosecutors are asking whether anyone on Air Force One learned Valerie Plame's identity from an official report, and gave it to journalists.

By Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron, Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors investigating whether Bush administration officials disclosed the name of an undercover CIA operative to news reporters have focused on a 2003 State Department memo that investigators believe might help point to the source of the leak, according to those directly familiar with the proceedings.

The memo detailed how a former diplomat was chosen to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from the African nation of Niger, and it included a description of the role that the CIA operative, who was the diplomat's wife, played in suggesting his name for the assignment.

Prosecutors have been asking key witnesses whether they had seen the document.

The former diplomat, Joseph C. Wilson IV, came to national attention in July 2003 after he wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times suggesting that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence to exaggerate Baghdad's nuclear weapons program and justify the invasion of Iraq. After his article appeared, his wife's name and CIA status were leaked to columnist Robert Novak in what critics of the administration have alleged was an act of retribution.

A probe was launched in 2003 to determine whether anyone deliberately leaked the name of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame. It is a felony to knowingly reveal the identity of covert personnel.

The memo was sent by State Department officials to then- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who according to news reports has testified before the grand jury. Powell had the memo with him on Air Force One when President Bush traveled to Africa on July 7, 2003, the day after Wilson's piece was published, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.

What happened on Air Force One has been of interest to prosecutors, who want to know whether anyone who saw the memo learned Plame's identity and told it to journalists.

Telephone logs from the presidential aircraft have been subpoenaed. Among those on the flight was then-Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who has testified before the grand jury.

Fleischer declined to comment for this article, referring all questions to prosecutors. But in a Sept. 29, 2003, e-mail to The Times, Fleischer denied he was the source of the leak. "I have no idea who told Novak, but it was not me," he wrote.

Investigators' apparent focus on the memo was first reported Saturday by the New York Times. But not everyone with knowledge of the memo finds it to be significant.

One former State Department official, who because of the sensitive nature of the case asked not to be named, said that the information on Plame in the memo was sparse, but that her identity was known through other means in much of the intelligence community, suggesting that the memo might not have been the way her name spread among government officials — and the media. As the former State Department official recalled, the memo identified Plame only as "Wilson's wife" — it did not give her first or last name, and it did not mention her undercover status.

"The Niger uranium issue was a huge argument within the intelligence community for over a year before the Novak column," the former official said. "So all the ins and outs of Niger uranium were the subject of endless meetings and discussions and food fights among people in the intelligence community and all the details of it were well-known."

Once Wilson's July 6, 2003, article appeared, then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage arranged for a copy of the memo, which had been drafted earlier detailing the Niger matter, to be forwarded to Powell, who was on his way to Africa with Bush.

"There was never any feedback from anyone on the memo," the former State Department official said. "The memo itself was basically repeating common knowledge in the community."

The memo was written by the State Department's intelligence and research bureau. It outlined the history of the Niger uranium controversy and emphasized the bureau's view that there was no substance to reports that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger.

A State Department analyst who had attended the meeting at which the CIA decided to dispatch Wilson to Africa to check out the story kept the notes from that session, the former official said. The notes mentioned that Wilson's wife had suggested sending Wilson.

After getting Armitage's request, the State Department's then-intelligence chief, Carl Ford, ordered the original memo — along with the analyst's notes about that meeting — to be sent to Powell, the former official said. Ordinarily, the memo would have been transmitted directly to Powell over the State Department's secure communications lines. But because Powell was traveling with Bush, the memo was transmitted via the White House operations center.

Because both documents were classified, it would have been necessary for someone on the plane to sign for having received them from the White House operations center, the former official said. But once someone signed for them, the document could have been passed around freely on the plane among senior officials who had security clearances.


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