We know from recent experience that federal investigators don’t like being lied to. The American people don’t like being lied to. So that is why Murray Waas’s post indicating that Novak and Rove may have lied to federal investigators is so interesting:
Federal investigators have been skeptical of Novak's assertions that he referred to Plame as a CIA "operative" due to his own error, instead of having been explicitly told that was the case by his sources, according to attorneys familiar with the criminal probe.
That skepticism has been one of several reasons that the special prosecutor has pressed so hard for the testimony of Time magazine's Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.
Josh Marshall has debunked Novak's claim repeatedly. Apparently the feds thought it was a bit of a stretch, too.
Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations. That concern was a reason-- although only one of many-- that led prosecutors to press for the testimony of Cooper and Miller, sources said.
Might this be another case of the cover-up being ultimately more damaging than the original act? I guess we’ll see in the coming weeks.
Update: Robert Kuttner suggests the feds are already focusing on possible lies told by Rove and Co., rather than the initial misdeed:
Under the CIA nondisclosure law, an illegal disclosure has to be deliberate and knowing, and the CIA agent clandestine. Other published reports suggest that Fitzgerald is pursuing a possible case against Rove and other suspected leakers for perjury or obstruction of justice, which are easier to prove, especially if Rove was not entirely truthful in his testimony.
Update: Murray Waas says Rove didn't tell FBI investigators in his first interview with them that he had discussed Plame with Cooper. When all is said and done, it's what Fitzgerald says in October that matters, not what the media, politicians, or the blogosphere say now. This story may have fallen off the front pages with the Roberts nomination, but that doesn't mean it has disappeared.