By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Miller, Libby and George Tenet

Today’s Washington Post account of Judith Miller’s and Scooter Libby’s testimony before the grand jury would appear to undercut the Arianna Huffington theory – that is, that Miller was actually Libby’s source in the Valerie Plame matter.

POST: Sources familiar with Miller’s testimony say her account of two discussions with Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, that July are similar to the account Libby reportedly gave the grand jury last year. Both said they spoke about Plame’s husband, administration critic and former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, on July 8 and again on July 12 or 13. On at least one of those occasions, Libby told Miller that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA, the sources said….

According to a source familiar with Libby’s account of his July 2003 conversations with Miller, the two first met for breakfast on July 8, when Miller interviewed Libby about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions that Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in Niger. Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to learn more about Wilson’s trip and how he was selected.

Libby had a second conversation with Miller, a telephone call on July 12 or July 13, the source said. In it, Libby said he had learned that Wilson’s wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame’s name or that she was a covert operative, the source said.

Following Miller’s testimony yesterday, Huffington called on Miller and the Times to go public with everything they know, which strikes me as an eminently reasonable request. In fact, the tone of this Adam Liptak article in today’s Times sounds like there are at least some folks at the Mothership who’d love nothing better than to get this all out in the open.

The most worthwhile speculation online right now is contained on David Corn’s blog. Corn, who covers Washington for the Nation, was almost alone in dogging this story more than two years ago. He writes:

CORN: [Y]ou don’t have to look too far between the lines to discern Libby’s cover story. It goes something like this: Wilson wrote his Times article. All hell broke loose. The White House asked, “Who authorized this trip?” Someone called the CIA for information. The CIA reported back that Wilson was contacted by the counter-proliferation office, where his wife Valerie was working. But – and here’s the crucial “but” – the CIA did not tell the White House that Valerie was undercover. Thus, if any White House officials – say, Rove or Libby – repeated this information to reporters, then they may have been engaged in leaking classified and sensitive information to discredit a critic but they were not committing a crime. And who was at fault? George Tenet, the CIA director at the time.

How convenient. Tenet has already taken the fall for Bush’s decision to launch the war in Iraq. He reportedly told Bush that the WMD case was a “slam-dunk.” And subsequent investigations – from the Republican-controlled Senate intelligence committee and an independent commission that only looked at the intelligence community, not the White House – have excoriated Tenet’s CIA for botching the WMD job. (Still, Bush saw fit to give Tenet a nice medal.)

Tenet is finished in Washington. (Paul Wolfowitz got a medal and was given the top job at the World Bank.) Is Libby looking to point to the dead body in the room and say, “It was him!”? If Libby or any other top White House aide wanted to know what had happened at the CIA regarding Wilson’s trip to Niger, what would he or she have done? The obvious answer is that he or she would have called Tenet and demanded answers. And if Tenet – when he or an aide reported back – did not tell the White House Valerie Wilson was undercover, that would not be the White House’s fault, right? In this scenario, the CIA outed Valerie Wilson.

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  1. Rick in Duxbury

    Eminently plausible but I suspect it won’t lower the level of political rhetoric. This long ago ceased being about the truth…

  2. Anonymous

    Gee I wonder if Joe Wilson is a partisan in this tedious game? Ask his editor.

  3. Anonymous

    CornBlog? Must be time for the Topsfield Fair1

  4. Anonymous

    Dan, the only problem I have with this analysis is, just because they didn’t know Plame was covert, shouldn’t they have asked? Are people in high positions like Rove and Libby really free to go telling reporters that someone works for the CIA without first checking to make sure they’re not outing a covert operative? The CIA and the White House have written protocols on everything else – I bet there’s a policy on this as well.

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