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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Reporter Recounts Talk About C.I.A. Leak - New York Times

Reporter Recounts Talk About C.I.A. Leak - New York TimesDecember 11, 2005
Reporter Recounts Talk About C.I.A. Leak
By DAVID JOHNSTON

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 - A lawyer for Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, learned in the first half of 2004 that Mr. Rove had probably been a source for the magazine's July 2003 article that mentioned the C.I.A. officer who has come to be at the heart of the C.I.A. leak case, a Time reporter wrote today.

The Time reporter, Viveca Novak, wrote in a first-person article published on the magazine's Web site that she met with Robert D. Luskin, a lawyer for Mr. Rove, on three occasions in early 2004. She said it was probably during one of these meetings that she raised the possibility that Mr. Rove had discussed the C.I.A. officer with a Time colleague, Matthew Cooper.

Ms. Novak's conversation with Mr. Luskin has been under scrutiny by the special counsel in the leak case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald. In her article, Ms. Novak wrote that the prosecutor sought to question her about the matter after Mr. Luskin told Mr. Fitzgerald of their conversation about Mr. Rove in the belief that the information would help Mr. Rove.

Ms. Novak's testimony appeared to bring Mr. Fitzgerald near to an endpoint in his deliberations about whether to charge Mr. Rove. Mr. Fitzgerald met for the first time with a new grand jury last week, although it is not known what evidence, if any, he presented to the panel.

Mr. Rove is the only person known to remain under scrutiny in the leak case. Mr. Luskin has waged what other lawyers in the case have said is a vigorous behind-the-scenes attempt to save Mr. Rove from criminal charges. Today, Mr. Luskin would not discuss the case or his conversations with Ms. Novak.

Ms. Novak wrote that she was questioned under oath last week about her conversations with Mr. Luskin and said she felt free to cooperate with the prosecutor because Mr. Luskin wanted her to testify. In her article, Ms. Novak said that she was writing about her conversation with Mr. Luskin - over his objection - because she feels "that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said."

At the time of her 2004 conversation with the lawyer, Ms. Novak wrote, Mr. Luskin seemed surprised when she told him that Mr. Cooper had spoken with Mr. Rove.

In her article, she wrote: "I remember Luskin looking at me and saying something to the effect of 'Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt.'

"I responded instinctively," she recalled in the article, "thinking he was trying to spin me, and said something like, 'Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around Time'."

"He looked surprised and very serious," she wrote, recalling that Mr. Luskin said, "There's nothing in the phone logs."

It was only later disclosed in news accounts that Mr. Cooper's phone call on July 11, 2003, had been transferred to Mr. Rove via a White House switchboard, which could explain why there was no record of the call.

Ms. Novak wrote that the conversation with Mr. Luskin had occurred at any one of three meetings anywhere from January 2004 to May 2004. Although she said he believed the key conversation was more likely in May, the prosecutor asked her about a meeting with Mr. Luskin on March 1, 2004, which she had initially overlooked. She said she could not recall when the conversation about Mr. Rove and Mr. Cooper had taken place.

After her exchange with Mr. Luskin, whenever it was, Ms. Novak recalled that she felt uncomfortable thinking that she might have inadvertently disclosed information that should have been withheld from the lawyer.

"I was taken aback that he seemed so surprised," she wrote. "I had been pushing back against what I thought was his attempt to lead me astray. I hadn't believed that I was disclosing anything he didn't already know. Maybe this was a feint. Maybe his client was lying to him. But at any rate, I immediately felt uncomfortable. I hadn't intended to tip Luskin off to anything. I was supposed to be the information gatherer."

The prosecutor has focused for months on the accuracy of Mr. Rove's statements to the grand jury that he forgot about the conversation with Mr. Cooper until sometime in 2004, when he found an internal White House e-mail message addressed to Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, that confirmed it.

Ms. Novak is not related to Robert Novak, the columnist who first disclosed the name of Ms. Wilson in a column on July 14, 2003. Mr. Cooper's article, which relied on Mr. Rove as a source, was published several days later and also identified Ms. Wilson by her unmarried name, Valerie Plame.

Mr. Fitzgerald has been investigating whether there was a deliberate attempt to disclose details about Ms. Wilson's employment at the C.I.A. as part of an effort by members of the Bush administration to discredit Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador, who had complained about the government's misuse of intelligence on Iraq.

Ms. Novak said that she had not told her editors at Time about her conversation with Mr. Luskin. In addition, she said that although Mr. Luskin told her in late October that Mr. Fitzgerald might be interested in talking to her, she waited until Nov. 20, more than a week after a preliminary meeting with the prosecutor and after he had asked for her testimony under oath, to inform her editors that she had become embroiled in the case.

So far, Mr. Fitzgerald has brought one indictment, against I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Mr. Libby was indicted on Oct. 28 on five obstruction of justice and perjury counts and immediately resigned. He has pleaded not guilty.

Even if Mr. Fitzgerald concludes his inquiry involving Mr. Rove, it may not end the criminal investigation. Bob Woodward, a reporter for The Washington Post, disclosed last month that a government official told him about Ms. Wilson in mid-June 2003, which would make Mr. Woodward the first reporter known to have been told about Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. affiliation.

Mr. Woodward wrote that he testified under oath in a deposition to Mr. Fitzgerald after his source, whom he refused to identify publicly, went to the prosecutor to disclose the conversation. It is not known what action, if any, Mr. Fitzgerald intends to take in the matter.

Ms. Novak's article was accompanied by an editor's note that said that she had taken a leave of absence.

Time's managing editor, Jim Kelly, said in a telephone interview: "I'm taking this seriously. I'm upset and she's upset," adding that her article "was full of regret about what happened."

Mr. Kelly suggested that were several issues of concern to editors, among them her failure to alert editors in a timely way about her conversation with Mr. Luskin and her dealings with the prosecutor. Mr. Kelly said that he would meet with Ms. Novak early next year to decide if further steps were warranted.

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