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Evening Newscasts Continue Rove Focus, Offer Ominous Predictions --7/19/2005


1. Evening Newscasts Continue Rove Focus, Offer Ominous Predictions
The networks just won't let go of Karl Rove, with the NBC Nightly News leading with the supposed scandal as another week began. On Monday night, anchor Brian Williams hyped "more claims and allegations in the story involving presidential right-hand man Karl Rove." After a piece from David Gregory, Williams noted how "a lot of Democrats don't want this story to go away," a wish the media are carrying out. Andrea Mitchell concluded a second story by warning that "depending on what the grand jury decides could make this spy story more than just the usual Washington scandal." ABC's Jessica Yellin asserted that President Bush "continues to focus on whether a crime was committed, but there are questions about credibility." Yellin concluded with a self-fulfilling forecast: "The grand jury has another three and a half months till the end of October to make a decision, which means it could be a long, hot summer here at the White House." Over on the CBS Evening News, Gloria Borger delivered an ominous prediction: "I'm told by somebody close to this investigation that it's going to be very messy when the truth comes out."

2. Olbermann Compares Rove Case to Watergate and Clintonian Parsing
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday night led by fretting about how with President Bush on the Rove case, "today at a presidential media briefing, to paraphrase the old joke about 'slim and none,' 'ethically' just left town." Olbermann soon made comparisons to Watergate and the Clinton years. He asked Newsweek's Howard Fineman: "Did anybody today, with the President's words, flash back to April 17 of 1973 with Ron Ziegler, who was Richard Nixon's press secretary, getting up famously and saying that Nixon's previous denials that anybody in his administration was involved in Watergate were now, quote, 'inoperative'? Did it have that kind of ring to it today?" And Olbermann wondered if the administration is "worried that it's beginning to look like Bill Clinton and his infamous parsing? In other words, nobody in this administration leaked Valerie Plame's 'name,' we only called her 'Joe Wilson's wife,' that's entirely different."

3. Denouncing Rove's Defense, CNN Staffer Blurts: "That's Bullshit!"
On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on Friday night, anchor Lou Dobbs introduced a story about the details of a leaked account of what White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told the grand jury. Just after Dobbs explained that "President Bush's political adviser may not have been the original source for the Valerie Plame leak," but before the taped story from reporter Dana Bash could begin, a woman -- presumably positioned nearby Dobbs' microphone on CNN's set -- could be heard loudly whispering her own rejoinder: "That's bullshit!" with audio

4. CBS Has Gall to Chastise White House for Going Into "Attack Mode"
CBS's Bob Schieffer, in his commentary at the end of Sunday's Face the Nation, castigated the White House for supposedly doing in the Rove case just what CBS and Dan Rather did last fall when their hit piece on President Bush fell apart, though Schieffer didn't cite the parallel. Schieffer lectured that instead of exposing the wrongdoer on their own, "this White House did what it usually does when challenged: It went into attack mode, called charges that the White House had leaked the name ridiculous, and allowed the controversy to boil until a special prosecutor had to be appointed. Now two years and millions of tax dollars later, the President's trusted friend and strategist Karl Rove has emerged as the top suspect, and we're left to wonder: Can anything said from the White House podium be taken at face value, or does the White House just deny automatically anything that reflects badly on it?"

5. Plame's Boss: "Her Cover Began to Erode" When Dating Joe Wilson
Did Valerie Plame have a cover to blow? Picking up on a Friday Washington Times story which revealed that "a former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an 'undercover agent,' saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee," FNC's Hannity & Colmes brought aboard Fred Rustman, who asserted that "her cover began to erode the moment she started dating Joe Wilson."


