Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a "big warning" not to "get too far out on Wilson." Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by "DCIA"—CIA Director George Tenet—or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip." Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper later included the essence of what Rove told him in an online story.) The e-mail characterizing the conversation continues: "not only the genesis of the trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he [Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m] Niger ..."(Via Digby.)
A source close to Rove, who declined to be identified because he did not wish to run afoul of the prosecutor or government investigators, added that there was "absolutely no inconsistency" between Cooper's e-mail and what Rove has testified to during his three grand-jury appearances in the case. "A fair reading of the e-mail makes clear that the information conveyed was not part of an organized effort to disclose Plame's identity, but was an effort to discourage Time from publishing things that turned out to be false," the source said, referring to claims in circulation at the time that Cheney and high-level CIA officials arranged for Wilson's trip to Africa.
As Digby said about this very claim, "Bullshit." And as we know, Wilson's report proved reliable. Rove was trying to cast doubt on Wilson's findings because they were awfully inconvenient to an administration bent on war.
As James Moore and Wayne Slater write in Bush's Brain):
The administration, presumably with Rove's guidance, has been very effective at putting a cap on intelligence that contradicted Bush administration allegations about Hussein's efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney, often with former Congressman Newt Gingrich in tow [uh, why? -Rob], met almost daily with intelligence officials at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Analysts have said that the message was made clear, whenever they delivered reports that contradicted what the White House wanted: go back and look for what was "really" there.UPDATE: From the US Code:
"They wanted us to cook it," one operative said.
They also wanted them to keep their mouths shut. At least one national correspondent for a major publication has said every call made to an intelligence analyst, an operative, or a scientist, to ask about evidence contradicting the administration's claims on Iraq, was met with the same response: "We are not having this conversation." That was followed by the sound of the dial tone, or a dead phone line.
Faced with intimidation, a tactic Rove brought to the administration, people, who actually knew the truth about Iraq's armaments, or lack thereof, were never allowed to come forth. As a result, aluminum tubes, marked by an Italian rocket manufacturer as a "Medusa 81" rocket body, were redefined as casings for a uranium gas centrifuge. There was an abundance of contradictory intelligence on these tubes, which clearly proved they could not be used in the contrauction of a centrifuge, but that data was effectively suppressed.
Similar pressures were operating when Ambassador Wilson returned with his report. He, alone among all voices in the Washington bureaucracy, was willing to confront the truth. Shocked by the fact that the president included the Niger yellowcake lie in his State of the Union speech, Wilson wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times, which indicated there was no substance to the claim. A week later, reporters were calling to ask about his wife's line of work. This is either a great coincidence, or the work of Karl Rove. Circumstantial, anecdotal, and historical evidence all point at the president's senior advisor.
Section 421. Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sourcesNow, as a non-lawyer, I can't say for sure, but it sure seems like breaking this law depends on 1) knowing that the agent is covert, and 2) identifying the agent. Unless "identifying" is a technical legal term (comments are appreciated on all legal points), it would seem that revealing that Wilson's wife authorized the trip comes breathtakingly close to intentionally disclosing "any information identifying such covert agent" (paragraphs b and c). This is pure non-lawyer speculation here, but it seems like even Clintonian parsing of "is" wouldn't get Rove out of that one. So, as Lawrence O'Donnell points out, it would all come down to knowing that Valerie Plame was a covert agent, and I imagine that's what Fitzgerald's trying to find out. Rove may be able to claim he didn't know, and Fitzgerald may not be able to prove that he knew, but anyone with a brain stem would tend to think there's a high probability that any CIA employee besides the obvious public figures might be a covert agent. Plus, Rove's careful wording suggests that he was aware of the law forbidding the disclosure of the identity of covert agents.
(a) Disclosure of information by persons having or having had access to classified information that identifies covert agent
Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
(b) Disclosure of information by persons who learn identity of covert agents as result of having access to classified information
Whoever, as a result of having authorized access to classified information, learns the identify of a covert agent and intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
(c) Disclosure of information by persons in course of pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents
Whoever, in the course of a pattern of activities intended to identify and expose covert agents and with reason to believe that such activities would impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States, discloses any information that identifies an individual as a covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such individual and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such individual's classified intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
(d) Imposition of consecutive sentences
A term of imprisonment imposed under this section shall be consecutive to any other sentence of imprisonment.
Whether or not a crime was committed is not clear. What is clear is the underhanded means by which Rove sought to punish Wilson for exposing the falsity of the President's claim. Hopefully, that will prove his undoing. But if O.J. and Jacko can go free, who knows what might happen to Rove. He might not be charged; he might even be promoted.
UPDATE (7.15.05): More posts on Rove: