In a November 6 article by reporter Richard W. Stevenson, The New York Times reported that anonymous sources "involved" in the investigation into whether senior White House officials illegally outed undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame "confirmed" that President Bush was unaware of White House senior adviser Karl Rove's involvement in the leak. Citing "people involved in the case" for the assertion that Bush was the innocent recipient of false information from Rove in September 2003, Stevenson wrote nothing about who those "people" are or whether they might have an interest in publicly affirming Bush's ignorance of Rove's involvement.
Stevenson's assertion that the unnamed sources he referenced "confirmed" that Rove misled Bush ignored an October 19 article by the New York Daily News noting the very possibility that White House aides were falsely accusing Rove of deceiving Bush in order to distance the president from the scandal. Citing anonymous sources of his own, Daily News Washington bureau chief Thomas M. DeFrank wrote that Rove in fact "conceded" to Bush that he had talked to reporters about Plame and that "recently published reports implying Rove had deceived Bush ... were incorrect and were leaked by White House aides trying to protect the President."
The thin sourcing in the Times article echoed similar attribution in a November 3 report in The Washington Post. As Media Matters for America documented, in that article, Post staff writers Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig relied on unnamed "people familiar with the case" to exonerate White House press secretary Scott McClellan of any intention to mislead reporters in asserting at an October 7, 2003, press briefing that Rove was "not involved" in outing Plame. The Post then reported -- without citing any sources at all -- that McClellan was unaware of the involvement of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the leak. Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted on charges of perjury, obstructing justice and making false statements in connection with the leak investigation. The Times and Post articles have the effect of advancing the notion that the CIA leak scandal does not extend beyond the White House officials already known to have been involved.
From the Times article titled "White House Tries to Keep Distance From Leak Case," which reported that "[p]eople involved in the case confirmed that Mr. Rove told Mr. Bush and other White House colleagues in September 2003 that he had no involvement":
Mr. Bush was not mentioned in the indictment. But the fact that so many of his aides seem to have been involved in dealing with the issue that eventually led to the leak - how to rebut or discredit Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had challenged the administration's handling of prewar intelligence - leaves open the question of what the president knew.
The White House has also kept a tight lid on information about what Mr. Bush learned afterward about any involvement that [Vice President Dick] Cheney, [indicted former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter"] Libby, Mr. Rove and others may have had in the leak.People involved in the case have confirmed that Mr. Rove told Mr. Bush and other White House colleagues in September 2003 that he had no involvement, but it is not known what, if anything, Mr. Rove has told Mr. Bush since testifying to the grand jury last year and this year that he had conversations with two reporters that touched on the identity of the officer, Valerie Wilson. What, if anything, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby may have told Mr. Bush remains a mystery.