Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Alert the "Media", This Might Be "News"

Josh Marshall at gives us the straight skinny on what Novak knew, when he knew it, and who told whom. Novak let it (the TRUTH) slip before the heat was on, before he was put on notice by DOJ.

Put that together with phone records allegedly showing a bunch of calls between Novak and the White House after the news went out that this outing was illegal and there would be an investigation, and...there is an obvious conclusion, that neatly works with Occam's Razor. Rove, and at least one other "top level source" (Novak had two sources), made a boo-boo of felonius proportion.

I couldn't put it better, so here is how Josh laid it out...

once the Plame story burst into the open and the DOJ got involved, Novak made the rounds claiming that neither he nor his sources knew she was covert. But, particularly with the alleged spate of phone calls between Novak and his White House sources, the relevant question would be, What was he saying before the story caught fire?

As we noted in that earlier post, there's a way we can get at this question.

The first newspaper report on the Plame outing was written by Timothy Phelps and Knut Royce in Newsday on July 22nd, 2003, about a week after Novak's column first ran.

The story's lede read: "The identity of an undercover CIA officer whose husband started the Iraq uranium intelligence controversy has been publicly revealed by a conservative Washington columnist citing 'two senior administration officials.'"

As you'd expect from that introduction, the whole focus of the article was Novak's exposure of an 'undercover' or covert agent. And the article, as you might also suspect, had a number of quotes from Wilson and others arguing for how damaging it was to have revealed the identity of a covert agent.

They interviewed Novak too. And this was his response: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

Plame's covert status was a centerpiece of the article. Phelps and Royce must have raised the point when they talked to Novak. Yet, at this point, before the controversy became a big media story and prior to the beginning of a DOJ investigation, Novak made no attempt to claim that his article said anything other than what it appeared to say. He made no effort to claim he didn't know Plame was covert, that his sources didn't know; or that they were the source of his knowledge.

All he said is that he thought it was newsworthy and so he used it.

Given what we know now, I think that speaks volumes. Novak's claims that he didn't mean 'operative' when he wrote 'operative' don't hold up against his history of intelligence reportage. And he only started making this claim after federal investigators got involved -- and after, it would seem, a series of phone conversations with Rove and other White House officials.


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