April 8, 2006

"You cannot say that it is unimportant and something you forgot."

Says Richard A. Sauber (lawyer for Time's Matthew Cooper), explaining the relationship between the new revelations (that Scooter Libby took part in authorized disclosures to controvert war critic Joe Wilson) and Libby's defense to perjury (that he forgot who said what about Wilson's wife Valerie Plame).

Meanwhile, Libby's lawyer, William Jeffress, says the special prosecutor's revelation "is a complete sidelight" to the charge against his client, that "It's got nothing to do with Wilson's wife."
Fitzgerald's filing was meant specifically to undermine Libby's claim that the issue of the CIA's employment of Plame was of "peripheral" interest to Libby at the time. He said in the filing that leaks regarding Plame were meant to embarrass Wilson by suggesting his wife had organized a CIA-sponsored trip by Wilson to probe Iraq's alleged purchase of nuclear material -- in short, to suggest his trip resulted from nepotism.

Fitzgerald argued, in essence, that the White House effort to rebut Wilson's criticism was so intense, and so preoccupying, that Libby could not have forgotten what he said about Plame. Fitzgerald also noted that Plame's employment was specifically raised as a relevant matter by Cheney, who had directed Libby to disclose information from the NIE.
Even if the two subjects have something to do with each other, the question is how much weight this evidence has. How do you prove someone is lying when they say they forgot? One way is to prove this is the sort of thing you could not have forgotten because of its connection with something else you were paying intensely close attention to.

Quite aside from the prosecution of Scooter Libby are the charges that President Bush was hypocritical for declassifying information to support the war when he has been critical of the unauthorized leaking of information:
[T]he report that the president was himself approving a leak may do serious political damage, said [historian Rick] Shenkman, who has a blog on presidential politics. "It does give the public such a powerful example of hypocrisy that I think it might linger for a while," he said.

Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman, disputed the charge of a double standard on leaks. "There is a difference between declassifying information in the national interest and the unauthorized disclosure" of national security information, Mr. McClellan said Friday. Of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, part of which Mr. Libby shared with Judith Miller, then a Times reporter, Mr. McClellan said, "There was nothing in there that would compromise national security."

Mr. McClellan's tone contrasted sharply with that of administration officials after the N.S.A. story broke in December. Mr. Bush told a news conference at the time: "My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy."

Others picked up the theme, including Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Porter J. Goss, the C.I.A. director. On Feb. 2, Mr. Goss told a Senate committee, "It is my hope that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information."
I hope people will be able to keep these stories straight, but they are complicated and likely to merge, which is, of course, what Bush's critics want.

80 comments:

knoxgirl said...

There was a lot of gleeful discussion about this at work on Thursday. The Bush-haters were all over it... they don't even begin to understand the "fine print."

Jacques Cuze said...

I hope people will be able to keep these stories straight, but they are complicated and likely to merge, which is, of course, what Bush's critics want.

So let's keep them straight then. There are five counts [against Libby]. The first charges Libby with obstructing justice by deceiving the grand jury about when and how he "acquired and subsequently disclosed to the media information concerning the employment of Valerie Wilson by the CIA." The second charges Libby with making false statements to the government about his conversation with NBC News reporter Tim Russert on July 10, 2003. The third charges him with making false statements to a government agent about a July 12 discussion with Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. The fourth and fifth charge him with making false statements to a grand jury about those conversations.

The current claim against Bush (made by Libby) and not denied by Bush or McClellan is that Bush selectively declassified portions of the NIE for the purposes of countering Joseph Wilson. Libby was so worried about the legality of such a declassification for this purpose that he had to discuss this with David Addington, Cheney's counsel.

Critics of Bush say that Bush's actions here are far more than merely hypocritical. His actions in declassifying classified material to advance political aims are unethical and a blatant abuse of power. His actions led to the exposure of an agent directly involved in trying to determine what IraN's nuclear ambitions and capabilities were. His actions for political aims have led to an unexamined and possibly great injury to our national security, one that is very important to us today as we try to deter Iran's nuclear weapon's program and as this administration seemingly ramps up to war with Iran.

Bush's claim (through McClellan) that these declassifications were in the public interests are belied by the fact that these declassifications were leaked to the press and not just given to the press in a press conference. The claim that the declassifications followed procedure or even took place are dubious given that the same document was later declassified again much later in the timeline, and that the administration does not want to provide the press with the date of declassification that would normally be stamped on the document.

If Libby's charges are correct, it would seem to suggest that Bush was actively involved in defending his office against Joseph Wilson, and make it thus more likely that Bush knew and even approved of the leak of Valerie Plame's name. It would seem to say that Bush, though not under oath *at his own request*, knowingly lied to the grand jury himself.

Critics of Bush do not want these stories to merge. The first is the story of obstruction of justice, the second is the story of abuse of office. Each is important and deserves to be understood by the public.

Supporters of Bush want these stories to merge, and to go away, to that end they obfuscate and stonewall, dismiss the claims, and attack the critics.

Scott said...

At the beginning,middle and end of all the crap, Plame was a Cia desk jockey at least 6 years out of secret service. She had no lawful protections. In fact several of her neighbors knew she worked for the agency by her own admission. Fitzgerald has leveled not one single claim regarding Ms Super Secret Agent (tm). I has all been alleging that Libby lied to him during the investigation. I expect this proceeding will disappoint the left even more than 'Fitzmas' did.

Brando said...

I hope people will be able to keep these stories straight, but they are complicated and likely to merge, which is, of course, what Bush's critics want.

