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July 15, 2005: Unnamed Sources Reveal Former White House Press Secretary as Possible Leaker

One day after the New York Times revealed that Karl Rove was a source for the 2003 outing of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2005), unnamed sources tell the New York Daily News that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is also examining the role of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in the leak. “Ari’s name keeps popping up,” one of the sources tells the Daily News. The press is not yet aware that Fleischer is, indeed, one of the White House officials who leaked Plame Wilson’s identity (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003), nor is it aware that Fitzgerald has offered Fleischer immunity in return for his testimony in his investigation (see February 13, 2004, June 10, 2004, and September 2004). Sources also note that Fitzgerald is focusing on Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby, whom one source describes as “totally obsessed with [Joseph] Wilson,” the husband of Plame Wilson who angered the administration by publishing an op-ed debunking a key claim President Bush used to justify his decision to invade Iraq (see July 6, 2003). And, the sources say, Fitzgerald is keenly interested in a State Department memo revealing Plame Wilson’s identity (see June 10, 2003 and (July 15, 2005)). [New York Daily News, 7/15/2005] Author and blogger Marcy Wheeler, covering the Libby perjury trial in 2007, will write of her suspicions that the information to the Daily News was leaked by Rove, or someone close to him, to attempt to turn media attention away from himself and onto someone else. “Clearly, the behind-the-scenes media campaign was giving reporters fresh meat (in the form of Fleischer) to distract them from Rove,” Wheeler will write. Wheeler will note that while the media remains interested in Rove, the apparent distraction attempt will work, with media attention focusing on Fleischer and how the memo may incriminate him in the investigation. She will write, “The press, which just a day before had been in a frenzy reporting Rove’s demonstrable role in the CIA leak, had abruptly shifted its attention to chasing down a story implicating Fleischer and (to a lesser degree) [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell in unsubstantiated ways.” Wheeler goes on to observe: “The leak campaign against Fleischer served one other purpose, albeit a crafty one. Since Libby had told Fleischer of Valerie [Plame] Wilson’s identity in such a way that made it appear that Libby knew her identity was classified, Fleischer was a potential witness against Libby. Focusing suspicion on Fleischer would undermine his role as a witness if Libby were to face charges. The leaks about Fleischer and the [State Department] memo served several purposes: They distracted the press corps from validated revelations of Rove’s involvement; they provided an alternative source for the Novak leak and a provenance for that leak outside the White House; and they impugned a potential witness at a trial. All of this was possible because some journalists didn’t question what they were being fed by their unnamed sources.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/4/2007]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Ari Fleischer, Karl C. Rove, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame Wilson, Marcy Wheeler

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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