A government of lies: The political meaning of the Rove affair
By Patrick Martin
23 July 2005
Whenever a major crisis emerges in political life, it is necessary to distinguish between the often peculiar forms in which the crisis makes its initial appearance and the more fundamental underlying issues. So it is with the uproar touched off by the reports that Karl Rove, Bush’s top political aide, leaked the identity of a CIA undercover operative to the press, as part of an effort to punish critics of the Iraq war.
The facts of the Rove affair are no longer in question. In July 2003, after former ambassador Joseph Wilson published an op-ed column in the New York Times criticizing the administration for making bogus claims that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium in Africa, the White House moved swiftly to retaliate. Wilson explained in his article his own role in going to Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate the issue in 2002, and related how he found the charges to be unfounded.
Only a day after the column appeared, top White House aides were reading a secret State Department memorandum on the Wilson trip which included the information—denoted as top secret—that Wilson’s wife Valerie was a CIA operative specializing in the field of weapons of mass destruction. Within three days, Rove and other officials were circulating that information to the press, suggesting that Mrs. Wilson had engineered her husband’s trip and presenting this as a case of nepotism that cast doubt on Wilson’s findings.
A week after Wilson’s column appeared, right-wing columnist Robert Novak, a longtime recipient of leaks from Karl Rove, became the first journalist to identify Mrs. Wilson publicly as a CIA agent, under her maiden name, Valerie Plame. This was accompanied by the White House-inspired smear about her alleged role in sending her husband to Niger.