Yawn. Jaysus, Althouse. You are so predictable. Casting dispersion on the character of the critics rather than evaluating the nature of the crticisms. If this is you're angle, then you have already missing the train. See ya!

Ross said...

What I don't understand is this: Since Libby is under indictment for perjury, why do we believe him when he says Leak Y was authorized by the president?

Anyway, I don't see the crime -- well, the serious crime -- but as for Bush authorzing th leaks . . . ROTFLMAO.

And yes, the prez surely has the authority to declassify information, which makes it obvious why he'd slip the info on the QT to Judith Miller instead of simply, um, declassifying it.

Jacques Cuze said...

The Newsweek 2/13/2006: CIA Leak: Plame Was Still Covert 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, according to newly released portions of a judge's opinion.

RawStory 2/13/2006: The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program.

Seven Machos said...

What I don't understand is why, at the end of the day, Fitzgerald is continuing this quixotic fight. He has to know that Libby will be pardoned no matter what. Why bother indicting Libby? Why waste money and time in this way?

gj said...

When the Plame leak investigaton started, President Bush made a forceful statement about the seriousness of the leak and his support for getting to the bottom of it.

Now it turns out that he was the source of the leak, and this the public statement he made in October 2003 was an outright lie.

When Clinton said "I did not have sex with that woman" and it turned out to be a bald-faced lie, he had very few defenders. Even partisans on the left decried his stupidity. Now we've caught Bush in a similarly high-profile bald-faced lie. The White House is not disputing the accuracy of Libby's claim. Bush's lie, in contrast to Clinton's, is related to national security and security policy, which I think makes it more significant. It will be interesting to see whether partisans on the right acknowledge that Bush behaved poorly in this matter, or whether they circle the wagons. So far it looks like there's a lot of wagon circling going on.

(Note: I don't believe that there's any question that Bush was authorizing a leak. Even if his declassification of the information was legitimate, the method by which it was released --- to one reporter and "not for attribution" mark it as a legal, not an above-board release to the public. But then, it's natural that partisan supporters of the President will try to finely parse out the meaning of the word "leak," just as President Clinton tried to define the word "sex" so as to exclude anything other than intercourse. Now, as then, such lawyerly distinctions won't convince the general public, which is not so stupid or easily misdirected.)

SteveR said...

I guess to me if the president said release this info, as opposed to someone taking it upon themselves to release it, there's a difference.

I'm glad to see all this brouhaha because its reinforcing the image that certain folks will take anything and try to bash the target (these days Bush) without regard to a serious examination of the facts,

Aspasia M. said...

1) It looks like Libby has decided not to be a loyal soldier. He's not going to take one for the team.

Interesting. But not surprising.

2) Why does Karl Rove still have a job?

PatCA said...

Here's my (predictable) response as I am a centrist to the Bush haters who see this equally predictably as some huge revelation: The President has the authority to declassify information; a leaker is breaking the law.

As for hypocrisy, that is kind of the pot calling the kettle black, isn'it it? The NYT just accepted an eight-page ad from Darfur while Kristol editorializes against Darfur all the time and criticizes the US for not doing anything about the genocide there.

Jake said...

The facts are these. Wilson wrote in a NYT opinion piece that he did not find any indication that Saddam tried to buy nuclear material from Nigeria.

This directly contradicted Wilson's own CIA report on the matter where he said that a Nigerian leader did tell him that he was contacted by Saddam who wanted nuclear material. Bush declassified Wilson's report to prove that Wilson had lied in public. This was the proper thing to do.

Later under oath before the 9/11 commission, Wilson admitted he had lied in public and that his CIA report was true.

Gaius Arbo said...

Well, it didn't take gj long to prove your point, Ann. Already got two different things mixed.

Verification: kyfunax - So that's what they do for amusement in Kentucky.....

Aspasia M. said...

Just curious:

Do people think that Libby is innocent?

AllenS said...

I can hardly wait until Libby goes to trial, and his lawyers start grilling the reporters, Mz. Undercover, Mr. Undercover Blabbermouth. In the end, I don't think anything will happen to anybody. This has mistrial written all over it.

gj said...

Gaius, what two things did I confuse? The NIE was the source of Plame's name. The fact that Bush directed Libby to disclose elements of the NIE is directly relevent to the Plame case.

PatCA, whether information is classified is immaterial as to its status as a "leak." A leak involves selective disclosure of non-public information. Leaking often occurs, for example, by one or both sides during contract negotiations in an effort to spin press coverage. There's nothing illegal about that.

By discussing the portions of the NIE with one reporter, not-for-attribution, Libby was leaking the info. The fact that Bush may have declassified changes the legality of that action, but not whether it was a leak.

By contrast, if the White House wanted to release the information to the public (as they now describe Libby's action), they would have made it available publicly, to all reporters, on-the-record.

AllenS said...

Geoduck2,

He's innocent until proven guilty. That's the way it's supposed to work.

Aspasia M. said...

He's innocent until proven guilty. That's the way it's supposed to work.

I didn't ask about a legal standard. I asked about your personal opinion.

Or, in other words, do you think Fitzgerald was wrong to have indicted Libby?

Brando said...

What I don't understand is why, at the end of the day, Fitzgerald is continuing this quixotic fight. He has to know that Libby will be pardoned no matter what. Why bother indicting Libby? Why waste money and time in this way?

Why did the President allow the leak investigation go forward when he already knew where the source of the lead came from, namely, himself the office of the Vice President?

Bush is goint to have to nuke a country or something to divert attention from this. Oh, right, there's Iran...

