I Don't Know Nuttin'
The Valerie Plame controversy reached the daily White House briefing
yesterday, with Press Secretary McClellan being asked a series of questions. One obvious fact jumps out of the exchange: McClellan clearly is unwilling to make a flat denial that senior administration officials outed Plame. While it is true that McClellan sometimes seems unwilling to make a direct statement about what the date is, this non-denial denial still strikes me as significant. The relevant exchange follows:
Q The Robert Novak column last week identified the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson as a CIA operative who was working on WMD issues. Novak said that identification is based on information given to him by two administration sources. That column has now given rise to accusations that the administration deliberatively blew the cover of an undercover CIA operative, and in so doing, violated a federal law that prohibits revealing the identity of undercover CIA operatives. Can you respond to that?
MR. McCLELLAN: Thank you for bringing that up. That is not the way this President or this White House operates. And there is absolutely no information that has come to my attention or that I have seen that suggests that there is any truth to that suggestion. And, certainly, no one in this White House would have given authority to take such a step.
Q So you're saying --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying that that is not the way that this President or this White House operates, and I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it.
Q Are you saying Novak was wrong in saying that it was two administration sources who were the source for --
MR. McCLELLAN: I have no idea who "anonymous" is. I often wish --
Q It's not anonymous. He says senior administration officials.
MR. McCLELLAN: That would be anonymous.
Q Well, that would be senior administration --
Q Like the guy who briefed us last week?
MR. McCLELLAN: Whether it's anonymous senior administration officials or just anonymous sources, it's still anonymous.
Q Is Novak lying? Do you think he's making it up?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you our position. I'll let the columnist speak for himself.
Q You're saying, flatly, it did not happen, nobody --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm telling you, flatly, that that is not the way this White House operates. I've seen no evidence to suggest that there's any truth to that.
Q That's different from saying it didn't happen. Are you saying, absolutely, it did not happen?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm saying no one was certainly given any authority to do anything of that nature. And I've seen no evidence to suggest there's any truth to it. I want to make it very clear, that is simply not the way this White House operates.
Q If it turns out that somebody in the administration did do that --
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not even going to speculate about it, because I have no knowledge of any truth to that report.
Q What's the extent of your knowledge? Don't you want to get some more facts? I mean, how do you know that no one in the administration -- Robert Novak has been around for a long --
MR. McCLELLAN: If I could go find "anonymous," Terry, I would.
Q Does the President support a criminal investigation --
MR. McCLELLAN: Did you have something?