Water Man Spouts

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Mystery & Manners

On February 4, 2006, I posted an essay titled "Your Move" on my blog and on two political forums. In it, I described the on-going investigation into the Plame scandal and the Libby pre-trial hearings as a chess match. Most people can look at the Bush administration, and identify who is the king, the queen, the bishops, knights, rooks, and the pawns, on that side.
Likewise, it is easy to identify Patrick Fitzgerald as the most important player on the other side. As time goes on, it is becoming apparent that there are others playing significant roles in this contest. I thought it might be interesting to make a quick review of this topic, and try to apply it to some of the recent developments in the case.
There are three general parts to a chess match: the opening, the middle game, and the end game. It is common for a player to bring out their pawns, bishops, and knights quickly; to castle early to protect their king; and to try to control the four center squares in the opening of a chess match. This is so that they can arrange their players in the strongest possible position for the battle that develops in the middle game.
In setting up one's players, it is important to be fully aware of all of the pieces on the board. One cannot, for example, take a pawn for granted. Thus, as the contest between Fitzgerald and the Office of the Vice President (OVP)/White House Iraq Group (Whig) begins to heat up in the middle game, I think we would do well to look beyond those four center squares. It's tempting to focus exclusively on Libby and Rove -- and especially Cheney -- but let's start with Dick Armitage.
In mid-May, there was a report that Mr. Fitzgerald had placed Dick Armitage in his cross-hairs. A number of people from two political forums e-mailed the report to me, because they knew I had done an essay on Dick in July '05, "The Unknown Soldier," which can still be found on my blog. I had noted then that the OVP/WHIG had come to blame Mr. Armitage for many of their problems, and that this included their belief that he was the source of some of the leaks to the media that they believed damaged the case the OVP/WHIG made for invading Iraq.
I do not think Mr. Armitage can or should be viewed as a champion of progressives/democrats. However, those familiar with his experiences in Vietnam recognize that he is a different breed than fellows like Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, or George W. Bush. And so the rumor that he was a target of the investigation was of no concern. Within a brief period, Editor & Publisher.com had an article "Armitage Key Witness in Libby/CIA Leak Case?" (5-21-06) that correctly noted that Dick had "emerged as a key witness" who "could hurt" both Libby and Rove.
In a related report, the New York Daily News (5-23-06) featured "2 in CIA to testify Libby lied on leak," by James Gordon Meek. The article noted that two top CIA officials would help the prosecution expose I. Liar Libby as being dishonest on his claims that he was unaware of the status of Valerie Plame. Those familiar with my writings on the case will recall that when some questioned if Ms. Wilson was indeed a covert CIA employee, I stated several times that the first witness that Mr. Fitzgerald had brought before the (first) grand jury was a high-ranking CI official, who had clarified the Agencies' reasons for requesting the DoJ investigation into the leaking of her identity. This was confirmed, in large part, in Michael Isikoff's 2-13-06 Newsweek article, "The CIA Leak: Plame Was Still Covert." ("But special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald found that Plame had indeed done 'covert work overseas' on counterproliferation matters in the past five years, and the CIA 'was making specific efforts to conceal' her identity...")
When the jury hears the testimony of Craig Schmall and Robert Grenier, they will know that Libby is lying about virtually everything he has claimed to the FBI investigators and grand jury. The jury will begin to appreciate the size and scope of the operation the OVP/WHIG was running to damage both Mr. and Ms. Wilson.
Another area that I find fascinating, and which shows that Mr.Fitzgerald is not the only player opposing the OVP/WHIG, is the series of filings and hearings regarding Team Libby's attempt to put the media on trial. This part of the chess match featured Team Libby going against attorneys for NBC, Matt Cooper, Judith Miller, Andrea Mitchell, Time, and the New York Times. Judge Walton elected to hold some hearings in camera, and to examine a number of the disputed documents to determine if they were material to the case.
