PLAME UPDATE….Plamegate continues to unfold in almost microscopic increments. Today, Richard Keil of Bloomberg reports that there’s been some conflicting testimony in the grand jury investigation:

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney?s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn?t tell Libby of Plame?s identity.

Keil also reports that Karl Rove has provided a “somewhat different version” of his conversation with Bob Novak than Novak provided.

Somebody’s lying, no? Or perhaps it’s all due to faulty memory. After all, that defense worked for Bill Gates, so why not Rove and Libby?

In any case, these discrepancies make it easy to see why the July 7 State Department memo about Joe Wilson’s Niger trip seems to have taken on a central role in the investigation. After all, if Rove and Libby didn’t learn about Valerie Plame’s CIA identity from reporters, where did they learn about it? If the answer is the State Department memo, then they obviously knew they shouldn’t be talking about it to the media, since the passage related to Plame was clearly marked “Secret.” If they did so anyway, it means they knowingly disclosed classified information, and that means they’re in big trouble.

At this point, this is still speculation. Even with this latest leak there are still too few dots to connect into a clear narrative. At the same time, it does seem that the dots are at least starting to point in the direction of two different conclusions. The first is that Fitzgerald thinks Rove and Libby are lying and that they learned about Plame’s identity from the State Department memo ? or from someone else who learned it from the State Department memo.

Second, it’s hard not to think that some of these leaks are coming from Fitzgerald’s office. I may be off base here, but I can’t help but think that someone ? maybe not Fitzgerald himself, but someone on his team ? is leaking tidbits of information to the press in hopes of stirring up some additional information. It wouldn’t be the first time a special prosecutor has done that, would it?

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