Bissage said...

Is the first issue whether a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Scooter Libby knew he had disclosed the Wilson/Plame connection while testifying he had no such knowledge? If so, my first sense is that he must have known, no matter how busy a person he must be. Wouldn't anybody so important paper his file? But why would he lie?

Is the second issue whether the President is blameworthy for directing Scooter Libby to rebut Wilson's accusations? I don't see how. To me, it seems the President did nothing more than impeach Wilson in the forum of Wilson's own choosing (and the President did so in furtherance of U.S. policy). Doubtless the President had his practical reasons for exercising restraint. But we can easily imagine a nation where Wilson would simply have disappeared. Civilization and the rule of law is a good thing.

P.S. This is my first comment, although I've been a long admirer. Hope I've committed no breach of etiquette

Aspasia M. said...

It sounds like Libby's defense is going to finger the President and Vice President.

The big question: Will Libby's defense blame either the President or VP? Will his lawyer argue that they ordered him to leak Plame's name and status?

From what I can figure out - I guess Libby isn't going to "fall on his sword."

J said...

I agree with quxxo that the White House wants this to merge with the NSA stuff, since the public is overwhelmingly on their side on that one.

I don't see where it's so hard to believe Libby doesn't remember who mentioned Mrs Wilson first if it was common knowledge in DC that she worked for the CIA. The idea that she was a covert agent is...contestable, and if nobody in the White House thought she was, why would it matter who brought her up first?

gj, what did Bush lie about here? Nothing in your link supports any such conclusion. In the link, USA Today even claims Scott McClellan said "whoever was responsible for the leak would be punished" then supports it with a quote that doesn't say any such thing.

"By contrast, if the White House wanted to release the information to the public (as they now describe Libby's action), they would have made it available publicly, to all reporters, on-the-record."

Why? What they did served the same purpose, has probably gotten their side of the case much wider dissemination from people who are rabidly hostile to the president, and demonstrated that hostility to the public pretty effectively.

Aspasia M. said...

Honestly, though, my eyes are glazing over trying to read this story and keep track of all the legal maneuverings.

I have "scandal and leak" fatigue.

Ann Althouse said...

Gaius Arbo: "Well, it didn't take gj long to prove your point, Ann. Already got two different things mixed."

Yeah, I was just going to say that, but you said it first.

gj said...

Ann, what two stories am I confusing?

The President surreptitiously declassified the NIE and authorized Libby to leak it to at least one member of the press. Libby subsequently leaked Plame's name, her relationship to Wilson, etc.

The NIE contained Valerie Plame's name, and past analyses of the situation postulated that it was a likely source for the leaker. This new piece of news just the POTUS a new role of this single story. Instead of being the person who promises the American people that the leaker will be found, he is the source of the leak.

Is there some other story that you think I'm confusedly bringing in here? Did you think I was referring somewhere to the NSA warrantless wiretapping leak? Or is there some distinction in the recent disclosures about the POTUS, Libby, and the NIE that I'm missing?

Gaius Arbo said...

gj,

You automatically assume that what was authorized was the release of the name. That is not necessarily true.

Bush has the authority to declassify whenever he wants. He is the President. Read the NYT - even they admit he had the power to do so. Period. They also point out that the information provided to Miller did not lead to an article, so that can't be the source of the information you are assuming it is.

RSwan said...

gj,

The NIE is a comprehensive document containing the collective thoughts of ALL the US intelligence agencies on a particular subject. The chances of it containing the name of ANY individual intelligence analyst is extremely remote.

Gerry said...

The part that amuses me to no end with regard to this whole thing is that one side is unintentionally arguing that they wanted to have Joe be able to continue to keep from the public this rather substantial detail that goes directly towards his credibility.

That and they don't think people are smart enough to realize it, nor notice that Joe's artificially inflated credibility was being put to good use in Democratic circles...

Jacques Cuze said...

No less a lawyer than Bruce Hayden has agreed that if the President improperly declassified material for political reasons, that while he may have had authority to do so, acting in such a manner would constitute malfeasance in office under the color of law, an impeachable offense.

You guys are teh funnay. Sometimes as in the case of the NSA wiretaps and Hamdi you will say that the written laws means nothing until the Supreme Court interprets them. At other times you will cede your legal opionining to the New York Times: "even the times sez its so!"

Congressman Henry Waxman and the Congressional Research Service believe that there are definitely legal grounds to question this release of information.

I will stand by Congressman Waxman, and the Congressional Research Service, especially when they are backed up by the Lawyer Bruce Hayden.

Art said...

Knoxgirl wrote:
"The Bush-haters were all over it... they don't even begin to understand the "fine print.""

I'm glad you're satisfied with an administration that survives on the basis of "the fine print".

But then this administration has survived because it meets lowered expectations.

RaymondW said...

The more excited quxxo gets, the more relaxed I am about this amounting to anything. Can you imagine what the trial would be like? Joe Wilson on tv all day for weeks on end. Furthermore, Plame's decision to marry this guys would indicate she's not very capable or useful (plus there's the creepy old-man-hump thing).

However, I really think Bush handled this badly from the start. Cheney and his staff should be canned. This should have been handled with a news conference right after wilson's nyt's oped where the facts of the mission were revealed, nepotism charged, and the administration calling for an investigation into the cia.

Gerry said...

So you really are arguing that the President should get busted for telling the public a truth. A truth that his political opponents would have rather stayed unknown.

I have a rather strong suspicion that, come November, we are going to have one of the more surprising election nights in a long time (at least as viewed from 7 months away; by September the difference from now may be obvious).

