Compiled by Tanya N. Ballard and Kevin Dumouchelle
washingtonpost.com Staff Writers
Thursday, October 20, 2005 5:02 PM
A July 14, 2003, newspaper column by Robert D. Novak sparked a two-year investigation into whether White House officials illegally leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative in retaliation for public criticisms made by the operative's husband about the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq.
In the column, which focused on whether false information was used by the White House to justify the war in Iraq, Novak disclosed the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction." The implication was that ex-diplomat Joseph C. Wilson was hand-picked by the CIA to investigate rumors that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium in the African nation of Niger at the recommendation of his wife, Plame. Administration officials allegedly were trying to discredit Wilson, who had written a July 6, 2003, piece in the New York Times saying he had found no evidence to support the Niger connection, a piece that called into question the famous "16 words" from the president's State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald began an inquiry in December 2003 into whether the exposure of Plame's status was a violation of federal law. He has since discussed the matter with President Bush and Vice President Cheney and questioned more than two dozen other people, including senior Bush adviser Karl Rove; John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national security adviser; and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. White House chief of staff Andy Card; spokesman Scott McClellan; senior adviser Dan Bartlett; former communications aide Adam Levine and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also were questioned.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Matt Cooper of Time magazine testified before the grand jury about their roles in the Plame affair. Miller spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to reveal her sources. NBC's Tim Russert, and The Post's Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler were all questioned by Fitzgerald's investigators as well.
At issue is section 421 of the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which makes it illegal to intentionally disclose any information identifying a covert officer "to any individual not authorized to receive classified information." Fitzgerald is looking into whether the disclosure of Plame's CIA role was in fact a violation of the law, whether there were violations of other laws and whether any officials may have given false statements to the grand jury or investigators, thereby hindering the initial probe.
Valerie Plame | Joseph C. Wilson IV | Robert Novak | Karl Rove | I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby" | Judith Miller | Matthew Cooper | Vice President Richard Cheney | John Hannah | Ari Fleischer | Scott McClellan | Patrick Fitzgerald | Additional Figures Interviewed by the Special ProsecutorBios:
Valerie Plame - The CIA officer was unmasked in July 2003 by columnist Robert D. Novak after her husband, Joseph Wilson, criticized President Bush for stating that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein bought nuclear weapons-grade uranium in the African nation of Niger. The revelation set off an investigation into whether White House officials broke a 1982 law prohibiting the disclosure of the identities of covert CIA officers when they revealed Plame's status to Novak and other reporters.
Joseph C. Wilson IV - In February 2002 the ex-diplomat was asked by the CIA and other agencies to investigate claims that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger. Wilson, a former ambassador, said he found the claims to be false and that his reports to administration officials reflected that finding.
In a July 6, 2003, opinion piece for the New York Times the ex-diplomat criticized President Bush for stating in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq was seeking to buy nuclear material in Niger. Wilson wrote, "If my information was deemed inaccurate, I understand. If the information was ignored because it did not fit certain preconceptions about Iraq, then a legitimate argument can be made that we went to war under false pretenses."
Days later Novak's column identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA "operative on weapons of mass destruction." Wilson charged that the move was an attempt at intimidation by the Bush administration in retaliation for his criticism.
In his memoir, "The Politics of Truth," Wilson wrote that his wife "would never be able to regain the anonymity and secrecy that her professional life had required; she would not be able to return to her discreet work on some of the most sensitive threats to our society in the foreseeable future, and perhaps ever."
Robert D. Novak - Columnist. In July 2003 Novak wrote a column about Joseph Wilson's claim (written eight days earlier in the New York Times) that reports of Iraqi attempts to procure uranium from Niger were false. Novak identified Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, by name as a CIA operative and noted that "two senior administration officials told [him] that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate" possible Iraqi involvement. In addition to Novak, six other journalists are reported to have known Plame's identity before the Novak column was published, including Judith Miller.
