It's simple all right. Cheney's office sent Wilson off to Niger, got his report back and chose to ignore it when the time came to exaggerate the threat from Saddam. Then the Administration got nailed in Wilson's Op-Ed and somebody, apparently high enough up the White House food chain to have access to classified knowledge about undercover CIA agents, went to Novak and played their little smear game.
That rotten odor ain't in Denmark. It's in the Oval Office. Five minutes after Novak's column was published, any president worth a damn would have called in his top aides and demanded that they find out immediately if there was any truth to the claim that senior officials had leaked such information. Phone logs would have been reviewed. Et cetera. Anything less effectively condones the alleged behavior.
(links added). And any media worth a damn would have blasted this story across the airwaves from day one. The only intelligent analysis has been in the blogsphere (such as this discussion on Patrick Nielsen Hayden's blog back in June) and as usual, on NPR - which was the only news outfit to even bother mentioning that the very laws that have been violated were initiated by George HW Bush, 41st president and former head of the CIA.
Any media worth a damn would be all over the elder Bush, asking for his opinion.
I think we had a better media back during the Clinton Administration. It just kept a far better leash on the Executive Branch than the one we have now.