hack CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen is at it again, resharpening his knives for former Bush adviser Karl Rove. In a February 26 Couric & Co. blog post at CBSNews.com, Cohen pointed back to Sunday's "60 Minutes" story alleging malfeasance on Rove's part in urging the federal prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D).
Yet for a man trained in the law and supposedly concerned with the discovery of truth in open court, Cohen erroneously smeared Rove with responsibility for the Valerie Plame leak:
Former White House advisor Karl Rove has made a career out of “smearing” his political opponents. Just ask Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame. Indeed, a litany of Rove’s targets would fill up the rest of the column. So why is this smear different from all other smears?
Cohen is either lying or a year and a half behind the curve. From CNN.com, August 30, 2006 (emphases mine):
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the source who revealed the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to syndicated columnist Robert Novak in 2003, touching off a federal investigation, two sources familiar with Armitage's role tell CNN.
The sources said Armitage revealed Plame's role at the CIA almost inadvertently in a casual conversation with Novak, and it is not clear if he knew her identity was classified at the time.
Armitage was not indicted by the federal grand jury that investigated the disclosure of Plame's name to Novak and other journalists. Deliberately revealing the identify of a CIA operative can be a crime.
The revelation that Armitage was the source of Novak's column is somewhat anticlimactic for Bush administration critics who had used the story as a weapon in Washington's partisan battles.
What's more, in a September 2006 CBS interview with Cohen colleague David Martin, Armitage took responsibility for the leak:
(CBS) In an exclusive interview with CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, Richard Armitage, once the No. 2 diplomat at the State Department, couldn't be any blunter.
"Oh I feel terrible. Every day, I think I let down the president. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family and I also let down Mr. and Mrs. Wilson," he says.
When asked if he feels he owes the Wilsons an apology, he says, "I think I've just done it."
In July 2003, Armitage told columnist Robert Novak that Ambassador Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, and Novak mentioned it in a column. It's a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover CIA officer. But Armitage didn't yet realize what he had done.
So, what exactly did he tell Novak?
"At the end of a wide-ranging interview he asked me, 'Why did the CIA send Ambassador (Wilson) to Africa?' I said I didn't know, but that she worked out at the agency," Armitage says.
Armitage says he told Novak because it was "just an offhand question." "I didn't put any big import on it and I just answered and it was the last question we had," he says.
Armitage adds that while the document was classified, "it doesn't mean that every sentence in the document is classified.
As to the substance of Cohen's recent blog post, the lawyer pointed to the Feb. 24 "60 Minutes" as potentially damning proof of a potentially criminal dirty tricks campaign by Rove against Siegelman. But as NewsBusters Editor Brent Baker wrote Monday evening, at least one of the more outrageous charges contained in Scott Pelley's story have come under scrutiny (emphasis mine):
FNC’s Brit Hume, in his Monday “Grapevine” segment, undermined CBS’s Sunday night 60 Minutes scoop about Karl Rove’s smear efforts to destroy former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat now in federal prison for bribery, “some say, only because of his politics,” CBS’s Scott Pelley framed his story. Hume relayed how “Rove says he does not recall ever meeting the woman who is accusing him of asking her to help dig up dirt on” Siegelman “and he say he was never given a chance to respond to the charges she made Sunday on 60 Minutes.”
Specifically, Jill Simpson “said Rove asked her to get pictures of Siegelman in a compromising sexual position with an aide” but, Hume pointed out, “the Associated Press reports Simpson has never made that allegation before -- despite several hours of interviews with congressional lawyers, reporters and a sworn affidavit.” As for CBS’s claim they had “contacted Rove” for a response, Hume noted:
But Rove and his lawyer, attorney Robert Luskin, say CBS brought up the allegations only in an off-the-record telephone interview last October. Luskin says, quote: "After 60 Minutes made the decision to publicize these charges, no one from 60 Minutes approached Mr. Rove or gave him an opportunity to respond on the record," end quote.