- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak said yesterday in his first public comments on the Valerie Plame leak investigation that White House aide Karl Rove and CIA spokesman Bill Harlow were not the main sources of the column that ignited the probe, but that his “primary source has not come forward to identify himself.”

In his column, posted yesterday on the Human Events Web site, Mr. Novak said he cooperated with special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s investigation “while trying to protect journalistic privileges” and to shield sources who had not revealed themselves.

“Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue,” he said. “Fitzgerald has informed my attorneys that, after two and one-half years, his investigation of the CIA leak case concerning matters directly relating to me has been concluded.

“That frees me to reveal my role in the federal inquiry that, at the request of Fitzgerald, I have kept secret.”

Mr. Novak said Mr. Fitzgerald independently knew the identities of sources he used in the July 2003 column naming Mrs. Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, as a CIA employee and stating that she had helped initiate her husband’s 2002 mission to Niger to investigate reports that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had tried to acquire uranium from there.

That the prosecutor did not indict the sources, Mr. Novak said, “may indicate his conclusion that none of them violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.”

In the 2003 column, Mr. Novak identified the sources as two senior Bush administration officials and an unspecified CIA source. He said that he went to Washington lawyers Lester Hyman and James Hamilton when the September 2003 Justice Department investigation began, and that Mr. Hamilton urged him not to comment publicly on the case.

Mr. Novak said the FBI later interviewed him, after his attorneys told him he had no constitutional basis to refuse to cooperate if a grand jury subpoenaed him. He said he did not reveal his sources to his attorneys and declined to give their identities to the FBI, although he did disclose how Mrs. Plame’s role had been reported to him.

He said the prosecutor obtained signed waivers from every official who might have given him information about Mrs. Plame, although he did not think that they “relieved me of my journalistic responsibility to protect a source.” Mr. Novak said that although Mr. Hamilton told him he was sure to lose if challenged in court, “I still felt I could not reveal their names.”

Two days before meeting with Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Novak said, the prosecutor told Mr. Hamilton that he was bringing to the meeting waivers of confidentiality from the principal source and Mr. Rove.

“In other words, the special prosecutor knew the names of my sources,” he said, adding that when Mr. Fitzgerald arrived, he had a third waiver from Mr. Harlow. “I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow and my primary source.”

He said that during four interviews with federal authorities, he declined to answer when the questioning touched on matters beyond the CIA leak case, and neither the FBI nor Mr. Fitzgerald pressed him.

Mr. Novak said he revealed Mr. Rove’s name because his attorney had divulged the substance of the conversation. The columnist said he disclosed Mr. Harlow’s identity because the CIA spokesman publicly revealed his version of a conversation he had with Mr. Novak.

“My primary source has not come forward to identify himself,” Mr. Novak said.

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