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Bob Novak: Lies, Distortions, Half-Truths, and Covering for the Bush Administration

Reported by Janie - July 12, 2006 -

Columnist and Fox News Contributor Bob Novak appeared on "Special Report with Brit Hume" tonight, giving an "exclusive" interview with Hume on his role in the Plame Affair. The interview gave no real new information, but Novack filled the interview with lies, distortions and half-truths while working to cover for the Bush Administration. Novak claimed there was no orchestrated effort by the Administration to out Plame, that Plame was not covert (which has been proven false by the Special Prosecutor), that the information was a "good nugget", and that despite the CIA asking for his cooperation by not adding this information to his article, he chose to do so anyway.

Media Matters currently has an excellent post detailing his distortions, which were also be included in an article published by Novak today, almost three years to the day of Plame's original outing.

Click below to view the interview. For a full-transcript and comments, continue below the video.

BN: It was an interview with a senior administration official who wasn’t an easy guy to get to see. He gave, in person, gave me an interview, nobody else present. It was the kind of interview that you know is not to be attributed to him. We didn’t sit down and sign a contract, but you knew what it was, because he was very candid. We talked about a lot of things including Joe Wilson’s mission to Niger, which he was making a great deal, paying a lot of attention to as the reason why the president misstated the need to go into Iraq. In the course of that interview, he told me that it was initiated, I said ‘why did they send Joe Wilson to Niger, he’s not a CIA, why would the CIA send him there?’ He’s not a CIA agent, he’s not anybody who knows Niger, he served there a long time ago.

He said his wife worked in the office of nuclear proliferation in CIA, and she suggested he go.

BH: And that was it?

BN: That was it. I wrote a column about his mission to Niger, which was not very critical of Wilson, it was more of a reporting column, and I threw that in the middle of it.

BH: Now, when you first heard that did you think some real nugget had just dropped…

BN: Yes, it was a nice nugget. It wasn’t anything to lead the column with, I put it in the middle of the column.

Comment: Bob Novack’s #1 Rule of Journalism: Never lead with treason. Rule #2: Refer to outing a CIA agent working in a critical department as a “nice nugget”.

BH: You’ve suddenly said that that was confirmed to you by Karl Rove.

BN: That’s right.

BH: Did you call Rove?

BN: I called Rove.

BH: And did you call him for the purpose of getting this confirmed, or did this come up in passing?

BN: I called him for several reasons. I wanted to talk to him about the column I was writing about the mission to Niger. This also, almost all my conversations with Rove were not for attribution. And in the course of that, I told him, I asked him about Wilson’s wife at the CIA, working at the CIA and initiating, and he said, I remember the conversation very distinctly, Karl said to me ‘Yes, I know that too.’ And I took that as confirmation.

BH: Yes, I know that too?

BN: Yes

BH: He didn’t say, ‘you know that too’?

BN: No, he said… Yes, he said you know that too. Oh, he said you know that too. That’s what.

Comment: Complete and total leading of the interviewee!!

BH: You took that to mean he talked to other journalists who knew that?

BN: No, no. I took that as a confirmation that she worked at the CIA and initiated it. He said you know that too. Now, as Karl – the reason I’m using Karl’s name, he’s talked through his lawyer about the conversation as he remembered it. He said to me, oh, you heard that too. I very distinctly remember him saying you know that too. There is a difference there.

Comment: Really? You weren’t that certain just 5 seconds ago! Novak can't seem to keep his story straight, which makes it appear that this is an orchestrated story in itself.

BH: You subsequently talked to Bill Harlow at the CIA, Public Information Officer, a lot of us have known Bill for a long time around town. Did you call him to expressly…

BN: I called him, he said I’ll be back to you, and he talked to somebody. I guessed he had talked to the CIA Director, George Tenent. I have no idea if that’s true. He came back to me and told me that yes, she was a, she worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction, and that she, he told me that Mrs. Wilson did not suggest the mission by her husband, but she was asked to get him to do it by other people in the CIA. That’s subsequently was repudiated by a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, there were no Democratic dissenters. Bill Harlow then said to me that although she would never likely have another assignment abroad, he said it might be embarrassing if her CIA connection was written and he asked me not to write it.

BH: Did he say that her status was classified?

BN: No, he did not.

BH: He did not. But he encouraged you not to write it?

BN: He asked me not to write it, a lot of people ask me not to write things, I thought it was a pro forma request. Now he says that he was very strong-armed. I believe he was not...

Comment: This directly contradicts what Harlow himself has said. According to Harlow's account:

"Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission [to Niger] and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified."

So, telling Novak that Plame was covert would have been leaking classified information. Novak did not mention this.

BH: Ok. Let’s go back just a minute to your original source. Everyone in town wants to know who that is. I know you’re not prepared to divulge that. But, what can we know about this person. I assume that what you’ve said from this conversation is that you’re talking to this official, and it was principally about other things, is that a fair statement?

