If Hollywood producers ever decide to make a TV show about the Valerie Plame case, perhaps they ought to call it "Journalists Behaving Badly."
First came Judith Miller, the self-proclaimed "Miss Run Amok," who seems to have told her editors at the New York Times less than the full truth about her contacts with Scooter Libby and kept "drifting back" to covering the national security beat even after they had told her to stop. Then came Bob Woodward, who felt free to pontificate about the Plame case in public without bothering to tell his editors at the Washington Post that he may have been the recipient of the very first leak. And now comes Viveca Novak, who somehow decided that she needed to hire a lawyer -- but didn't need to tell her editors at Time -- when special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said he wanted to interview her about her discussions with Karl Rove's lawyer.
Novak's story of her role in the Plame case is up at Time's site now, and it is a thing to behold. Novak says Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, is a source with whom she has become "friendly," a man she'd meet occasionally -- which seems to mean once every month or so -- at a bar on her way home from work. It was during one of those meetings -- Novak can't remember which -- when Luskin told Novak that Rove hadn't been a source on Plame for Novak's Time colleague Matthew Cooper. The way Novak explains it, she figured her friend was lying to her, and she "instinctively" responded, "Are you sure about that? That's not what I hear around Time."
Luskin seemed genuinely surprised, Novak writes, and he told her that what she had said was "important." Did Novak alert her editors to a) the fact that she had spilled the beans on a secret that Time and Cooper would eventually go to the Supreme Court to protect, or b) the fact that Rove's lawyer seemed not to know that his client had leaked to Cooper? Nope. "If I could have a do-over, I would have kept my mouth shut," she writes. "Since I didn't, I wish I had told my bureau chief about the exchange."
Instead, Novak continued to report on the Plame case for Time. She didn't tell her editors when Luskin told her that he'd told Fitzgerald about their conversation and that the prosecutor might want to interview her. She didn't tell her editors when she hired white-collar criminal defense attorney Hank Schuelke. She didn't tell her editors when Fitzgerald sat her down for a two-hour interview on Nov. 10. "Unrealistically," she says, "I hoped this would turn out to be an insignificant twist in the investigation and also figured that if people at Time knew about it, it would be difficult to contain the information, and reporters would pounce on it -- as I would have."
Apparently concerned that her colleagues would have the same loose-lips problem she apparently had, Novak kept her secret to herself and continued to report on the Plame case while -- unbeknownst to her editors -- playing an increasingly important role in it. And "ironically," she says, she was writing about Woodward's role in the case when her lawyer called to say that Fitzgerald wanted to depose her under oath. That was on Nov. 18. On Nov. 20, she drove to the home of Time Washington bureau chief Jay Carney and told him what had happened. Carney called Time managing editor Jim Kelly. "Nobody was happy about it, least of all me," Novak says.
Well, maybe not least of all her. Novak is on a leave of absence now, and Kelly has made his displeasure known in an interview with the New York Times. Noting that Novak's first-person account is "full of regret about what happened," Kelly says: "I'm taking this seriously. I'm upset and she's upset."