In a brief conversation with Rove, Cooper asked what to make of the flap over Wilson’s criticisms. NEWSWEEK obtained a copy of the e-mail that Cooper sent his bureau chief after speaking to Rove. (The e-mail was authenticated by a source intimately familiar with Time’s editorial handling of the Wilson story, but who has asked not to be identified because of the magazine’s corporate decision not to disclose its contents.) Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a “big warning” not to “get too far out on Wilson.” Rove told Cooper that Wilson’s trip had not been authorized by “DCIA”–CIA Director George Tenet–or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.” Wilson’s wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.) The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: “not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there’s still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger … ”
Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used Plame’s name or knew she was a covert operative.
So, in essence, absolutely no indication that a crime has been committed by Rove. According to what we know so far Rove identified Wilson’s wife, who he indicated worked in some function at the CIA, as the person who authorized his trip to Nigeria. That doesn’t indicate that Rove knew anything about Plame’s status as an undercover agent. It merely indicates that he was trying to communicate to Cooper that Wilson’s trip to Nigeria was a fraud from start to finish. Something which we learned later.
The fact that Plame sent Wilson on the trip to Nigeria was an important part of debunking Wilson’s report. This was no political smear, it was the pointing out of nepotism which further supported the idea that Wilson’s trip was politically, not factually, motivated. If keeping Plame’s identity a secret was such a top priority then maybe she and her husband shouldn’t have gotten involved with the phony trip to Nigeria.
If anything, these revelations are far more damaging to Plame and her husband than they are to Rove.
Yeah, okay, maybe there’s no crime, but it strikes me that Rove’s going to be conclusively identified as the/a leaker within days. Once that happens, he’s toast. He probably won’t go to jail, and he probably won’t even be indicted (unless he perjured himself, which I have know way of knowing), but I think it’s likely that his days as a White House advisor are numbered — and that that number is less than 30.
That’s one way to look at it, but I think Spoons is missing the larger picture. At the time Rove was talking to Cooper it was coming out that Wilson’s trip to Nigeria was one big politically-motivated canard aimed at smearing the President of the “Saddam was looking for uranium” issue. Rove had no doubt learned at this time about the nepotism involved with the selection of Wilson to travel to Nigeria and the CIA approval of it, so why shouldn’t he give that information to a reporter especially if he wasn’t aware that Wilson’s was an undercover CIA agent and/or he didn’t provide the reporter with her name. Especially in light of the scorching op/ed Wilson had just written for the New York Times.
Did Rove leak Palme’s name? Maybe. But even if he did I think we have to look at the circumstances of the leak as well. If Rove named her not knowing that she was an undercover CIA agent and in reaction to Wilson’s rather blatant and factually-challenged smearing of President Bush I have a hard time holding it against him.
Rob Port is the owner and operator of Say Anything.