WASHINGTON, Oct. 25
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no other news organization in America has matched the New York Times' historic lede: "I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday." LINK
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has said the story is wrong. 12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has figured out if the Times' source was Libby's lawyer, someone within Fitzgerald's office, someone within Cheney's operation, or Cheney's lawyer. (Or someone else.)
(Although we would Note that there is no mention of Cheney's lawyer, Terrence O'Donnell of Williams and Connolly in the Times story. ABC News has been told that Mr. O'Donnell is out of the country currently. Could the Times really not have tried to reach Mr. Cheney's lawyer or not Note that they did try? Any Note reader not familiar with Williams and Connolly's fabled history of last-minute strategic leaking to one single news organization on behalf of political clients needs to spend the day on Nexis.)
(On the other hand, the Gang of 500 is very focused on the specificity of what Libby lawyer Tate would not comment on within the Times story. Some see it as quite different from the usual construction that "he could not be reached" or "would not comment." But the Times story says, "...Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, would not comment on Mr. Libby's legal status." (Italics added by a over-excited Googling monkey.) For some, that makes Tate, quite simply, the Gang's number one suspect.)
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has figured out definitively what motive the Times source(s) had in giving them the story.
(Although the Gang of 500 has guesses.)
(Libby's lawyer: get it out pre-indictment to soften the blow and try to protect the boss -- although if that was the goal, it doesn't seem to have worked.)
(Someone within Fitzgerald's office: a dissident trying to force a reluctant Fitzgerald into an indictment or a cheerleader trying to build a pre-indictment frenzy.)
(Someone within Cheney's operation: a dissident trying to force a reluctant Fitzgerald into an indictment or a protector trying to shield the boss --although if that was the goal, it doesn't seem to have worked, for now.)
(Cheney's lawyer: get it out pre-indictment to isolate the cancer and throw Scooter from the scooter.)
12 hours and 1,759 phone calls and e-mail messages later, no one has figured out the cosmic significance of Johnston-Stevenson-Jehl byline.
"Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said."
"The notes (sic), taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war."