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Robert Novak Waffles On CIA Objections To Outing Valerie Plame

Reported by Ellen - July 13, 2006 -

Columnist Robert Novak, the man who outed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent, appeared on Hannity & Colmes last night (7/12/06) to discuss his “tell all” column that actually told very little about the Plame incident. Novak was evasive about CIA efforts to stop him from publishing her name and gave vague answers indicating he had arrogantly concluded she wasn’t covert enough and the CIA didn’t object enough to warrant refraining from revealing her identity.

In the bizarro world of FOX News, Novak is the victim in the Plame outing. During a previous discussion with Sean Hannity on Hannity & Colmes, Novak said that his only regret in revealing Plame’s identity was the difficulties it had caused HIM. Hannity must have been sympathetic. At the beginning of last night’s double interview he offered his condolences. "This has been, I'm sure, a very difficult time."

In fact, Novak is not just a victim but something of a hero to Hannity. “I admire the fact that you repeatedly had this concern about protecting the First Amendment and your right as a journalist to keep confidential sources here." Comment: Sure he does, so long as those protected sources also protect the Bush administration.

Novak said that one of his confirming sources was Bill Harlow of the CIA. According to Novak, Harlow was too low key to convince Novak not to publish Plame's identiy. "My conception is that Mr. Harlow was a very low key in urging me not to write the story, never said that there was any kind of danger involved, never said anything that led me to believe that this was a strongly held matter at the CIA.” According to a FOXNews.com article about Novak yesterday, Harlow has not commented on Novak’s column “but a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that Harlow repeatedly tried to talk Novak out of running the information about Plame and that Harlow's efforts did not in any way constitute confirming Plame's CIA identity.”

Funny how Hannity who can’t stop foaming at the mouth about how the New York Times should have acceded to the government’s request not to print a story had no problem with Novak doing the same thing.

Alan Colmes questioned Novak further about the efforts of the CIA to stop him from publicizing Plame’s identity. "You said that Bill Harlow asked you not to go with this. Are there others who urged you 'don't go with this story, don't print it, don't use the name, don't talk about Valerie Plame.' Why didn't you listen to them, if that's the case?"

Interestingly, Novak never said that nobody else asked him not to print the story. He said, “Alan, if I adhered to, if I bowed to somebody who asked me not to write stories all the time who are in government, about half the columns I write would not be written or a great number would not be written. If he had said to me at any time that she was, her life was in danger, she was involved in undercover activities, I would not have written it. He never said that to me. Never made any such statement." In other words, Novak was saying the CIA doth protest too little.

Colmes also asked Novak about the inconsistency in his story in how he found out Valerie Plame's name. Novak has said he learned it originally by reading a Who's Who. Yet, Colmes said, Novak was also quoted in Newsday as saying "I didn't dig it out. It was given to me, meaning her name. They thought it was significant. They gave me the name and I used it."

Novak called that "a misstatement" and he assured Colmes that none of the sources mentioned Plame's name. "I got it from Who's Who," Novak said.

After the break, Colmes asked if it was true, as has been reported by Murray Waas in The National Journal, that Karl Rove, had testified before the grand jury that Novak had assured Rove he would not get burned by the investigation into the outing of Plame. Novak answered, "That was not said. That's a total lie. It was reported by one reporter in one not very widely read publication and it was not picked up in the general press and the idea that there was any such under-the-table arrangement between me and Rove of course would have created a lot of trouble with the Special Prosecutor and there was never any action taken by him on that score." Comment: While Novak seemed to be calling Waas a liar, Waas’ article is really about what Rove testified to, not what Novak actually said. Did Novak have access to Rove’s testimony? Or was he really saying Rove lied and attacking Waas as a feint? Unfortunately, Colmes didn’t probe that point.

Instead Colmes asked, "You're saying Newsday was wrong and this reporter, Murray Waas, National Journal, was wrong and these people have purposely misrepresented you?"

Novak answered, “I never give motives but I know that the Waas piece in the National Journal which, interestingly, was not picked up by anybody, was totally wrong and a total lie.”

On the topic of the administration’s reasons for revealing Plame’s name, Colmes asked, “You say that the administration never specifically badmouthed Joe Wilson… Do you have any doubt, though, that there was an attempt to get some kind of retribution against Wilson because of the op-ed piece that he wrote and his speeches and statements against the administration's policies?"

Not surprisingly, Novak didn’t think so. “I have no indications that there was any such retribution… The special prosecutor has never found any such plot involved and I have no reason to believe there was such a plot.”

After saying Patrick Fitzgerald was "a straight arrow," Novak added, "He knew the identity of my source for almost the whole two and a half years of this investigation. He knew the identity of my sources, nobody was indicted. That indicates to me he didn't feel any law was broken and the Foreign Agents Identity Act was not broken, the Intelligence Agents Identity Act was not violated."

Hannity tried to spin that into a smear of Joseph Wilson. "We had Victoria Toensing on this program. I had her on my radio show. She helped author this law. And she was saying this from the very beginning and very forcefully that she was never a covert agent, never met that standard. There was no outing of anybody here which I guess then raises the question about your thoughts at this time about Joe Wilson."

Novak said "I'm not interested in attacking Joe Wilson… but I really believe he has put out a tremendous amount of misinformation and I think he has presently and for some time been ignored which I think has been the harshest thing you can do to him."