Novak's career as a reporter and columnist dates back to the 1950s. He writes a regular, syndicated column for the Chicago Sun-Times and is well-known as a conservative television personality, appearing regularly on programs like CNN's "Capital Gang" and "Crossfire." (For further details: "Inquiry as Exacting As Special Counsel Is," The Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2005)
Karl Rove - Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the President. A top adviser to President Bush, Karl Rove has testified four times before the grand jury charged with investigating the Plame affair. Rove is a long-time political adviser to Bush who helped shape the administration's case to the American public for the Iraq war. In testimony to the grand jury investigating the Plame leak, Rove said I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby may have been his source on Plame's CIA status. (For further details: "Rove Told Jury Libby May Have Been His Source In Leak Case," The Washington Post, Oct. 20, 2005)
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby - Chief of Staff, Office of the Vice President. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's top aide, said he discussed Valerie Plame with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, but did not mention her covert status. Libby testified twice before the grand jury and sent a letter to Miller on Sept. 15, 2005, in which he urged her to comply with the special prosecutor's request to testify about her sources and noted that he had released her from any confidentiality agreement in January 2004. Libby reportedly testified that he learned Wilson's wife was in the CIA from NBC correspondent Tim Russert. Russert has denied providing the information to Libby. (For further details: "In the Spotlight And on the Spot," The Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2005)
Judith Miller - Reporter, New York Times. Jailed for 85 days after refusing to testify about her source before the grand jury, New York Times reporter Judith Miller never wrote about Valerie Plame's role as a CIA operative. She eventually testified that Libby talked to her about Plame on three separate occasions before the Novak column publicly identified Plame as a covert CIA operative. In the days since her release Miller has said that she initially refused to testify because she believed Libby did not want her to cooperate in the CIA leak investigation unless her account would clear him. (For further details: "Reporter Says Libby Told Her About CIA Operative," The Washington Post, Oct. 16, 2005)
Matthew Cooper - Reporter, Time Magazine. Along with Judith Miller, Cooper was initially held in contempt of court and threatened with imprisonment for refusing to disclose his sources to the grand jury investigation. Unlike Miller, Cooper wrote a story for his magazine based, in part, on his confidential sources.
On July 6, 2005, Cooper agreed to comply with the court order compelling him to testify. Cooper told the judge he received a last-minute call from his confidential sources freeing him from his confidentiality agreements. Karl Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, later confirmed the senior Bush adviser as Cooper's source.
Vice President Richard Cheney - Administration officials say Joseph Wilson's Niger trip was triggered by questions from Cheney about a Defense Intelligence Agency report. A former aide told The Washington Post it was "implausible" that Cheney was involved in the leaking of Plame's name. The vice president led the White House effort to build the case that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed weapons of mass destruction.
John Hannah - Deputy National Security Adviser, Office of the Vice President. Hannah is one of at least five people in Cheney's office to be interviewed by federal prosecutors, but it is unclear whether he had any role in unmasking Plame's identity. Joseph Wilson pointed to Hannah as a possible source in his book "The Politics of Truth." It is believed that Hannah worked with vice-presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby on the issue of weapons of mass destruction as part of an informal team known as the "White House Iraq Group." According to The Post, Hannah has told friends in recent months he is worried he may be implicated by the investigation.
Hannah is on loan to the vice president's office from the State Department, where he worked with then-undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs John Bolton.
Ari Fleischer - Former White House Press Secretary (January 2001 to July 2003). Fleischer has been suggested as a possible second source in the leak of Plame's identity. It has been reported that, in his testimony before the grand jury, Fleischer denied having seen a State Department memo circulating on Air Force One on July 7, 2003, that named Plame in connection to Wilson's mission and identified her as a covert CIA operative. However a former Bush administration official also on the plane testified to having seen Fleischer perusing the document. Robert Novak made a call to Fleischer on that same day; it is unclear whether Fleischer returned Novak's call.
Fleischer became President Bush's press secretary after serving in a similar role with Elizabeth Dole's unsuccessful 2000 presidential campaign. He became known for an often-combative style with reporters in the press briefing room but is held in high regard by supporters of the president.
Scott McClellan - White House Press Secretary. McClellan has been interviewed by the FBI several times in relation to the ongoing investigation, but it is not believed that he had a direct role in the original leak. McClellan has been under fire from reporters for refusing to comment on the Plame investigation after initially issuing a strong defense of administration officials thought to be involved.
McClellan was formerly deputy communications director and took on his current role when Ari Fleischer left in July 2003. (For further details: "Bush Aides Testify in Leak Probe," The Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2004)
Patrick J. Fitzgerald - Prosecutor, Office of Special Counsel. Fitzgerald, a political independent, was appointed as special prosecutor to investigate the CIA leak on Dec. 31, 2003. Since 2001 he has been U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago. As an assistant U.S. attorney in New York, where he participated in the prosecution of terrorism cases coming from the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Fitzgerald was the first lawyer to build a criminal indictment against Osama bin Laden. (For further details: "Inquiry as Exacting As Special Counsel Is," The Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2005)
Additional Figures Interviewed by the Special Prosecutor