Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 16, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

FLEITZ TO BOLTON TO NOVAK?....I've always thought that the single most mysterious issue in the Valerie Plame case is...."Valerie Plame." Reporters never refer to a woman by her maiden name if she normally goes by her married name, yet for some reason Robert Novak's July 14 column specifically referred to Joe Wilson's wife as Valerie Plame, not Valerie Wilson. Why?

As I've mentioned before, Novak has vaguely implied that the name "Valerie Plame" was available in public records, and indeed it was. This doesn't explain why Novak would use her maiden name, but it's a possible explanation for where it came from.

Until now. Because it turns out that Judith Miller was also provided with Valerie Wilson's maiden name, but in her case she misspelled it as "Valerie Flame." Obviously Miller didn't get a misspelled name from Who's Who, nor did she get it from Joe Wilson's internet bio, despite John Podhoretz's heroic effort to suggest that "the type on that bio was incredibly small" and Miller might not have been able to make it out.

So if not Who's Who, how about that State Department memo that got passed around on Air Force One shortly before Novak wrote his column? No dice. Walter Pincus reports that it referred to her as Valerie Wilson (in a paragraph specifically marked "(S)" for secret, mind you).

What's more, the (admittedly sketchy) evidence so far indicates that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove both referred to her as "Wilson's wife," not as Valerie Plame. So where did "Valerie Plame" come from, and why did Novak and Miller think it was worth writing down?

One thing we know is that Valerie Wilson used her maiden name only inside the CIA. This suggests a CIA source, and Jeralyn Merritt reminds us that this was Novak's original story too, though he later backtracked on it.

But who in the CIA? Laura Rozen resurrects the name of Frederick Fleitz as the most likely suspect. Fleitz didn't just work at the CIA, he worked at WINPAC, a bureau within the CIA that analyzed WMD. And what did Scooter Libby tell Miller on July 8 about Joe Wilson? "Wife works at Winpac." That's pretty specific information.

So how did this information get from Fleitz to both Novak and Miller? As Arianna Huffington told us last month, Fleitz was actually working two jobs at the time all this was going on, and his second job was acting chief of staff for John Bolton. Yes, the same John Bolton who is, apparently, a pretty close friend of Judith Miller's. Novak seems to be pretty friendly toward Bolton as well, acting as practically a one-man cheering squad for him during his ill-fated confirmation hearings this year.

So: Fleitz to Bolton to Novak & Miller? Granted, this is free form speculation, but it answers the otherwise mysterious question of why Robert Novak and Judith Miller were interested in Valerie Wilson's maiden name. It was because their source specifically told them that was the name she used on Agency business, and Novak, at least, decided that was therefore the name he wanted to publicize. Stout fellow.

Kevin Drum 7:53 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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