Roger L. Simon

The leak of a leak of a leak

The New York Times – the newspaper that had been promising us less use of anonymous sources – reported the following this morning:

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration’s handling of intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

“Lawyers involved in the case”… ah, there’s a redolent phrase. How many of those are there? Well, probably not that many but enough to keep up confused forever about the source and his/her motivations in talking to the Times only days before the disclosure of whether there will be an indictment. Three reporters sign the article to add to its “veracity.” The identity of the leaker is perhaps more interesting than the story itself, but the Times, of course, will never tell. That’s mainstream journalism as its practiced in 2005.