Looks like Karl Rove did break the law, the same federal law that got Martha Stewart sentenced to six months in prison.
It now appears that Rove, President Bush’s chief of staff, may have lied to the FBI in October 2003 - a federal crime - when he was questioned by federal agents investigating who was responsible for leaking information about a covert CIA operative to the media.
During questioning by the FBI about his role in the Plame affair, Rove told federal agents that he only started sharing information about Plame with reporters and White House officials for the first time after conservative columnist Robert Novak identified her covert CIA status in his column on July 14, 2003. This is according to a report in the American Prospect about Rove’s testimony in March 2004, a copy of which can be found here.
But Rove wasn’t truthful with the FBI as evidenced by the recent disclosure of Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper’s emails, which reveal Rove as the source for Cooper’s own July 2003 story identifying Plame as a CIA operative, and show that Rove spoke to Cooper nearly a week before Novak’s column was published and, according to previously published news reports, spoke to a half-dozen other reporters about Plame as early as June 2003.
“It was, KR said, Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on WMD [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorised (Wilson’s) trip," says Cooper’s July 11, 2003 email to his editor and obtained by Newsweek. “Wilson's wife is Plame, then an undercover agent working as an analyst in the CIA's Directorate of Operations counter proliferation division.”
Moreover, evidence suggests that President Bush was aware as early as October 2003 that Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, were the sources who leaked Plame’s undercover CIA status to reporters. After the president was briefed about the issue, he said publicly the source of the leak will never be found.
Furthermore, a few aides to Condoleezza Rice, then head of the National Security Council, may have played a part as well by being the first officials to learn about Plame’s role as a CIA operative and gave that information to Rove, Libby and other senior administration officials.
The disclosure of Plame’s name and CIA status was an attempt by the White House to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war who had alleged that President Bush misspoke when he said in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq acquired yellow-cake uranium from Niger.
Wilson was recommended by Plame, his wife, to travel to Niger to investigate the yellow-cake claims but he said publicly that Cheney’s office sent him there. Cheney did in fact contact the CIA at first to arrange the mission but Plame ultimately recommended Wilson. In February 2002, he went to Niger and reported back to the CIA there was no truth to the claims.
Here’s the fullest account yet of how the events leading up to the disclosure that Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative unfolded, and how it all leads back to Rove. But first let’s get to the real story behind the leak, the catalyst behind this issue.
Bush and senior administration officials misled Congress and the public into supporting a war predicated on the fact Iraq was concealing weapons of mass destruction that threatened its neighbours in the Middle East and posed a grave threat to the United States.
In his State of the Union address in January 2003, two months prior to the Iraq war, Bush said Iraq tried to buy yellow-cake uranium - the key component in designing a nuclear bomb - from Niger. This was the silver bullet in getting Congress to support military action two months later. To date, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq and the country barely had a weapons program, according to a report from the Iraq Survey Group.