Sources: Classified Memo IDs Plame

There were new developments Thursday in the federal investigation of who leaked the identify of a CIA operative and blew her cover.

As CBS News Correspondent Gloria Borger reports, it turns out a key portion of a two-year-old State Department memo that is now at the center of the controversy was classified — and that could mean leaking it was a crime.

At the time the State Department wrote its memo, the administration's key rationale for war in Iraq was crumbling. No weapons of mass destruction had been found and some key intelligence used to make the administration's case had proven false. An internal war raged inside the administration over who was to blame.

The state department's 2003 memo was written to make one thing clear: don't blame us. But what now interests a federal grand jury is a single paragraph in that memo identifying "Valerie Wilson" as a CIA employee — and the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, who had gone to Africa to investigate Iraq's nuclear capability.

Sources describe the paragraph as clearly marked with an unambiguous "S" — for "Secret." That means knowingly leaking the information is a crime.

Sources told Borger that the memo was widely circulated within the State Department — especially in July 2003 after Joe Wilson publicly challenged the White House intelligence.

The day Wilson's charges were made public, aides at the State Department gave former Secretary of State Colin Powell a copy of the memo. He took it with him on a weeklong trip to Africa with the president.

Was the memo the original source for the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity to reporters? And if so, who did it? And did that person know Wilson's wife was an undercover agent? The memo did not identify her as one.

Karl Rove has admitted to discussing Wilson's wife with at least one reporter. But Rove's attorney says that the first time Rove saw — or even heard about the state department memo — was when investigators showed it to him.

The grand jury is expected to meet again tomorrow. Legal experts told Borger that the special prosecutor may be focusing in on charges of perjury rather than the original crime of leaking classified information.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com