NOVAK: DON’T BLAME ME….Drudge has a statement from Robert Novak about his original Valerie Plame column:

Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this. In July I was interviewing a senior administration official on Ambassador Wilson’s report when he told me the trip was inspired by his wife, a CIA employee working on weapons of mass destruction. Another senior official told me the same thing. As a professional journalist with 46 years experience in Washington I do not reveal confidential sources. When I called the CIA in July to confirm Mrs. Wilson’s involvement in the mission for her husband — he is a former Clinton administration official — they asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operator, and not in charge of undercover operatives.

Nothing new here, really. He confirms that it was a “senior administration official” who told him about Plame, and that another senior official told him the same thing independently. In other words, it wasn’t just a chance remark. And we already know that these “senior administration officials” called six other journalists, so obviously somebody consciously decided to spread this story and then did so.

As for Plame, the CIA asked Novak not to use her name, but didn’t ask quite hard enough. That also fits what we know. Plame was clandestine, but probably wasn’t exactly working under the deepest cover around.

None of this matters, though. Novak is trying to get himself off the hook for bad behavior ? which is fine, since it’s the leakers who are at fault here, not the journalist who reported the leak ? but the basic facts remain the same. Multiple people in high places exposed a covert CIA analyst and did it for crass ? and truly idiotic ? reasons of political intimidation. Dumb. Very dumb.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall has more on “operator” vs. “analyst.” I’m not sure what to make of this.

It’s also worth noting that the administration officials who spread this story were apparently careful to expose “Valerie Plame,” the maiden name she uses overseas, not “Valerie Wilson,” the name she uses in her daily life. I’m not entirely sure what to make of this either, but it seems to indicate a deliberate desire to expose her overseas work in some way. Hopefully someone will explain the significance of this before too much longer.