Dwight Meredith, alas, is no longer writing P.L.A. But he hasn’t stopped writing, or thinking hard. The following is quoted with his permission from an email. As usual, it’s acute.
Who burned Valerie Plame? Novak sourced the information to “senior administration officials.” The Post quotes a senior administration official as saying that two “top White House officials” spoke to six journalists and provided the information that Plame was a CIA operative.
Can we narrow the list of possible suspects?
The number of people who are 1) at the White House (as opposed to the CIA or some other agency) and who qualify as both “top” and “senior” and who have security clearance needed to know the identity of covert CIA operatives is quite small. [*]
Tapped tells us that “senior administration official” means:
“The vice-president, the cabinet secretaries, those with cabinet-rank, the chief of staff, maybe the deputy chief of staff, and a couple of other really senior advisors.”
The cabinet officials and all people working at the various agencies can be eliminated as the Post source makes clear that the leakers worked at the White House.
Who at the White House is both “senior” and “top”? If we assume that “top” eliminates all “deputies” and people who are assistants to people other than the President, then the list can be further narrowed.
A list of White House personnel is here.
The folks on the list that I think could qualify as both “senior” and “top” are the following:
George W. Bush — President
Dick Cheney — Vice President
Karl Rove — Senior Advisor to the President
Condi Rice — Assistant to the President for National Security
Andy Card — White House Chief of Staff
Ari Fleischer — Press Secretary
John Walters — Drug Czar
Josh Bolten — Director of OMB
Michael Gerson — Assistant to the President for Speech Writing and Policy Advisor
Albert Gonzales — White House Counsel
Dan Bartlett — Assistant to the President for Communications
Greg Mankiw — CEA
Stephen Friedman — Director NEC
John Gordon — Assistant to the President and Homeland Security Advisor
Scooter Libby — Vice President’s Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President
Ari Fleischer is on the list as press secretary even though he has now departed the White House. The Novak column at Town Hall is dated July 14, 2003. In a strange coincidence, July 14 was also Fleischer’s last day at the White House. If the Press Secretary was involved, it was Ari.
Let’s see if the list can be further narrowed.
The Post source implies that President Bush did not know so he comes off the list. Walters, Bolten, Mankiw, and Friedman probably do not have the security clearances needed to know the identity of covert CIA operatives so they get eliminated from the list.
I can not believe that the White House Counsel would be stupid enough to commit six felonies, so eliminate Gonzales.
I also can not see the leak coming from the Speech Writing office (maybe I am naive). It is not at all clear to me that Gerson would have security clearance needed to know the identity of covert CIA operatives. Let’s eliminate Gerson.
That leaves eight candidates:
1) Dick Cheney — Vice President
2) Karl Rove — Senior Advisor to the President
3) Condi Rice — Assistant to the President for National Security
4) Andy Card — White House Chief of Staff
5) Ari Fleisher — Press Secretary
6) Dan Bartlett — Assistant to the President for Communications
7) John Gordon — Assistant to the President and Homeland Security Advisor
8) Scooter Libby — Vice President’s Chief of Staff
I am not sure I would consider Libby and/or Gordon to be “top” and “senior” but maybe they are.
If any of the first 5 (Cheney, Rove, Rice, Card or Fleischer) is involved, it is a major scandal.
If random chance determined which two of the eight were involved (and it clearly does not) , there would be over an 89% chance that it would include at least one of the Big 5.
The identity of the six journalists may soon be known. We know from the efforts to smear Wes Clark that phone records are kept at least for incoming calls to the White House. It does not seem hard to match those calls up with the small circle of suspects. Agatha Christie would reject the mystery as too easy.
So there we have it. I’m hoping Dwight will keep his emails coming. If so, you’ll know.
Update: Tom Spencer adds what seems to me a strong argument: the White House is paying a predictably heavy political price for protecting whoever did the dirty deed. Rove is probably the most worth protecting, from Bush’s viewpoint. That makes the identification of Rove as one of the culprits more plausible.