Why Was the White House Searching for Plame-Wilson-Novak Emails Dated May 1, 2003?

William Ockham made a really important discovery. One of the files turned over to CREW has search files from September and November 2004 relating to the Plame investigation. Look at pages 44-46 for Rove and Cooper searches and page 49 for Plame Wilson Novak searches.

Of particular interest, here are the days on which they were apparently searching for Plame Wilson Novak emails dated:

May 1, 2003
May 9, 2003
May 16, 2003
May 27, 2003
June 2, 2003
June 23, 2003
June 30, 2003
July 7, 2003
July 12, 2003
July 24, 2003
August 8, 2003
August 13, 2003
August 27, 2003
August 29, 2003 
October 9, 2003

Now, I’m not entirely sure what these dates mean, but my guess is they were a search run overnight on September 23, 2004 for appearances of Plame, Wilson, or Novak on particular dates, and the search results came back the next morning–September 24, 2004. That timing makes sense–it was when Patrick Fitzgerald had strong suspicions that Novak had talked to people in the White House about Plame. And, it was certainly after Fitz developed suspicions he wasn’t getting all the email (he asked Libby about the dearth of email in his name in March 2004). 

So that timing makes sense. As do most of the dates searched. On June 2, OVP was panicking about a Walter Pincus article. The June 23 date is when Novak probably set up his meeting with Armitage and its the day Libby first leaked Plame’s name to Judy. July 7, 2003 is the day when OVP decided to more aggressively leak Plame’s name, and also a day when Novak was purportedly reporting on his Frances Fragos Townsend story, almost certainly with OVP. July 12 is when the White House started leaking Plame’s name in anticipation of the Novak article, which was on the wire. The later days are all plausible dates of conversation with Novak. (Though note, they don’t include July 8 or 9, 2003, when we know Novak spoke with Rove and Libby respectively about the Wilsons.

But May 1, 2003?

Before the Nicholas Kristof column came out? The day before Wilson and Kristof first spoke?

17 replies
  1. SaltinWound says:

    Who chose the dates to be searched? Was it Fitzgerald or someone at the White House? If it was the White House and they knew other people might see this, they’d have as much incentive to leave out important dates as to include them.

  2. orionATL says:

    previously intercepted communications?

    nah, cheny and his gang wouldn’t have been doing something like that on american war oppopnents and journalists.

  3. sojourner says:

    I don’t know the answer or have any plausible ideas, but I am going to be sitting here barely breathing while this unfolds! Could it have just been an error (I do stuff like that all the time!). On the other hand, there could certainly be something very real about the timing…

    As always, I love the analysis and reporting!!

  4. Jkat says:

    we should give you an honorary doctorate in “mining engineering” marcy .. you can dig into some of the damnedest formations .. formulations .. always looking for gold ..

  5. WilliamOckham says:

    Here’s another question. Sandwiched between searches of the NSC email for Hadley’s email and the (Plame Wilson Novak) searches are searches for (greenstone). WTF is greenstone?

    • ffein says:

      Could it be this open source software: “Greenstone is a software suite which can serve digital library collections and build new collections. It runs on Windows, UNIX and Mac OS X and provides a new way of organising information and publishing it on the internet or on CD-ROM. Greenstone is produced by the New Zealand Digital Library Project at the University of Waikato, and distributed in cooperation with Unesco and the Human Info NGO. It is a open source software. The New Zealand Digital Library website contains numerous example collections, all created with the Greenstone software.”

      • sojourner says:

        OK…this is off the wall but I have to wonder about something. There was an anonymous poster who kept showing up and spouting stuff about technology on several different threads. One of the subjects this poster commented on was Microsoft Sharepoint, which is very adaptable to support specific programs/projects. In other words, it sounds very similar to Greenstone in some ways. Could the Whitehouse / RNC also have been using Greenstone or Sharepoint? Just a thought…

  6. tryggth says:

    One fun fact about May 1 is you always know how many days ago it was via KO in his sign-off.

    Only other thing I found from a little searching is it was also the day JudyJudyJudy outed a possible CIA asset, Saad Janabi. But it doesn’t make much sense to search WH emails on the day of the article publication.

    • emptywheel says:

      I suspect it has to do with Novak–that is, I think they figured out some dates to check for Novak contacts with the White House, but that this was before they knew about the 7/9 conversation. So Novak may have had earlier conversations…

  7. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Oh, shit. My damn tinfoil hat is getting too small and too thin. I need about 4 sizes bigger, and about 2 feet thicker. It’s been well over a year (maybe two…?) since I’ve developed the gut sense that behind the Plame outing must lie some terrifying, ghastly tale of black market nukes mafia, mixed up with sundry and assorted warlords, government officials, and punks.

    Here’s where I start to look first — the Ghorbanifar Timeline. And just prior to 1 May, and continuing on, we see:

    March 18, 2003: Rosen leaks details of policy document to WaPo’s Michael Dobbs, saying “I’m not supposed to know this”

    April 2003: Iran proposes re-establishing relations; US rejects proposal because Iranian government “on the verge of collapse”

    May 3, 2003: US and Iran in negotiations in Geneva

    May 7, 2003: Rhode apparently stages “find” of anti-Israel materials in Iraq (and uranium document) with Ahmed Chalabi; Judy Miller reports it

    Late May, 2003: Ledeen sends new letter outlining Ghorbanifar plan to Feith, including promise of finding “Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that had been moved to Iran”

    And then I note that Fitz didn’t do the search until Sept 2004. So then, I figure it’s worth looking at the Ghorbanifar Timeline for that period of time, and lookee here:

    August 27, 2004: Rosen and Weissman interviewed by FBI; Rosen warns Israeli of investigation

    August 27, 2004: News of AIPAC investigation leaked; Paul McNulty put in charge of case

    August 29-20, 2004: Feith, Luti, Rodman interviewed about whether they had authorized Franklin’s leaks to AIPAC

    September-October 2004: Through Michael Ledeen’s intercession, Plato Cacheris agrees to represent Franklin pro bono

    Do I understand what all of these things mean?
    Do I think that they are somehow connected? Absolutely.

    Call me a nutcase, but I doubt the place to look is in D.C.
    The strongest ‘nodes’ seem to involve something that Franklin was involved in, and Hadley would have wanted to be in the loop, no doubt.

    I’d love to be wrong.
    But for the present, I’m ordering a newer, shinier, thicker tinfoil hat. I’m thinking of adding a feathered boa or two, just for the sake of added elegance.

  8. freepatriot says:

    so, uhm, we got an email search for Valeri Plame a day before the kristof column ???

    why would that be ???

    Wilson spoke out in December, the IWHG met in March

    it all fits

    it’s a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States

    but we already knew that

  9. emptywheel says:

    Okay–I figured out what this search was a response to: Novak gave a depoisition on September 14, 2004, so the dates must have come from him.

    Really critical on two counts. July 7, 2003 is included in is–which means, after this deposition, Fitz ahd some reason to believe Novak emailed the White House on July7. But July 9 is not in there–which means Novak was still hiding his meeting with Libby at which–almost certainly–Libby gave him the name Plame, the counterproliferation, and the Niger minister info.

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