Is Rove a "subject" and other big questions

How -- and why -- did Karl Rove know where Joseph Wilson's wife worked? Which is another way to ask, how far does this thing go?

Published July 12, 2005 10:15PM (EDT)

Although we know a lot about Karl Rove's role in the outing of Valerie Plame, there's still plenty that we dont know. Here's the question at the top of our list at the moment: How -- and why -- did Karl Rove know that Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?

We presume that Rove has the sort of security clearance that would allow him to know such a thing. But why did he know it? Do people who work at the White House just know, in some generalized way, who among is a CIA employee and who isn't? Or did someone tell Rove that Valerie Plame -- OK, "Joseph Wilson's wife" -- worked for the CIA and had something to do with sending Wilson to Niger? If so, who? And if so, why?

In an interview just posted at the National Review Online, Byron York put that question to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin. He wouldn't answer it. Instead, while Scott McClellan insists that the White House decided two years ago that it wouldn't be commenting further on the Plame case, the lawyer for the president's deputy chief of staff spent his time with York spinning the case around so that Time's Matthew Cooper is to blame for "burning" Rove in the first place.

That sort of blame-the-messenger approach is to be expected from the administration and its supporters; indeed, as Raw Story notes today, the RNC is out with a new set of talking points that fires away all over again at Joseph Wilson himself. But there are some nuggets of more surprising news in York's interview with Luskin. Among them is what seems to be a concession from Luskin that, while Rove isn't a "target" of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, he is a "subject," the next level down in terms of prosecutorial interest.

We can only wonder who else might be a subject or a target of Fitzgerald's investigaton, and we're guessing that the list, if there is one, includes whoever it is that told Rove the name of the place where Joseph Wilson's wife worked. One might imagine a meeting in the White House -- say, a meeting with Rove and Dick Cheney and a few of their closest friends -- in which the agenda included the troublesome allegations made by Joseph Wilson and the ways in which those allegations might be discredited. One might wonder, while one is wondering, why George W. Bush started consulting with a private attorney in the Plame case at just about the same moment that George Tenet resigned as the head of the CIA. It is speculation, pure and simple, but when questions aren't being answered, it's hard to resist the temptation to fill in the blanks yourself.

It has been a long day in Plameville, and we end it -- for now -- at the same place we began: With the words of a senior congressional Republican aide who told the New York Times yesterday that most members of Congress are waiting to learn more abou the case before they make any public statements: "The only fear here is where does this go," the aide told the Times. "We can't know."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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