Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Novak Told Prosecutor His Sources in Leak Case

The New York Times
Novak Told Prosecutor His Sources in Leak Case

WASHINGTON, July 11 — The journalist who first identified the intelligence officer at the center of the C.I.A. leak case says he later voluntarily identified three sources to the prosecutor in the case, who, he says, had already learned of his conversations with each of the three.

In his syndicated column being published Wednesday, the journalist, Robert D. Novak, confirms that two of his sources were Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, and Bill Harlow, then a spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, both of whose roles in the case are already widely known. Mr. Novak does not disclose his primary source, saying this official has not come forward publicly.

Mr. Novak’s column of July 14, 2003, identified the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. That column focused primarily on a trip that Ms. Wilson’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, took to Africa at the C.I.A.’s request in 2002 to check reports that Iraq had tried to buy uranium there. Mr. Wilson found no evidence of such a purchase and subsequently became a critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy.

The 2003 column had far-reaching consequences, leading to a criminal inquiry that began as an effort to determine whether Ms. Wilson’s identity had been disclosed by someone in the government as retaliation for her husband’s criticism of the administration. Last October the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, obtained an obstruction and perjury indictment of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. Mr. Libby, who has pleaded not guilty, is to be tried early next year. Judith Miller, a former New York Times reporter, was jailed for 85 days for refusing to testify and reveal her confidential source in the case, Mr. Libby.

In the column, which circulated over the Internet on Tuesday evening, Mr. Novak said his decision to discuss his sources with Mr. Fitzgerald had been made reluctantly, after he realized that the prosecutor had learned independently of those sources and his lawyers had advised him that he faced a costly and probably unsuccessful legal fight if he refused to cooperate.

“I have been subpoenaed by and testified to a federal grand jury,” Mr. Novak wrote. “Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue.”

Mr. Novak said he had previously avoided discussing the case at the request of Mr. Fitzgerald. He said he was doing so now because Mr. Fitzgerald had advised Mr. Novak’s lawyers that the inquiry related to him had ended. Last month, Mr. Fitzgerald informed Mr. Rove, who had testified before the grand jury five times, that he would not be charged. That step would appear to have given Mr. Novak impetus to seek the prosecutor’s permission to discuss matters related to the columnist, who did not return a telephone call to his office on Tuesday evening.

Mr. Novak said he refused to reveal his sources when F.B.I. agents first interviewed him about the 2003 column that fall. During that interview, he said, he discussed in general how he had learned that Ms. Wilson might have had a role in the C.I.A.’s assigning her husband to the Africa trip. But he did not disclose his sources then, he said, and was not asked by the agents to identify them.

Then, he said, on Jan. 14, 2004, at his first interview with the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald made it clear that he already knew the identity of the sources, having brought with him three legal waivers, each signed by one of the three, relieving Mr. Novak of any confidentiality pledge.

Mr. Novak said he had a second session with Mr. Fitzgerald on Feb. 5, 2004. He was then subpoenaed, he said, and testified to the grand jury three weeks later.

“In my sworn testimony,” he wrote, “I said what I have contended in my columns and on television: Joe Wilson’s wife’s role in instituting her husband’s mission was revealed to me in the middle of a long interview with an official who I have previously said was not a political gunslinger. After the federal investigation was announced, he told me through a third party that the disclosure was inadvertent on his part.”

After his interview with that primary source, Mr. Novak sought out Mr. Rove at the White House and Mr. Harlow at the C.I.A. for confirmation, he wrote.

His new column confirms what he hinted at in a previous one: that although he had been told that Mr. Wilson’s wife was a C.I.A. officer, he learned her name from reading the former ambassador’s entry in Who’s Who in America. It identified her as Valerie Plame.