Water Man Spouts

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Bench With A View (part 1 of 3)

{1} "After my appearance on CNN in early March 2003, when I first asserted that the U.S. government knew more about the Niger uranium matter than it was letting on, I am told by a source close to the House Judiciary Committee that the Office of the Vice President -- either the vice president himself or, more likely, his chief of staff, Lewis ('Scooter') Libby -- chaired a meeting at which a decision was made to do a 'workup' on me. As I understand it, this meant they were going to take a close look at who I was and what my agenda might be.

"...That time frame, from my CNN appearance in early March ... to the first week in July, makes sense, as it allows time for all the necessary sleuthing to have been done on us, including the discovery of Valerie's name and employment.

"The immediate effect of the workup, I am told by a member of the press, citing White House sources, was a long harangue against the two of us within the White House walls. Over a period of several months, Libby evidently seized opportunities to rail openly against me as an 'asshole playboy' who went on a boondoggle 'arranged by his CIA wife' -- and was a Democratic Gore supporter to boot."
-- Ambassador Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; pages 441-2

At a time when the White House seems to be confronted with a number of serious problems, it might be worth our while to take a few minutes to review some of the newest information being reported on the Plame scandal. It seems likely that as the seasons turn, the aspens in Washington DC will begin to bloom. We might benefit from putting those potential budding issues into context. Let's take a few moments, then, and begin on the first of a three-part series on the view from a park bench.

On 2-9-06, The National Journal carried an article by Murray Wass, "Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information." Within a week, some corporate media source -- for example, Don Imus on his MSNBC morning show -- began saying that Libby claimed Cheney authorized him to expose Valerie Plame's identity. That is not accurate, and so for the first part of our review of the Plame case, let's look at what our friend Scooter really said. Then, in part #2, we can examine Patrick Fitzgerald's response to Libby's attorneys, in the form of his 32-page document filed in federal court on 2-16-06. Then, in part #3, we can take a look at how the chess board is now set for the spring game between Fitzgerald and those who participated in a criminal conspiracy to "out" Valerie Plame.

{2} "...In a January 23 letter, related to discovery issues for Libby's upcoming trial, Fitzgerald wrote to Libby's attorneys: 'Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he discussed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate ('NIE') ... in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003 ... We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors. ....

"Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons .....

"In an account of her grand jury testimony, Miller has written that Libby discussed the NIE with her: 'Mr. Libby also cited a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, produced by American intelligence agencies in October 2002 ... which he said had firmly concluded that Iraq was seeking uranium.' Portions of the NIE were later declassified, but the material in it related to Niger was still classified at the time."
--Murray Waas; The National Journal; 2-9-06

Waas makes clear that the classified information that Libby testified that Cheney had authorized him to reveal to the media was the NIE, not Valerie Plame's identity. Twice in the article he makes it very clear that "Libby has never claimed that Cheney encouraged him to disclose informationabout Plame to the media." Why, then, is this information about the NIE so significant?

Wass identifies two important things. First, it "significantly adds to a mounting body of information" that VP Cheney was deeply involved in directing the operation against Wilson and Plame. Second, it lends evidence to the theory that Libby has a motive to conceal both his and Cheney's true role in exposing Plame's identity. Let's see if we can find any interesting information that indicates there was an operation similar to that noted in the quote from Ambassador Wilson's book found at the beginning of this essay. Let's start with Judith Miller's story about her testimony to the grand jury, and pick it up just after the part quoted by Waas.

{3} "An unclassified version of that estimate had been made public before my interview with Mr. Libby. I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I had pressed Mr. Libby to discuss additional information that was in the more detail, classified version of the estimate. I said I had told Mr. Libby that if The Times was going to do an article, the newspaper needed more than a recap of the administration's weapons arguments. According to my interview notes, though, it appears that Mr. Libby said little more than that the assessments of the classified estimate were even stronger than those in the unclassified version. ....

"Before the grand jury, Mr. Fitzgerald asked me questions about Mr. Cheney. He asked, for example, if Mr. Libby ever indicated whether Mr. Cheney had approved of his interviews with me or was aware of them. The answer was no.

"In my grand jury testimony, Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to the subject of how Mr. Libby handled the classified information with me. He asked, for example, whether I had discussed my security status with Mr. Libby. .... Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I had discussed classified information with Mr. Libby. I said I believed so, but could not be sure. He asked how Mr. Libby treated classified information. I said, Very carefully."
-- Judith Miller; My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room; New York Times, 10-16-05

Does this sound consistent with Scooter's story? Did Cheney authorize him to disclose classified information, or not? Would our VP authorize Libby to disclose the NIE, but not be aware that he had done so?

Fitzgerald showed Miller a series of documents, which she said "seemed familiar" and were most likely were the NIE Libby talked to her about. In fact, Miller said, Libby had removed a "piece of paper" from his pocket. Fitzgerald asked if Libby showed her the actual documents? Miller testified "no, I didn't think so."

Many suspect that Judith Miller's role in the Plame scandal was not that of a journalist. It seems that her reported testimony does not square up with Libby's. Might we find another source? Could Karl Rove play a role? Let's look.

{4} "Much of my grand jury session revolved around my notes and my e-mails. (Those e-mails and notes were given to the special counsel when Time Inc., over my objections, complied with a court order.) Owing to my typing, some words were a jumble. For instance, I wrote 'don't get too war out on Wilson,' when I clearly meant 'far out.' There were some words in my notes that I could not account for -- at one point they read '...notable ...' I didn't know if that was Rove's word or mine, and one grand juror asked if it might mean 'not able,' as in 'Wilson was not an able person.' I said it was possible, but I just didn't recall that. The notes, and my subsequent e-mails, go on to indicate that Rove told me material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson's mission and his findings."
-- Matthew Cooper; What I Told the Grand Jury"; Time, 7-25-05; page 40

On 10-16-05, Viveca Novak and Mike Allen of Time, in an article "Contingency plan," reported that, "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." Of course, that brings up Ms. Novak's relationship to that source "close to Rove." But the Rove discussion with Cooper about the material that was going to be declassified indicates that the Cheney to Libby authorization to share classified information with reporters was part of a larger plan, which included Rove.

{5} "Apparently, according to two journalist sources of mine, when Rove learned that he might have violated the law, he turned on Cheney and Libby and made it clear that he held them responsible for the problem they had created for the administration,"
--Joseph Wilson; The Politics of Truth; page 444.

The above sentence refers to Rove's exposing Valerie Plame's identity to journalists, not his sharing the NIE. But, again, it indicates that numerous people in Washington DC were aware that Cheney, Libby, and Rove were three players involved in the effort to harm Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame. And Patrick Fitzgerald is aware now, too.


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