PLAME UPDATE….Via Needlenose, former White House counsel John Dean ? surely an expert on leaks and dirty tricks ? thinks that a special counsel was appointed in the Plame case because a witness has turned:

What explains the timing of Ashcroft’s removal? Recall that the removal occurred as a result of events occurring in the same week the Post reported that the FBI had told potential witnesses they might have to face a grand jury.

Some of those witnesses very probably hired lawyers as soon as they heard the news. Especially likely to hire a lawyer would be a middle-level person with knowledge of a leak by a higher-up. And such a lawyer would likely have gone immediately to the prosecutors to make a deal.

Who might the lawyer be? It’s pure speculation, but former D.C. United States Attorney Joe diGenova, or his wife and law partner, Victoria Toensing, are likely candidates. Toensing, as chief counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence worked on one of the laws that may have been violated — the law protecting the identities of undercover agents. Who better to defend a leaker who might be subject to a law, than the person who drafted the law?

Moreover, Toensing was quoted in a recent Washington Post story explaining that it is possible that any leak “could be embarrassing but not illegal” — suggesting that a leaker might have a possible defense. (Unfortunately for the leaker, however, as I noted in an earlier column, more than one law may have been broken.)

Speculation indeed. But the Justice Department has recently added investigators to the Plame team, told potential witnesses they might have to testify in front of a grand jury, and then named a special prosecutor. Put it all together and the most likely explanation is not that Ashcroft recused himself because the investigation was going nowhere. The most likely explanation is that something has turned up.

Stay tuned.

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