Evening Newscasts Continue Rove Focus,
Offer Ominous Predictions

Brian Williams The networks just won't let go of Karl Rove, with the NBC Nightly News leading with the supposed scandal as another week began. On Monday night, anchor Brian Williams hyped "more claims and allegations in the story involving presidential right-hand man Karl Rove." After a piece from David Gregory, Williams noted how "a lot of Democrats don't want this story to go away," a wish the media are carrying out. Andrea Mitchell concluded a second story by warning that "depending on what the grand jury decides could make this spy story more than just the usual Washington scandal." ABC's Jessica Yellin asserted that President Bush "continues to focus on whether a crime was committed, but there are questions about credibility." Yellin concluded with a self-fulfilling forecast: "The grand jury has another three and a half months till the end of October to make a decision, which means it could be a long, hot summer here at the White House." Over on the CBS Evening News, Gloria Borger delivered an ominous prediction: "I'm told by somebody close to this investigation that it's going to be very messy when the truth comes out."

On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, Rosiland Jordan insisted the Rove story was "exploding." She began her July 17 story: "There are more indications tonight the investigation into the leaking of that operative's name is broadening, this as the debate over the political future of chief White House political advisor Karl Rove is exploding. Karl Rove, accused by Democrats of lying about leaking a CIA covert operative's identity."

On Monday's Hardball (without Chris Matthews), MSNBC launched a week-long "special investigation" of the Rove case.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided a full rundown of the Monday night, July 18 broadcast network coverage of Rove.

-- NBC Nightly News led with it, as Brian Williams teased: "The CIA leak: President Bush pressed again today about his advisor, Karl Rove, in the outing of a CIA operative. Is the President raising the bar for dismissal?"

Williams began: "Good evening. This is not what President George W. Bush had in mind for this point in his second term. Over the weekend and again today, more claims and allegations in the story involving presidential right-hand man Karl Rove. While it is still unclear whether a crime has been committed here, the leak investigation is not going away, nor is the pressure on Mr. Rove. And the President was forced to take on this topic again today. We begin here tonight with NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory. David, good evening."

Gregory explained: "Good evening, Brian. The President today sought to reaffirm his pledge to fire anyone involved in blowing Valerie Plame's identity. But with the heat still on his senior advisor Karl Rove, Mr. Bush appeared to raise the bar today for what would trigger a dismissal. With the leak investigation casting a shadow over the President's official agenda, today Mr. Bush said again he would take the special prosecutor's findings seriously."
George W. Bush, at press conference with India's Prime Minister: "I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."
Gregory: "Two years ago, Mr. Bush also said he would dismiss anyone who violated the law, but last summer the President issued a broader pledge to fire anyone who leaked Valerie Plame's name."
Unidentified male reporter, June 10, 2004: "And do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?"
Bush: "Yes."
Gregory: "Democrats argue those past statements are especially important now that it's known Rove was a source for Time's Matt Cooper just three days before Plame's name became public in a newspaper column by Robert Novak."
Tim Russert, Meet the Press: "For the record, the first time you learned that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA was from Karl Rove?"
Matthew Cooper, Time magazine: "That's correct."
Gregory: "Rove and Cooper agree Rove never used Plame's name, nor did he mention she was covert. He also told the grand jury he learned Plame's identity and occupation from a journalist. But in this week's Time, Cooper wrote that he told the grand jury about how his conversation with Rove ended. Quote, 'I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, "I've already said too much."' Cooper, however, wrote he wasn't clear what Rove meant by that. And still unclear tonight, the central question of this criminal investigation: Who was the first source for that original column by Robert Novak, the column that did blow Valerie Plame's identity?"

After a brief discussion with Gregory about the process of picking a Supreme Court nominee, Williams moved on to a second Rove story: "As we mentioned, all of the attention on a White House aide is attention the White House would rather have focused on its agenda. Some of this attention, however, is because of who Karl Rove is. And as NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports tonight, a lot of Democrats don't want this story to go away."

The media are sure fulfilling that desire.

