Grab the tiger by the tail. That's what the daily reporting on Rove is these days.
As Sidney Blumenthal noted on Democracy Now! yesterday, the grand jury leaks are springing in an awfully convenient manner for Karl Rove:
SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL: Well, Karl Rove is waging a communications battle in the way he wages communications battles. He is trying to act -- he's acting as though this is -- this matter is going to be decided by a court of Washington pundits. He is leaking stories now. There are stories in the New York Times and the Washington Post that are clearly leaked by his lawyer trying to depict him in a light in which he is innocent of the charges, but that's not how this is going to be decided. It's going to be decided by the prosecutor. And I think that Rove is in a panic mode. He's acting in a very frenetic way, and he is undermining himself, and he is undermining his principal, the President.
AMY GOODMAN: How is he undermining himself?
SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL: He's undermining himself by putting out all of these stories and keeping this at a -- in the forefront of the news. He has regarded his defense as though it is the defense of the administration himself. He cannot separate himself. Furthermore, the President has not separated him. He walked to Marine One, his helicopter, accompanied by Karl Rove, a clear statement that he stands by Rove. So, Bush has embraced Rove, as well. This is -- Bush -- Rove's damage control, in my view, has created more damage. This so-called master of communications is undermining himself in terms of communications, but in the end, none of that matters. It all comes down to Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, and what he decides to do.
So today's talking points come via a team of reporters in this morning's New York Times. It's entitled "State Dept. Memo Gets Scrutiny in Leak Inquiry on C.I.A. Officer" and it's written by Richard Stevenson. (No "W." in his byline for a change.) But wait, that's not all.
Before we can move on we need to scroll credits: " "By RICHARD STEVENSON . . . This article was reported by Douglas Jehl, David Johnston and Richard W. Stevenson and was written by Mr. Stevenson."
Munch on that popcorn a little longer, we're still not done with the credits. "David E. Sanger and Scott Shane contributed reporting for this article." "With special guest-star Heather Locklear."
Okay, I'm kidding on the Locklear part. (I think.)
But that's six reporters [CORRECTION, five. Always check my math. Thanks to Shirley for catching this.] from the paper working on this story. And yet I honestly don't think they grasp what they're reporting.
Let's nutshell the article. There's a memo. From June 11, 2003. State Department memo. It refers to Valerie Plame as Valerie Wilson so it's obvious that Novak didn't see it, right?
Right? Why right? Why wouldn't he use her previous name? The same way that the right uses "Rodham" to clobber Hillary Clinton with to this day. Novak's not a talented journalist, but as a hack, he knows how to appeal to his base. "She's Wilson's wife! And she doesn't use his last name! Bra burner!"
Nothing's proven about whether or not Novak saw the memo by the fact that he used "Plame" and not "Wilson."
Here's the other big talking point: Rove's "warning" to Matt Cooper, it's okay because he immediately E-MAILED* Stephen J. Hadley (deputy national security advisor at the time). So see, Rove didn't do anything wrong.
Far from clearing Rove, that actually adds to the problems.
Why is that?
Rove e-mails (allegedly) Hadley that he "didn't take the bait" when Cooper asked about whether or not Joseph Wilson was damaging the Bully Boy with his statements.
We find out two important things right away. Let's go real slow.
1) Rove put the Bully Boy ahead of national security.
Do we all get that? He "didn't take the bait." No, he didn't. He deflected "the bait" by confirming he'd heard Plame was CIA. (According to the accounts.)
Is this going to be his defense? Is this how it will play out?
When confronted with possible bad polling, Rove confirms that someone's CIA? That's the defense?
Standing by his main man means putting the nation at risk?
That's a defense he wants to stand on?
(Like Blumenthal, I personally believe the leaks are orchestrated by Rove and others interested in saving Rove. Saving Lack of Privacy Rove. I'm just not sure if they're just tossing just about anything out there until they can find the best talking point or if they're tossing anything out there because they're trying to obscure the issues involved. Regardless, this talking point doesn't make things "rosy.")
Let's walk it through real simple. You're a reporter for Premiere. I'm a p.r. flack for Matt Damon. You call me up and ask, "Is it true that Damon's new movie bombed in previews?"
