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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Know Your Enemy

Posted by on July 12 at 15:33 PM

The Bush administration may be staying mum about Rove-Gate right now, but that doesn’t mean the conservative troops are keeping quiet. The folks at the National Review have been pooh-poohing the Rove story all week. If you want an early glimpse of how the Bushies might try to spin this (“a liberal New York judge,” crafty liberal reporters, and, I kid you not, “Palestinian Terrorists”) check out the theory linked below from NR’s blog.

Stick with me--this is a long post.

Byron York has a vital detail in his must-read piece right now on the main part of the NRO website. Karl Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, tells Byron that Time's Matt Cooper called Rove to talk about something else and that only secondarily did the subject of Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame come up.

This is important, because it suggests Rove wasn't "retailing" the information about Wilson and Plame -- wasn't reporter-shopping to drop a dirty dime on those involved -- but was rather a passive source, answering a phone call at the reporter's behest and presumably changing topics to the sexier one at issue at the reporter's behest as well.

Since Rove-centric psychos can devise any scenario whereby he manipulates people into doing everything he wants, I doubt this detail will change any minds in Daily Kos-ville. But it offers an important and nagging clue to the continuing antics of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. What do I mean?

It means that clearly information was circulating around Washington about the identity of Wilson's CIA operative wife Valerie Plame. The presumption has thus far been in most quarters that the only people who could have known about this were administration officials.

But what if that's not right? What if the original source for the "Wilson got the job from his CIA wife" was, in fact, a reporter? After all, we know that the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, has testified he learned of Plame's identity from a journalist.

Wilson had gotten very cozy with a couple of them -- Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times among them. What if he spilled the beans to enhance his own standing in the story somehow, to bolster his supposed findings?

What if -- and here's where it gets really interesting -- what if the real target of Fitzgerald's investigation is now none other than the jailed Judith Miller of the New York Times? What if she let it all slip and in the giant game of telephone around the nation's capital, Miller was the original source of the "Plame's in the CIA" info? What if Fitzgerald needs her notes to discern whether Miller knew or didn't know of Plame's supposedly covert status?

Fitzgerald already has a major bone to pick with Miller. He believes she materially and dangerously impeded his investigation into a terrorist-financing scheme run by the Holy Land Foundation.

When Miller found out that Fitzgerald was on the verge of indicting Holy Land, she called the Foundation for comment -- and right after her call Fitzgerald believes the Foundation may have commenced a shredding party that ensured prosecutors would find little paperwork to go on when they raided the Holy Land offices.

As the Washington Post put it, "On Dec. 3, 2001, Times reporter Judith Miller telephoned officials with the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, a Texas-based charity accused of being a front for Palestinian terrorists, and asked for a comment about what she said was the government's probable crackdown on the group. U.S. officials said this conversation and Miller's article on the subject in the Times on Dec. 4 increased the likelihood that the foundation destroyed or hid records before a hastily organized raid by agents that day."

Fitzgerald sought her phone records on that occasion to uncover the source of a potential leak in his own office and was blocked by a liberal New York judge named Robert Sweet. Miller didn't get so lucky this time. Fitzgerald thinks Miller has a loose tongue, and for good reason. It's possible he's trying to figure out what other mischief her loose tongue might have caused.

Chew on that for a while. I'm exhausted.
Posted at 05:55 PM