‘L.A.Times’ Offers Mammoth Piece On Plame Leak

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By: E&P Staff

In a mammoth 5,500-word piece Thursday headlined ?A CIA Cover Blown, A White House Exposed,? Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron lay out in The Los Angeles Times what happened in the days leading up to, and beyond, the now infamous July 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name to the press.

?Beyond the whodunit,? they write, ?the affair raises questions about the credibility of the Bush White House, the tactics it employs against political opponents and the justification it used for going to war.?

The article includes some fresh revelations or comments. For example, it notes that allies of Karl Rove defend his talks with reporters in which he tried to counter claims by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Then it adds that ?some of Rove’s colleagues say that he and others used poor judgment in talking about Wilson’s wife. ‘With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear our focus should have been on Wilson’s facts, not his conclusions or his wife or his politics,’ said one official who was helping with White House strategy at the time.?

The piece also reveals that in one White House conversation, investigators have learned, Rove was asked why he was focused so intently on discrediting the former diplomat. “He’s a Democrat,” Rove said, citing Wilson’s campaign contributions.

The article also attempts to lay to rest one of the prime Republican talking points: That Wilson’s trip to Africa at the behest of the CIA was set up by his wife. ?An official recommended sending Wilson to Niger because of his experience there, including a previous mission for the CIA,? the article states, calling the Plame role ?a noisy sideshow.?

The article details conversations involving Karl Rove, “Scooter” Libby, Matt Cooper and Robert Novak. But near its conclusion it raises an emerging issue, promoted by Michael Wolff of Vanity Fair, among others: If Time magazine had gone public about Rove’s conversations with Cooper, it might have had some impact on the Bush-Kerry race for the White House last year.

Not until this summer did Cooper ask Rove for a waiver to talk to the grand jury, and ultimately the public, about their conversation. The L.A. Times article today notes that he did not do this before ?because his lawyer advised against it.? But the reporters add that in addition, ?Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year.?

The story concludes: “The result was that Cooper’s testimony was delayed nearly a year, well after Bush’s reelection.”

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