Mitchell began: "Karl Rove at the eye of a summer media storm."
Unidentified female reporter: "Mr. Rove, are you going to resign?"
Mitchell: "Today, on the cover of both Time and Newsweek. Why is Rove such an inviting target? First, he is the mastermind of the President's campaign victories."
George W. Bush: "The architect, Karl Rove."
Mitchell: "Second, Rove is a lightning rod for critics because of his hardball tactics. Marshall Whitman, a former McCain Republican, now a Democrat and an adversary."
Marshall Whitman, former McCain Republican: "No one practices politics as nasty as Karl, no one is as successful as Karl, and no one has as much power as Karl, and that makes him a powerful target for his enemies."
Mitchell: "Third, Rove is now fair game because he now has to answer to this man, Patrick Fitzgerald, the independent counsel investigating who first outed Valerie Plame, the CIA officer married to Joe Wilson. Why was protecting her identity so important?"
Jeffrey Smith, former CIA General Counsel: "The fact that she had been undercover for many years means that all of the operations she worked on over the years, all of the people she dealt with were also at risk if it were to become known that she were a CIA covert agent."
Mitchell: "The law protecting Plame and other operatives was passed in 1982."
Ronald Reagan, at signing: "It's law."
Mitchell raised the most extreme case: "A response to the assassination of CIA station chief Richard Welch in Athens in 1975 shortly after he'd been exposed in a magazine. In her memoir, Barbara Bush railed against the way Welch's cover had been blown. Another reason this investigation has caught fire with Rove's critics, it's another way to reopen the debate about whether the White House hyped intelligence -- like the claims about uranium from Africa -- to justify the war, which depending on what the grand jury decides could make this spy story more than just the usual Washington scandal. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington."


-- ABC's World News Tonight. Charles Gibson announced: "In Washington today, President Bush addressed questions about his senior advisor Karl Rove. Mr. Rove has been under increasing scrutiny since revelations about his role in an ongoing investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA officer. That leak came in connection with an article written by the CIA officer's husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, who had been sent to Africa to investigate claims about Iraq and uranium. Here's ABC's Jessica Yellin."

Yellin: "Today, President Bush pledged to fire any aides who committed a crime in the CIA leak case."
George W. Bush: "I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts. And if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."
Yellin: "The President continues to focus on whether a crime was committed, but there are questions about credibility. For the last two years, the White House has denied there was ever an effort to discredit Ambassador Joe Wilson after he published an article critical of the administration's case for war."
John Roberts, CBS News, at July 23, 2003 press briefing: "Has there ever been an attempt or effort on the part of anyone here at the White House to discredit the reportations or reporting of former Ambassador Joe Wilson?"
Scott McClellan: "That is not the way that this White House operates. That's not the way the President operates."
Yellin: "But it is now clear that from the day Joe Wilson wrote the article, the White House did begin a concerted effort to discredit him and his case. Time magazine's Matt Cooper reveals it was Karl Rove who told him that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. He says Rove ended their phone conversation about Wilson by saying, 'I've already said too much.' Cooper also revealed that the Vice President's chief of staff was his second source on the story. Still, White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied either man ever leaked the identity of a CIA operative to reporters."
McClellan, dated October 7, 2003: "They're important members of our White House team, and that's why I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved."
Yellin: "Cooper says neither Rove nor Libby ever used Valerie Plame's name or indicated she was undercover -- which may give Rove and Libby legal cover, but it does not address the White House's credibility problem."
David Gergen, former presidential advisor: "There is growing political danger here for the White House -- not legal danger, but growing political danger -- that this could damage him in the second term."
Yellin: "And today the special prosecutor who is heading up this investigation refused to comment on the case. The grand jury has another three and a half months till the end of October to make a decision, which means it could be a long, hot summer here at the White House."