Jacques Cuze said...

So you really are arguing that the President should get busted for telling the public a truth.

For telling the public a half-truth. He selectively leaked the part of the NIE that agreed with his views. He left hidden the parts that disagreed with him, as well as the executive summary demonstrating that he knew full well of the controversy over the tubes proving that he lied to the people in order to get us into this war.

Gerry said...

Hm. I thought the part he "leaked" (stipulating for the sake of this tangent, not accepted) was that Wilson was sent party by the influence of his wife.

I am a bit fuzzy on how this is "the part of the NIE that agreed with his views." Unless you are saying that a true fact agrees with his view. And that this concurrence should never have been seen by the public.

Gerry said...

party=partly.

Lord, please give Google/Blogger the tools to allow commenters to edit their comments!

Ann Althouse said...

I think it's good that the comments are locked in (though you can delete and do over). Otherwise, some folks would go back and tamper with their posts. This way we have an accurate record of the comments.

Gerry said...

Yes, I know. Perhaps there is some good in people seeing that sometimes writing a proper English sentence takes more than one iteration.

And perhaps they will overlook that I often hit submit just before that last needed iteration...

PatCA said...

gj,
All of you who are so convinced Bush broke the law should volunteer for the prosecution team, because the rest of us are missing it. And I question your legal definition of leak: "A leak involves selective disclosure of non-public information."

I'm not a lawyer, but to me Bush, as president, owned the information and declassified it to rebut statements he felt were untrue. He could have posted the info on Ann's website if he wanted to!

Jacques Cuze said...

Hm. I thought the part he "leaked" (stipulating for the sake of this tangent, not accepted) was that Wilson was sent party by the influence of his wife.

I am a bit fuzzy on how this is "the part of the NIE that agreed with his views." Unless you are saying that a true fact agrees with his view. And that this concurrence should never have been seen by the public.


Murray Waas on April the 6th reported that Fitzgerald filed papers that Libby testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a NIE to Judith Miller to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq. (I don't believe the NIE contained anything in particular about Plame.) The portions that were leaked of the National Intelligence Estimate regarded Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

What was not "declassified"/leaked was the executive summary of that NIE that clearly showed that many in the intelligence community thought the tubes were to be used for conventional purposes, and that Bush clearly knew of that when he lied to the people about why we went to war.

The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.


No one is saying (yet) that Bush authorized the leaking of Plame's job and name. They are saying that Bush selectively declassified this information in a bizarre, secret manner for political reasons: Karl Rove said that if the people discovered that the executive summaries said the tubes may have been for conventional purposes, that it would hurt Bush's reelection.

Waxman, et. al., are saying this bizarre, non-procedural, secret declassification for political purposes raises questions as to whether this was an abuse of power.

Libby did tell Miller, et. al., that Plame worked for the CIA, but no one saying (yet) that the President authorized that leak.

For a briefer summary of the story, see Greg Sargent, The Plame Game. And see Howard Kurtz, Leaker-in-Chief? for similar reaction and analysis.

Ann believes that these charges, if true, show merely that the President is a hypocrite, not an unethical, immoral, office abusing, incompetent, crony-loving, fascist-experimenting, corrupt destroyer of the American Experiment. YMMV.

Gerry said...

Oh, so you are saying that this is completely irrelevant to the accusation that Bush acted so as to slime Wilson (by letting a truth be told).

Glad to have that cleared up, and on the record.

And now you are saying that he leaked, prior to the official release of the information a few days later, some information the administration had when making its decisions. And again are objecting to the President telling the public things that were and are facts.

The public will, I am sure, react appropriately to the arguments.

Jacques Cuze said...

FatWa, my POV is that if Bush leaked this information for political reasons, then it constitutes malfeasance in office, acting improperly under the color of law. He may have the legal right to declassify information, but he probably does not have the legal right to do so for purely political aims anymore than your local Chief of Police may have you arrested for having the pseudonym, "FatWa."

For more on how others far more knowledgeable than me believe the Preznit's actions were illegal, merely click on my link to Henry Waxman, or the CRS, or this link to Juliette Kayyem at TPMCafe, or to Terre at DailyKos.

I link, you click. Pretty easy.

Same for you Ger. Click and read: irrelevant? No, as one official said "The former senior official said in an interview that he believed that the attempt to conceal the contents of the one-page summary were intertwined with the efforts to declassify portions of the NIE and to leak information to the media regarding Plame: "It was part and parcel of the same effort, but people don't see it in that context yet."" Irrelevant? No. We in the reality based community are trying to stick to the facts known from Fitzgerald's filings. We leave the spin to Ann and her groupies.

The public will, I am sure, react appropriately to the arguments.

I think we agree on that. Bush, GOP Approval Ratings Hit New Lows

gj said...

If you read my comments you'll see that I'm not saying Bush broke the law, and I'm not denying that he had the right to declassify that document. I'm only pointing out his dishonesty in speechifying about getting to the bottom of who leaked the information when it fact he was the one who initiated the leak.

As for Plame's name being in the NIE, that's pretty well document.

Eli Blake said...

Don't forget that last December, at a luncheon in Raleigh, NC, none other than Bob Novak, who originally broke the whole story and had refused to discuss it for months, broke his silence and told the press to leave him and Woodward alone and ask the President.

If we on the left made a mistake, it was in not piecing together the clues that were left that pointed to GWB personally. We all assumed that the mastermind was Rove, or maybe Cheney. So yeah, we didn't give shrub enough credit. But now it is out there that he personally authorized this.

