Reporter fails to tell editor of interview with Plame prosecutor

Without telling her editors, Time reporter Viveca Novak underwent a lengthy interview by the prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation a month ago, the magazine disclosed Sunday.

Writing a first-person account of her experience as a witness in the criminal investigation, Novak becomes the latest reporter to be swept up in the probe of President Bush’s top political adviser, Karl Rove.

The magazine said Novak is now on a leave of absence by mutual agreement with her employer.

The investigation and Novak’s role in it are “pretty serious stuff and the whole incident led Viveca and me to conclude that a leave of absence was wise,” said Time’s managing editor, Jim Kelly. “She and I will have a fuller discussion of this.”

Novak’s account in Time shows that many months before Rove corrected his grand jury testimony in October 2004, Novak told Rove’s lawyer that she had heard that Rove revealed the CIA status of undercover officer Valerie Plame to Time reporter Matt Cooper.

“I wish I had told my bureau chief about the exchange,” Novak wrote of her conversation with the lawyer, Robert Luskin, in the first half of 2004.

In October, in a last-minute effort to persuade Fitzgerald not to indict Rove, Luskin informed the prosecutor of the conversation with Novak. Fitzgerald interviewed Novak for two hours on Nov. 10.

“I hired a lawyer … but I didn’t tell anyone at Time,” Novak wrote of the days leading up that interview. “Unrealistically, I hoped this would turn out to be an insignificant twist in the investigation and also figured that if people at Time knew about it, it would be difficult to contain the information, and reporters would pounce on it.”

Eight days after Fitzgerald interviewed her, Novak was writing a story about Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s newly emerging role in the Plame saga when she was told by her lawyer that Fitzgerald wanted her to testify. She informed her bureau chief, who called the magazine’s managing editor.

“Nobody was happy about it, least of all me,” Novak wrote.

The prosecutor questioned her under oath on Thursday.

© 2005 The Associated Press