New Twist in Plame Game: When Did Novak Column Move on the Wires?

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By: E&P Staff

An article by Susan Schmidt in Friday?s Washington Post introduced a new twist in the federal probe of the leaking to the press of the name of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame.

According to Schmidt, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has gotten bogged down in trying to determine exactly when several journalists learned about Plame?s identity, most likely from someone at the White House. The focus has been on whether White House aides leaked the name before it appeared anywhere in the press or merely spread the news after it surfaced.

Since it has long been known that her name first appeared in a July 14, 2003, column by Robert Novak, it would seem to be relatively easy to determine a before and after.

But there’s a catch. According to Schmidt, ?While Novak’s column did not run until Monday, July 14, it could have been seen by people in the White House or the media as early as Friday, July 11, when Creators Syndicate distributed it over the Associated Press wire.?

Schmidt continues: ?The timing could be a critical element in assessing whether classified information was illegally disclosed. If White House aides directed reporters to information that had already been published by Novak, they may not have disclosed classified information. …

?As part of his efforts, Fitzgerald has been battling reporters in court, demanding that they disclose conversations with confidential sources.?

One witness?s lawyer told the Post that prosecutors ?seem to continue to be focused on which White House officials talked to members of the press, and whether that was pre- or post-Novak. That’s where they are struggling.”

In questioning reporters, prosecutors have shown a particular interest in the events of July 12, reporters and their attorneys have said, according to the Post: ?Word that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA had by then circulated to some media organizations, though the origin of the information is not publicly known.?

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