| Tuesday, July 03, 2007
| The George W. Bush commutometer, II
So who gets pardoned and commuted by George W. Bush? Well we already know about Scooter, but who else has felt the warm glow of Dubya's compassion? The list includes just a handful of commutations, and 113 pardons to convicts who have already served their sentences. Among the lucky, five bootleggers or moonshiners, several tax cheats, mortgage and other fraudsters and white collar criminals, a couple of high caste-sounding folk convicted of cocaine or marijuana possession (like Harper James Finucan, convicted of weed possession in 1980 and James Edward Reed, convicted of the same thing in 1975) and two men: William Grover Frye and Devin Timothy Kruse, both convicted of going AWOL during the Vietnam War ... now that's one crime Dubya can really relate to.
As for commutations, in addition to Scooter, Bush has commuted the following sentences:
And of course, there's Scooter.
- Geraldine Gordon (1989 distribution of phencyclidine) (sentenced to 20 years plus 10 years supervised release; sentence commuted after 15 years, term of supervised release left intact)
- Bobby Mac Berry (1997 conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana, money laundering) (sentenced to 9 years imprisonment plus 5 years supervised release; sentence reduced to 6 and a half years, terms of supervised release left intact)
- Phillip Anthony Emmert (1992 conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine) (sentenced to 21 years and 10 months plus 5 years supervised release; sentence reduced Feb. 21, 1996; sentence commuted to 15 years and 1 month plus 5 years supervised release)
Labels: Bush administration, CIA, CIA leak trial, George W. Bush, neocons, Plamegate, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 9:01 AM
| A not so merry Fitzmas
|Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald issued the following statement about the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence:
“We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.Does that translate to "kiss my ass?"
We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as “excessive.” The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.
Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process.”
Labels: Bush administration, CIA, CIA leak trial, George W. Bush, neocons, Plamegate, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 7:08 AM
| The ghost of Karla Faye
|Karla Faye Tucker couldn't get one, even after she came to Jesus. But Scooter? He got his commutation from George W. Bush. And no nasty mocking, either...
See the Talkers clip closeup here. The story:
In early August 1999, then Presidential candidate Governor George W. Bush mocked Karla Tucker's plea for clemency during an interview with Talk Magazine. Bush mentioned that he had watched Larry King's interview with Karla Tucker from Texas Death Row.Talk about compassionate conservatism...
"I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it," Bush told the magazine. "I watched his interview with (Tucker), though. He asked her real difficult questions, like, `What would you say to Governor Bush?' "
The Talk reporter asked how she answered. " `Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, `don't kill me,' " according to the magazine.
Labels: Bush administration, CIA, CIA leak trial, George W. Bush, neocons, Plamegate, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 6:48 AM
| Monday, July 02, 2007
| The George W. Bush commutometer
|George W. Bush has a mixed record when it comes to commuting prison sentences, and so far, it seems that the advantage goes to middle aged men who reveal classified information to reporters. Here's the scorecard so far, from both his term as governor and his one and a half terms as president of the United States:
Mentally ill 62-year-old great-grandmothers accused of killing their abusive husbands: zero
Born again Christian female death row inmates whose pleas for clemency are supported by the Pope: zero (mocking snarkery included free of charge!)
Men who disclose the identity of covert CIA agents at the behest of the vice president and who then come down with a curious case of amnesia that conveniently protects that vice president from prosecution: one!!! ... or is that ... two...?
Labels: Bush administration, CIA, CIA leak trial, George W. Bush, neocons, Plamegate, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 9:56 PM
| Scooter's get out of jail free card
Ensconced in his family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, President Bush today played the sneak thief -- commuting Scooter Libby's prison sentence
, after a federal appeals court (which included a judge who had a hand in appointing Kenneth Starr back in the bad old days of the anti-Clinton coup attempt by the Republican Congress,) denied
Scooter's request to stay out of jail pending his appeal. Many analysts had thought Bush would wait until the end of his term, or even until after the November 2008 elections to do what most of us believed he would do -- pardon Libby outright. Instead, Bush surprised everyone by splitting the difference -- upholding Libby's conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges but keeping his, or rather Dick's, boy out of the slammer (he won't do the 2 1/2 years, but he will still have to pay the $250,000 fine, which should quickly be taken care of by his neocon friends -- and Fred Thompson... and his felony conviction remains in tact, meaning he'll probably lose his law license.) The White House issued the following statement
-- which amounts to "on the one hand, on the other hand" -- on Bush's behalf:
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby's request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice. As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence.
