Using Roberts to Distract from Rove

Last Tuesday's nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court temporarily deflected attention away from the probe of Karl Rove in the CIA leak investigation. But NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr doubts that it will distract people from the bigger story for long.

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NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is keeping track of the twists and turns of the Valerie Plame affair, as well as the other news in the nation's capital.

DANIEL SCHORR:

The strategic masterminds in the White House may have hoped that the expedited nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court last Tuesday would abruptly change the subject from the CIA leak investigation. If so, there must have been some disappointment.

Judge Roberts got a good share of attention on Sunday television, but there's only a certain amount of interest that can be sustained in speculating about what Roberts really thinks about abortion and what documents the White House is really obligated to supply to the confirmation inquiry. In any event, these issues will not really come to a boil until after Labor Day.

Meanwhile, however, the Rove probe, the Plame game--call it what you will--continues to generate new angles; the plot thickens. A State Department memo of June 2003 making clear how sensitive was the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame was transmitted to the presidential party aboard Air Force One on its way to Africa. That means presidential aides, perhaps the president himself, could have known about the sensitivity of her position.

On Monday, September 29th, 2003, the Justice Department advised Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel, that a criminal investigation was starting into the leak of Plame's identity. Gonzales immediately told Chief of Staff Andrew Card, but he waited 12 hours until next morning to officially advise other staff members and to warn them against disposing of any relevant documents.

Meanwhile, New York Times correspondent Judith Miller remains in jail in Alexandria, Virginia, since July 6th in a standoff with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald over her refusal to testify about her conversations with officials. And as bad as it is for her, it could get worse. Fitzgerald and Judge Thomas Hogan have talked in open court about upping the ante from civil to criminal contempt, which could lengthen her sentence and provide for other penalties.

And finally, the Senate Intelligence Committee has announced plans for an extensive series of hearings on the use of cover to protect the identities of secret agents. All in all, some heavy competition with a Supreme Court nomination for midsummer attention. This is Daniel Schorr.

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