Reporter Recounts Talk About C.I.A. Leak
By DAVID JOHNSTON
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 - A reporter for Time magazine said Sunday that a lawyer for Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, was surprised when she suggested to him in the first half of 2004 that Mr. Rove had probably been a source for the magazine's July 2003 article that discussed the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak case.
The 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 likely in one of these meetings that she hinted to Mr. Luskin 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 Mr. Fitzgerald sought to question her about the matter after Mr. Luskin told him of their conversation about Mr. Rove, in the belief that the information would help his client.
Ms. Novak said that before she spoke with Mr. Fitzgerald on Nov. 10, a discussion in which she was not under oath, she hired a lawyer, Hank Schuelke. "I didn't tell anyone at Time," she wrote. "Unrealistically, I hoped this would turn out to be an insignificant twist in the investigation and also figured that if people at Time knew about it, it would be difficult to contain the information, and reporters would pounce on it - as I would have."
After her conversation with Mr. Fitzgerald, Ms. Novak continued to do reporting on the leak case, including on the involvement of Bob Woodward, a reporter and editor at The Washington Post. She told her editors about her conversations with Mr. Fitzgerald on Nov. 20, after he had told her he wanted her to testify under oath.
Ms. Novak's article was accompanied by an editor's note that said she had taken a leave of absence. Jim Kelly, Time's managing editor, said in an interview on Sunday: "I'm taking this seriously. I'm upset and she's upset." He said her article "was full of regret about what happened."
Mr. Kelly suggested that there 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 he would meet with Ms. Novak early next year to decide if further steps were warranted.
Ms. Novak's testimony appeared to bring Mr. Fitzgerald close to an end point 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 a vigorous behind-the-scenes effort to save Mr. Rove from criminal charges. On Sunday, Mr. Luskin would not discuss the case or his conversations with Ms. Novak.
Ms. Novak said 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 she was writing about her conversation with Mr. Luskin, over his objection, because he had "unilaterally" gone to the prosecutor to disclose it.
At the time of her 2004 conversation with Mr. Luskin, Ms. Novak wrote, he seemed surprised when she suggested to 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 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 his call.
Ms. Novak wrote that the conversation with Mr. Luskin had occurred at one of three meetings anywhere from January 2004 to May 2004, although she believed that the conversation more likely took place in May.
After her exchange, Ms. Novak recalled, 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 the summer or fall of 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 D. Novak, the columnist who first disclosed the name of the Central Intelligence Agency officer 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 the officer, Valerie Wilson, by her maiden name, Valerie Plame.
Mr. Fitzgerald has been investigating whether there was a deliberate effort to disclose details about Ms. Wilson and her employment at the C.I.A. as part of an attempt to distance the administration from Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former ambassador who had complained about what he said was the government's misuse of intelligence about Iraq.
So far, Mr. Fitzgerald has brought one indictment, against I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff. Mr. Libby was indicted Oct. 28 on five counts of obstruction of justice and perjury, 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. Mr. Woodward of 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 be told about her.
Mr. Woodward wrote that he testified under oath in a deposition to Mr. Fitzgerald after his source, whom he refused to identify, went to the prosecutor to disclose the conversation. It is not known what action, if any, Mr. Fitzgerald intends to take in the matter.
Time Reporter May Have Tipped Rove's Lawyer to Leak
By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 12, 2005; A04
A Time magazine reporter testified in the CIA leak case that she alerted Karl Rove's lawyer in early 2004 that the top Bush adviser had leaked information to her colleague about Valerie Plame, according to a first-person account published yesterday in Time.
The reporter, Viveca Novak, did not initially tell her bosses at Time that she may have tipped off Rove's lawyer or that the special prosecutor in the CIA leak was interested in the details of her conversation with Robert D. Luskin, Rove's lawyer. As a result, she and Time editors agreed she would take a leave of absence while they contemplate her future at the magazine.
The casual chat between Novak and Luskin, which took place in the first half of 2004, is now central to Rove's efforts to avoid indictment in the more than two-year-old case. Novak's account in this week's issue of Time does little to explain how a conversation over drinks between Rove's lawyer and a reporter chasing the story could help clear the senior Bush adviser. In addition to raising new questions about the role of journalists in the Plame affair, Novak's testimony provides fresh and significant insight into Rove's campaign to avoid charges in a case that threatens the man President Bush once called the "architect" of his reelection.