Jacques Cuze said...

And now you are saying that he leaked, prior to the official release of the information a few days later

The official release 10 days later did not include the Executive Summary that provides the proof that Bush Lied to the American People over Iraq. Here, read the release for yourself.

Just to be accurate, near as I can tell, Plame's name does not appear in the released NIE. Here's another version of the same redacted NIE, but in a searchable format.

SteveR said...

Leaking from the White House for political reasons, gee that never happens...

In a related story, it was revealed today that some senators vote for bills that will benefit their home states.

Also a study indicates guys asking girls on dates are more than likely interested in sex either that night or sometime within the forseeable future

sparky said...

I like to come here to see Bush supporters attempt rhetorical jujitsu by claiming, for example, that Bush was somehow getting "the facts" out to the public. Sadly, the only facts the administration wanted out were (1) innuendos about Wilson and Plame, and (2) already discredited false statements about Niger and Iraq. And the only purpose for releasing these false statements was to discredit Wilson. Why? Because the WH could not afford to have this controversy blow up any further in the months before the 2004 election.

Beyond the administration's arrant hypocrisy about leaking this act was offensive because the only reason to release this otherwise secret information was to smear a political opponent. More importantly, however, the point of the smear and leak was to draw attention away from the revelation of the falsehoods presented as a justification for the invasion of Iraq.

Those of you toeing the administration line might want to reconsider their stance. Politics is not a clean game, but this particular operation isn't even in the ballpark. It's one thing to distribute information to support your case. It's something else entirely to release classified and false information to smear someone who called you on a lie, especially when that lie was a justification for war. If this isn't Nixon-style tactics it's hard to say what would be.

Jacques Cuze said...

Leaking from the White House for political reasons, gee that never happens...

Leaking classified information to smear a political opponent, hiding information that proves the Administration knew a War was unnecessary, leaking information that rolls up a covert network seeking out information about Iran's nuclear program, leaking information that ends up outing a CIA agent and endangering the lives of CIA agents and their informants.

I am glad for us all that you were not present in the Soviet KGB.

SteveR said...

Quxxo, You can argue (and you have and will) that declassifying information to smear someone is wrong, but please stop saying (or implying) it was wrong for the president to leak classified information.

However much I disagree with you about many things you're not stupid and you would have to be stupid not to understand that he can declassify information anytime he wants with very very few exceptions, none of which applies here.

Gerry said...

"to smear someone"

with the truth, mind you, even in the most heinous of accusations.

Jacques Cuze said...

Gerry, what was that truth that you think Bush allowed to be declassified?

I think you are mistaken about that being the truth, but since you won't say what you think that truth was, there is no real way to discuss it.

Gerry said...

Let's keep things straight, ok?

I think that we have no idea, who, if anyone, authorized Plame's name and job coming out. Nor do we know if there was any problem with her name coming out.

And that appears to be completely unrelated to whatever it is that Bush declassified. That sounds like he was unveiling, for the public, something on day X, and on day X-3 he let the press have it to get a three day story out of it. With the info being declassified being what was in the estimate to begin with.

Brando said...

I like to come here to see Bush supporters attempt rhetorical jujitsu

it is a silly little enclave of bush sycophants here, with althouse leading the charge, despite her bogus protests that she's a "moderate."

Gerry said...

""despite her bogus protests that she's a "moderate.""

Ann, not only now are you a Republican, or a conservative, but now your are a conservative Republican extremist (that being the opposite of moderate).

Welcome to the club!

Jacques Cuze said...

And that appears to be completely unrelated to whatever it is that Bush declassified.

We have Waas' report that Karl Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, cautioned other White House aides in the summer of 2003 that Bush's 2004 re-election prospects would be severely damaged if it was publicly disclosed that he had been personally warned that a key rationale for going to war had been challenged within the administration. Rove expressed his concerns shortly after an informal review of classified government records by then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley determined that Bush had been specifically advised that claims he later made in his 2003 State of the Union address -- that Iraq was procuring high-strength aluminum tubes to build a nuclear weapon -- might not be true, according to government records and interviews.

Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."


We know that Libby's lawyers said: Plame's identity was disclosed during "a period of increasing bureaucratic infighting, when certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability," the attorneys said. "The White House and the CIA were widely regarded to be at war."

We know that Patrick Fitzgerald said: that he considers the selective disclosure of elements of the NIE to be "inextricably intertwined" with the outing of Plame. Papers filed in federal court by Libby's attorneys on March 17 stated that Libby "believed his actions were authorized" and that he had "testified before the grand jury that this disclosure was authorized," a reference to the NIE details he gave to Miller.

We know that a former senior official said in an interview that he believed that the attempt to conceal the contents of the one-page summary were intertwined with the efforts to declassify portions of the NIE and to leak information to the media regarding Plame: "It was part and parcel of the same effort, but people don't see it in that context yet."

How can you stand by your claim And that appears to be completely unrelated to whatever it is that Bush declassified. EVERYONE SAYS THE TWO ACTIONS WERE LINKED!

With the info being declassified being what was in the estimate to begin with.

The entire NIE was not declassified. What was declassified did not portray the whole picture.

