What Karl Rove told Time magazine's reporter
Matt Cooper's Source
What Karl Rove told Time magazine's reporter.
By Michael Isikoff
July 18 issue - It was 11:07 on a Friday morning, July
11, 2003, and Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper
was tapping out an e-mail to his bureau chief, Michael
Duffy. "Subject: Rove/P&C," (for personal and
confidential), Cooper began. "Spoke to Rove on double
super secret background for about two mins before he
went on vacation ..." Cooper proceeded to spell out
some guidance on a story that was beginning to roil
Washington. He finished, "please don't source this to
rove or even WH [White House]" and suggested another
reporter check with the CIA.
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Last week, after Time turned over that e-mail, among
other notes and e-mails, Cooper agreed to testify
before a grand jury in the Valerie Plame case.
Explaining that he had obtained last-minute "personal
consent" from his source, Cooper was able to avoid a
jail sentence for contempt of court. Another reporter,
Judith Miller of The New York Times, refused to
identify her source and chose to go to jail instead.
For two years, a federal prosecutor, Patrick
Fitzgerald, has been investigating the leak of Plame's
identity as an undercover CIA agent. The leak was
first reported by columnist Robert Novak on July 14,
2003. Novak apparently made some arrangement with the
prosecutor, but Fitzgerald continued to press other
reporters for their sources, possibly to show a
pattern (to prove intent) or to make a perjury case.
(It is illegal to knowingly identify an undercover CIA
officer.) Rove's words on the Plame case have always
been carefully chosen. "I didn't know her name. I
didn't leak her name," Rove told CNN last year when
asked if he had anything to do with the Plame leak.
Rove has never publicly acknowledged talking to any
reporter about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his
wife. But last week, his lawyer, Robert Luskin,
confirmed to NEWSWEEK that Rove didand that Rove was
the secret source who, at the request of both Cooper's
lawyer and the prosecutor, gave Cooper permission to
The controversy arose when Wilson wrote an op-ed
column in The New York Times saying that he had been
sent by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate
charges that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from the
African country of Niger. Wilson said he had found no
evidence to support the claim. Wilson's column was an
early attack on the evidence used by the Bush
administration to justify going to war in Iraq. The
White House wished to discredit Wilson and his
attacks. The question for the prosecutor is whether
someone in the administration, in an effort to
undermine Wilson's credibility, intentionally revealed
the covert identity of his wife.
In a brief conversation with Rove, Cooper asked what
to make of the flap over Wilson's criticisms. NEWSWEEK
obtained a copy of the e-mail that Cooper sent his
bureau chief after speaking to Rove. (The e-mail was
authenticated by a source intimately familiar with
Time's editorial handling of the Wilson story, but who
has asked not to be identified because of the
magazine's corporate decision not to disclose its
contents.) 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 Tenetor Vice President
Dick Cheney. Rather, "it was, KR said, wilson's wife,
who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of
mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip."
Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent
working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of
Operations counterproliferation division. (Cooper
later included the essence of what Rove told him in an
online story.) The e-mail characterizing the
conversation continues: "not only the genesis of the
trip is flawed an[d] suspect but so is the report. he
[Rove] implied strongly there's still plenty to
implicate iraqi interest in acquiring uranium fro[m]
Niger ... "
Nothing in the Cooper e-mail suggests that Rove used
Plame's name or knew she was a covert operative.
Nonetheless, it is significant that Rove was speaking
to Cooper before Novak's column appeared; in other
words, before Plame's identity had been published.
Fitzgerald has been looking for evidence that Rove
spoke to other reporters as well. "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
A source close to Rove, who declined to be identified
because he did not wish to run afoul of the prosecutor
or government investigators, added that there was
"absolutely no inconsistency" between Cooper's e-mail
and what Rove has testified to during his three
grand-jury appearances in the case. "A fair reading of
the e-mail makes clear that the information conveyed
was not part of an organized effort to disclose
Plame's identity, but was an effort to discourage Time
from publishing things that turned out to be false,"
the source said, referring to claims in circulation at
the time that Cheney and high-level CIA officials
arranged for Wilson's trip to Africa.
Fitzgerald is known as a tenacious, thorough
prosecutor. He refused to comment, and it is not clear
whether he is pursuing evidence that will result in
indictments, or just tying up loose ends in a messy
case. But the Cooper e-mail offers one new clue to the
mystery of what Fitzgerald is probingand provides a
glimpse of what was unfolding at the highest levels as
the administration defended a part of its case for
going to war in Iraq.
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.