The mysterious stranger in the Plame case

Prosecutors' investigation into the CIA leak casts a wide net, including another veiled source.

Published July 27, 2005 1:12PM (EDT)

Who exposed Valerie Plame? That isn't the only question federal prosecutors are trying to answer in their CIA leak probe. The investigation goes well beyond even Karl Rove, according to today's Washington Post.

In the past 18 months, federal prosecutors have not only been trying to determine who leaked the now famous CIA agent's name, but also "whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war." In other words: Did the damage control, which eventually took down whistle-blower Joseph Wilson's wife's CIA cover, break any laws?

To answer that, prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet, deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials and "even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street." At issue: How did the White House shift blame to the CIA for the 16 words that were inserted in the president's State of the Union in 2003 that had to do with Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Africa? It's still unknown if the prosecutors have uncovered any wrongdoing in their probe, which apparently reaches far beyond uncovering who told syndicated columnist Novak that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Among those questioned in the probe was a mystery figure, whom Wilson refused to identify, even by gender, to the Washington Post: "In a strange twist in the investigation, the grand jury -- acting on a tip from Wilson -- has questioned a person who approached Novak on Pennsylvania Avenue on July 8, 2003, six days before his column appeared in The Post and other publications, Wilson said in an interview. The person, whom Wilson declined to identify to The Post, asked Novak about the 'yellow cake' uranium matter and then about Wilson, Wilson said. He first revealed that conversation in a book he wrote last year. In the book, he said that he tried to reach Novak on July 8, and that they finally connected on July 10. In that conversation, Wilson said that he did not confirm his wife worked for the CIA but that Novak told him he had obtained the information from a 'CIA source.'

"Novak told the person that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA as a specialist in weapons of mass destruction and had arranged her husband's trip to Niger, Wilson said. Unknown to Novak, the person was a friend of Wilson and reported the conversation to him, Wilson said."

Let the guessing games begin.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Katharine Mieszkowski

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room