Top White House advisor Karl Rove gave reporters the name of a covert CIA operative in retaliation for her husband’s public criticism of President George Bush, Newsweek magazine and other sources confirm.
Although Rove’s lawyer claims his client did not reveal the operative’s name, a reporter for Time magazine told a grand jury probling the leak that Rove did, indeed, give him the name of Valerie Plame, a covert operative for the intelligence agency.
Rove is the focus of a Justice Department investigation into leaked the operative’s name while the White House is scrambling to keep President Bush’s key political advisor from indictment. Sources within the investigation say the grand jury is considering a federal felony indictment against Rove.
Newsweek said Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove talked to Time magazine about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife, CIA agent Plame.
Luskin said Rove recently gave Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper permission to testify about the conversation to a grand jury investigating the leak in 2003, according to Newsweek.
A U.S. federal judge ordered Cooper, along with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, to testify and reveal their confidential sources.
Last week Cooper avoided a jail sentence for contempt of court by agreeing to testify in the case. Miller refused to testify and was jailed.
The case has become an important test involving freedom of the press and has pitting the media’s traditional use of anonymous sources against the efforts of a federal government prosecutor to investigate a possible crime.
It is illegal to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA agent.
Although Rove has made statements about the Plame leak, he has never publicly acknowledged talking to any reporter about the CIA agent.
Rove has carefully chosen his words when questioned about the leak. “I didn’t know her name. I didn’t leak her name,” he told CNN last year when asked if he had had anything to do with it.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been leading a two year investigation into the leak amid questions about whether it came from White House as part of an attempt to discredit Wilson after he contradicted President Bush’s assertions about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Wilson wrote an op-ed column in The New York Times saying he had been sent by the CIA in 2002 to investigate the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa — a claim that the administration used to justify going to war in Iraq. Wilson said he found no evidence to support the claim.
The Newsweek article said an e-mail Cooper sent his bureau chief after briefly talking with Rove stated that “it was, KR said, Wilson’s wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd (weapons of mass destruction) issues who authorized the trip.”
The e-mail did not suggest that Rove used Plame’s name or that he knew she was a covert agent, the article said.
“Karl Rove has shared with Fitzgerald all the information he has about any potentially relevant contacts he has had with any reporters, including Matt Cooper,” Luskin told Newsweek.