DOJ, CIA call for Plame investigation, investigation starts

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Before CIA files a crime report

Plame Leak timeline

CIA files crime report

July 30

  • The CIA sends a "crime report" letter to the Department of Justice, reporting a possible violation of law concerning unauthorized disclosure of classified information. The letter states that the CIA's Office of Security has opened an investigation. (CIA letter to Rep. Conyers)
  • Rice "grudgingly" admits that the contents of the speech were her responsibility; she never offered her resignation (Wilson 352).

August 2003

August 3

August 12

August 21

  • At a forum on intelligence failures in Iraq, Joseph Wilson says "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs. And trust me, when I use that name, I measure my words."

September 2003

September 5

  • The July 30 crime report letter is resent by fax.

September 14

  • Joseph Wilson publishes "Seeking Honesty in U.S. policy" in The San Jose Mercury.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney is interviewed on Meet the Press. He says "I don’t who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back."

September 16

  • The CIA notifies the DOJ that its investigation is complete and recommends that the FBI undertake a full criminal investigation.
  • Scott McClellan at a White House press briefing, is asked "Now, this is apparently a federal offense, to burn the cover a CIA operative. . . . Did Karl Rove do it?" He replied, "I said, it's totally ridiculous."

September 22

  • Matthew Cooper publishes an article about welfare reform in Time. It's significance relates to the subject of the July 11 Cooper-Rove phone call.

September 23

  • The CIA submits a standard 11 part questionnaire used by the DOJ to determine whether an investigation is warranted. (Milbank and Schmidt, "Justice Department Launches Criminal Probe of Leak, Washington Post, Oct. 1, 2003 at A01).

Before Investigation Starts

Investigation begins

September 26

  • John Dion, Director of the DOJ's Counterespionage section, decides to pursue a criminal investigation.
  • Evening - Andrea Mitchell of NBC reports news of the DOJ investigation.

September 28

  • Mike Allen and Dana Priest in the The Washington Post publish the 1x2x6 theory of the case: one anonymous whistleblower told them two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. "They [the leakers] alleged that Wilson, who was not a CIA employee, was selected for the Niger mission partly because his wife had recommended him." The source also claims that, "Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge." (WaPo; emptywheel; Swopa)
  • Ari Fleischer reads the Washington Post article disclosing an investigation, knowing he has conveyed information to reporters that was previously conveyed to him by Libby. The following day he obtains legal counsel and begins discussing it with attorneys. (Swopa)

About September 28

  • "Of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity." (Murray Waas)

September 29

  • The DoJ notifies the CIA that the Counterespionage division has also requested an investigation.
  • The DoJ requests the FBI investigate the leak.
  • Robert Novak telephones Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, using words to the effect "You are not going to get burned" and "I don't give up my sources." (Murray Waas)
  • On CNN's Crossfire, Robert Novak explains, "Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson's report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing. ... They asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operative, and not in charge of undercover operatives. So what is the fuss about, pure Bush-bashing?" ("Crossfire," CNN, Sept. 29, 2003).
"Bob Novak called me before he went to print with the report. And he said, a CIA source had told him that my wife was an operative. He was trying to get a second source...After the article appeared, I called him and I said, `You told me it was a CIA source. You wrote senior administration officials. What was it, CIA or senior administration?' He said to me, `I misspoke the first time I spoke to you.' That makes it senior administration sources" ("Paula Zahn Now," CNN, Sept. 29, 2003)
  • Clifford D. May in the National Review Online tries to provide cover for Novak by stating that Plame's identity was common knowledge and openly questions Wilson's motivations due to his partisan activities.
  • ABC News producer Andrea Owen asks Rove "Did you have any knowledge or did you leak the name of the CIA agent to the press"? Rove replies "No" and shuts the door of his car. (The Note)
  • Congressman John Conyers writes a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft requesting that the Department of Justice appoint an outside special counsel to investigate the Plame leak.

