The stories about Karl Rove's story have never quite added up. A new report from Time magazine makes the math a little more complicated.
In the GOP talking points version of the Valerie Plame story, Rove plays the leakee, not the leaker. Rove didn't leak Plame's identity to a reporter, the story goes; a reporter leaked it to him. But as we've noted before, the varying accounts of Rove's conversations with federal investigators leave this tale in a state that's not exactly airtight. One report has Rove telling investigators unequivocally that he heard about Joseph Wilson's wife's job from a reporter. Another has Rove saying that he "learned about the CIA officer either from the media or from someone in government who said the information came from a journalist." And the Washington Post has had it both ways. The Post has said that its source says that Rove told investigators that he heard about Plame from a reporter. But the Post has also said that the same source says that Rove lacks a "clear recollection" of where he heard about Plame's job, but that "he believes he may have heard it from a journalist."
The new report from Time muddies the waters further -- and goes a long way toward undercutting the whole "I heard it from a reporter" theory altogether. As Time reports, the word about Plame's job was circulating within the upper echelons of the Bush administration nearly a month before Wilson's July 6, 2003, New York Times Op-Ed piqued the curiosity of Matthew Cooper or Robert Novak.
According to the Time report, the CIA began to look into Joseph Wilson's Niger trip during the first week of June 2003, when the agency's public affairs office received an inquiry from the Post's Walter Pincus. The public affairs office followed up with Plame's unit at the CIA. At about the same time, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman asked for and received a memo on the Wilson trip -- a memo that referred to the fact that Plame worked for the CIA. A reworked version of that memo was floating around Air Force One on July 7, 2003, but Time says that Colin Powell first received the memo and read it in mid-June.
A former intelligence officer tells Time that after Pincus wrote about the Niger investigation on June 12, more senior administration officials learned of Plame's job at the CIA. Was Rove one of those administration officials? We don't know yet. But if a whole slew of senior administration officials knew about Plame's job before Wilson's Op-Ed even appeared, doesn't it seem just a little implausible that someone as in the loop as Karl Rove had to hear it first from a lowly reporter?