I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby's appeals have been exhausted. But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision.
From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated.
After the investigation was under way, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a Special Counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged.
This case has generated significant commentary and debate. Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak.
Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime:
Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service and was handed a harsh sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury.
Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public
trust, he must be held accountable. They say that had Mr. Libby only told
the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place.
Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important
points. I have made my own evaluation. In preparing for the decision I
am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case.
Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.
I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.
My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting.
The Constitution gives the President the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby's case is an appropriate exercise of this power.
Jeff Toobin just called this "a complete departure from what is usually done. Scooter Libby is getting something that millions of prisoners would die for."
Toobin also added that Libby was sentence precisely within the federal sentencing guidelines for obstruction of justice convictions, so Bush is free to have the opinion that the sentence was excessive, but he is not accurate. At the same time, Bush's decision is irrevocable in that he has the power to do it, and there are no appeals. Case closed, game over.
Democrats are sure to be furious about this, but I wonder whether right wingers will be satisfied either, given that their wunderkind remains a felon in the eyes of the law. Bush did not wipe his slate clean.Update:
Republican reactions are starting to roll in...
Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner
Mark Levin, at the start of his show, expressed his regret that the president didn't all-out pardon Libby, but stressed on his listeners that the president will get attacked by the Left for the commutation and he deserves support for doing as much as he did.
The NRO folks also post The Precious
RedStater Mark I had been whingeing
for a pardon for federal inmate number: 28301-016 since the federal appeals court denied his request to stay out of the slammer, and now, for Mark, vindication ... sort of, since it's kind of hard to tell
if the Staters are happy with the less-than-pardon.
On another note, Paris Hilton should be pissed. When her sentence was commuted, it was as if the world was going to end, and now this
Ambassador Joe Wilson just told CNN that the president's commutation of Scooter Libby's sentence was shameful, and said, pointedly, "Scooter Libby is a traitor." Now Joe DiGenova is attempting to clean it up for Scooter.
Barack Obama's statement:
"This decision to commute the sentence of a man who compromised our national security cements the legacy of an Administration characterized by a politics of cynicism and division, one that has consistently placed itself and its ideology above the law. This is exactly the kind of politics we must change so we can begin restoring the American people's faith in a government that puts the country's progress ahead of the bitter partisanship of recent years."Back to CNN: Jeff Toobin is now debating Joe DiGenova, making the point that Bush's commutation of the sentence was highly unusual, it having not gone through the normal procedure, and having completely bypassed the Department of Justice. Then again, why pass by there, their chief is Bush's butler...
Update 3: Hillary Clinton's reaction to the Scooter commutation:
"Today's decision is yet another example that this Administration simply considers itself above the law. This case arose from the Administration's politicization of national security intelligence and its efforts to punish those who spoke out against its policies. Four years into the Iraq war, Americans are still living with the consequences of this White House's efforts to quell dissent. This commutation sends the clear signal that in this Administration, cronyism and ideology trump competence and justice."
Rudy Giuliani, former federal prosecutor and apparently, newly minted believer in obstruction fo justice, perjury and lying to the FBI, had this to say:
"After evaluating the facts, the President came to a reasonable decision and I
believe the decision was correct."
More reactions to the commutation here. A sample:
"While for a long time I have urged a pardon for Scooter, I respect the president's decision. This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life." — Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn.
Did I mention that Thompson is a contributor to Scooter's defense fund? Means he'll be one of the sops paying Scootie-Scoot's fine.
Meanwhile, the New York Times explains the difference between a commutation and a full pardon here.
