Saturday, June 2, 2018

the last book I ever read (A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey, excerpt five)

from A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey:

One of the first cases that I stepped into in my new role at the Justice Department was another case about lying in the justice system. In June 2003, a couple of months after the invasion of Iraq, an article by reporter Robert Novak had revealed the name of a covert CIA employee. The revelation had come days after the CIA employee’s husband had written a newspaper opinion piece attacking one of the Bush administration’s main rationales for the war in Iraq, namely that Saddam Hussein was trying to acuire nuclear material. Speculation was rampant that members of the Bush administration had illegally disclosed the name of this CIA employee to Novak in retaliation for the negative article.

Novak attributed his reporting to two Bush administration sources. As the scandal widened, it soon became apparent that at least three, and as many as six, Bush officials had spoken to reporters about the covert CIA employee. Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state, was one official who freely admitted mentioning the CIA employee’s name to Novak. In fact, he had called the Justice Department shortly after the investigation began. He explained that he hadn’t intended to reveal classified information; he had just been gossiping with Novak and didn’t realize what he had done. The identity of Novak’s second source was President Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove. Rove had had a conversation with Novak, in which Novak mentioned that the author of the critical opinion piece on Iraq was married to a CIA employee. Rove said something like, “Oh, you heard that, too.” Although it doesn’t seem like great journalistic craft, Novak took this as a confirmation of what he had learned from Armitage.

But there was also evidence that a third official, the vice president’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, spoke to numerous reporters about the CIA employee. By the time I became deputy attorney general, Libby had been interviewed by the FBI and admitted doing so, but said he only knew about the CIA employee from a reporter. Like Armitage, Libby maintained he was just passing gossip, not proactively disseminating the name of a covert agent. Unfortunately for Libby, the reporter Libby named, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, had been interviewed by the FBI and said that Libby was lying. Russert hadn’t passed along the covert agent’s name to Libby. Three years later, a jury would conclude the same thing: Libby lied to the FBI.

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