THE POST STRIKES BACK….Last week Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball suggested that perhaps the Washington Post’s source misled them in a story a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps the Plame leakers didn’t contact six journalists to leak Plame’s name after all. Maybe they only contacted those journalists after Robert Novak’s original column. In other words, they were guilty of fanning the flames, but not of jeopardizing national security.

Well, maybe, but today the Post reports that it went back to its source and gave him a chance to reconsider. No dice:

That same week, two top White House officials disclosed Plame’s identity to least six Washington journalists, an administration official told The Post for an article published Sept. 28. The source elaborated on the conversations last week, saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson.

“It was unsolicited,” the source said. “They were pushing back. They used everything they had.”

So the Post’s source might be wrong, but he’s not backing down. “That same week” refers to the week prior to Novak’s column.

(And yes, this is really annoying wording. The authors don’t specifically say that they asked again about the leak timing and their source reconfirmed, but only strongly imply it. I have no idea why they were this sloppy in their phrasing, especially when they know perfectly well that this is a point of contention. Why did the Post’s editors let this escape without being cleared up?)

There’s also another new tidbit in the article: an unnamed Post reporter who claims to be one of the six leakees. He talked to an administration official on July 12, two days before Novak’s column, and was given the whole story about Wilson being sent to Niger as a “boondoggle” set up by his wife, who worked at the CIA. (Some boondoggle! An unpaid trip to Niger, the vacation spot of Africa!)

Interestingly, the Post reporter said the name Valerie Plame wasn’t mentioned to him. Obviously the name was mentioned to Robert Novak, since otherwise he would have naturally referred to her as Valerie Wilson or simply Mrs. Wilson. Maybe the Post reporter and Novak got spun by different sources, and they told the story a little differently. Hard to say at this point.

(By the way, I suspect this Post reporter is the same person already mentioned in this September 30 story, so we still have only one reporter besides Novak who’s come forward and fessed up to being on the receiving end of this leak.)

Josh Marshall makes pretty much the same points today, and also mentions that the New York Times has been curiously AWOL on this story. In a way, that’s unfair: everyone has been AWOL in actually advancing the story except for the Post. Still, it’s hard not to wonder if the Times even has someone assigned to this story. It seems like Bill Keller might be well advised to kick a little investigative ass down in the newsroom sometime soon.