Rove Told Jury Libby May Have Been His Source In Leak Case
Thursday, October 20, 2005
White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.
In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said.
Rove has also testified that he also heard about Plame from someone else outside the White House, but could not recall who.
The account is the first time a person familiar with Rove's testimony has provided clues about where the deputy chief of staff learned about Plame, and confirmed that Rove and Libby were involved in a conversation about her before her identity became public. The disclosure seemed to further undermine the White House's contention early in the case that neither man was in any way involved in unmasking Plame.
But it leaves unanswered the central question of the more than two-year-old case: Did anyone commit a crime in leaking information about Plame to the media?
Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, did not return calls for comment last night. Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to comment. The development was first reported last night by the Associated Press.
Lawyers in the case have said Rove and Libby are the central focus of Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's 22-month investigation, which is scheduled to end by the time the grand jury expires Oct. 28. But they are not the only officials worried about the uncertain conclusion to the case.
John Hannah, an aide to Cheney and one of two dozen people questioned in the CIA leak case, has told friends in recent months he is worried he may be implicated by the investigation, according to two U.S. officials.
It is not clear whether Hannah had any role in unmasking Plame, or why he should fear Fitzgerald's probe. But the eleventh-hour emergence of another possible target shows how Fitzgerald has cast his net so widely over the past two years that it is impossible to know who, if anyone, it might ensnare.
Fitzgerald and his team have interviewed or taken before the grand jury at least two dozen officials or staffers from the White House, the vice president's office, the State Department and the CIA, according to people involved in the case.
Fitzgerald has dug into the deepest corners of the administration, pressing for information about everything from the mechanics of a secretive group of officials tasked with selling the Iraq war, to the State Department officials who assembled information on Wilson, the diplomat-turned-Iraq war critic, according to people familiar with the case. The focus has been on who leaked Plame's name, and who else knew about it.
But many unknowns remain. What role did Hannah play? What, if any, role was played by former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer? Who was the second source for Robert D. Novak, the columnist who first disclosed Plame's name and role in July 2003? Who was the White House official who leaked word about Wilson's wife to The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, who has never publicly revealed his source?