Another NY Times piece on Plame:
At the same time in July 2003 that a C.I.A. operative’s identity was exposed, two key White House officials who talked to journalists about the officer were also working closely together on a related underlying issue: whether President Bush was correct in suggesting earlier that year that Iraq had been trying to acquire nuclear materials from Africa.
The two issues had become inextricably linked because Joseph C. Wilson IV, the husband of the unmasked C.I.A. officer, had questioned Mr. Bush’s assertion, prompting a damage-control effort by the White House that included challenging Mr. Wilson’s standing and his credentials. A federal grand jury investigation is under way by a special counsel to determine whether someone illegally leaked the officer’s identity and possibly into whether perjury or obstruction of justice occurred during the inquiry.
People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, were helping prepare what became the administration’s primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been in Mr. Bush’s State of the Union address six months earlier.
They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement by George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address. Mr. Rove, the president’s political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated their efforts with Stephen J. Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.
At the same time, they were grappling with the fallout from an Op-Ed article on July 6, 2003, in The New York Times by Mr. Wilson, a former diplomat, in which he criticized the way the administration had used intelligence to support the claim in Mr. Bush’s speech.
The work done by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby on the Tenet statement during this intense period has not been previously disclosed. People who have been briefed on the case discussed this critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson, but were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president’s address. Those people who have been briefed requested anonymity because prosecutors have asked them not to discuss matters under investigation.
The special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has been examining this period of time to determine whether the officials’ work on the Tenet statement led in some way to the disclosure of Ms. Wilson’s identity to Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist, according to the people who have been briefed.