-- CBS Evening News. Anchor John Roberts handled the story himself: "President Bush once said that he would fire anyone in his administration involved in leaking the identity of a CIA operative. Then, over the weekend, Matt Cooper of Time magazine revealed he learned the identity of a CIA operative from the President's top political strategist, now Deputy Chief of Staff, Karl Rove. Today, when Mr. Bush was asked about all this, he clarified his position, indicating a leak alone would not be enough to get someone fired."
Terrence Hunt, Associated Press, at press conference with Bush and India's Prime Minister: "Regardless of whether a crime was committed, do you still intend to fire anyone found to be involved in the CIA leak case?"
George W. Bush: "I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."
Roberts: "Let's bring in our national political correspondent Gloria Borger now. And Gloria, President Bush seems to have set the bar in terms of what it will take to fire anyone. A crime must have been committed."
Gloria Borger: "That's right. Today the President made it very clear. You're only going to lose your job if you broke the law. So John, that means if you knowingly leaked the name of a covert CIA operative, you will be fired. It is also against the law, by the way, to leak classified information. But if you're just leaking information to discredit a political enemy, that happens every day in Washington."
Roberts: "So what's the latest on the investigation? We now have this article from Matt Cooper detailing his liaisons with Karl Rove and as well the Vice President's chief of staff. But where else is this thing going now?"
Borger: "Well, it seems as if there was a concerted campaign inside this administration to discredit Joe Wilson. After all, he was the first one seemingly from the inside to come out and say that the administration had exaggerated its evidence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Everybody wanted to disown Joe Wilson. So the CIA wrote a memo saying he's not ours, his wife works for the CIA, excuse me, the State Department wrote that memo. And then, as a result, that got spread all over, and I'm told by somebody close to this investigation that it's going to be very messy when the truth comes out, John."
Roberts: "Another layer of the onion peeled back. Gloria Borger for us tonight in our Washington Bureau. Gloria, thanks."

Olbermann Compares Rove Case to Watergate
and Clintonian Parsing

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Monday night led by fretting about how with President Bush on the Rove case, "today at a presidential media briefing, to paraphrase the old joke about 'slim and none,' 'ethically' just left town." Olbermann soon made comparisons to Watergate and the Clinton years. He asked Newsweek's Howard Fineman: "Did anybody today, with the President's words, flash back to April 17 of 1973 with Ron Ziegler, who was Richard Nixon's press secretary, getting up famously and saying that Nixon's previous denials that anybody in his administration was involved in Watergate were now, quote, 'inoperative'? Did it have that kind of ring to it today?" And Olbermann wondered if the administration is "worried that it's beginning to look like Bill Clinton and his infamous parsing? In other words, nobody in this administration leaked Valerie Plame's 'name,' we only called her 'Joe Wilson's wife,' that's entirely different."

Olbermann teased at the top of the July 18 Countdown, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? It used to be if anybody leaked a CIA agent's identity they would no longer be in his administration. Today, he changed that."
George W. Bush: "If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."
Olbermann: "Howard Fineman on the President's new tact in the Rove case. And Craig Crawford on the Supreme Court. The President reportedly leaning towards a woman. Reportedly speeding up the wheels of nomination, perhaps to knock Karl Rove out of the headlines."
Bush: "Well, thank you for telling me where I am in the process."
Olbermann: "You're welcome."

Olbermann et up his lead: "Good evening. If the Karl Rove case were a football game, you could easily say that this morning the goal posts moved about 100 yards farther away. It's the continuing investigation into whether someone was criminally or ethically responsible for outing a CIA operative who was trying to trace possible contact between people who had weapons of mass destruction and terrorists. Our fifth story on the Countdown, criminally or ethically, used to be the President's threshold for firing anybody in his administration who might have leaked the agent's name, either one. But today at a presidential media briefing, to paraphrase the old joke about 'slim and none,' 'ethically' just left town."
George W. Bush, at press conference with India's Prime Minister: "We have an ongoing investigation here, and it's being played out in the press. And I think it's best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so as well. I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts, but the best way for the facts to be known is by the person investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."
Olbermann: "That would presumably now require an indictment, a trial, and a conviction, and whether or not Karl Rove committed a crime, one of the reporters he spoke to now saying that the first time he'd ever heard Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife work for the CIA, it was from Rove's lips. Matt Cooper's first-person account of that phone call nearly landed him in jail, now part of the public record in this case, now that Cooper has scooped himself in the pages of his employers, Time magazine. Two years and seven days after Mr. Rove rapped that phone call by saying, 'I've already said too much,' that and everything else discussed, information described by Cooper to his editor as 'double super-secret background.' It is secret no more."