Labels: Bush administration, CIA, CIA leak trial, George W. Bush, neocons, Plamegate, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 6:01 PM
| Thursday, June 14, 2007
| Don't mess with Reggie
It isn't all that hard to bring out the wingnuts, as David Shuster hilariously referred to them tonight on Countdown (might have been a whoopsie, but I LOVED it!) Said nuts have opened up their cans of crazy on one U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia Reginald Walton, the judge who heard the Scooter Libby case, and then sentenced ole' Scooter to 30 months in prison, to begin, not later, not upon the completion of his appeal, but soon, and very soon
. The reaction from the dwindling cadres of the neocon faithful has been absolutely cookoo, with the stalwarts left to debate Pat Buchanan on Hardball as to whether perjury and obstruction of justice are legitimate subjects for prosecution. Earth to neocons: they ARE.
So what to do, when Bushie isn't acting fast enough to further discredit himself and his presidency by pardoning a man for no other reason than that he is a friend of the vice president, and despite the fact that you claimed to be coming to Washington to "restore honor and dignity" to the place ... not to make perjury and obstruction of justice fashionable among Republicans...
What to do?
Write nasty, threatening letters to the judge.
Yep. That's what the winguts are doing. Says the judge
"I received a number of angry, harassing mean-spirited phone calls and letters," District Judge Reggie B. Walton said. "Some of those were wishing bad things on me and my family." Walton made the remarks as he opened a hearing into whether to delay Libby's 2 1/2-year sentence.
He said he was holding the letters in case something happened but said they would have no effect on his decision.
It must be soul-killing to be a right winger ...
So who is this guy
Well, he's not a card carrying liberal, anti-American Socialist, as some on the right might wish. He is an African-American Republican, and an appointee of a guy named Bush:
Judge Reggie B. Walton assumed his position as a United States District Judge for the District of Columbia on October 29, 2001, after being nominated to the position by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate. In May 2007, Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Judge Walton to serve as a Judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is a 7-year appointment. Judge Walton was also appointed by President Bush in June of 2004 to serve as the Chairperson of the National Prison Rape Reduction Commission, a two-year commission created by the United States Congress that is tasked with the mission of identifying methods to curb the incidents of prison rape. Former Chief Justice Rehnquist appointed Judge Walton to the federal judiciary's Criminal Law Committee, effective October 1, 2005. Judge Walton previously served as an Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia from 1981 to 1989 and 1991 to 2001, having been appointed to that position by Presidents Ronald Reagan in 1981 and George H. W. Bush in 1991. While serving on the Superior Court, Judge Walton was the court's Presiding Judge of the Family Division, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Unit and Deputy Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division. Between 1989 and 1991, Judge Walton served as President George H. W. Bush's Associate Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy in the Executive Office of the President and as President Bush's Senior White House Advisor for Crime.
Hm... that might be a problem for the righties who might want to characterize Walton as a latter day Al Sharpton... This is Bush's judge, just as Pat Fitzgerald is Bush's prosecutor. If the president vacates their work, he can't hide behind the veil of saving Scooter from a partisan witch hunt. As Richard Ben Veniste said on "Hardball" yesterday when he debated the barely coherent Joe DiGenova, if Bush wants to pardon Scooter, he'll have to stand up, be a man, and admit that he's doing a neocon friend a big, fat favor.
Meanwhile, John Dickerson from Slate predicts Bushie will do just that
, and that Scooter won't see the inside of an orange jumpsuit. The reasons:
First: Dick Cheney. The vice president may not be winning as many foreign-policy battles as he used to, but Libby's fate is a highly personal matter for Cheney. He will ask Bush for a pardon, and he is unlikely to back down. If Bush resists, Cheney could argue that his close aide Libby should not go to jail while Karl Rove, another key figure in the scandal, has been protected by Bush and the administration.
The second reason Libby will walk is President Bush's dismal approval rating. The number of people who would be angered by a pardon who haven't already abandoned the president could fit in an airport shuttle bus. Given the conservative defections from Bush over his support of immigration reform, a pardon of Libby—which would be popular with conservatives—might actually improve his approval ratings. Libby's conviction is seen as such an outrage among conservatives that one former Bush aide suggested "the consequences of not pardoning, if Scooter is led away in shackles, will be uglier than pardoning."
Could be. But pardoning Scooter would also keep the story on the front pages, and keep people talking that ole' "underlying conduct," namely the administration's cavalier outing of a covert agent (using the same stooge reporter who stenographed for Robert Hansen, no less) to punish her husband for telling the truth about their war...