September 30

  • An email is sent to all White House staff from counsel Alberto R. Gonzales about the investigation of the leak, ordering preservation of "all materials that might in any way be related to the department's investigation."
A follow up email asks staff to save all records of any kind relating to the Ambassadors trip to Niger, his wife's relationship with the CIA, any contact with the press about these topics, and any contact at all with journalists Robert Novak, Knut Royce, Timothy M. Phelps.
  • Another journalist confirms receiving a call from an administration official divulging Wilson's wife's name and occupation. (Allen and Millbank, Washington Post, Sept. 30, 2003).
  • Questions about Karl Rove's involvement are raised by numerous news sources.
  • Wilson reveals that he received phone calls from journalists, stating `I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He tells me your wife is fair game.' ("Nightline," ABC, Sept. 30, 2003)
  • President Bush is asked if Rove had any role in the leak of Plame, he replies
"Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information," he said. "If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing."
  • On PBS Newshour, ex-CIA analyst Larry Johnson asserts that Wilson's wife was an undercover operative.

October 2003

October 1

  • Novak responds to the 1x2x6 article with his no partisan gunslinger column, backing off from his previous claim that he had received an intentional leak. (Townhall, emptywheel, Salon)
  • After reading Novak's column, Richard Armitage recognizes himself as Novak's source. He calls and tells Colin Powell of his conversation with Novak. State Department legal adviser William Howard Taft IV notifies a senior Justice official that Armitage has information relevant to the case. Taft also informs Alberto Gonzales, but with a minimum of detail and excluding Armitage's name. (Newsweek, David Corn, emptywheel)
  • Washington lobbyist Kenneth Duberstein, Armitage’s friend and political adviser, calls Novak to say Armitage fears he had ‘‘inadvertently’’ disclosed Mrs. Wilson’s identity in July and was considering resignation. Duberstein asks Novak if Novak is Armitage's source. Novak declines to confirm.(Novak; Isikoff and Corn, Hubris, p. 326)
  • Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) Says that Bush needs to be proactive: "He has that main responsibility to see this through and see it through quickly, and that would include, if I was president, sitting down with my vice president and asking what he knows about it" ("Capital Report," CNBC, Oct. 1, 2003)
On the set of Face the Nation Senator Hagel expressed "bewilderment" at Republicans who were spinning a possible high crime into a partisan attack.
  • James Moore, a Rove biographer, says "if Mr. Rove is not involved, I'll eat the paperback copy of my own book" ("Buchanan & Press," MSNBC, Oct. 1, 2003)

October 2

  • The White House begins changing its tone: "Bush aides began to adjust their response to the expanding probe. They reigned in earlier, broad portrayals of innocence in favor of more technical arguments that it is possible the disclosure was made without knowledge that a covert operative was being exposed and therefore might not have been a crime." (Milbank and Allen, "Outside Probe of Leaks Is Favored," Washington Post, Oct 2, 2003).
  • John Dion assembles a half-dozen FBI agents from the counterintelligence and inspections division to conduct the investigation. (Anderson, "FBI Creates Team to Investigate CIA Leak, AP Online, Oct. 2, 2003). However, questions of bias arise again when it is revealed that Dion will report to Robert McCallum, Assistant Attorney General, who is an old friend of the President's from Yale. Both were members of the Skull and Bones Society. ("Schmitt and Chen, "Leak Inquiry Embarks on a Long Road," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 2, 2003 at 14)
The Washington Post reveals that Rove worked on three of Ashcroft's campaigns in the 1980's and 1990's. Further, Jack Oliver, Ashcroft's former chief of staff is now the deputy finance chairman of President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign. (Bumiller and Lichtblau, "Attorney General Is Closely Linked to Inquiry Figures," NYT, Oct. 2, 2003)
A Republican aide on Capitol Hill described the White House's efforts as "slime and defend...There's nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel." An F.B.I. official commented that "It wouldn't surprise me if we went a little bit slower on this one just because it is so high-profile. This will get scrutinized at our headquarters and at Justice in a way that lesser, routine investigations wouldn't." (Stevensen and Lichtblau, "White House Looks to Manage Fallout Over CIA Leak Inquiry," NYT, Oct. 2, 2003)

October 3

  • White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales sends a memo to all White House employees specifying an October 7 deadline for turnover of documents in the case. (CNN)
  • Andrea Mitchell of NBC gives a tangled statement on The Capital Report, interpretable as saying that it was widely known in Washington that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA (transcript, pdf p. 12; Walton memorandum, p. 2 ff; Walton opinion, p. 21). She later recants this, that she had misunderstood the question and "screwed it up".

