Wilson talks off record about Niger, Plame identity leaked

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Before Wilson talks to Kristoff

Plame Leak timeline

What happened after Wilson talked to Kristoff

May 2003 Wilson contests 16 words, off the record

May 6

May 20

  • Ari Fleischer announces his resignation as White House Press Secretary, to take effect in July.

June 2003 WH scrambles to address criticism, Niger mission INR report created

June 8

June 10

  • A classified State Department memorandum is drafted for Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman, containing information about CIA officer Valerie Plame. She is named in the memo in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified. Plame — who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo — is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR).

June 13

  • Kristof responds and sticks by his claim. Joe Wilson is again not named in the article.

July 2003 Wilson writes on record about Niger, Novak publishes Plame's name and CIA status

July 6

  • The New York Times publishes an Op-Ed article by Joseph Wilson titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa", criticizing Bush's remarks on Iraq yellowcake purchase in Niger as relying on forged documents. He states the CIA provided this intelligence to the White House prior to the SOTU in Jan '03.

July 7

  • The White House retracts the Niger allegation, which is its sole admission to date of a flaw in the case for war, which was built on charges of an illegal Iraqi arsenal that has not been found.
  • After being called at home, State Department's then-intelligence chief, Carl Ford gets the INR to work on providing Powell the requested information and the June 10 memo, either because he remembers the memo, or Armitage does.
  • The State Department's June 10 INR memo is located and copied. It says Wilson had been approved for the Niger trip by mid-level CIA officials on the recommendation of his wife, a counter-proliferation expert at the CIA.
  • Robert Novak places a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer accroding to White House phone logs. It is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.
  • Evening - Bush leaves for his trip to Africa.
  • Carl Ford, orders the copy of the original memo, along with the analyst's notes about that meeting, be sent to Powell. Ordinarily, the memo would have been transmitted directly to Powell over the State Department's secure communications lines. But because Powell was traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One, the memo is transmitted via the White House operations center.
  • Someone on Air Force One, because both documents were classified by regulations, signs for receiving the memo and breifing note transmission from the White House operations center. Once someone signed for them, the document could be passed around freely on the plane among senior officials who have security clearances.
  • Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, at some point during the flight sees the INR memo aboard Air Force One.

July 8

  • White House officials assemble a briefing book, which they fax to the Bush entourage in Africa in order to allow Condoleezza Rice to prepare on the long flight home to D.C for appearances on the Sunday talks shows upon her return from Africa. This briefing book was primarily prepared by her National Security Council staff. It contains classified information — perhaps including all or part of the memo from State. The entire binder is labeled TOP SECRET.
  • Novak calls Karl Rove at the White House, ostensibly about a story on the promotion of Frances Fragos Townsend. Novak begins the conversation about Townsend, who had been a close aide to Janet Reno when she was attorney general, to a senior counterterrorism job at the White House, the person who was briefed on the matter said. That column ran in Novak's home paper, the Chicago Sun-Times, two days later, under the headline "Bush sets himself up for another embarrassment."
Mr. Novak turns to the subject of Ms. Wilson, identifying her by name. Novak claims to Mr. Rove that he knows that Joe Wilson had been sent on the trip to Niger at the urging of Ms. Wilson.
Rove responds by saying "Oh, you know about it."
In Rove's version of events he responds by saying "I heard that, too."
Rove's lawyer, goes on to say that Rove does not remember whether he told Novak, or Novak told him of Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative.
  • Late Afternoon - Robert Novak talks to a nominative stranger (a friend of Wilson) who approaches him on the way to taping Crossfire, that he believes that Wilson's wife had something to do with Wilson's appointment to investigate the yellowcake claim in Africa.
He asked Novak if he could walk a block or two with him, as they were headed in the same direction; Novak acquiesced. Striking up a conversation, my friend, without revealing that he knew me, asked Novak about the Uranium controversy. It was a minor problem, Novak replied, and opined that the administration should have dealt with it weeks before. My friend then asked Novak what he thought about me, and Novak answered: "Wilson's an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife, Valerie [Plame], works for the CIA. She's a weapons of mass destruction specialist. She sent him."[2]
  • Wilson contacts Eason Jordan, the head of the news division at CNN, and Novak’s titular boss, whom Wilson has known for a number of years. Finally tracking him down on his cell phone. Wilson relates to him the details of Wilson's friend’s encounter with Novak and points out that whatever his wife might or might not be, it was the height of irresponsibility for Novak to share such information with an absolute stranger on a Washington street. Wilson asks him to speak to Novak on his behalf, but Jordan demurs saying he did not know him very well—and suggests that Wilson speak to Novak directly. Wilson arranges for Jordan to have Novak call him and hangs up.

July 9

  • Morning - Novak calls Wilson as suggested by Wilson via Eason Jordan, but Wilson is out.

July 10

  • In a phone conversation, Novak tells Wilson that a CIA source informed him of Plame's position as an undercover CIA WMD specialist. Wilson exclaims that he couldn't imagine why he would "blurt out to a complete stranger what he had thought he knew about my wife." To which Novak apologizes and asks Wilson if he could confirm the claim. Of course Wilson does not and reminds Novak that Plame had nothing to do with his story regarding Yellowcake, it was about the 16 words in the State of the Union address.
Wilson noted the story co-written in 1990 by Novak and suggested that Novak "check his files" before writing about him. Wilson went on to claim he was "hardly anti-war, just anti-dumb-war." Novak apologizes.