On October 1, 2002, Tenet produced a declassified NIE. But Graham and Durbin were outraged to find that it omitted the qualifications and countervailing evidence that had characterized the classified version and played up the claims that strengthened the administration's case for war. For instance, the intelligence report cited the much-disputed aluminum tubes as evidence that Saddam "remains intent on acquiring" nuclear weapons. And it claimed, "All intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons and that these tubes could be used in a centrifuge enrichment program"--a blatant mischaracterization. Subsequently, the NIE allowed that "some" experts might disagree but insisted that "most" did not, never mentioning that the DOE's expert analysts had determined the tubes were not suitable for a nuclear weapons program. The NIE also said that Iraq had "begun renewed production of chemical warfare agents"--which the DIA report had left pointedly in doubt. Graham demanded that the CIA declassify dissenting portions.

In response, Tenet produced a single-page letter. It satisfied one of Graham's requests: It included a statement that there was a "low" likelihood of Iraq launching an unprovoked attack on the United States. But it also contained a sop to the administration, stating without qualification that the CIA had "solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda going back a decade." Graham demanded that Tenet declassify more of the report, and Tenet promised to fax over additional material. But, later that evening, Graham received a call from the CIA, informing him that the White House had ordered Tenet not to release anything more.


And the damning executive summary that shows Bush knew of this controversy was not released.

Do you still maintain that
the info being declassified ... was in the estimate to begin with?

Brando said...

time and time again althouse's rhetorical strategy in her posts is to cast dispersions and question the character and motives and integrity of anybody who questions the bush administration. it's like a broken record.

no, althouse is not an extremist. she is simply--when push comes to shove--a bush apologist. the bush administration is long past the point where they can be given the benefit of the doubt on anything. too much bullshit has taken place. the fact that althouse and many people on this blog are still trying to defend the guy is mind boggling. Have you seen the freaking polls? Soon they will be in the 20% zone. Oh right, its the fault of the librul media. i forgot about your favorite bugaboo when you have a hard time dealing with reality.

astrolabe said...

Quzzo is troubled that the “declassifications were leaked to the press and not just given to the press in a press conference” and suspicious that the “document was later declassified again much later in the timeline”. But I believe that the Libby conversation with Miller was July 8, 2003 and Russert was on July 10, 2003. The declassified information from the October 2002 NIE was, in fact, released at a
White House background briefing
on July 18, 2003. That would be eight days later. Further, quzzo writes that “the administration does not want to provide the press with the date of declassification that would normally be stamped on the document.” But this transcript shows that the information was, indeed, provided to the press at the briefing on July 18, 2003 and a transcript was publicly available.

Several others, particularly gj, seem convinced that the September 2002 NIE invloves Valerie Plame. GJ don’t be confused, Plame’s name being in the NIE is not “pretty well document(ed)”. Read the transcript. Even quzzo states “near as I can tell, Plame's name does not appear in the released NIE”. That would be because it doesn’t appear in the released NIE. Put me in the camp that the special prosecutor’s revelation is a “sidelight” to the charges against Libby and have “nothing to do with Wilson's wife."

It is possible that Libby may have commited perjury. But I also think that Libby (or the journalists he spoke with) may have honestly forgotten the details of their converations. That’s what the trial is for and it could prove to be as interesting as the Roberts and Alito confirmation hearings. Too bad it isn’t scheduled till next year.

As to the question of declassification of information, I prefer that the president declassify information rather than the New York Times.

PatCA said...

FatWa?

Are you "casting dispersions" on me?

I'll leave you to your fever swamp.

Der Hahn said...

After reading these comments, I would reccomend that anyone interested in getting detailed and accurate information on this story start reading Tom Maguire's blog, JustOneMinute.

Palladian said...

Brando, why don't you have Sacheen Littlefeather come here to deliver your polemics for you- I'm sure she's a better speller.

Anyway, rather than casting any more aspersions (nothing like being asperged with spittle) perhaps you should simply disperse.

Jacques Cuze said...

Am I casting dispersions on you?

Yeah, I threw a 20, full dispersion spell cast. Begone slime-mold.

Ann Althouse said...

I haven't read all these comments. Quxxo posts such long things, and since I also mistrust him -- he knows why -- I'm not investing my time in reading him. Maybe if he took the trouble to write short, focused posts, he would be readable. Longer is not better. Brando is, presumably, a child -- tagging along with Quxxo for some reason.

"Casting dispersions" ... But what are "aspersions" anyway? We never talk about apersions except to speak of casting them. Do we ever keep aspersions close at hand? They are things used only for throwing...

Anyway, I just wanted to drop by to respond to Gerry's "Let's keep things straight, ok? I think that we have no idea, who, if anyone, authorized Plame's name and job coming out. Nor do we know if there was any problem with her name coming out. And that appears to be completely unrelated to whatever it is that Bush declassified. That sounds like he was unveiling, for the public, something on day X, and on day X-3 he let the press have it to get a three day story out of it. With the info being declassified being what was in the estimate to begin with."

I think "completely unrelated" goes too far (as I said in my original post). It appears, at least, that Bush and his people were very serious about countering the attack on their war policy that was made by Joe Wilson. I'm glad they cared about that. It was and is important for them to defend their policy and to notice when there is a serious attack on it. Too often they sat back and did not participate in the publc debate, thus allowing support for the war to slip away. If Wilson was also spreading misinformation, it was especially important to respond to him. The information about Plame's role in getting him him his trip was relevant as part of that.

We don't seem to know anything new about who originally decided to reveal facts about Plame, but we do have reason to perceive it as fitting into an overarching plan that the President was involved with.

Gerry said...

I agree with all of that. But would add that we have reason to believe that it was a true fact that she was involved in him being sent to Niger, and that was something Wilson wanted to keep from the public.

