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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

It was Rove, after all

WASHINGTON columnist Robert Novak has finally broken his self-imposed silence and admitted that, yes, White House political hack Karl Rove was one of the confirming sources for his expose of the Bush Administration's vicious whispering campaign against a key critic of the Iraq War back in 2003.

Of course, we have to take Mr. Novak's word on this latest addendum to the saga of Valerie Plame. The veteran political writer is known in some quarters of the nation's capital as "Robert No-Facts."

At any rate, the disclosure helps to fill out the details of the deliberate outing of the CIA operative by administration leakers in retaliation against her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. The couple recently filed a civil lawsuit for damages against Mr. Rove, Vice President Cheney, and Mr. Cheney's former aide, I. Lewis Libby.

Apparently trying to maintain at least a shred of journalistic integrity, Mr. Novak, who conceded that he cooperated with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and testified before a grand jury, still refuses to identify his primary source for the Plame column.

Mr. Libby, who is under federal indictment for lying about his role in connection with the leak, is so far the only person charged criminally. Mr. Rove, notably, has skated.

The distinction between primary and secondary source seems to matter more in Washington than it does with the general public, as if one were worse than the other. What most Americans see in the leak case is one more example - in a long list - of administration deceit. President Bush initially threatened to fire anyone found responsible. But when the leakers were unmasked as White House officials, including his most trusted aide, the President took no disciplinary action.

Regardless of whether Ms. Plame is able to achieve any recompense for her damaged career, the leak and its aftermath illustrate the extreme depths of dirty trickery to which this administration will sink in order to achieve its political objectives.

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