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?

Dick Cheney, Torture, Iraq, and Valerie Plame

I’ve been reluctant to embrace suggestions that torture, Iraq, and Valerie Plame were all going to coalesce into one linked story. After all, it would be too easy for me, of all people, to argue these stories were linked. But I increasingly suspect they are.

First, let me pull together some data points.

Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham are linking the non-briefings on torture with the Iraq NIE

Now that they are explicitly stating that CIA lied in its September briefings on torture, Nancy Pelosi and Bob Graham are also both linking those lies with the lies they were telling–at precisely the same time–in the Iraq NIE. Here’s Pelosi:

Of all the briefings that I have received at this same time, earlier, they were misinforming the American people there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it was an imminent threat to the United States. I, to the limit of what I could say to my caucus, told them, the intelligence does not support the imminent threat that this Administration is contending. Whether it’s on the subject of what’s happening in Iraq, whether it’s on the subject of techniques used by the intelligence community on those they are interrogating, every step of the way, the Administration was misleading the Congress.

And that is the issue. And that is why we need a truth commission.

And here’s Graham:

Yes, they’re obligated to tell the full Intelligence Committee, not just the leadership. This was the same time within the same week, in fact, that the CIA was submitting its National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq which proves so erroneous that we went to war, have had thousands of persons killed and injured as a result of misinformation.

Now, it’s quite possible Graham and Pelosi are tying these two lies together just to remind reporters how unreliable the CIA is. Perhaps they’re doing it to remind reporters of how they got burned leading into the Iraq War, trusting the spin of the Administration.

But perhaps they’re trying to say there’s a direct connection, an explicit one, between the NIE and torture. We know Ibn Sheikh al-Libi’s claims appeared in there. Did anything that came out of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation? Or Ramzi bin al-Shibh? 

Did CIA not reveal they were torturing detainees to dodge any question about the accuracy of claims about Iraq intelligence?

The proposal to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi

Then there’s not just the revelation, by Charles Duelfer, but the timing he describes of OVP proposals to waterboard Muhammed Khudayr al-Dulaymi, a Mukhabarat officer. Read more

Dear W,

I’m still angry that you did not pardon Scooter. "I don’t think was appropriate," for you to have ordered Libby–on the morning of June 9, 2003, to respond to Joe Wilson’s assertions about our case for war against Iraq, and to have told me it was okay to "get the whole story out," just before Scooter tried to launder this through Judy Miller on July 8, 2003 and then Novak on July 9, 2003, only to let him take the fall for you when Patrick Fitzgerald started investigating who leaked Valerie Wilson’s name.

You asked Scooter to "stick his neck in the meat-grinder" to rebut Joe Wilson’s criticisms, and now you have "in effect left Scooter hanging in the wind" for something you ordered.

Let this be a warning to you. I consider this fair game [oh wait–that’s Rove’s word] for my memoir, which I’m currently shopping.



Dick’s Talking Points, Two

When Libby was first asked about any discussions he had with Cheney in response to Joe Wilson’s op-ed, he first claimed he had not discussed the op-ed until after the Novak column (though with his aborted discussion of a "conver–"sation, he may have been thinking of the July 9 conversation he had with Novak and subsequently hid).

I don’t recall that conversation until after the, until after the Novak piece. I don’t recall it during this week of July 6. I recall it after the Novak conver — after the Novak article appeared I recall it , and I recall being asked by the Vice President early on, you know, about this envoy, you know, who is it and — but I don’t recall that, early on he asked about it in connection with the wife, although he may well have given the note that I took.

Q. And so your recollection is that he wrote on July — that you discussed with the Vice President, did his wife send him on a junket? As a response to the July 14th Novak column that said, he was sent because his wife sent him and she works at the CIA?

A. I don’t recall discussing it –yes, I don’t recall discussing it in connection with when this article first appeared. I recall it later.

Then, when Fitz points out the utter absurdity of discussing with Cheney, speculatively, that Plame was purportedly involved in sending her husband, after Novak had already reported that fact directly, Libby shifts, and tries to claim they talked about it after July 10 when–he claimed–Tim Russert had told him of Plame’s identity.

Q. And are you telling us under oath that from July 6th to July 14th you never discussed with Vice President Cheney whether Mr. Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA?