Olbermann soon brought aboard, from Washington, DC, Newsweek's Howard Fineman. Olbermann's questions:

"The President's statement today, that was no accident, was it, moving from, as it was put by Scott McClellan on the 29th of September in 2003, if anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration, to what the President said today, if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration?"
Howard Fineman: "Well, you said earlier he moved the goalpost. I think he moved the whole stadium. I mean, he's in a whole other playing field now because he's saying, in essence, that somebody has to prove there was a crime, and I won't act, he said, until that happens. And I think that's because he now realizes, as Matt Cooper reported in Time magazine this week, that Karl Rove did leak. I mean, that is a leak, what Matt described was, you know, the 'A' number one example of somebody in the White House leaking something to a reporter. And that's exactly what Bush had said earlier on, two years earlier, he would bounce somebody for, so they had to come out with another statement, and they did."
Olbermann: "But realistically, the bar was just raised from 'involved in' to 'committed a crime.' But is it practical? I mean, let's say that the special prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, actually gets an indictment against somebody in the administration, whether it's Karl Rove or a fill-in switchboard operator for whatever. Could the President really keep someone under indictment in his administration?"
Fineman: "No. The answer is no, so it's sort of, the notion that a crime means that it has to be convicted by a jury, I don't think that's the case. I think if Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, indicts anybody in the administration, in the White House, that person's going to be on leave, and maybe a permanent leave."
Olbermann: "Did anybody today, with the President's words, flash back to April 17 of 1973 with Ron Ziegler, who was Richard Nixon's press secretary, getting up famously and saying that Nixon's previous denials that anybody in his administration was involved in Watergate were now, quote, 'inoperative'? Did it have that kind of ring to it today?"
Fineman: "Well, Scott McClellan didn't have to use that word, I daresay he'll never use that word. But, in effect, the President took it out of his hands by expanding the scope, as we were discussing previously. The problem that the administration has, one of the problems they have politically '€" leave the law out of this -- is that in the past years, Scott McClellan has gotten up in the White House press room and categorically said, he said, 'Look, I talked to Rove, I talked to these other people, they had nothing to do with it.' Now, you know, either they weren't telling him the full story, which seems obviously to be the case, or he's got his own credibility problem."
Olbermann: "Not everybody will get Rove, Plame, the investigation, the special prosecution, Judith Miller, it's a very complicated story in many respects, but does this conceivably not sort of funnel all of it together in that same way that the Ziegler admission did in 1973, people get when you change your story?"
Fineman: "People get that, but I think that this is actually about something else and something bigger, Keith. I think, in a way, this is Washington's way of rearguing the justification for the war in Iraq, especially as it relates to weapons of mass destruction. Let's not forget the big picture here, which is that part of the argument for going to war against Saddam Hussein was that he was on the verge of being able to acquire nuclear weapons, he had a hunger for them, he may have even been trying to acquire uranium yellow-cake in Niger. That's what Joe Wilson's op-ed page piece in the New York Times tried to knock down, and that's what set Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's office to war against Joe Wilson. Question: Did anybody violate the law in protecting Cheney and going after Wilson and trying to defend the rationale for the war? That's what this is about in addition to the President's credibility, Keith. I think the President's numbers have slowly but surely been declining on his truthfulness, and I think it's because of questions that have been raised over the last year, year and a half, over the original justification of weapons of mass destruction."
Olbermann: "Lastly, to invoke quite a different presidential administration, is this administration worried that it's beginning to look like Bill Clinton and his infamous parsing? In other words, nobody in this administration leaked Valerie Plame's 'name,' we only called her 'Joe Wilson's wife,' that's entirely different."
Fineman: "Yeah, well, George Bush came into office saying, 'When I raise my right hand and swear oath of office, you can be proud of me in the White House, implicitly criticizing Bill Clinton. The other thing here is that Karl Rove's light versus darkness politics, where the details are left out, are ironically being turned back on him right now. Karl Rove is facing the kind of politics that he's used on other people for 20 years."

