Man Without Qualities

Thursday, July 14, 2005

American Political Suicide Bombers II

Another day, another new, overcharged story regarding Mr. Rove's non-involvement with the Plame/Wilson affair:
Presidential confidant Karl Rove testified to a grand jury that he learned the identity of a CIA operative originally from journalists, then informally discussed the information with a Time magazine reporter days before the story broke, according to a person briefed on the testimony.

The person, who works in the legal profession and spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings
[Note: this description of the source sounds like Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, who would not have been with Mr. Rove in the grand jury room, but would certainly have been "briefed" (or "officially briefed" as the New York Times describes the source)] told The Associated Press that Rove testified last year that he remembers specifically being told by columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, the wife of a harsh Iraq war critic, worked for the CIA.

Rove testified that Novak originally called him the Tuesday before Plame's identity was revealed in July 2003 to discuss another story. The conversation eventually turned to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was strongly criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq war policy and the intelligence it used to justify the war, the source said.

The person said Rove testified that Novak told him he had learned and planned to report in a weekend column that Wilson's wife, Plame, had worked for the CIA, and the circumstances on how her husband traveled to Africa to check bogus claims of alleged nuclear material sales to Iraq. .... Rove told the grand jury that by the time Novak had called him, he believes he had similar information about Wilson's wife from another reporter but had no recollection of which reporter had told him about it first, the source said.

When Novak inquired about Wilson's wife working for the CIA, Rove indicated he had heard something like that, according to the source's recounting of the grand jury testimony.
Whatever else Mr. Rove's grand jury testimony may mean (assuming this account is accurate), his testimony is certainly not equivalent to Mr. Novak's description in the original Novak column, if Mr. Rove is taken to be one of the referenced "senior administration officials":

Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.
It is simply not the case that someone who tells one that he has "heard the same thing" about a story one has just recounted has "told" that recounted story. Mr. Novak's old column, "Evans and Novak," was widely known as "Errors and No Facts." Could Mr. Novak be carrying on the wrong tradition?

Didn't CBS News make this same mistake in "corroborating" the Rathergate story by calling a military official, telling him the story and then noting that he didn't contradict the whole thing? Houston, we have inside corroboration!

How widespread is this particular journalistic practice of pseudo-confirmation?

Of course, Mr. Rove is not the only person who has testified before that grand jury. Matt Cooper also had his day, and afterwards he had this to say about his own testimony:
Now, today I testified -- and agreed to testify -- solely because of a waiver I received from a source last Wednesday. I'd like to explain a little bit about that waiver. We're going to hand out copies of the waiver agreement in a little bit. .... And even when Time Incorporated, over my objections, handed my notes, my e-mails to the grand jury, when some of those materials began to leak into the public domain revealing my source, many people, including my good friend and lawyer here, Richard Sauber, urged me to testify.

I think it is pretty clear from this excerpt that Mr. Cooper testified that he had one source for his story, the same source who signed that particular, specific waiver Mr. Cooper now says he needed. Moreover, later in the linked transcript, Mr. Cooper's attorney, Mr. Stauber, goes on about how he could neither rely on the blanket waiver signed long ago by Mr. Rove nor even contact Mr. Rove or Mr. Rove's attorney to ask for a specific waiver - until, for some reason, reading about it in the Wall Street Journal changed all that. Such considerations would of course apply to every one of Mr. Cooper's sources, if there were more than one. But Mr. Cooper is very clear: Now, today I testified -- and agreed to testify -- solely because of a waiver I received from a source last Wednesday.

If Mr. Cooper had more than one source for his article he's cutting the baloney pretty thin in this transcript. of course, it wouldn't be the first time for him.

Maguire, as always, has great stuff on this topic - especially his discussion of why Lewis Libby, in particular, was probably not a source.

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