October 4

  • The Washington Post reports that the leak may have exposed numerous other undercover CIA agents and their sources. The disclosure of her name and undercover status blew the cover of her CIA front company -it has not been confirmed whether other agents were using the same front company, and therefore have been outed too.
Unnamed administration officials in the article confirm the CIA front company's, as wells as Plame's protected status:
"After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA."
(Pincus and Allen, "Leak of Agent's Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm, Washington Post, Oct. 4, 2003).[1]
  • Vice President Dick Cheney writes the meat grinder note, that the administration should issues denials for Scooter Libby, as was done for Karl Rove. The note contains talking points for the denial. (The date of the note is implied from other events). (Source: emptywheel)
  • Early morning - Cheney and George Bush speak. (Source: McClellan, What Happened)
  • 8:30 a.m. - Andrew Card calls Scott McClellan at home. "The president and vice president spoke this morning. They want you to give the press the same assurance for Scooter that you gave for Karl." (Sources: McClellan, What Happened; emptywheel)
  • McClellan calls Libby, who is with Cheney in Wyoming. McClellan directly asks whether Libby was involved in the leak. (Source: McClellan, What Happened)
  • After getting a denial, McClellan makes exonerations of Libby to reporters for Newsweek, the AP, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. (Sources: McClellan, What Happened; emptywheel)

October 5

  • Robert Novak appears on Meet the Press and claims when he said Valerie Plame "is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction" he did not know she was covert. (Meet the Press, Josh Marshall)

October 6

  • 6:30 a.m. MT - Scooter Libby meets Dick Cheney at Cheney's residence in Wyoming. (Libby calendar)
  • Newsweek reports that Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" was the journalist who called Mr. Wilson and said, "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove who said your wife is fair game." At the very least, those familiar with the conversation said "it was reasonable to discuss who sent Wilson to Niger." (Newsweek, Oct. 13, 2003 issue)
  • 1:15 p.m. - White House spokesman Scott McClellan says "if anyone in this administration was responsible for the leaking of classified information, they would no longer work in this administration." (transcript)
  • 2:45 p.m. - Libby meets with his lawyer to prepare for his first FBI interview. (Libby calendar)

October 7

  • President Bush says that he is not sure if the Justice Department will determine source of leak. (transcript)
  • White House officials turn in investigation documents to meet 5 PM deadline. Administration officials said the White House counsel's office would review investigation materials before submitting them to the Justice Department to determine relevancy. Officials also left open the possibility that the counsel's office might assert executive privilege on some or withhold all or parts of others for national security reasons.
  • The Washington Post reports that the current controversy is not the first time that Novak has used classified information from foreign policy hardliners. In December 1975, Novak got a classified leak, that President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger were ready to make concessions to the Soviet Union to save the SALT II treaty. Donald Rumsfeld, then, as now, the secretary of defense, intervened to block Kissinger. The main leak suspect then was Richard Perle, then an influential aid to Senator Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) and now a member of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and a confident of neoconservatives in the Bush Administration. (Milbank, "Novak Leak Column Has Familiar Sound," Washington Post, October 7, 2003)
  • White House spokesman Scott McClellan reaffirms his denial that Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and Elliott Abrams were leakers. McClellan says he had gone back to check his information, "to make sure it's accurate before I report back." (emptywheel)

October 8

  • Karl Rove is interviewed by the FBI sometime in October.
According to a report, it is on this day. Rove claims that he spoke to journalists about Plame for the first time after Novak’s column was published. (RawStory)
  • Steve Gilliard at reports that Robert Novak not only exposed an active CIA officer, but the cover firm that she used, to prove that she is a Democrat who gave money to Al Gore. The firm's identity, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, became public because it appeared in Federal Election Commission records on a form filled out in 1999 by Valerie Plame, when she contributed $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential campaign.

