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Novak confirms Rove was one of sources in outing CIA agent
Globe and Mail (UK)/ Associated Press
July 12, 2006

WASHINGTON — Now that Karl Rove won't be indicted, now that the President won't fire him, now that it really doesn't matter any more, more details of the Valerie Plame leak investigation trickle out.

In his latest syndicated column released Wednesday, columnist Robert Novak revealed his side of the story in the Plame affair, saying Mr. Rove was a confirming source for Mr. Novak's story outing the CIA officer, underscoring Mr. Rove's role in a leak President George W. Bush once promised to punish.

The columnist said he learned of Ms. Plame's CIA employment from a source he still refuses to publicly identify, and then confirmed with Mr. Rove and then-CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, whose roles in talking to Mr. Novak have been previously reported.

Mr. Novak said for the first time that prosecutors looking into the leaks already knew his sources when he agreed to disclose them.

Mr. Novak comes late to the Plame game, long after several other reporters talked publicly about the involvement of Mr. Rove and of Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, in leaking the CIA identity of the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Mr. Novak says he kept his mouth shut so long because prosecutors asked him to.

A month ago, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said he didn't anticipate seeking charges against Mr. Rove. Mr. Novak wrote that, more recently, Mr. Fitzgerald told his lawyer that after 2½ years his investigation of the CIA leak case concerning matters directly relating to Mr. Novak has been concluded, freeing him to talk now.

Triggering the criminal investigation that resulted in Mr. Libby being charged with perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI, Mr. Novak revealed Ms. Plame's CIA employment on July 14, 2003, eight days after her husband went on the attack against the Bush administration.

Initially refusing to identify his sources to the FBI, Mr. Novak knew that Mr. Fitzgerald had obtained signed waivers from every official who might have provided Mr. Novak information about Ms. Plame. Despite that, Mr. Novak was prepared to resist. He says he relented in early 2004 when it became clear that Mr. Fitzgerald "knew the names of my sources."

Mr. Novak could still have protected his sources, but his lawyer told him "I was sure to lose a case in the courts at great expense."

In contrast to other reporters whose news organizations footed the bill for lengthy and expensive legal battles, the fact that Mr. Novak was a no-show in contentious court proceedings fed a rumour mill.

"Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue," Mr. Novak writes. The facts were simpler. He was telling prosecutors everything he knew, and taking a beating in public for not talking about it.

Keeping quiet had the effect of providing protection for the Bush White House during the 2004 presidential campaign, because the White House had denied Mr. Rove played any role in the leak of Ms. Plame's CIA identity.

As Mr. Rove's legal problems grew a year ago, Mr. Bush said he stood by his pledge to "fire anybody" in his administration shown to have leaked Ms. Plame's name. His press secretary, after checking with Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby, assured the public that neither man had anything to do with the leak.

Now that he's finally opening up, Mr. Novak is stirring up more trouble, saying without elaboration that his recollection of his conversation with Mr. Rove about Ms. Plame differs from Mr. Rove's. Mr. Rove's spokesman says the difference amounts to very little.

"I have revealed Rove's name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection," Mr. Novak wrote. Mr. Novak did not elaborate.

A spokesman for Mr. Rove's legal team, Mark Corallo, said that Mr. Rove did not even know Ms. Plame's name at the time he spoke with Mr. Novak, that the columnist called Mr. Rove, not the other way around, and that Mr. Rove simply replied he had heard the same information that Mr. Novak passed along to him regarding Ms. Plame.

"There was not much of a difference" between the recollections of Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak, said Mr. Corallo.

Mr. Novak says he told Mr. Fitzgerald that Mr. Harlow of the CIA had confirmed information about Ms. Plame.

Mr. Harlow declined to comment Tuesday night. But a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter denied that Mr. Harlow had been a confirming source for Mr. Novak on the story. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mr. Harlow repeatedly tried to talk Mr. Novak out of running the information about Ms. Plame and that Mr. Harlow's efforts did not in any way constitute confirming Ms. Plame's CIA identity.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because Mr. Harlow may end up being a witness in a separate part of Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation, the upcoming criminal trial of Mr. Libby.

Original Text