A. No, no, I’m not saying that. On July 10 or 11 I learned, I thought anew, that the wife — that, that reporters I lwere telling us that the wife worked at the CIA. And I may have had a conversation then with the Vice President either late on the 11th or on the 12th in which I relayed that reporters were saying that.

Basically, Libby was trying to date the notations Cheney had made on Wilson’s op-ed ("Or did his wife send him on a junket?") Read more

Once Again, the Federal Government Uses Valerie to Screw Joe

I’m not so much surprised that Judges Sentelle and Henderson dismissed the Wilsons’ appeal yesterday–I’m more surprised by the false ignorance through which they dismiss the Wilsons’ Bivens complaint (a Bivens claim allows a person to sue federal agents when they violate that person’s constitutional rights).

At the rhetorical foundation of Sentelle’s opinion lies the repetition of one of the biggest myths about the Plame leak–that Rove (and for that matter, Libby and his secret July 9 conversation with Novak) had nothing to do with Robert Novak’s article outing Plame, that Armitage acted alone.

In July, Libby talked to Judith Miller of The New York Times and to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine; Karl Rove talked to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and to Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball;” and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with reporter Robert Novak. Armitage, who had learned of Valerie Wilson’s CIA employment from a State Department memo, told Novak that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA on issues relating to weapons of mass destruction. Novak then wrote an article that was published in several newspapers, including The Washington Post and the Chicago Sun Times, on July 14, 2003.


The publication was the result of a disclosure by Deputy Secretary of State Armitage of information about an individual contained in State Department records.

Um, sure, the publication was the result of a disclosure by Blabby Armitage. But then, that State Department memo was written as a direct result of Libby’s own oppo research, so it was also the result of Libby’s attempt to gather dirt on Joe Wilson. And of course, Novak wouldn’t have written his column without the "confirmation" from Rove, who got his information from some other source; he has always denied seeing the INR memo. So it is likely that that letter also was the result of Dick Cheney’s own efforts to collect information with which to embarrass Wilson. (Novak’s column was also the result of the Off the Record club brokering the leak, too–private citizens who could have much more easily been sued, but that’s a weakness in the Wilsons’ suit, not the Court’s opinion.)

I suspect there’s a reason for the Court’s feigned ignorance here. Read more

Wilson Statement on Bush’s Invocation of Executive Privilege to Protect Cheney

Joe Wilson sent the following response to Bush’s invocation of executive privilege to hide Dick Cheney’s involvement in ordering the Plame leak:

Today the president took the unprecedented step of asserting executive privilege to thwart congressional efforts to review Vice President Cheney’s interview with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald concerning the betrayal of Valerie Wilson’s covert CIA identity. We agree with Congressman Waxman that the position taken by the president is ludicrous.

The American people have a right to know what role the vice president played in the leak of Ms. Wilson’s covert identity for political purposes. The fact that the Attorney General is recommending the assertion of executive privilege reveals that this Department of Justice is as beholden to the White House as that run by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Given the White House’s continued efforts to cover up the truth and subvert legitimate congressional inquiries, our civil suit may be the only way the American people will learn the truth. We seek to hold those public officials responsible for this serious breach of national security accountable for their actions, and to ensure that future generations of public servants are not tempted to engage in similarly despicable behavior.

Here’s an update on the status of their case with a link to support the suit.

Five Years Later–and the Attorney General Still Maintains the Cover-Up

Five years ago today, on a Monday morning just like today, this happened:

Our bedroom was just beginning to show the first hints of morning light on July 14 when Joe marched in, dropped the newspaper on the bed, and said in a tight voice, "Well, the SOB did it." He set a steaming mug of coffee on my bedside table and left the room. What? I struggled to wake up. I sat up, switched on the lamp, and opened the Washington Post to the op-ed page; I didn’t know what I would find, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. Rovert Novak had written in his column that "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction."

And yet, five years later, through the President’s efforts to silence Scooter Libby and through the Attorney General’s determination to hide the Vice President’s and President’s own testimony, we still have had no full accounting of the leak of Valerie Wilson’s identity. In fact, most of the press attention has been focused on the following sentence in Novak’s column, the one that–Richard Armitage apparently convinced Patrick Fitzgerald–derived from a stupid and careless but ultimately ignorant leak.

Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report.

