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Scooter's Field Trip

05/25/2011 11:45 am ET

Lots of chatter about a classified State Department memo that was distributed and read aboard Air Force One the day after Joseph Wilson's New York Times Op-ed outed the White House and its bogus Niger claim. The memo, dated June 10, 2003, included the name of Wilson's wife Valerie Plame, noting she worked for the CIA and that that information should not be shared. The memo stands as a possible source for White House officials such as Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, both of whom were dishing to Time magazine's Matt Cooper about Wilson and Plame during the summer of 2003.

As the Wall Street Journal notes today, "The memo's details are significant because they will make it harder for officials who saw the document to claim that they didn't realize the identity of the CIA officer was a sensitive matter."

But there may be an easier explanation for how Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, found out Plame worked at the CIA—he simply visited her workplace.

During the run-up to the war, Cheney's office served as sort of a clearing house for phony Iraq intel, with the VP pressuring the CIA to come up with better, stronger, more compelling intelligence to 'prove' Saddam Hussein' posed an imminent threat. One way Cheney made his feelings known was through a series of unprecedented trips to Langley, VA., where he met with CIA analysts. Cheney's office said the visits were routine. Inside the Agency, where everyone understood that if Cheney really wanted to look over CIA intel reports all he had to do was ask and they'd be delivered to his desk within hours, the heavy-handed sit-downs were seen as obvious attempts to intimidate the work being done.

But that's how Libby could have first become aware of Plame. Because according to an Oct. 1, 2003 USA Today article, "Plame was assigned to the CIA's Non-Proliferation Center, an organization of analysts, technical experts and former field operatives who work on detecting and, if possible, preventing foreign proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

The article continued: "Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, met with officials at the Non-Proliferation Center before the invasion of Iraq to discuss reports that Iraq was seeking to buy uranium in Africa. A U.S. official with knowledge of those meetings said Plame did not attend. But the former U.S. intelligence official said she was involved in preparing materials for those meetings."

The Non-Proliferation Center is one of 12 offices located in the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence. It's possible that's when Libby learned about Plame's identity.

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