This is going to be really quick–but there’s a lot of confusion about where there are smoking guns and where there are not. So I’m going to lay out what I think went on in May-July 2003. It’s speculative, but this is the picture we’re beginning to see.
The first response we know of came in May. There was the Kristof article which passed little noticed. But when Pincus–with his good sources at CIA–came sniffing around, OVP got worried. In late May Libby started his research, starting with Grossman. He learned of Wilson and Plame from Grossman, then he got Grenier involved–calling him out of a meeting with the DCI–and he kept getting this information. It now appears that after Grenier (who learned of Plame from someone in Plame’s group) and Cathie Martin (who learned of Plame via Harlow) told Libby and Cheney, the latter went to figure out precisely what Plame did at CIA. Which is how he figured out she worked in CPD. If Fitz can prove that, it’s damning–it’d suggest that Cheney learned Plame worked at CIA and then made a point of figuring out where, what she did.
One more thing–it now seems clear that Cheney and Libby linked the Wilsons with the complaint reported in Pincus’ June 12 article that Cheney was twisting arms at CIA. Those happened at the same time, so it’s not surprising that Cheney would think they were connected. And therefore be that much more aggressive against CIA.
But it seems like when they learned that Plame was CPD (read, covert), they backed off. Thus the conversation with Eric Edelman. They didn’t back off entirely–they sent Judy Miller looking for more dirt just days after Libby told Edelman there were problems about going after Plame. But they didn’t yet decide to leak Plame.
Until the op-ed.
That’s when–it seems very very likely–Cheney ordered Libby to launder Plame’s identity through Judy Miller in a very secret leak on July 8. Heck–was Libby’s hush hush conversation to Ari on July 7 a set-up so that when people went looking they’d find the info that was about to be leaked to Judy?
At the same time, Hadley was panicking because (I’m increasingly convinced) he and Libby actually had seen the report from Wilson’s trip–and had used it to defend their Niger case. So while Libby and Cheney were going after Plame’s ID (and the NIE), Hadley was kicking the communicators out of the room to figure out how to bury the news that they had, in fact, seen Wilson’s report. But that’s a second hush hush theme to the week.
There are still some big outstanding questions. What role did Rove play? When and where did Libby and Novak speak? Was it before Novak’s article? Did Libby leak Plame’s covert ID, after having been given "presidential authorization" to do so? What were the later conversations with Judy about?
To be continued later this week, I guess.