Denouncing Rove's Defense, CNN Staffer
Blurts: "That's Bullshit!"

On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on Friday night, anchor Lou Dobbs introduced a story about the details of a leaked account of what White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told the grand jury. Just after Dobbs explained that "President Bush's political adviser may not have been the original source for the Valerie Plame leak," but before the taped story from reporter Dana Bash could begin, a woman -- presumably positioned nearby Dobbs' microphone on CNN's set -- could be heard loudly whispering her own rejoinder: "That's bullshit!" Lou Dobbs
Listen to MP3 audio clip
Text of clip + audio archive

[The MRC's Rich Noyes submitted this item to CyberAlert.]

The MRC's Clay Waters alerted us to the embarrassing interjection, which happened about 13 minutes into the July 15 broadcast.

Dobbs began: "Tonight, a surprising new development in the CIA leak investigation. Karl Rove's testimony to a federal grand jury is being reported. The testimony suggests that President Bush's political adviser may not have been the original source for the Valerie Plame leak. Rove testifying that he first learned about Plame from columnist Robert Novak, a CNN contributor. Dana Bash reports."

Then, as the picture switched to footage of Bush and Rove walking together, a female voice (not Dana Bash), could be heard loudly whispering, possibly to Dobbs: "That's bullshit."

Bash's story was then shown, followed by Dobbs reading a short item about Chief Justice Rehnquist's statement that he had no immediate plans to retire.

To hear an mp3 audio clip of the Dobbs set up and whispered remark, as well as for RealPlayer and Windows Media Player video, check the posted version of this item an hour after this CyberAlert was sent, or go to: www.mrc.org

CBS Has Gall to Chastise White House
for Going Into "Attack Mode"

Bob Schieffer CBS's Bob Schieffer, in his commentary at the end of Sunday's Face the Nation, castigated the White House for supposedly doing in the Rove case just what CBS and Dan Rather did last fall when their hit piece on President Bush fell apart, though Schieffer didn't cite the parallel. Schieffer lectured that instead of exposing the wrongdoer on their own, "this White House did what it usually does when challenged: It went into attack mode, called charges that the White House had leaked the name ridiculous, and allowed the controversy to boil until a special prosecutor had to be appointed. Now two years and millions of tax dollars later, the President's trusted friend and strategist Karl Rove has emerged as the top suspect, and we're left to wonder: Can anything said from the White House podium be taken at face value, or does the White House just deny automatically anything that reflects badly on it?"

Schieffer's July 17 Face the Nation commentary:
"Finally, some personal thoughts on today's discussion. Instead of appointing a special prosecutor, what if the President had just called in his top people in the beginning of all this and said, 'Folks, we have a problem here. I need to know who's been talking to Bob Novak and I need to know today by the end of business?' That's what Presidents used to do, and they're usually pretty good at finding out when they really want to know.
"Not many people had the nerve to lie to Lyndon Johnson when he looked them in the eye, and Richard Nixon figured out early on who Deep Throat was, and now we know from Woodward and Bernstein that on that one Nixon was right. Instead, this White House did what it usually does when challenged: It went into attack mode, called charges that the White House had leaked the name ridiculous, and allowed the controversy to boil until a special prosecutor had to be appointed. Now two years and millions of tax dollars later, the President's trusted friend and strategist Karl Rove has emerged as the top suspect, and we're left to wonder: Can anything said from the White House podium be taken at face value, or does the White House just deny automatically anything that reflects badly on it?
"This could and should have been dealt with inside the White House long before it reached the special prosecutor level. Instead, the President's people followed the modern public relations rule, 'Never admit a mistake, just do what is necessary to kill the story before it kills you,' which often works. What they are learning, though, is that when that involves tearing down the character of your critics, it can also be very dangerous business."

Plame's Boss: "Her Cover Began to Erode"
When Dating Joe Wilson

Did Valerie Plame have a cover to blow? Picking up on a Friday Washington Times story which revealed that "a former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an 'undercover agent,' saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee," FNC's Hannity & Colmes brought aboard Fred Rustman, who asserted that "her cover began to erode the moment she started dating Joe Wilson."

