On April 30, 2008 -- ten days after David Barstow's "military analyst" story was first published in the New York Times -- The Raw Story's Eric Brewer, at the daily White House briefing with Dana Perino, became the first reporter to ask the White House about it and, specifically, whether White House officials had any involvement with, or were aware of, the DoD's program. [After Brewer aggressively challenged Perino in mid-March regarding a particularly absurd claim the President had made about Al Qaeda's taking over the Iraqi oil industry if the U.S. withdraws, Perino blacklisted Brewer, refusing to call on him for questions, literally ignoring him while he had his hand raised. She allowed him to ask a question on April 30 only because radio talk show host and briefing room regular Les Kinsolving badgered her into doing so ("How about this gentleman's question? He's had his hand up all this time")].
In reply to Brewer's question -- "did the White House know about and approve of this operation?" -- Perino gave an utterly non-responsive and rather incoherent answer, during which she said that she "do[esn't] think that that should be against the law" (that, of course, is the Bush standard of Justice: anything is permissible, even if it's illegal, if the President thinks it "shouldn't be against the law"). She did not, however, indicate if the White House knew -- which was Brewer's question.
Although the official White House transcript doesn't reflect this, after Perino gave her non-responsive reply, Brewer -- as Perino began to walk out -- again asked: "Did the White House know about the operation?" The transcript and video compiled by ThinkProgress reflects that Brewer asked this question a second time.
What the Think Progress transcript does not reflect, but which the video they posted does, is that, as Perino was walking out, she replied after Brewer asked the question the second time ("Did the White House know about the operation?") by saying: "I just said: no." That is audible on the video. Independently, a reporter who was present for that day's briefing told me on the day that it happened -- before the transcript or video were available -- that this is what Perino said as she was walking out.
Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever followed up on Brewer's question about what the White House knew concerning the military analyst program and whether they were involved. But there is an email in the DoD's released documents which at least raises a question about that matter and ought to be pursued.
In May, 2006, the Pentagon officials who oversaw the military analyst program were planning yet another Pentagon-sponsored trip for their message-multiplying retired Generals to visit Iraq and Afghanistan (for two days each). Pentagon official Allison Barber circulated a Memorandum which she proposed be sent to Dorrance Smith, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, describing the trip's details (6138 (.pdf)). The first line:
A reply to Barber's proposed Memorandum, with suggested revisions, came the same day from Pentagon official Dallas Lawrence (6137), warning that Afghanistan should be left out of the proposal because it may not happen, and by leaving it out of the proposal, "we (you) wont (sic) find yourself having to explain why it didn't happen after he briefed it to karl (sic) at the weekly meeting":
I have no idea whether the "Karl" with whom they had weekly briefings and were planning to brief on the military analyst Iraq trip is Karl Rove. I asked Larry Di Rita by email about this exchange and specifically whether Rove was ever briefed on the program, and he has not replied.
In the documents I reviewed, I haven't seen any other "Karl" referenced who works at the DoD. These are fairly high-ranking DoD officials and there aren't many people they're worried about having to explain themselves to (Smith's position as Assistant Defense Secretary was one requiring Senate confirmation and he reported to Rumsfeld). Given the significant possibility that this program was illegal, and given Perino's denial of the White House's knowledge of it, this question -- whether the "karl" being briefed on the program was Karl Rove -- certainly seems to be one that should be asked.
UPDATE: I think it's fair to call this "confirmation" that Rove was involved in the military analysts program. First, a March 16, 2006 email from Dallas Lawrence (6548), referencing a briefing of military analysts -- which, he wrote, was "a closed call opened only to our retired military analysts" in order "to get them on message heading into the weekend on Iraqi troop strength, advances, etc.":
After Lawrence received an email from an unnamed DoD official indicating he couldn't make the call because he'd be at a Stephen Hadley speech (and that he was "hoping to have Hadley brief these guys next week"), Lawrence wrote:
<BRSo in the process of discussing how to keep "their" TV military analysts "on message" regarding claims about the Iraq war, they talked about efforts to have both Stephen Hadely and Bush himself speak with the analysts -- proposals that had been discussed with "karl" (which, clearly, in this case, means Rove). That means Perino's denial was false and that the White House had at least some knowledge of and involvement in this propaganda program.
And note the glaring contrast between Larry Di Rita's blatantly false claims about this program from yesterday and the way they actually discussed the purpose of the program at the time when they thought nobody was listening (keeping their analysts "on message").
Also, Di Rita has now purported to answer my inquiry about Rove's knowledge/involvement. Here is the email I sent to him:
A May 23, 2006 DoD email regarding the military analyst program references "briefing it to karl (sic) at the weekly meeting" (attached). Does that refer to Karl Rove? Were there weekly meetings with Rove in which your military analyst program was discussed?
Here is his reply:
I left govt about that time, and I did not have principal responsibility for dod public affairs after roughly feb/mar of 2006.
Note that Di Rita simply doesn't say whether Rove was aware of and briefed on the program. But I think we know the answer now.