Not In The Loop


Some valid questions that need to be asked of Tim Russert. How is it that his employee tells a interviewer that Plame’s employment was “widely known” among those who cover the intelligence community BUT he apparently wasn’t in the loop?

NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert told Leakgate probers that he had no idea Joe Wilson’s wife Valerie Plame was a CIA employee before her name surfaced in Robert Novak’s fateful July 14, 2003 column, and that he was stunned upon learning that Lewis “Scooter” Libby claimed he got that information from him.

But an account by senior NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell raises questions about whether Mr. Russert may have known about Plame’s employment well before the Novak column.

On Oct. 3, 2003, Mitchell was a guest on CNBC’s now-defunct “Capital Report,” where she was asked by host Alan Murray:

“Do we have any idea how widely known it was in Washington that Joe Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA?”

Mitchell replied: “It was widely known among those of us who cover the intelligence community and who were actively engaged in trying to track down who among the foreign service community was the envoy to Niger. So a number of us began to pick up on that.”

Mitchell’s “widely known” characterization flatly contradicts assertions last Friday by Leakgate Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who repeatedly insisted that Plame’s association with the CIA “was not widely known.”

But perhaps more importantly, if Plame’s work was an open secret in media circles [according to Mitchell], how is it that her boss, Mr. Russert, who – as NBC Washington bureau chief was presumably monitoring developments in “the intelligence community” as they related to the Wilson story – would have been oblivious to this same “widely known” information?

In fact, according to the text of Fitzgerald’s indictment, Libby’s version of events more closely matches Mitchell’s on the subject of who knew about Plame’s employment.

Fitzgerald said Libby claimed:

“During a conversation with Tim Russert of NBC News on July 10 or 11, 2003, Russert asked LIBBY if LIBBY was aware that Wilson?s wife worked for the CIA. LIBBY responded to Russert that he did not know that, and Russert replied that all the reporters knew it.” [Page 11 of Libby’s Indictment]

None of this means that Mr. Libby actually told the truth and that Fitzgerald’s star witness against him, Tim Russert, perhaps didn’t.

But Mr. Russert might want to clear the air and explain how he managed to stay in the dark about key information in a case that was the talk of the town in early July 2003 – while the same information was “widely known,” according a senior reporter who worked under him.

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