BN: I think the conversation started about other things. About general foreign policy and administration policy. This was just a few days after the Joe Wilson column had appeared, and I started to ask him about the Joe Wilson column, asked him questions about it, which he answered to me on which I assumed was a background basis. And then he volunteered about Mrs. Wilson.

BH: And you have said that you don’t think there was a leak involved. Why do you say that?

BN: I don’t believe it was a conscience effort to manipulate me, as I said in the column that ran today, subsequently to the announcement of the investigation of this, a third party who was close to the source called me up and said that this source believes that he inadvertently gave me information that was classified about Mrs. Wilson. Whether it was inadvertent or not, I don’t believe it was a conscience leak. As I’ve said a couple of times in the column, this is not a political gunslinger. I mean, this official was not known as someone who did a lot of political manipulations, he was more of a [inaudible].

BH: More of a policy person.

BN: Exactly.

BH: Why is Mr. X, your source, still unwilling to become public?

BN: Because he’s never come forward. He’s never said, I think an important factor in this is that there was no one indicted for the violation of the intelligence identity act of uncovering a secret agent. I don’t want to get into that – she wasn’t really a secret agent which is the main reason. But there was no indictment made on that at all. So the Mr. X, the first source, has decided in his own mind that he doesn’t want to reveal himself as the source.

Comment: 1. Fitzgerald most certainly DID determine that she was a covert agent, and said so in his indictment of I. Lewis Libby. 2. How exactly are you going to be able to indict someone if no one is cooperating and lying to the prosecutor, not providing answers? Which is exactly the case, as we can see with Libby.

BH: May we know if this is still someone in the government?

BN: I’m not going to do any further identification on that. Whether he’s in the government or not - at any time, I really do believe that he has to come forward. You say, how can you testify before his name to the Special Prosecutor and the Grand Jury – because they know who he was. They know exactly who he was.

BH: You’re not going to say. And he has not done so. Did you ask him to do so?

BN: I did not ask him to do so.

BH: Now, I wanted to ask you about two other things in particular. One is, so know you’ve got Bill Harlow saying please don’t do this. Give me your reasoning for not. Did you not think that some damage could come from the disclosure of this CIA person’s name?

BN: No, I had no idea that she was a covered person, that she was not just a, she was working as an analyst at the CIA at that time. I had no idea that she was a covered employee, he never said, if he had ever said to me that someone’s life was in danger if you do this, if you got George Tenent to come on the phone with me, I would not have written that. But as a matter of fact her life wasn’t in danger, and he said as very unlikely she will ever go to Europe. That meant to me that she was not any kind of worker as an agent in Europe. So, all he was saying was that it might be embarrassing to her if she went on a vacation with her husband, if she was identified as a CIA person, and that wasn’t a good enough reason for leaving the name out.

Comment: The CIA asked him not to print her name, and that was apparently not a good enough reason for Novak.

BH: An allegation has grown out of this whole episode with the conversations that Karl Rove had with you and some other journalists, with the Scooter Libby role, that all of this was a campaign by the Bush Administration to discredit Joe Wilson after he wrote a column in the New York Times critical of Iraq suggesting the administration had mislead about evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program. You were the person who was at the point on all this, what is your view of whether there was a campaign to discredit Wilson?

BN: I saw no such campaign. Nobody in the administration ever said anything critical of Wilson to me, and my column was not critical of Wilson. As I say, this information came out to me in the course of an interview by a person who was not in the business of playing political dirty tricks. I initiated the call to Karl Rove and talked about Joe Wilson’s wife for about maybe 20 seconds in the course of the conversation, which I took as confirmation.

BH: So you didn’t call him about that specific thing, you called him about something else?

BN: I called him about the mission to Niger, but in the course of asking about the mission to Niger, I said I understand that his wife works at the CIA and she initiated the mission.

BH: And he said you know that too.

BN: You know that too.

BH: And he recalls that somewhat differently. Did he belittle Wilson and his allegations?

BN: At no time. We were talking about the specifics. I feel constrained to not say exactly because it could come up in the conversation I had with Mr. X and Karl Rove about some of the details about the mission to Niger which I put into the column, because I believe it was given to me on a background basis.

BH: Let me ask you a question others are sure to want to know the answer to. Why did you consider this to be newsworthy. What was the story here that made Joe Wilson’s wife’s job relevant.

BN: The column was about the mission, what he found, some of the things in the column were contrary to what Mr. Wilson said. For example, that this was specifically asked for by Vice President Cheney, that there was never any report written about it, that it was not a conclusive report, and in the course of that I wondered, and that’s why I asked my original source, I asked him why in the world did they send Joe Wilson on this, why wouldn’t it be somebody that was not a CIA person, that was not familiar with this situation, and I said to him I thought it was interesting that his wife suggested it. It was a throw away line in the middle of a column.

BH: Of course it turned out to be, when the Senate Intelligence committee investigated, it did turn our to be an important reason why he was sent.

BN: Absolutely. They have a document that they put in the committee report that’s gotten very little attention. I wrote about it later. That she suggested it at the CIA, that her husband was well-plugged in, and he accepted it. I still think it was an extraordinary decision to be made, but that’s the decision that was made.