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Plame, By Any Other Name

"Q Now, this is apparently a federal offense, to burn the cover a CIA operative. . . . Did Karl Rove do it?

"MR. McCLELLAN: I said, it's totally ridiculous."

On Sept. 30, 2003 , Bush himself was asked if Rove had a role in the CIA leak.

"Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information," he said. "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing."

And here is McClellan in an Oct. 7, 2003 briefing: "If someone in this administration leaked classified information, they will no longer be a part of this administration, because that's not the way this White House operates, that's not the way this President expects people in his administration to conduct their business. . . .

"If someone sought to punish someone for speaking out against the administration, that is wrong, and we would not condone that activity. No one in this White House would condone that activity. . . .

"It's absurd to suggest that the White House would be engaged in that kind of activity. That is not the way this White House operates."

This Just In

On MSNBC, Bob Kur reported out of this morning's off-camera gaggle with McClellan: "Well, they're being pummeled with questions here this morning. Very interesting turn of events. The White House spokesman just a few minutes ago was asked about the latest developments about Karl Rove and he says he can't comment because it's an ongoing criminal investigation -- and yet reporters went after him with questions saying that during this ongoing investigation at earlier stages, he was willing to stand at the podium and say flat out that Karl Rove was not involved in the leak of the C.I.A. operative's identity.

"Well, so those are some tough questions to be answered here at the White House today."

The News

Michael Isikoff writes in Newsweek: "It was 11:07 on a Friday morning, July 11, 2003, and Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper was tapping out an e-mail to his bureau chief, Michael Duffy. 'Subject: Rove/P&C,' (for personal and confidential), Cooper began. 'Spoke to Rove on double super secret background for about two mins before he went on vacation. . . . ' Cooper proceeded to spell out some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil Washington. He finished, 'please don't source this to rove or even WH [White House]' and suggested another reporter check with the CIA."

The White House, back in July 2003, was eager to discredit Wilson, who was publicly asserting that he had found no evidence Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger and had made that clear to administration officials before Bush included the charge in his 2003 State of the Union address.

Isikoff writes: "In a brief conversation with Rove, Cooper asked what to make of the flap over Wilson's criticisms. . . . Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a 'big warning' not to 'get too far out on Wilson.' Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by 'DCIA' -- CIA Director George Tenet -- or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, 'it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.' "

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