And so, largely because once an investigation was announced, Novak told a different story about that first line–about how he learned of Valerie’s maiden name and about how he learned of her status–than he told just after the leak, when he said "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it," the press just bought that implausible, revised story. Novak’s new cover story got so far-fetched that he was comparing Valerie Wilson with a person running a congressional campaign in Wyoming.

I call all kinds of politicians operatives. … Someone’s running a congressional campaign in Wyoming, I call him an operative.

And even when it was revealed that there had been a third conversation that went into Novak’s column, a conversation between Libby and Novak, a conversation they both made efforts to hide for three years, almost no one went back to scrutinize Novak’s column and sources again. Read more

Did Cheney Rent One of Rummy’s Rent-A-Generals to Try to Refute Joe Wilson?

I’m working on a catalog of Rummy’s Rent-A-Generals. But I couldn’t help but notice this particular Rent-A-General.

On Friday, April 14, with what came to be called the “Generals’ Revolt” dominating headlines, Mr. Rumsfeld instructed aides to summon military analysts to a meeting with him early the next week, records show. When an aide urged a short delay to “give our big guys on the West Coast a little more time to buy a ticket and get here,” Mr. Rumsfeld’s office insisted that “the boss” wanted the meeting fast “for impact on the current story.”

That same day, Pentagon officials helped two Fox analysts, General McInerney and General Vallely, write an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal defending Mr. Rumsfeld.

“Starting to write it now,” General Vallely wrote to the Pentagon that afternoon. “Any input for the article,” he added a little later, “will be much appreciated.” Mr. Rumsfeld’s office quickly forwarded talking points and statistics to rebut the notion of a spreading revolt.

“Vallely is going to use the numbers,” a Pentagon official reported that afternoon.


Many also shared with Mr. Bush’s national security team a belief that pessimistic war coverage broke the nation’s will to win in Vietnam, and there was a mutual resolve not to let that happen with this war.

This was a major theme, for example, with Paul E. Vallely, a Fox News analyst from 2001 to 2007. A retired Army general who had specialized in psychological warfare, Mr. Vallely co-authored a paper in 1980 that accused American news organizations of failing to defend the nation from “enemy” propaganda during Vietnam.

“We lost the war — not because we were outfought, but because we were out Psyoped,” he wrote. He urged a radically new approach to psychological operations in future wars — taking aim at not just foreign adversaries but domestic audiences, too. He called his approach “MindWar” — using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.”


Back in Washington, Pentagon officials kept a nervous eye on how the trip translated on the airwaves. Uncomfortable facts had bubbled up during the trip. One briefer, for example, mentioned that the Army was resorting to packing inadequately armored Humvees with sandbags and Kevlar blankets. Descriptions of the Iraqi security forces were withering. “They can’t shoot, but then again, they don’t,” one officer told them, according to one participant’s notes.

Read more

Turdblossom Writes Letters

Dear Bob Novak:

It boils down to this: as a journalist, do you feel you have a responsibility to dig into the claims made by your sources, seek out evidence and come to a professional judgment as to the real facts? Or do you feel if a charge is breathtaking enough, thoroughly checking it out isn’t a necessity?

I know you might be concerned that asking these questions could restrict your ability to make sensational charges in your column, but don’t you think you have a responsibility to provide even a shred of supporting evidence before sullying the journalistic reputations of the Washington Post?

People used to believe journalists were searching for the truth. But your column increasingly seems to be focused on wishful thinking, hoping something is one way and diminishing the search for facts and evidence in favor of repeating your fondest desires. For example, while you do ask the CIA whether Ms. Plame sent her husband, you did not press Armitage and Libby when they said "Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger."

The difficulty with your approach is you reduced yourself to the guy in the bar who repeats what the fellow next to him says – “Wilson’s wife suggested sending him! Wilson’s wife suggested sending him!” – only louder, because it suits your pre-selected story line ("the CIA is attacking the Vice President") and you don’t want the facts to get in the way of a good fable. You have relinquished the central responsibility of an investigative reporter, namely to press everyone in order to get to the facts. You didn’t subject the statements of others to skeptical and independent review. You have chosen instead to simply repeat something someone else says because it agrees with the theme line your sources fed you, created the nifty counter-attack to shield the Vice President.

Oh I’m sorry. Did I say this was a letter to Novak criticizing him for his column outing Valerie Plame? I meant it was a letter to Dan Abrams to, once again, say things to the press Rove is unwilling to say under oath to HJC. (h/t TP)