And who would want that?
Odds of a pardon at this stage: I'd say 4:3 in favor, but probably not until late summer, during the slow news months... Oh, and Dickerson says that if a Republican wins the White House in 2008 (perish the thought) he should offer Scooter a job. Go figure.
Labels: CIA leak trial, hypocrisy, Plamegate, Republicans, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 8:43 PM
| Scooter Libby and the hypocrite express
How to explain the striking reversal of mindset among "law and order" Republicans who called for the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton for purportedly misleading a grand jury in a civil sex case, and for, in the insistent words of people like Victoria Toensing and her equally natty husband Joseph DeGenova: "obstructing justice" in the Paula Jones case. President Clinton was, in fact, impeached for perjury and obstruction, though he was acquitted in the Senate.
Now, however, this collection of law-abiders, many of whom are, like DeGenova, Toensing and "Mr. 9/11," Rudy Giuliani, former federal prosecutors. And yet now, they have discovered a certain sympathy for the obstructor.
Even Chris Matthews can see through his fellow Clinton bashers' hypocrisy. Here was DeGenova on Hardball last night
(along with Richard Ben Veniste, who got quite a chuckle out of the exchange). First, on whether Libby should, or will, be pardoned:
Joe diGenova, first up, should Scooter Libby be pardoned by President Bush?
DIGENOVA: Absolutely, and the sooner the better.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe he will act?
DIGENOVA: The president?
MATTHEWS: Will he do what you want him to do?
DIGENOVA: Oh, no, he is going to pardon Scooter Libby. There‘s no question about it.
The equities here, everything point toward it. And, while the president has not been a serial pardoner—he and his father have not issued a lot of pardons during their presidencies—this is a—this is a case that cries out for a pardon. And the justification for it is evident. And I don‘t think there‘s any question that the president will do it.
The key will be whether or not Judge Walton sends Scooter Libby to prison in 60 days, or 40 days, or whatever it is.
DIGENOVA: The president will then have to act at the end of those 60 days, because, if Scooter Libby spends one day in prison, the black mark on this president‘s tenure in office will be indelible.
MATTHEWS: And it will be his black mark on Bush, not on Scooter Libby, as you see it?
DIGENOVA: No question about that, Chris, no question.
But I think the president is going to do it. And I think he understands the reasons for it, all of which are out on the public record.
And then, on the question of whether what Libby did -- lying to the FBI and a grand jury in a case involving, not sex, but the outing of a covert CIA agent working to protect this country's national security interests with respect to WMD. DiGenova's answers are pure GOPer talking points
("Plame wasn't covert" -- although she has definitively been proved to have been just that
, Victoria's vapid fulminations
aside, etc., etc.,) sprinkled with hypocrisy -- but unfortunately, no substance:
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask Richard Ben-Veniste.
Should—should Scooter Libby be pardoned by this president in 60 days?
BEN-VENISTE: I think that is—that is entirely up to the president.
He has the right, in his discretion, to do it.
If he stood up and said, look, Scooter Libby, he was doing our bidding, that this whole attack on the Wilsons, outing Valerie Wilson, who was a covert operative of the CIA, a case officer of the CIA, which our government had invested millions of dollars in developing, casually outed by the administration, through Scooter Libby, if the president wants to step up to the plate and say, I‘m responsible, and I will be a man, and I will take that responsibility by acknowledging it, and issuing a pardon, then so be it.
Let him take the political heat for it and do it. I‘m of the view that—frankly, that, unless somebody is a danger to the community, unless a—an appeal is completely frivolous, that bail ought to be granted, pending an appeal, because people should not go to jail until they are adjudged guilty, and that means through appeal.
But, with respect to the pardon, that is entirely up to the president.
MATTHEWS: Jerry Ford, the former president, the late president now, pardoned Richard Nixon, under the belief that the Burdick decision, which was a precedent, held that a person who accepts a federal pardon from a president is accepting guilt.
Do you accept that as a precedent and as a matter of law, Joe diGenova?
DIGENOVA: I—I don‘t—first of all, there is no law on that question.