My response is to confirm you to that the woman filling out the card with her husband at the preview is CIA. I then fire off an e-mail to my boss saying, "Great news! I didn't take the bait! I steered the reporter to a CIA agent!"
Do we see the problem here? Supposedly, Cooper wants to know if the Bully Boy is being damaged by Wilson's statements. Rove deflects. He confirms that Wilson is married to a CIA agent.
Put out two hands in front of you and pretend they're scales. See which one tips when you weigh Bully Boy's polling with identifying a CIA agent.
2) I can't believe they did this. Bully Boy's no brain (neither is Rove) but are people going to pay attention to this defense?
If they are, do they get what the leak is saying?
Rove talked to Cooper before Novak's column was published. Rove told Hadley about the conversation. Let's say Rove just confirmed Plame to Cooper. (That's just as bad and it is identifying, but let's move on to a larger point that I don't think they see in this latest talking point). When Rove sent that e-mail (if he did) to Hadley, we have someone in national security that knows a CIA agent is on the verge of being outed.
I'm sure Condi will offer her "bowels of the agency" or "basement" or whatever looney remark she made re: the sixteen words originally.
It wasn't lower level. Her right-hand man knew. That's the talking point today. Her right- hand man knew that a CIA agent was about to be the topic of the press. What did they do at that moment to find out about leaks? Did they alert the CIA?
Or were they all high fiving and saying "Way to go Karl-ster! You didn't take the bait!"
Let's be really clear, Rove supposedly sent an e-mail to the deputy of national security immediately after getting off the phone with Matt Cooper. Let's go the Times' article:
After his conversation with Mr. Cooper, The Associated Press reported Friday, Mr. Rove sent an e-mail message to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, saying he "didn't take the bait" when Mr. Cooper suggested that Mr. Wilson's criticisms had been damaging to the administration.
Mr. Rove told the grand jury in the case that the e-mail message was consistent with his assertion that he had not intended to divulge Ms. Wilson's identity but instead intended to rebut Mr. Wilson's criticisms of the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq, The A.P. reported, citing legal professionals familiar with Mr. Rove's testimony. Dozens of White House and administration officials have testified to the grand jury, and several officials have been called back for further questioning.
If people are paying attention to today's talking point, Rove just ratted somebody out (though he probably doesn't realize it). Did he tell who he got the information from?
But the talking point advises us that the deputy of national security knows the press is talking about Valerie Plame being a CIA agent. Did Hadley follow up?
Don't toss out any nonsense that, "They may not have known she was undercover!" Hadley's job should have required him to find out what Plame's position was. Regardless of what her job was, the CIA should have been advised what was about to break. And Plame should have been warned.
Was the CIA advised? I don't know. But from Joseph Wilson's reactions, Plame sure wasn't warned. From his statements, she didn't get a heads up. Novak's column appears on the 14th of July. Rove talks to Cooper on the 11th of July. In those three days, what did Hadley do? What was the administration doing? (Yeah, I know, probably helping the story along, but that's not in their talking points.)
How did Hadley follow up? Did he report it to his superior? (Condi Rice.) What measures did they take to protect Plame? She wasn't assigned body guards at the time. Wilson's made no reference to her getting a call that said, "Hey Val, just a heads up, the press are talking about you, you're probably going to be the topic of a story and be named. Those friends and neighbors that don't know anything about who you really work for -- you might want to break it to them."
Hadley's job was not to protect Bully Boy from fading poll numbers. His job was national security.
If people are paying attention to today's talking point, one question should be, "What was done when Hadley was informed?" What steps got taken?
Was the CIA informed what was coming down the pike?
Or was everyone who is supposed to be working for the nation suddenly under the impression that their job was serving on the election committee for the Bully Boy?
From Thursday's mid-morning entry:
Wally e-mails to note Pirate Smile's post at Democratic Underground ("Plame has worked undercover within the past 5 years according to the WP") where Pirate Smile draws our attention to an October 4, 2003 Washington Post article entitled "Leak of Agent's Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm" (by Walter Pincus and Mike Allen):
After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.