But to the extent that the administration had decided to let the truth come out about Wilson's credibility, yes, it was related.

grape_crush said...

ann althouse: The information about Plame's role in getting him him his trip was relevant as part of that.

In what way does Valerie Plame's role in suggesting Joe Wilson as a candidate for intelligence gathering in Niger affect the credibility of the statements he gave to the CIA when he returned to the US?

Gerry: it was a true fact..

Heh. The opposite being an 'untrue fact'.

Gerry: ..that she was involved in him being sent to Niger, and that was something Wilson wanted to keep from the public.

Of course he wanted to...She did work in an intelligence-gathering capacity for the CIA, remember?

IMHO, this is one of the worse-r aspects about this whole mess: Not only does it appear to be a attempt to discredit Joe Wilson, but an attempt to punish him by lashing out at his wife.

Ann Althouse said...

Grape crusher writes "In what way does Valerie Plame's role in suggesting Joe Wilson as a candidate for intelligence gathering in Niger affect the credibility of the statements he gave to the CIA when he returned to the US?"

It makes him seem to be something less of an expert, less deserving of the role he was given. It has some probative value.

AllenS said...

Let's remember one thing and only one thing. Libby is charged with perjury and nothing more. When he asks for discovery evidence that's when he will make his case if it is denied him. When he gets the MSM reporters on the stand under oath to question them, and they try to use the reason that they don't have to disclose their sources, again that is when his call for mistrial will have to be taken under consideration. If not at that trial, then on his appeal. Nobody is going to jail folks.

Gerry said...

"Of course he wanted to...She did work in an intelligence-gathering capacity for the CIA, remember? "

So you are freely admitting that he wanted to keep from the public a fact that could undermine his credibility.

And that the only reason he was upset about this was that it may damaged her career. And ignore the fact that sending her husband was probably not the most ethical thing in the world for her to do.

Good to get that out in the open. I understand that you wanted Wilson to be able to count on keeping that appearance of impropriety buried.

sparky said...

Minor points:
1. It's important to keep sight of what exactly Libby disseminated. That information about "yellowcake" and Niger was known to be dubious at the time (and was later proved to be a fabrication). The point is that the administration leaked selective, misleading information that quite a number of people inside the administration knew was bogus to rebut an accurate charge. What exactly is the justification for that? That it's valid policy to rebut a fact with a leaked lie?

2. As to the argument that it's ok to out Plame because it's relevant: what exactly can the relevance be? The disclosure is not "probative" of anything UNLESS you are trying to discredit the idea that Cheney sent Wilson, which was floating around at the time. Disclosure floats the notion of bias through innuendo (political junket suggested by spouse). So at bottom this was a political judgment that it was ok to disclose the relationship between Wilson and Plame--not to rebut facts, but only for smear purposes. And at that point we're left with a political judgment about releasing information. It seems at the moment that it's not clear whether the administration knew Plame's identity was covert and didn't care, or didn't know and didn't care. (That's really giving the administration the benefit of the doubt since the info on Plame could only come from the CIA.) At best a bad mistake and at worst autocratic thuggery.

3. It's puzzling that people would attempt to defend this conduct. Smears and selective leaks are always with us, but that doesn't mean we have to approve of them.

Ann Althouse said...

Sparky: "As to the argument that it's ok to out Plame because it's relevant: what exactly can the relevance be?"

Are you attributing that argument to me. Because I never said that! I wrote about relevance and did not say the relevance justified outing a secret agent. I did write about the relevance and won't revisit that subject. You're just repeating this idea that it can only be to "smear" Wilson. Why "smear"? They were trying to discredit him because he was attacking their policy, holding himself out as an important expert. They needed to do that. What did they do that was illegitimate in that attempt to discredit him? If nothing, it's not a smear.

AllenS said...

Libby will be defending himself against perjury. His defense will not rest on any conversations he had with the administration. Fitzgerald could have charged him with disclosing information that outted a covert agent, but he didn't. I would imagine that he didn't because there was no evidence that he did anything wrong, or Plame was not covert. Wait until Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell and the rest get on the stand. Let the fun begin.

Jacques Cuze said...

It makes him seem to be something less of an expert, less deserving of the role he was given. It has some probative value.

Yes, this is exactly why I am forced to consider Richard Lawrence Cohen's writings and bloog and John Althouse Cohen's artistry to be complete crap.

In the meantime, the truth is that Plame did not send Wilson to Niger anymore than Althouse sent me to Cohen's blog. Both made recommendations when they were asked based upon their knowledge. Plame had no authority to send anyone anywhere. The decision to send Wilson was made by others in the CIA. This has been discussed in the Senate Select Committee Report.

Joseph Wilson's expertise? Well he was of course the last American Diplomat in Baghdad before the first Gulf War, famously wearing a noose and daring Saddam Hussein to hang him for his act of sheltering Americans in the embassy.

Wilson was posted to Niger during the 70s.

Wilson later served as U.S. ambassador to Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe under President George H. W. Bush. Gabon is another uranium producing African nation.

He was also Director for African Affairs in the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.

What do you supposed his responsibilities as Director for African Affairs in the National Security Council included? Understanding uranium production in Africa? Couldn't be.

"It makes him seem to be something less of an expert, less deserving of the role he was given. It has some probative value."

That you think that Ann after you have studiously and famously avoided researching the issue speaks much more to your conservative republican conspiracy leanings than it does to your ability to be a discerning and intellectually curious citizen.