Whatever the president says who issues the pardon can say that. A president can say whatever he or she wants or say nothing when a pardon is issued.
Let me just make one point about the under—the alleged underlying crime which was never charged here...
DIGENOVA: ... and apparently never committed, which was outing an agent, when you know that he or she is an agent.
The first person to mention Valerie‘s name was not Scooter Libby. It was Richard Armitage, the undersecretary of state, in a flippant way, to Bob Woodward and to Robert Novak. Scooter Libby confirmed later in—at least three or four times that he had spoken about Ms. Wilson with reporters...
DIGENOVA: ... ultimately confirmed that.
So, the bottom line here is—and—and, by the way, if the CIA was attempting to take active measures, affirmative measures, to protect the identity of Valerie Plame, let me tell you something, their—their—their tradecraft stinks, because you would not send a covert agent‘s—which I believe she was not—a covert officer‘s...
DIGENOVA: ... husband overseas, and then let him write an op-ed piece about it, and then do a number of other things that clearly were not designed to protect her cover.
MATTHEWS: Joe—Joe, did you support—did you support the impeachment of President Clinton for perjury and obstruction of justice?
DIGENOVA: Absolutely. I did.
MATTHEWS: What was the underlying crime then?
DIGENOVA: Obstructing a trial—a civil...
MATTHEWS: No, what was the underlying—what was the underlying crime?
MATTHEWS: You‘re asking for—you—now, this guy is guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice.
But what—you‘re saying he doesn‘t have an underlying crime there. But what was the underlying crime with Bill Clinton? Monica Lewinsky, that was the underlying crime?
DIGENOVA: No. Actually, it was a civic proceeding...
DIGENOVA: ... in which there was a case pending in a United States district court.
DIGENOVA: And the—the—the president, apparently, according to the reason he—he gave up the practice of law for a period of time was because he did not tell the truth during a deposition.
MATTHEWS: Well, but neither did—neither did Scooter Libby. So, they are guilty of the same charge.
By "crosstalk," the transcriber means "humminahumminahummina..." because that's about the stuttering and stammering that came from DiGenova at that stage. Pathetic.
It's a fascinating argument DiGenova puts forth, however, since the fact that there was no underlying crime was the main reason Bill Clinton couldn't have been found guilty of perjury. But in Libby's case, there was an underlying crime
-- knowingly disclosing the name of a covert operative -- but it couldn't be proven because of
Libby's lies and obstruction. In other words, Libby put himself on the line to prevent prosecutors from proving the underlying crime
-- whether that crime was committed by himself (unlikely) or others (bingo.) Now, Libby is being ordered to go directly to jail.
He's Paris Hilton, baby, not Martha Stewart. And do you want to know why, Joe DiGenova? Hm? Mr. Prosecutor and former independent counsel who seems to have forgotten the law??? He's going to jail because prosecutors know HE IS STILL HIDING INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNDERLYING CRIME, IN ORDER TO PROTECT OTHERS
, most probably the vice president of the United States. In jail, he has a much better chance of coming to his senses, rather than at home with his kids. It's kind of prosecution 101, deary.
Anyway, if you'd like to laugh at Joe the way I did last night, you can see his embarassing performance for yourself. C&L has the video
It's not just DiGenova, of course, as Intoxication
pointed out last week:
So now we have all the wingnuts beating their pardon chests harder and louder. From the National Review to William Kristol, the calls for pardon are getting louder. As matter of fact, today's Washington Post says that "pardon is a topic to sensitive to mention" in the West Wing...
And let's not forget Mr. Giuliani, the former federal prosecutor who, like DiGenova, seems to have mellowed over the years in his attitudes toward obstructing justice and lying to the FBI.
These people have no souls. Have fun in the big house, Scooter!
WaPo's Dan Froomkin reports the White House has ruled out
a pardon until the Libby appeal is complete, which could be in months, or even years. Not a good look for the neocons' neocon, but you never know, Bushie might just get religion and decide to do Bill Kristol's bidding (of course, there is the matter of Scooter's being Cheney's boy, not Bush's, but there you go) ... By the way, there is a simple exit strategy for Scooter, which will get him out of jail, most likely: he can recover his memory about precisely what the vice president told him to do with regard to Valerie Plame, and make a proffer to the special prosecutor to spill his guts. Tick, tock, Scooter...