July 11

  • Earliest possible chance Novak's article, which will out Valarie Plame's name and occupation to the public is sent out when Novak's regular syndicated column is distributed by Creators Syndicate on the AP wire. The exact timing during the day of the release of Novak's column is not known.
Q Dr. Rice, when did you all find out that the documents were forged?

DR. RICE: Sometime in March, I believe. Is that right?<p>
MR. FLEISCHER: The IAEA reported it.<p>
DR. RICE: The IAEA reported it I believe in March. But I will tell you that, for instance, on Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was sitting on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House. And you should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency.<p>
Q When was that TV show, when you learned about it? <p>
DR. RICE: A month ago, about a month ago. <p>
Q Can I ask you about something else?<p>
DR. RICE: Yes. Are you sure you're through with this?<p>

  • 11:07 a.m - Cooper e-mails his bureau chief after speaking to Rove.
[...] Cooper wrote that Rove offered him a "big warning" not to "get too far out on Wilson." Rove told Cooper that Wilson's trip had not been authorized by "DCIA"--CIA Director George Tenet--or Vice President Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, Wilson's [sic] wife, who apparently works at the agency on WMD (weapons of mass destruction) issues who authorized the trip."[4]
which goes against this from the American Prospect on 8 march 2004.
But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.[5]
  • After 11:07 a.m. - Karl Rove e-mails deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley that he had spoken with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. Rove writes "Matt Cooper called to give me a heads-up that he's got a welfare reform story coming," He continues "When he finished his brief heads-up he immediately launched into Niger. Isn't this damaging? Hasn't the president been hurt? I didn't take the bait, but I said if I were him I wouldn't get Time far out in front on this."[6]
  • 3:09 p.m. - George Tenet, then head of the CIA responds and says the decision to send him was the CIA's alone. [7]

July 12

  • An administration official, talks to Walter Pincus confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, and veers off the precise matter being discussing and tells Pincus that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction.[8]

Pincus never wrote about this conversation at the time but testified and was deposed.
  • Walter Pincus, calls Wilson and alerts himi that “they are coming after you.”
  • Lewis (Scooter) Libby tells Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, that Dick Cheney had not been responsible for Wilson's mission. Speaking on the record, Libby denies that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. Speaking on background, Cooper asks Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson's wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replies, "Yeah, I've heard that too,".[9][10]
  • Bush returns to Washington DC abord Air Force One, from his Africa trip.

July 14

"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. "I will not answer any question about my wife," Wilson told me."[11]
It is the first public mention of her name and that she allegedly recommended Wilson for the post. This is completely different than what Novak claimed 4 days earlier; he said that his source was a CIA source not a "senior administration official". To this Novak said that he misspoke.
  • Ari Fleischer holds his final press breifing as White House Press Secretary.
  • Wilson calls Novak for a clarification about his article's sources as it cited not a CIA source, as Novak had indicated in the phone call four days earlier, but rather two senior administration sources. Novak asks if Wilson was very displeased with the article. Wilson replies that he did not see what the mention of his wife had added to it but that the reason for his call was to question his sources. Novak replies “I misspoke the first time we talked.”

July 17

  • David Corn in the Nation publishes "A White House smear". Personal call from Corn informs Wilson that this leak was a crime.

July 20

  • Andrea Mitchell of NBC informs Wilson that a senior White House source told her to press the story of the Wilson family, not the 16 words.

July 21

  • morning - Wilson does interview with NBC's Andrea Mitchell. In this televised interview the editors at the NBC Evening News had omitted important qualifiers in the wording Wilson used to talk about his wife. This, in Wilson's words, "changed the tenor of the interview and gave CIA lawyers cause to briefly consider whether or not I myself might have been in violation of the same law of the senior administration officials...". Wilson requested a copy of the raw footage for future use but was denied. Wilson requested Mitchell save a copy; she agreed (Wilson 350).

July 22

  • Stephen Hadley, Rice subordinate, admits the 16 words should have been deleted from the Presidents speech. He offered to resign but was denied by the President.
  • Newsday reports that their intelligence sources confirmed that Plame was undercover until Novak outed her. [12] quoting Novak as saying:
"I didn't dig it out. It was given to me. They thought it was significant. They gave me the name, and I used it."

July 24

  • A CIA attorney leaves a phone message for the Chief of the Counterespionage Section with concerns about the articles, and noticing that a crimes report would be forthcoming.
  • The CIA reported "possible violations of criminal law" to the Attorney General John Ashcroft. (via Conyers letter reply)

July 30 CIA files a crime report on leak, Rice admits 16 words dubious

  • A letter is sent to the Criminal Division reporting a possible crime. It also explains that the CIA's Office of Security would be looking into the matter.
  • The CIA files a "crime report" with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), suggesting the leak of Wilson's wife's name and covert status might entail criminal acts (Wilson 359).
  • Rice "grudgingly" admits that the contents of the speech were her responsibility; she never offered her resignation (Wilson 352).
DOJ, CIA call for Plame investigation, investigation starts

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