Ann, there is no need to believe me or trust me, merely read and click on the links. That's the beauty of teh Intarweb. Occam's razor suggests there is another reason you don't like to read my posts or click on the links. But I do thank you for no longer engaging in the rote willy-nilly deleting of my posts as you were doing last month.

Jacques Cuze said...

Allens:Fitzgerald could have charged him with disclosing information that outted a covert agent, but he didn't. I would imagine that he didn't because there was no evidence that he did anything wrong, or Plame was not covert.

Libby was charged with obstruction of justice as well as perjury.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

FITZGERALD:
And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.

As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.

So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.

I also want to take away from the notion that somehow we should take an obstruction charge less seriously than a leak charge.

This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter. But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important. We need to know the truth. And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: Your posts are too long to read, but to the extent that you think I've posted my son John's drawing on this blog, you are mistaken.

astrolabe said...

This editorial entitled "A Good Leak" in today's Washington Post provides an interesting contrast to the article in yesterday's Washington Post that Prof Althouse cited to get this post started. The editorial supports the declassification of parts of the 2002 Iraq NIE and states that the declassified material established "that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth". This story certainly has plenty of moving parts.

Jacques Cuze said...

Washington Post Praises Bush Leak, Mangles Facts

This morning, the Washington Post published an editorial — entitled “A Good Leak” — vigorously defending President Bush’s decision to authorize a leak of classified information as part of a political effort to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Apparently, it isn’t a very strong case because, in order to make their point, the editors had to mangle the facts –

CLAIM: Wilson said Cheney sent him to Africa “Mr. Libby’s motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney.” [Washington Post, 4/9/06]

FACT:

Wilson never said that Cheney sent him, only that the vice president’s office had questions about an intelligence report that referred to the sale of uranium yellowcake to Iraq from Niger. Wilson, in his New York Times article, said CIA officials were informed of Cheney’s questions. [Bloomberg, 7/14/05]

CLAIM: There is no evidence of a White House effort to punish Wilson. “Mr. Wilson subsequently claimed that the White House set out to punish him for his supposed whistle-blowing by deliberately blowing the cover of his wife, Valerie Plame, who he said was an undercover CIA operative…After more than 2 1/2 years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson’s charge.” [Washington Post, 4/9/06] ....


Read the whole thing, and consider replacing that astrolabe with a sextant, or perhaps a more accurate way for you to obtain your data.

sparky said...

Ann--my responses below.

Are you attributing that argument to me. Because I never said that! I wrote about relevance and did not say the relevance justified outing a secret agent.

I agreee--you didn't say that it was ok to out Plame. I don't think your comment suggested that, either. Nor, (to continue this string of negatives), was I implying that you did. I think my problem with your statement was that the context (or lack of) suggested --at least to me--that this was a justificatory rationale for the release of the information. I was taking issue with that rationale, nothing more.


I did write about the relevance and won't revisit that subject. You're just repeating this idea that it can only be to "smear" Wilson. Why "smear"? They were trying to discredit him because he was attacking their policy, holding himself out as an important expert. They needed to do that. What did they do that was illegitimate in that attempt to discredit him? If nothing, it's not a smear.

I agree with you that the administration is entitled to rebut Wilson's claims. My point was that releasing the information about Wilson's wife had nothing to do with the accuracy of Wilson's statements but merely with floating the idea that the trip was a junket proposed by Wilson's spouse. And that is nothing but an attempt to throw dirt on the person without challenging the accuracy of the statement, the classic definition of a smear. Let's assume it's "ok" to "discredit" Wilson. Even if we accept that argument, there was no need to release information about Plame. For example, the administration could simply have said that it was the CIA's idea to send Wilson. The CIA could have fallen on its sword and said it was a mistake to send Wilson, and all the same arguments could be made without Plame's identity--save one. And that one is that somehow Wilson's report is flawed or biased because of the relationship between Plame and Wilson. So, because it's a character attack, it's a smear. What makes it illegitimate is (1) it was unnecessary and (2) the administration couldn't be bothered to take enough care to determine the effects of disclosing Plame's identity (again, not assuming a worse motive here).

Another way of putting it is that it's an illegitimate use of the power to disclose because the disclosure was unnecessary to the argument and destroyed Plame's job. The power to disclose gives enormous power to rebut. It is not license to retaliate.

Jacques Cuze said...

Astrolube, if you read the post, you may wish to read the whole thing:

Here the post reports that Fitzgerald says a) Cheney was at the center of a conspiracy to punish Wilson, and b) the leaked information was factually wrong, and known to be wrong by the leakers themselves

As he drew back the curtain this week on the evidence against Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq.

Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign. Citing grand jury testimony from the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald fingered Cheney as the first to voice a line of attack that at least three White House officials would soon deploy against former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.


One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.

astrolabe said...

quxxo - as I said, there certainly are many moving parts to this story. But when you quote an article that you link to, you may want to make it clear when you are quoting and when you are inserting your own words. Otherwise what you are doing might seem kind of, well, you know, deceptive.

astrolabe said...

Oops, quxxo you were quoting the article properly. My mistake.

Jacques Cuze said...

Thank you astrolabe, I definitely appreciate your correction.

grape_crush said...

Ann Althouse: It makes him seem to be something less of an expert, less deserving of the role he was given.

Even if you put aside Wilson's prior government work experience, you have to know he wasn't the first non-technical person that the CIA has given questions to for gathering intelligence from various contacts...Or is every CIA operative a subject matter expert in the area that they are collecting intelligence on?

I'm just not seeing how how Plame's introduction of her husband to her superiors in the CIA undermines her husband's credibility, was improper, or unethical.