Judge Walton issued his Memorandum Opinion on 5-26-06. The 40-page document will be the subject of one of my next essays. I will say that I find it an important ruling, for a number of reasons. I think that this part of the Libby case posed significant Amendment 1 issues, and think more supporters of a free press should have taken a closer note of the risks that were involved. (I would compare it to the neocon/AIPAC spy scandal, which people mistakenly believe involves Amendment 1 issues, because they have accepted the lies of people involved in the espionage. Yet no journalist is charged in that case, just a government official and two people engaged in "private" intelligence operations.)
The ruling was also of interest because Team Libby appeared to be making moves that would be grounds for future appeals after Scooter is convicted. Keep in mind that appeals are based upon the process, not on guilt versus innocence. I believe that Judge Walton closed the door on this area for the Libby lawyers. Of course, they may try, but Judge Walton was more than fair to the defense.
The case involves the media in a number of ways. It goes beyond Chris Matthews calling Joseph Wilson to warn him about Karl Rove's activities. It's more than Libby calling Tim Russert to complain about Matthews' reporting, and then lying to investigators about the call. And it goes deeper than Judith Miller's failure to report to her editors, while she spread lies forthose pulling her strings. On 4-25-06, in my essay "Leaks in Perception," I wrote about how forces from the OVP/WHIG were involved in a campaign to manipulate the coverage of the Plame scandal. I warned that they were preparing for a new offensive in May.
This attempt to spread disinformation goes beyond clowns like Byron York, who can be found on Fox News, on the National Review, and on Scooter Libby's Defense Trust's internet site, claiming that Libby is an American hero, that the charges against him are weak, and attacking those who want justice to be served to all of those involved in the operation to damage the Wilsons. There has been controversy about reports on Truthout that Karl Rove had been indicted. To be fair, I will say that several people -- myself included -- had been told that Mr. Fitzgerald was preparing to focus the grand jury on the role of Rove on May 10 and 12. I believed that it was likely that Karl would be indicted. I do not know what his current status is. I believe that in time this will be viewed as being of the similar significance to the Washington Post's report on Hugh Sloan, Jr.'s grand jury testimony. (Readers may recall that Bob Dole attacked the WP, saying things like, "The Post's reputation for objectivity and credibilityhave sunk so low they have almost disappeared from the Big Board altogether.")
I do know that "Maury & Connie" are attacking Truthout as I type this. Odd that they have not invited Bob Dole or his most recent incarnation, Senator McCain, on toserve as attack dogs. I note that they ignore the more important news, which involves Vice President Dick Cheney's involvement in the Libby case. Far from disappearing from the Big Board, the Washington Post features an article today, "Filings in CIA Leak Case Paint Cheney as Determined to Counter Critic."
There have been a number of interesting essays on the latest court filings, which include discussion on the possibility of Mr. Fitzgerald calling Cheney to testify in Libby's trial. The filings include information on the devastating copy of Wilson's NYT op-ed, with Cheney's notations, as well as parts of Libby's grand jury transcripts. Reading these documents leaves one with the feeling that Mr. Libby will be found guilty beyond any doubt.
What I think may be the most significant part is found in Mr. Fitzgerald's 5-24 Reply to Team Libby's Response, regarding Cheney's copy of the op-ed. In it, Mr. Fitzgeral makes four references worth looking at: (1) "Defendant then testified that the Vice President told him repeatedly that he wanted to 'get the truth out,' including 'all the facts about what he had or hadn't done; what the facts were or were not" {pg5}; (2) "... his immediate superior, who also directed defendant during the critical week after July 6 to get out into public 'all' the facts in response to the Wilson Op Ed," {pg6}; (3) "By his own account, defendant understood from the Vice President that it was necessary to get out 'all' the facts in response to the Wilson Op Ed," {pg8}; and (4) "... the Vice President communicated to defendant the facts he considered notable, and also directed defendant to get out to the public 'all' the facts in response to the Wilson Op Ed," {pg 8-9}.
I think it is interesting that Mr. Fitzgerald puts "all" in quotes four times. It might be that he suspects that VP Cheney directed Libby to release "all" the information to journalists that he did.


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