Rove/Plame: "I'm very concerned it could go very, very badly."

class=img_thumbleft>So says a "key Bush official" in today's New York Daily News. Elsewhere, the New York Times ends its daily dispatch on Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation with this cryptic wink: "Officials who testified or were questioned by investigators also included John Hannah, Mr. Cheney's principal deputy national security adviser."

Yesterday the Daily News had teased that "Cheney's name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge--with help from a secret snitch." And as we noted here yesterday, Jason Leopold and Larisa Alexandrovna posted a Raw Story item later in the day claiming it was Hannah. Now, it would seem, the Times has lent its between-the-lines imprimatur to that claim.

But of course no one really knows what Hannah is in a position to give Fitzgerald. There is an unmistakable sky-is-falling tenor to the rumors and murmurs emanating from Washington in the past week, including a growing chorus of blind quotes from "administration officials." But this doesn't prove much in itself: The White House at this point has nothing to lose by ringing loud alarm bells. If their worst fears come true, they will appear to have been candid, no more or less; if Fitzgerald's case is not as expansive or dramatic as hinted, it takes some of the piss out of any criminal indictments that do follow.

Regarding the three principals now routinely named in press and blog accounts of the investigation, here's what I can see from here:

Scooter Libby: It's hard to imagine how Libby can fail to get indicted on the basis of what's already in the public record--Judith Miller's grand jury testimony, his bizarre letter to Miller, and the overall implication that he tried to suggest what she should tell Fitzgerald.

Karl Rove: The big caveat here is that we do not know what Hannah or others may have supplied regarding Rove's place in all this. That said, however, what has been reported to date does not seem to add up to a very strong case. Here is the summary Time featured on Monday:

Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald appears to be seriously weighing a perjury charge for Rove's failure to tell grand jurors that he talked to TIME correspondent Matthew Cooper about Plame, according to a person close to Rove. Rove corrected himself in a later grand jury session. If charged with perjury, he will maintain he simply didn't recall the conversation with Cooper and told Fitzgerald as soon as he did. [Read the story.]

Now maybe that's just Luskin spin. Or maybe it's not.

Dick Cheney: The new conventional wisdom says that Cheney, not Rove, is the great white whale that Fitzgerald's chasing. One has to presume that Cheney would be very hard to catch, for one simple reason: Practically everyone who stands to get in trouble for the Plame leak is in hot water over things they did in the trenches, and their later efforts to cover their tracks. Merely giving the go-ahead to attack Joe Wilson would not constitute a crime, unless it could be shown that Cheney knew he was approving specific measures that were illegal. The wild card, again, involves what John Hannah has told Fitzgerald. If Cheney had a hands-on, day-to-day role in the Wilson campaign, that's a different matter. But if Fitzgerald had the goods to go there, why wouldn't Cheney have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury by now?