Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has repeatedly declined to discuss his role in disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, said in a speech this week that he is certain President Bush knows who his mystery administration source is.
Novak said Tuesday that the public and press should be asking the president about the official rather than pressing journalists who received the information.
Novak also suggested that the administration official who gave him the information is the same person who mentioned Plame and her CIA role to Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward in the summer of 2003.
"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, according to an account published yesterday in the Raleigh News & Observer. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."
"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is," Novak said.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Bush yesterday urging him to name the source and make public any disciplinary action taken, "in keeping with your stated desire to root out leaks."
Novak revealed Plame's name and CIA role in a column on July 14, 2003, just eight days after Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, accused the administration of "twisting" intelligence to justify the war in Iraq. Wilson said that a CIA-sponsored mission he led had concluded a year earlier that allegations about Iraq taking steps to build a nuclear weapons program were probably untrue.
Woodward disclosed last month that he, too, learned about Plame's CIA role in a confidential conversation with a senior administration source. Many involved in the case believe that Woodward and Novak had the same source. Though neither journalist has identified the source publicly, both have said the official was casually providing a tidbit of information and did not seem to be trying to generate a story to discredit Wilson's mission.
Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has been investigating for two years whether senior Bush administration officials broke any laws in leaking Plame's identity to the media. On Oct. 28, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was indicted on charges of perjury, making false statements and obstructing the investigation.
Woodward declined to comment yesterday. Novak's attorney, James Hamilton, declined to comment on why Novak is now discussing the case.
Novak said in his speech that an investigation into his role in the Plame affair "snowballed out of proportion" as a result of a "campaign by the left." But he also blamed "extremely bad management of the issue by the White House," saying, "Once you give an issue to a special prosecutor, you lose control of it."