October 9

  • Senators Daschle, Levin, Biden and Schumer call for appointment of a special counsel and note five missteps of the Administration/DOJ: 1) the DOJ waited three days before notifying the WH of the investigation, 2) the WH waited 11 hours before asking its staff to preserve any evidence, 3) the State and Defense Departments were tipped off that the investigation was coming to their divisions, 4) WH spokesperson Scott McClellan publicly ruled out Karl Rove, Lewis Libby and Elliot Abrams as suspects, and 5) the Attorney General's conflicts of interest.

October 10

October 12

  • Washington Post reporters Walter Pincus and Mike Allen publish the second 1x2x6 article. FBI agents are asking questions about events going back to at least early June, the sources said. The 1x2x6 source reiterates his claims. (WaPo). Scooter Libby keeps an underlined copy of the article in his files (emptywheel).

October 14

  • Senator Tom Daschle asked CIA director George Tenet to conduct a damage assessment for the leak. (Reuters, Oct. 14, 2003.)

October 15

  • The New York Times reports that senior criminal prosecutors and FBI officials criticized the Attorney General's failure to recuse himself or appoint a special counsel. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that whether the Attorney General should step aside has been discussed in the department and by his own senior advisors. They "fear Mr. Ashcroft could be damaged by continuing accusations that as an attorney general with a long career in Republican partisan politics, he could not credibly lead a criminal investigation that centered on the aides to a Republican president." (Johnston and Lichtblau, "Senior Federal Prosecutors and FBI Officials Fault Ashcroft Over Leak Inquiry," New York Times, October 16, 2003)
White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales claims that Congressional suggestions about how to handle the leak are unconstitutional: "We believe it is inconsistent with the constitution's separation-of-powers principles for members of Congress to direct the president's management of White House employees..." (Reuters, Oct. 15, 2003)

October 17

October 21

  • Associate Deputy Attorney General Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he regularly briefs the Attorney General about the progress of the investigation. This includes the names of the people being interviewed, and enough detail "for him to understand meaningfully what's going on in the investigation." (Lichtblau, New York Times, Oct. 22, 2003).

October 22

  • The Associated Press reports that two former CIA officers are asking the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the leak. Jim Marcinkowski, a case officer in the late 1980's and Larry Johnson, former State Department Deputy Chief of Counterterrorism, are concerned with the appearance of impropriety. Mr. Johnson said, "there's a lot they can do without undermining the criminal investigation."(AP, New York Times, Oct. 22, 2003).
  • Catherine Martin, Dick Cheney's assistant for public affairs, is interviewed about the case. (trial, Jan. 29, 2007)

October 27

  • Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith sends Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller a top secret memo claiming that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003. (The Weekly Standard)

October 28

  • During a press conference, the President is asked why he has not requested his staff to sign affidavits denying involvement. He responds, "the best group of people to do that so that you believe the answer is the professionals at the Justice Department." [2]

October 29

  • The New York Times reports that Michael Mason, head of the FBI's Washington field office has been removed from the list of officials with access to the case. It is unclear whether Mr. Mason asked to be removed, or whether he was determined to be someone without "a need to know." (Johnston and Litchblau, New York Times, 10/29/03)

October 30

November 2003

November 24

November 26

December 2003

December 10

  • CIA officer Robert Grenier is interviewed by the F.B.I. (trial, Jan. 24, 2007)

December 24

December 30

December 31

  • While Deputy Attorney General Comey would not comment on the progress of the investigation, he stated that "It's fair to say that an accumulation of facts throughout the course of the investigation over the last several months has led us to this point (Ashcroft's recusal and the appointment of Fitzgerald)." Legal experts surmise that the investigation is honing in on those close to the AG and/ or the President. (Eggen and Allen, "Ashcroft Recuses Self From Leak Case," Washington Post, Dec. 31, 2003)


Plame investigation 2004


Plame investigation 2005


Plame investigation 2006

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