The Facts Are In:  So Is Rove Out?

article conason1 The Facts Are In:  So Is Rove Out?

For
nearly two years, the Bush White House has been repeating falsehoods—to the
press and the public and perhaps to itself—about the role played by Karl Rove
in revealing the identity of C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

On
Sept. 29, 2003, for example, White House press secretary Scott McClellan called
allegations of Mr. Rove’s involvement “a ridiculous suggestion” and added, “It
is simply not true …. I’ve said that it’s not true. And I have spoken with Karl
Rove.” There were many more such denials, all of them suddenly worthless in the
light of new documentary evidence. The red-faced flack is no longer taking
questions on this topic.

Now
the question that George W. Bush must face is whether he will fulfill his
pledge to dismiss anyone in his administration who participated in leaking the
name of Ms. Wilson—even though that means firing his chief political advisor
and deputy chief of staff, also known as the “boy genius” who propelled him
into the Oval Office. Should he offer up excuses to evade that promise, Mr.
Bush will void his earlier vows to restore honor and integrity to the
Presidency.

The
proof of Mr. Rove’s participation in the “outing” of Ms. Wilson, in an attempt
to harm her and discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV,
was reported in the most recent issue of Newsweek.
Reporter Michael Isikoff obtained the text of an e-mail from Matthew Cooper, Time magazine’s White House
correspondent, whose testimony and documents were subpoenaed in the
investigation of the Wilson case by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

The
Cooper e-mail, sent to his bureau chief on July 16, 2003, describes a “double
super secret” conversation with Mr. Rove about Mr. Wilson. The former
ambassador had stirred national controversy by writing a New York Times Op-Ed article describing a trip he took at the
request of the C.I.A. in early 2002 to Niger, where he investigated alleged
attempts by Iraq to purchase uranium from that impoverished West African
country. Titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa,” his article disputed the
President’s reference to that alleged uranium trade in the 2003 State of the
Union address.

Mr. Rove told the Time correspondent that
the former ambassador’s Niger trip had been authorized by neither the C.I.A.
director or the Vice President. According to the Cooper e-mail, which I’m
quoting as it was written, “it was, KR said, wilson’s wife, who apparently
works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized
the trip.”

The
allegation that Ms. Wilson had “authorized” her husband’s trip to Niger was
false: Government regulations and the C.I.A. hierarchy both preclude such
nepotism. It was true, however, that Ms. Wilson worked at the “agency” to
prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—as she had done for
years, using what is known in the intelligence community as “non-official
cover.” Her friends and neighbors thought she worked as an energy analyst for a
firm called Brewster Jennings Associates.

Mr.
Rove’s apologists—including such familiar Washington eminences as Bob Woodward
and David Gergen, as well as the usual right-wing suspects—suggest that he did
nothing wrong by revealing Ms. Wilson’s identity. He didn’t actually speak her
name (at least not to Mr. Cooper). He didn’t violate the Intelligence Identities
Protection Act because she wasn’t really an undercover agent (and because he
didn’t say her name). He isn’t a “target” of the Fitzgerald probe.

Like
most of the Washington wisdom purveyed on cable television, all this knowing
babble is either inaccurate or misleading. The Intelligence Identities
Act—signed into law in 1982, when the current President’s father, a former
Director of Central Intelligence, was Vice President— doesn’t hinge on whether
someone utters an operative’s name. Its text refers to disclosure of “any
information that identifies an individual as a covert agent.” That covers the
phrase “Wilson’s wife.”

As
for Ms. Wilson’s status, there would be no grand jury, no two-year
investigation and no jailing of reporters who refused to testify if the C.I.A.
didn’t deem her undercover. The Justice Department opened this case because the
C.I.A.—after conducting its own two-month probe of the Wilson leak—asked the
department’s Criminal Division and the F.B.I. to “undertake a criminal
investigation of this matter.”

Mr.
Rove’s attorney says the prosecutor has assured him that his client is not a
“target” of the leak investigation. The prosecutor—whose office and grand jury
are run professionally and don’t leak—has not commented. But it’s entirely possible
that Mr. Rove, who has appeared before the grand jury three times, is a
“subject” of the investigation—meaning someone whose conduct is being examined
for possible criminal violations.

Whether
Mr. Rove violated the law or not, however, the President has promised to punish
those responsible for the Wilson leak. He now has the facts, and sooner or
later he will have to act.