Rove and Libby and perjury and Niger
Perjury and obstruction of justice--the focus now is not whether or not they did something illegal originally, but rather whether or not they lied when they were asked about it directly by a formal investigating body. I think much of the direct opposition to these guys is motivated by those insulted (the special prosecutor and Congress). Of course, if you directly insult a judge, he or she will come down on you like a ton of bricks.
But the original offense relates back to 2003. In 1997 the IAEA ruled that Iraq was free of nuclear weapons. In 2001, the British passed on a report that they had gotten from the Italians (who had in turn got from the Vatican) that covered a 1999 visit by an Iraqi government official to Niger. One little piece of paper indicated that someone at the time had said that, on the visit, the Iraqi delegation had tried to get some uranium.
The pro-war forces were overjoyed to find this, because it could be taken as proof that Saddam was trying to go nuclear after 1997. Bush's State of the Union address in Jan. 2003 mentioned this tidbit.
The problem is that that bit of information was a forgery. This was determined by the CIA and the State Department in 2002 but kept under wraps. The IAEA also announced that the report was false, but the US government said that the IAEA's copy was not the real one.
Joe Wilson had already made a trip to Niger in 2002 and found no evidence of the attempt to purchase; in February 2003, the IAEA finally got a correct copy of the report and, with the help of a Google search, determined by March that the Nigerien minister mentioned in the report as being in office in 1999 was wrong. In short, the report was a poorly written plant.
The war began in March anyway, but in July Wilson wrote his famous editorial and spilled the beans. Nine days later, Robert Novak wrote:
"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report."
Critics charge that (1) the "two senior administration officials" are Karl Rove and Lewis Libby and that (2) they blew Plame's cover to discredit Wilson as nothing more than a CIA pawn in its attempt to further undermine the Pentagon.