There is a high level official in the Bush administration who helped give the “inside scoop” on the earliest moves by the White House in the Valerie Plame investigation — but who is it?
On September 28, 2003, Washington Post writers Dana Priest and Mike Allen clearly note the existence of a source with knowledge about the outing campaign conducted as “a vendetta” against Joe Wilson by senior officials in the Bush White House.
This source clearly had concerns about the behavior of these officials, and to some degree, this Washington Post source appears to be a key “counter-leaker” in the Valerie Plame investigation, i.e. someone attempting to make sure that the real story about the Plame leak and reasons for it were told.
From the Washington Post story on September 28, 2003:
At CIA Director George J. Tenet’s request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.
The operative’s identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy “yellowcake” uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.
The intentional disclosure of a covert operative’s identity is a violation of federal law.
The officer’s name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.
Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson’s account touched off a political fracas over Bush’s use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.
“Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,” the senior official said of the alleged leak.
Sources familiar with the conversations said the leakers were seeking to undercut Wilson’s credibility. They alleged that Wilson, who was not a CIA employee, was selected for the Niger mission partly because his wife had recommended him. Wilson said in an interview yesterday that a reporter had told him that the leaker said, “The real issue is Wilson and his wife.”
A source said reporters quoted a leaker as describing Wilson’s wife as “fair game.”
The official would not name the leakers for the record and would not name the journalists. The official said there was no indication that Bush knew about the calls.
It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were “wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson’s credibility.”
Stepping back for a moment, it seems that this source noted above would not be the source that Bob Woodward has suggested — not if Woodward is being truthful that the information about Plame was passed off as a side-bar in a larger, longer conversation. Clearly, the source for Dana Priest and Mike Allen knew that the information on Plame was secret — and was angry about its promulgation.
Thus, there is a political personality out there — who is on the side of good — who is part of this story. Who is it? And is this person a “Deep Throat” source for Patrick Fitzgerald? Is this source helping guide Fitzgerald through the terrain?
TWN contacted Dana Priest today to ascertain whether she was either interviewed by Patrick Fitzgerald or his legal team — or whether she testified before the Plame case grand jury — and she would not comment on this.
Through another source close to Fitzgerald’s investigation, TWN was informed that Dana Priest and Mike Allen were not interviewed as far as the individual commenting to me knew. Specifically, he said, “I am unaware of any interviews with Dana Priest and Mike Allen of the Post, and I’m certain that they did not testify before the grand jury.”
This is interesting because it would be unlikely given the tenaciousness that Patrick Fitzgerald has shown towards reporters with important knowledge of players involved in the Plame outing that he would have ignored the important article by Priest and Allen.
Deduction leads one to surmise that this source for Dana Priest and Mike Allen is already known to Fitzgerald — and thus their testimony about this source would be both disruptive and unimportant.
So, if someone is engaged in helping Fitzgerald, it would be useful to know who it was. This seems to be someone who was not compelled to cooperate like David Wurmser and John Hannah were forced to do — but rather someone who cooperated out of conscience.
Could this insider source be Stephen Hadley? Seems odd to me. To many, Hadley still ranks fairly high as Bob Woodward’s source — and at least to my knowledge — Hadley has only “hinted” that he was not Woodward’s source. Unlike Rumsfeld, Rice, and others, he has not “denied” he was Woodward’s source.
If he was Woodward’s source, I don’t think he would have taken the moral tone that laces the commentary in the Dana Priest/Mike Allen story.
Might it have been John Bellinger, who was Senior Associate Legal Counsel to the President and Legal Adviser to the National Security Council? He is now Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. Bellinger is a straight-shooter, fair, and not an ideologue. The activities of Libby and Rove would have offended his sensibilities.
Another potential person is Richard Armitage, who is as publicly loyal to the President as one can be — but who deploys brilliant knife-in-hand tactics against others inside the bureaucracy and administration whom he thinks are undermining the nation’s interests.
Of course, Rich Armitage was Colin Powell’s Deputy at State. It is unclear to me how much Armitage would have known about Libby’s and Rove’s campaign against Plame — but his sources throughout the Bush White House, in the national security and intelligence communities are legendary — and Armitage is one of the few people who would have had early warning about the Libby/Rove efforts. So, is Armitage secretly helping Fitzgerald?
Again, there are many reasons to doubt that these individuals are the sources for Dana Priest and Mike Allen — but they also might be.
The hunch I have now is that Fitzgerald knows the source and has squeezed a lot from him or her. What is important now is whether or not the Woodward revelations fill in pieces for Fitzgerald or disrupt the entire picture.
— Steve Clemons
Ed. Note: Thanks to BB for assistance on this piece.