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Rove Confirmed Plame Indirectly, Lawyer Says

In accounts of both conversations that have been made public, Rove does not give Plame's name and discusses the matter only at the end of an interview on an unrelated topic. Rove has said he did not know Plame's name and did not know she was undercover. If that is the case, it is unlikely that the disclosure is a crime.

The other original account about Plame, besides Novak's column, was on Time magazine's Web site. Rove was identified as a source for that article in an internal Time e-mail that was turned over to prosecutors July 1 after the magazine battled to the Supreme Court to try to preserve the privacy of the material.

Matthew Cooper, a White House correspondent for Time who talked to Rove for the article, testified Wednesday before a federal grand jury investigating the case. The e-mail said Rove talked to Cooper only on what the correspondent referred to as "double super secret background," meaning that the information could not be attributed to the White House.

Rove's representatives have said that Cooper brought up the issue at the end of another conversation. Cooper has not given his account publicly.

Republican lawyers working with Rove say he was not pushing a story about Plame but was trying to steer Cooper away from giving too much credence to Wilson.

The conversation occurred July 8 or 9, 2003, the lawyer said. The column that named Plame ran in the Sun-Times on July 14, 2003.

It said: "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 his wife suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate the Italian report."

Sources who have reviewed some of the testimony before the grand jury say there is significant evidence that reporters were in some cases alerting officials about Plame's identity and relationship to Wilson -- not the other way around.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, has also testified before the grand jury, saying he was alerted by someone in the media to Plame's identity, according to a source familiar with his account. Cooper has previously testified that he brought up the subject of Plame with Libby and that Libby responded that he had heard about her from someone else in the media, according to sources knowledgeable about Cooper's testimony.

Rove, who moved from Texas to Washington with Bush and was the architect of both his presidential campaigns, has the title of senior adviser to the president and in the second term received the additional title of White House deputy chief of staff.

Staff writer Carol Leonnig contributed to this report.

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