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No Payoff From Novak Disclosures

(AP Photo/Lauren Shay)
Bob Novak really knows how to make the most of an anticlimactic ending. In a much-anticipated decision, the conservative columnist yesterday told all about his mysterious role an investigation reaching into the highest offices in the land, and how he came to be the first person to reveal the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Web sites breathlessly anticipated Novak's coming disclosures and media watchers tripped all over themselves to hear them.

Trouble is, it doesn't appear that Novak had too much to teach us that we didn't already pretty much know. One of the most anticipated revelations – the identity of his "primary source" on Plame's identity and relationship to husband Joseph Wilson – remains shielded out of journalistic obligation. From the standpoint of unraveling part of some great whodunit, it's quite a bummer.

Novak tells us that he testified before Patrick Fitzgerald's federal grand jury about conversations with his three sources on the story, but only after Fitzgerald provided him with waivers from all three (read the entire column for all the detective details). Novak's bottom line:

I have cooperated in the investigation while trying to protect journalistic privileges under the First Amendment and shield sources who have not revealed themselves. I have been subpoenaed by and testified to a federal grand jury. Published reports that I took the Fifth Amendment, made a plea bargain with the prosecutors or was a prosecutorial target were all untrue.
As if to underscore his dedication to those journalistic privileges, Novak tells us he cannot reveal the name of what he calls his "principle source" because that individual "has not come forward to identify himself."

Novak says that White House adviser Karl Rove was one of those with whom he discussed Valerie Plame. While the two had somewhat different versions of that conversation, this had been known for some time. Novak's second source was former CIA spokesperson Bill Harlow, which also had been reported on about a year ago. The third source, while much speculated on, remains one of the missing pieces of the Plame puzzle.

One tantalizing nugget at first seemed to be Novak's contention that he originally learned of Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in a copy of "Who's Who." That would presumably mean her name was not "leaked" at all by the administration, which was the original point of the investigation [Update: Please see comments below for a clarification of this point]. But Novak had already told us that. Novak says he's coming forward now with many of these details because his attorney has been informed that the part of the investigation "concerning matters directly relating to me has been concluded." Unfortunately for all the amateur detectives out there, we really don't much new today from the man whose column originally brought us the name of Valerie Plame.