Karl Rove named as a source of Plame leak

Sunday, July 3, 2005

Karl Rove, president George W. Bush's chief political advisor

A reporter's notes subpoenaed by the U.S. District Court in Washington may show United States President George W. Bush's chief political advisor Karl Rove as one of the two sources behind the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, according to one or more anonymous sources cited by MSNBC.

However, Rove's lawyer, Donald Luskin, acknowledged that although Rove had communicated with Cooper shortly before Plame's identity was leaked, denied any wrongdoing on the part of his client, saying that "Rove absolutely did not identify Valerie Plame."

The notes are those of TIME magazine White House correspondent Matthew Cooper. They were released by Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of TIME Inc., by order of the court, in ruling that, in the case of leaking the identity of CIA agents, reporters must reveal the identity of their sources.

The court's ruling was based on the clause in Constitutional law summarized popularly with the phrase "Crying fire in a crowded theater": that when the degree to which the speech puts the safety of others at risk outweighs the degree to which it benefits others, so does their right to safety and security outweigh one's right to free expression.

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the reporters' appeal of the case.


At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs

—Joseph C. Wilson, retired diplomat

TIME magazine announced Thursday they would identify the White House leak from reporter Matthew Cooper's notes. The decision by TIME came after a federal judge in Washington gave the magazine and The New York Times 48 hours to comply with a months long order to provide information on the sources of press leaks. Judith Miller of The New York Times, along with Cooper at TIME, face jail time for their refusal to name anonymous sources. The steadfast refusal by Cooper and Miller to personally identify their sources may lead to an 18 month jail sentence.

The case against Cooper stemmed from a July 6, 2003 Op-Ed piece published by the Times, where Joseph C. Wilson IV disputed the assertion made by President Bush in his State of the Union Address that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Niger.

A week later Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife, was identified as a CIA operative in a news story written by Robert D. Novak, a conservative pundit. The news blew Plame's cover, and the information was obtained by two anonymous White House sources. The leak to the press was thought by some to be retaliation for her husband's Op-Ed story. Wilson blamed Rove for the leak, saying in an Aug. 21, 2003 public panel, "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words." [1]

Cooper wrote and had published stories about the issue at TIME. Miller did research, but did not write a story. The reporter Novak who broke the story, remained silent on the case until Wednesday, and said on CNN's Inside Politics that, "They're not going to jail because of me."

Journalists usually protect their sources' wishes of anonymity, in order to retain a vital channel of information from whistle-blowers and others with controversial information. The tension between the press and the U.S. Federal judiciary highlights what Rick Rodriquez, executive director of the American Association of Newspaper Editors, calls "the need to have a discussion around the federal shield law." A "shield" statute could grant confidentiality between reporters and anonymous sources similarly to the right granted in attorney-client privilege.

The decision by his employer TIME to reveal a source may spare veteran reporter Cooper time behind bars. His employer is in possession of his notes and therefore has knowledge of the source. In the case of Miller, The New York Times claims it has no such reporting notes.


Background sources