Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Putting it all together
Looks like we're finally getting answers to some of the more nagging questions in the CIA leak case. The NYT has the blockbuster headline that it was Cheney who told his deputy, Scooter Libby, about Plame's work for the CIA, information he reportedly got from then CIA chief George Tenet (doubtful Tenet will cop to that...) Says the Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.

It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.
While it's true that merely passing the information about Plame between them wouldn't necessarily be illegal, the disclosure does shed light on what seems to have been a campaign to discredit Wilson, who was apparently a lot more active in discrediting the administration's (mainly Cheney's) case for war against Iraq based on a supposed nuclear threat, than we've previously understood. Wilson was apparently all over town in 2003, acting as the unnamed source for columns by Nicholas Kristoff and articles in botht the Times and Washington Post disparaging the case for war, well before he published his now famous NYT op-ed (and before Novak outed Plame in his column). Attacking Wilson was central to the administration's defense of the war, and it remains central to their strategy for defending the vice president, Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and others implicated in the Plamegate affair.

As we get closer to the Fitzgerald endgame, it looks more and more like Cheney and his staff were looking to shut Wilson up during the summer of 2003, and that somehow, the information they had was filtered out through the New York Times (which was used disgracefully by the administration to sell the war) and through Novak (other reporters refused to take the bait, though the neocons tried to use Time Magazine, NBC News, the Washington Post and other outlets to discredit Wilson, just as Cheney had used "Meet the Press" to sell the nuclear Iraq idea and later, to try and pin the outing of Valerie Plame on Tim Russert...)

The fact that the leaked note seems to have come from Libby's attorney raises the question of whether Libby is throwing Cheney overboard in an attempt to save himself. Bloomberg raises that possibility today, saying all may not be well between the neocon and his patron.

And Raw Story puts the story together with even more detailed allegations, tying in other neocon players, notably David Wurmser, a name you don't hear as often, but whom you might soon. According to the folks at Raw:

Those close to the investigation say that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been told that David Wurmser, then a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney on loan from the office of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, met with Cheney and his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby in June 2003 and told Libby that Plame set up the Wilson trip. He asserted that it was a boondoggle, the sources said.

Libby then shared the information with Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, the sources said. Wurmser also passed on the same information about Wilson to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, they added.

Within a week, Wurmser, on orders from "executives in the office of the vice president," was told to leak her name to a specific group of reporters in an effort to muzzle her husband, Wilson, who had become a thorn in the side of the administration, those close to the inquiry say. It is unclear who Wurmser had spoken with in the media, the sources said, but they confirmed he did speak with reporters at national media outlets about Plame.

"Libby wanted to discredit him right from the start," one source close to the investigation told RAW STORY. "He used David Wurmser to help him do that."

The RawStory account has much more details about Wurmser, including his past machinations to foment a removal of Saddam Hussein and his advisory ties to the Likud governments in Israel. Still doubtful of a neocon plot to seize Iraq from Saddam Hussein dating back to the early 1990s...?

WaPo answers yet another hanging question: why hasn't Novak been dragged before the grand jury multiple times or threatened with jail like Miller and Cooper? Because he cooperated with Fitzgerald from the get-go...

Meanwhile, in the latest blow to the Vulcans, Bush I loyalist Brent Scowcroft -- the man who once groomed a young Condi Rice for Washington power -- opens up to the New Yorker, slams the current administration's poorly executed war on Iraq, and says he doesn't even know Dick Cheney anymore...

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Tags; , , , , Karl Rove, , White House, PlameGate, , Middle East, War, Terrorism, Foreign Policy

posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
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