The Third man?

The case of who outed Valerie Plame takes another turn.

Published July 28, 2005 2:19PM (EDT)

According to a report in the New York Times, little attention has been paid thus far to the fact that Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus spoke with a separate administration official -- not Karl Rove or I. Lewis Libby -- the same week in July 2003 in which White House officials were in contact with reporters Robert Novak and Matthew Cooper, doing damage control in order to undermine Joseph C. Wilson's claim that Iraq's attempt to acquire nuclear material from Niger was bogus.

The "administration official" who spoke with Pincus, who has yet to be identified, told him that Wilson's trip to Niger to investigate the nuclear material claim was "a boondoggle arranged by his wife, an analyst with the agency who was working on weapons of mass destruction," according to Pincus' account. Apparently there is strong evidence to suggest that this unknown official is neither Rove nor Libby, the two White House officials that are known to have discussed Wilson's wife with other journalists.

Could this unknown administration official be the same "no partisan gunslinger" that Robert Novak has described as the other source for his column that ultimately outed Wilson's wife as a CIA employee? Pincus' exchange apparently occurred on July 12, 2003, two days before Novak's column was published, referring to her as "an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." And Pincus' source used similar language just days before -- that she was "an analyst" working on weapons of mass destruction.

Now, it has been established that Rove was already one of two sources that spoke to Novak about Wilson's wife, but the Times article notes that, Rove merely "confirmed information that Mr. Novak already had." So who was this other source? Is this the same administration official who spoke to Pincus? Is this person a focus of special prosecutor Fitzgerald's investigation? The Plame plot thickens.

By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

MORE FROM J.J. Helland

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

War Room