Rove is believed to be under investigation for providing false statements about his role in the public disclosure of Plame's CIA employment.
Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald -- who charged I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, with lying and obstructing justice -- recently presented evidence to a new grand jury. Sources close to the case said that one of the biggest pieces of unfinished business is whether to indict Rove -- and that a decision could come as early as this month.
The sources, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have been urged by Fitzgerald not to discuss the case, said Luskin told the prosecutor about the conversation with Novak a few days before Libby was indicted on Oct. 28.
It was only part of what the sources described as a furious, last-minute effort by Luskin to convince the prosecutor that Rove was guilty of nothing more than a bad memory -- and certainly not of trying to cover up his role in the Plame case. Of the information presented by Luskin that day, the Novak conversation is the only piece known to require additional investigation. Now that Fitzgerald has deposed Luskin and Novak, some close to the case think Rove's fate could soon be known.
Novak, according to her first-person account, testified Thursday that in early 2004 she met with Luskin. She told him Time reporters were buzzing that Rove was one of the sources who told Matthew Cooper, a reporter at the magazine, in July 2003 that Plame worked at the CIA.
This became a big deal once Fitzgerald started investigating whether anyone in the Bush administration illegally disclosed Plame's CIA identity as part of a broader White House effort to discredit allegations made by Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, that Bush had hyped intelligence to justify the Iraq war.
According to Novak's account, she mentioned to Luskin only the speculation about the identity of Cooper's confidential source because she felt Luskin was "spinning" her. She and Luskin met for drinks occasionally after work at Cafe Deluxe on Wisconsin Avenue, and at one of those meetings, she said, Luskin insisted to her that Rove faced no legal exposure in the investigation. She said she pushed back, saying to the attorney, "Are you sure about that?" and remarked that she had heard from Time colleagues that Rove was Cooper's source for a story he did on Plame in July 2003. "He looked surprised and very serious," Novak wrote in the Time article.
It is not clear why this matters. Novak wrote that Luskin told her the tip set in motion a cycle of events that led Rove and his lawyers to search phone logs and other material to determine whether Rove had talked to Cooper -- and eventually prompted Rove to change his testimony. But another lawyer in the case said Luskin had a different strategy in mind when alerting Fitzgerald to the conversation.
Until he testified for a second time in October 2004, Rove maintained he did not recall talking to Cooper. Shortly before testifying, Luskin found an e-mail written by Rove to then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley in July 2003 in which Rove mentioned the conversation with Cooper. Rove then testified that the e-mail jarred his memory, a lawyer close to the case said.
It appears the timing of the Luskin-Novak conversation is crucial to Rove's defense. Novak said she does not recall the precise date but said she talked with Luskin in January, March and May 2004. She wrote that she believed the talk probably took place in May.
A lawyer close to the case said Luskin has contended the conversation happened before Rove's first appearance before the grand jury in February 2004, when he testified he did not recall discussing Plame with Cooper. Luskin refused to comment. A spokesman for Rove's defense said in a statement that Rove is cooperating and that private discussions with the prosecutor will not be discussed publicly.
One possible explanation of why the date is so important is that Luskin could contend it would have been foolish for Rove to try to cover up his role when he knew -- because of Novak's disclosure to Luskin -- that a number of people knew he had talked to Cooper and that it probably would soon become public.
Novak is not related to Robert D. Novak, the conservative columnist who was the first person to disclose Plame's CIA employment in a July 2003 column.
Viveca Novak's standing at Time is in doubt as a result of the episode. She waited to alert her editors for nearly a month after it appeared she might become a part of the leak investigation story -- rather than a writer helping to cover it, according to the dates provided in her account.
She said she hoped she would not have to go before the grand jury. She hired a lawyer and opted not to tell her editors in hopes that she would not become a figure in the story and the subject of news accounts. But on the day she was writing a story about Washington Post reporter and Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward being deposed in the investigation, she learned Fitzgerald wanted to interview her under oath.
Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly said yesterday he and Novak agreed in conversations Saturday evening that she needed to "take a deep breath," and that Kelly needed time to deliberate about her performance and future. "Clearly, there was a failure to keep her bureau chief posted about this," he said. "It's fair to say I am disturbed by that."
Kelly added, "there was no struggle" and the two agreed to temporarily part ways. "I take very seriously what's happened, and Viveca takes it very seriously, too," he said.
© 2005 The Washington Post Company