Water Man Spouts

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Crimes of Dick Cheney

Part One
"For a nation that cannot hold its commander-in-chief responsible is something other than a democracy."
-- John Dean
The above quote is from John Dean's article "The Truth About Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's Statement to the Grand Jury Claiming the President Authorized a Leak of Classified Information," in FindLaw.com, April 7, 2006. This was one of Mr. Dean's best essays on the abuses of executive power that define what is known as "the Plame scandal." His wonderful article followed the release of the Government's Response to Defendant's Third Motion to Compel Discovery, or Document 80 in Case 1:05-cr-00394. (This and related court documents can be found in the research forum at the Democratic Underground.)
Patrick Fitzgerald's document confirmed what many people interested in the Plame scandal had long suspected: that both President Bush and Vice President Cheney were far more involved in the operation to destroy Ambassador Joseph Wilson than the administration had let on. It detailed Libby's testimony to the grand jury, in which he outlined his version of how the President and Vice President had declassified parts of a NIE to counter Wilson's exposing the Niger yellow cake fiction.
From the April 5 release of Document 80, to the May 12 release of Documents 105-1 and 105-2, which included VP Cheney's notations on his copy of Wilson's July 6, '03 New York Times op-ed, attention was being focused on the role Dick Cheney clearly played in the Plame scandal. In the two months since, numberous attempts have been made to distract attention from this most important issue. I think it is important that we re-visit the information that John Dean had said were most important.
Dean notes that Libby's testimony -- which he called a "bombshell" -- needed to be properly understood. It was neither proof that the president had authorized the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, nor proof that the president or vice president had absolute authority to declassify on a whim:
"At a minimum," he wrote, "the filing indicates that the President and Vice President departed radically, and disturbingly, from long-set procedures with respect to classified documents -- and that the Vice President, in particular, exceeded his declassification authority. And it may indicate that they, too, ought to be targets of the grand jury."
In pages 20-25 of Document 80, Mr. Fitzgerald details the relevance of the NIE to the case against Libby. He tells of how Cheney viewed Wilson's op-ed as an attack on his credibility, and how selective use of the NIE would bolster Cheney's case, and discredit Wilson. These are the pages that Dean focuses his attention on. He notes two significant problems for the administration in Libby's testimony: First, Dean notes, "Libby 'testified that the Vice President LATER advised him the President authorized' Libby to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. (Emphasis added.)"; and second, he notes Addington, "Cheney's counsel (now Chief of Staff) 'opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document AMOUNTED TO a declassification of the document.' (Emphasis added.)"
We know that only Bush, Cheney, Addington, and Libby were aware of this selective classification. Document 80 tells of Libby's efforts to conceal this from Steve Hadley and others, who were working towards later declassifying selective parts of the NIE in the traditional sense. More, as I quoted two days ago, Knight Ridder Newspapers on April 7 noted that, "Much of the information that the administration leaked or declassified, however, has proved to be incomplete, exaggerated, incorrect or fabricated." And the April 9 Washington Post stated that "the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before."
Dean writes that, "The secrecy surely suggests a cover-up. ...Whatever authority Bush may or may not have had, however, it is crystal clear that Vice President Cheney did not have any authority to unilaterally and selectively declassify the NIE." Dean writes this, despite the fact that VP Cheney had recently made the claim to Brit Hume, on a Fox News interview, that he had the authority to declassify national security information. We know that VP Cheney has based his positions on the advice of his now Chief of Staff, Mr. Addington. And we know from the recent US Supreme Court decision, in which President Bush relied upon Addington's advice that he enjoyed unrestricted power, that Cheney is sometimes very wrong. Let's take a closer look at some sources which John Dean believes citizens should be aware of.

Part Two
"The future will depend on what we do in the present."
-- Mahatma Gandhi
Representative Henry A. Waxman, the Ranking Minority Member of the House Committee on Government Reform, was concerned that VP Cheney had attempted to exercise executive authority that he was not entitled to. Thus, Rep. Waxman requested that Harold Relyea, a Specialist in American National Government from the Congressional Research Service, give an opinion on if a vice presdent had the power that Dick Cheney claimed he had.
On March 10, Mr. Relyea sent a 3-page memorandum to Rep. Waxman. It includes this: "The Vice President appears to have some limited declassification authority. However, it appears that the Vice President is not otherwise authorized to disclose or direct or to approve the disclosure of security classified information to persons not authorized to receive it."
Rep. Waxman then wrote a letter to President Bush on April 6, expressing his concerns "grave new questions about whether you, the Vice President, and your top advisors have engaged in a systematic abuse of the national security classification process for political purposes. News accounts suggest that the White House both (1) leaked classified intelligence information to further its faulty case for war and (2) improperly concealed information regarding your personal knowledge of serious doubts about this intelligence."
Again, we know from Murray Waas's fantastic 7-3 article "Bush Directed Cheney to Counter War Critic" that President Bush told Mr. Fitzgerald that he had "directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson...." Libby leaked this information to journalists before it was officially declassified on 7-18-03. And, not only is it evident that the timing shows Cheney directing Libby before Bush granted his permission, but that "Bush told investigators that he was unaware that Cheney had directed I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, to covertly leak the classified information to the media instead of releasing it to the public after undergoing the formal governmental declassification processes."
Rep. Waxman also notes that Stephen Hadley had been concerned "that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002," that documented concerns in the intelligence community over the "evidence" the administration claimed proved Saddam had WMD programs. He quotes concerns that Karl Rove expressed that "Bush's re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had personally warned" that the WMD stories had been challenged. Rep. Waxman also quotes both Condoleezza Rice and Dan Bartlett purposefully lying to the media about what Bush knew on this topic.
Rep. Waxman points out that these allegations indicate that White House officials may have violated Executive Order 12958 by "keeping the President's Summary classified and withholding it from the public." He notes that "Any attempt to keep information classified for purely political purposes is not only against the law, but contrary to our democratic tradition of open government. The executive order is explicit on this point, stating categorically that "[i]n no case shall information be classified in order to .... conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administration error; [or] prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency'."
The White House, of course, ignores Rep. Waxman's requests for a response to this or other letters he and John Conyers have sent on related issues. As citizens of this country, we have choices. We can choose to complain, or look the other way. Or we can exercise our rights, as defined in the Bill of Rights, and demand that the government respond to our concerns.
We can work to elect a democratic House asnd Senate. We can take the steps necessary to provide Rep. Waxman with subpoena powers. Then he'll get an answer to the important questions he asks. The future surely depends upon what we do today.
John Dean has often reminded us that this case is "worse than Watergate." We would do well to remember that a large part of the investigation of the Watergate scandal centered on Section 371. of Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 19 -- Conspiracy. That section reads in part, "Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States: If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy..."
That describes -- at the very least -- the activities of Scooter Libby and Vice President Dick Cheney. We need to do our best to make sure that President Bush does not pardon Libby, and that we elect a congress that will begin the investigation of impeachable offenses by VP Cheney.


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