That’s the question to ask after both The New York Times and The Washington Post published front-page articles that reported that Karl Rove did speak to conservative columnist Bob Novak before Novak wrote an article revealing the CIA identity of Valerie Wilson and that Rove had confirmed to Novak that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA.
Each account is attributed to a single unnamed source. The Times identifies its sourced as “someone who has been officially briefed on the matter.” The Post cited “a lawyer involved in the case.” And the account provided is one that apparently would help Rove fend off a criminal charge. Both newspapers say that Novak called Rove on July 8, 2003 (six days before Novak published the piece that outed Valerie Wilson), that Novak said he had learned that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA (he referred to her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame), and that Rove confirmed that he had heard that, too. Each story says its source claimed that Rove had learned about Valerie Wilson’s CIA position from other journalists.
The point here is to show that Rove was not peddling the information, that he had not received it from a classified source, and that he did not have reason to know that Valerie Wilson was working at the CIA under cover. Under the relevant law–the Intelligence Identities Protection Act–it is only a crime for a government official to disclose identifying information about a covert US intelligence officer if the government official received that information from a classified source and is aware that the officer is a clandestine employee of the CIA. Consequently, Rove defenders can cite the account planted in the Times and the Post and claim that he did not violate the law because he had heard about Valerie Wilson from a journalist (not a classified source) and because there is no indication he knew of her covert status.
This might work. But, of course, it is up to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to determine if Rove or anyone else (remember Novak cited two sources) broke the law or engaged in perjury or obstruction of justice. And there is no telling if this account is indeed accurate. But this new disclosure does lead to an obvious conclusion: somebody has lied.
A week after Novak wrote this column, he told Newsday that his sources came to him with the information: “I didn’t dig it out, it was given to me,” he said. “They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.” Was Novak lying when said that? And before the infamous Matt Cooper email was revealed by Newsweek days ago, Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, told Newsweek that Rove “did not tell any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA.” Now, the official pro-Rove line is that he confirmed for Novak that Valerie Wilson worked for the CIA. Was Rove’s lawyer lying when he said that?