Plame's name was first published July 14 in a newspaper column by Robert D. Novak that quoted two senior administration officials. They were critical of her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, for his handling of a CIA mission that undercut President Bush's claim that Iraq had sought uranium from the African nation of Niger for possible use in developing nuclear weapons. -snip-
A former diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said yesterday that every foreign intelligence service would run Plame's name through its databases within hours of its publication to determine if she had visited their country and to reconstruct her activities. "That's why the agency is so sensitive about just publishing her name," the former diplomat said.
Shouldn't Hadley have been able to find out what the Washington Post did? Did he attempt to?
What did he do when he received Rove's e-mail?
His job wasn't to prop up the Bully Boy, his job was to protect the country. Serving the country, his job, would have entailed passing the knowledge on. Possibly up to Rice, possibly to the CIA.
But there should have been a follow up to determine a) what Plame's position was, b) what risks there were for the CIA and c) ensuring that a warning was conveyed to Valerie Plame and any agents or assets that worked with her.
Was that done?
Let's drop back even further. The Times article tells us that Rove spoke to Novak before he spoke to Cooper. Two days prior which puts that conversation on July 9th. Did Rove also e-mail about that one?
What was our National Security Agency doing when at least one participant knew that Plame was about to be outed?
Can't blame this one on outmoded computers at the FBI. If there's a breakdown in the sharing of intellegence, it appears to be a human breakdown. It appears to be someone or someones not doing his or their job. Maybe Hadley passed it on up the chain and, if so, maybe his hands are clean.
But all this posturing after the fact by the Bully Boy that he was committed to finding out who leaked Plame's identity -- it's false. He should have known it was coming before Novak's column was published. Rove sure should have told him. Hadley or Rice should have told him. He should have known what was coming down and efforts at questioning the staff should have begun prior to the outing being published.
If I'm not being clear here, Bully Boy wasn't watching someone snag change from a candy machine. This was a national security issue. And the claim that Valerie Plame wasn't undercover (1999 puts her in the five year provision, other reporting carries it further) doesn't negate the fact that the leader of the country should have ensured that action was taken to warn Plame of what the press was asking.
Now maybe that 'triple decker, chocolate mocha joe, double secret background' meant that along with Cooper not talking, Rove was also supposed to be silent? That doesn't wash and not just because of the fact that that Rove allegedly e-mailed Hadley after speaking to Cooper. It doesn't wash because Plame's working for the government. The administration (at least Rove) and our National Security Agency (at least Hadley) know a government employee is about to be a topic in the press. If she were a secretary at the CIA (which she wasn't but some dismissive pundits have portrayed her as such), she still rated a heads up. Her bosses rated a heads up.
What did Rove and Hadley do with the information?
What it looks like, accepting today's talking point, is that they both put Bully Boy ahead of serving the country and ahead of doing their jobs.
Novak's column did not take the administration by surprise. Rove's latest talking point demonstrates that the administration knew people were asking about Plame (at least knew of Cooper, possibly Rove's not claiming he also passed on the news that Novak was snooping around also). There should have required no pressure (via the public urged on by David Corn and BuzzFlash) to get the Bully Boy moving on finding out what happened. In fact, the administration should have already been on it.
And instead of offering what appears to be the subtext of the article today (Scoots Libby going down!), the crack team of reporters for the New York Times (look at the list: Douglas Jehl, David Johnston, Richard W. Stevenson, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane ) should have included one individual who grasped what we've walked through -- one reporter who picked up the phone and asked Hadley for a statement. The article should have included it even if it were only, "Hadley stated he could not commment . . ."
I honestly don't think the Times realizes what they are reporting today. Or maybe they see it as a talking point and didn't feel it needed looking into.
But what they're reporting is that by July 11th, the deputy national security advisor knew that the press was asking about a CIA agent and apparently nothing was done to warn her agency or to warn her. The only phrase that comes to my mind is "Dereliction of duty."
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[Note: "E-MAILED*" Originally, for reasons of my own apparent idiocy, the word "phoned" was used in the sentence. Throughout the rest of this entry "e-mailed" is used. E-mailed is correct. Thanks to Zach for catching that.]