The MRC's Megan McCormack tracked down this July 15 exchange between Sean Hannity and Rustman:

Hannity: "Joining us now in a Hannity & Colmes exclusive is Valerie Plame's one time supervisor at Langley, former CIA senior intelligence officer Fred Rustmann...How long have you known her and for how many years were you her supervisor/colleague?"
Rustmann, former CIA senior intelligence officer: "Well, Valerie went through the -- came in as a career trainee into the Agency, and then went through the training program down at the Farm, and I was her first supervisor when she actually had a real job at headquarters, and she worked for me there for about a year. She was super. She was great."
Hannity: "Was she an undercover agent, sir?"
Rustmann: "Well, she came in and she was undercover, yes, as all of the new CTs do when they come into the Agency. And it was probably -- well, it was definitely a -- an official cover status, which she retained, and then worked at headquarters under that official cover status, and then went overseas with that same status."
Hannity: "You were an agent from 1966 to 1990, and you said in the Washington Times today, she made no bones about the fact that she was an Agency employee. Her husband was a diplomat. Quote, 'her friends knew this.' Her friends knew this. They told them. In other words, this was not a secret of anybody that they knew. I mean, actually he describes in his book how after a make out session on like the third or fourth date that she told him. But putting that aside, everybody knew?"
Rustmann: "Well, I don't know that everybody knew. I do know that her cover began to erode the moment she started dating Joe Wilson. The thing that I said was that, you know, when you walk like a duck and quack like a duck and look like a duck, you're probably a duck. And at the point -- at the point in time that this all broke, Valerie Plame had been working at headquarters for a long time, several years. She went to work every day at -- to headquarters. She was married to a high-profile former ambassador. She had a couple kids. She was living around the Beltway. She looked like an overt employee."
Hannity: "Let me ask you, that would be what I would understand. And you even said in this article, you said that she made no bones about the fact that she was an Agency employee. Her neighbors knew his, her friends knew this, his friends knew this, is the quote that you gave them. I want to ask you a two-part question. Number one, did she ever give you any overt political leanings, number one? And why would she be urging others at the Agency, for example, to send her husband, who was clearly opposed to the war that the President was engaged in, to Niger if there wasn't some political motivation?"
Rustmann: "I don't think that there was a political motivation. I think it was more of a family motivation. I think that the decision to send Joe Wilson to Niger was stupid. It shouldn't have been -- that decision shouldn't have been taken. You don't send a diplomat to a sensitive place to obtain sensitive information. You send a spook."

An excerpt from a July 15 story by Washington Times reporters Stephen Dinan and Joseph Curl:

....A former CIA covert agent who supervised Mrs. Plame early in her career yesterday took issue with her identification as an "undercover agent," saying that she worked for more than five years at the agency's headquarters in Langley and that most of her neighbors and friends knew that she was a CIA employee.

"She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee and her husband was a diplomat," Fred Rustmann, a covert agent from 1966 to 1990, told The Washington Times.

"Her neighbors knew this, her friends knew this, his friends knew this. A lot of blame could be put on to central cover staff and the agency because they weren't minding the store here. ... The agency never changed her cover status."

Mr. Rustmann, who spent 20 of his 24 years in the agency under "nonofficial cover" -- also known as a NOC, the same status as the wife of Mr. Wilson -- also said that she worked under extremely light cover.

In addition, Mrs. Plame hadn't been out as an NOC since 1997, when she returned from her last assignment, married Mr. Wilson and had twins, USA Today reported yesterday.

The distinction matters because a law that forbids disclosing the name of undercover CIA operatives applies to agents that had been on overseas assignment "within the last five years."

"She was home for such a long time, she went to work every day at Langley, she was in an analytical type job, she was married to a high-profile diplomat with two kids," Mr. Rustmann said. "Most people who knew Valerie and her husband, I think, would have thought that she was an overt CIA employee."...

END of Excerpt

For the article in full: www.washingtontimes.com

-- Brent Baker