This point is admittedly very deep in the weeds. But if you're playing the Rove/Plame/Niger sleuth game like many of the rest of us, it's a significant point.
Much now turns, you'll remember, on this classified State Department memo, which seems likely to have been the source of the information about Joe Wilson and his wife that was circulating between reporters and White House staffers in early July 2003.
A couple days ago the Times reported that "the memorandum was dated June 10, 2003." That squares with what we know about the administration's concerns (or 'interest' if you're the gullible type) dating more than a month before his Times oped.
Today, however, Bloomberg reports that it was "prepared by the State Department on July 7, 2003."
Now, I guess you could say that a document needn't be prepared at the time it was dated. But had the memo been backdated a month I assume we'd have heard about this already, since that would be pretty big news in itself.
Bloomberg follows up with these grafs ...
On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.
The Novak call may loom large in the investigation because Fleischer was among a group of administration officials who left Washington later that day on a presidential trip to Africa. On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip.
At first I assumed that the discrepancy was simply the result of an editorial error from the Times
or Bloomberg. But as you can see, both articles hang a significant theory of the case on the date. So it seems unlikely that June has simply been transposed for July, or vice versa.
The answer comes down deep in the Bloomberg article ...
The July 7 memo was largely a reproduction of an earlier State Department report prepared around June 12. Another key question that Fitzgerald is interested in, according to the grand jury witness and the lawyers familiar with the case, is whether Rove or Libby learned of this earlier report and, if so, shared its content with reporters.
Now, presumably, this second version of the memo is what is referenced in this portion of the article in the Times ...
When Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article appeared on July 6, 2003, a Sunday, Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state, called Carl W. Ford Jr., the assistant secretary for intelligence and research, at home, a former State Department official said. Mr. Armitage asked Mr. Ford to send a copy of the memorandum to Mr. Powell, who was preparing to leave for Africa with Mr. Bush, the former official said. Mr. Ford sent it to the White House for transmission to Mr. Powell.
I suppose this is where I venture some theory as to what it all means. But I'm not sure what it does mean. Let me add a few more details though and ask a couple questions.
The Bloomberg article says that Novak put in a call to Ari Fleischer on the same day (July 7th) the second memo was prepared at the State Department, and that Fleischer did
see the second memo.
My question is about the point in the Times graf above about Carl Ford. And it's not a rhetorical question. Does an assistant secretary of State send a document to the White House if he's trying to send it to the Secretary? Even if the Secretary is about to leave on a foreign trip with the president? Perhaps that's how it would be done. I don't know.
Secondly, where at State did the first memo originate? Bloomberg seems clear that the second memo was prepared at INR, State's in-house intel bureau. But they're less clear on whether the first one came from there.
It's certainly possible that the difference between these two memos is little more than the difference between xeroxing it or slapping another date at the top. But as long as we're all blind men feeling one part of the elephant, let's try to cover as much of the animal as possible.