Labels: Bill Clinton, CIA leak trial, hypocrisy, Plamegate, Republicans, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame
|posted by JReid @ 3:05 PM
| Monday, February 19, 2007
| Target: Cheney
|The National Journal has two bombshell articles offering new details of just what Dick Cheney had to do with the outing of Valerie Plame, and perhaps more importantly, what role he may have played in suborning the perjury of his then-lieutenant, Scooter Libby. First, the bottom line, from the great Murray Waas:
In the fall of 2003, as a federal criminal probe was just getting underway to determine who leaked the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the-then chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, sought out Cheney to explain to his boss his side of the story.
The explanation that Libby offered Cheney that day was virtually identical to one that Libby later told the FBI and testified to before a federal grand jury: Libby said he had only passed along to reporters unsubstantiated gossip about Plame that he had heard from NBC bureau chief Tim Russert.
The grand jury concluded that the account was a cover story to conceal the role of Libby and other White House officials in leaking information about Plame to the press, and indicted him on five felony counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice.
At the time that Libby offered his explanation to Cheney, the vice president already had reason to know that Libby's account to him was untrue, according to sources familiar with still-secret grand jury testimony and evidence in the CIA leak probe, as well as testimony made public during Libby's trial over the past three weeks in federal court.
Yet, according to Libby's own grand jury testimony, which was made public during his trial in federal court, Cheney did nothing to discourage Libby from telling that story to the FBI and the federal grand jury. Moreover, Cheney encouraged then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan to publicly defend Libby, according to other testimony and evidence made public during Libby's trial.
If Libby is found guilty, investigators are likely to probe further to determine if Libby devised what they consider a cover story in an effort to shield Cheney. They want to know whether Cheney might have known about the leaks ahead of time or had even encouraged Libby to provide information to reporters about Plame's CIA status, the same sources said.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and defense attorneys for Libby are expected to begin their closing arguments in the case as early as Tuesday morning. Defense attorneys for Libby had said for months that they were going to call Cheney as a defense witness, but informed Federal District Court Judge Reggie Walton, who has presided over the Libby trial, at the last minute that they were not going to call him after all.
Had Cheney testified, he would have been questioned about whether he encouraged, or had knowledge of, the leaking of Plame's CIA status. Sources close to the case say that Cheney would have also been sharply questioned as to why, when presented by Libby with what prosecutors regarded as a cover story to explain away Libby's role in the leak, Cheney did nothing to discourage him. ...
Now we know the stakes, which apparently are quite high for Cheney, who must be banking on a presidential pardon to save him from a possible Libby cave. So now, in a separate article, here are some key bites from Waas' in-depth tale of two leaks (take the time to read the entire article. It's worth it.):
Early on the morning of June 20, 2002, then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham, D-Fla., received a telephone call at home from a highly agitated Dick Cheney. Graham, who was in the middle of shaving, held a razor in one hand as he took the phone in the other.
The vice president got right to the point: A story in his morning newspaper reported that telephone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency on September 10, 2001, apparently warned that Al Qaeda was about to launch a major attack against the United States, possibly the next day. But the intercepts were not translated until September 12, 2001, the story said, the day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Because someone had leaked the highly classified information from the NSA intercepts, Cheney warned Graham, the Bush administration was considering ending all cooperation with the joint inquiry by the Senate and House Intelligence committees on the government's failure to predict and prevent the September 11 attacks. Classified records would no longer be turned over to the Hill, the vice president threatened, and administration witnesses would not be available for interviews or testimony.
Moreover, Graham recalled in an interview for this story, Cheney warned that unless the leaders of the Intelligence committees took action to discover who leaked the information about the intercepts -- and more importantly, to make sure that such leaks never happened again -- President Bush would directly make the case to the American people that Congress could not be trusted with vital national security secrets.
"Take control of the situation," Graham recalls Cheney instructing him. ...
...On that morning in June 2002, Cheney could not have known that his complaints to Graham about the leaking of classified information would help set events in motion that eventually would lead to the prosecution of his own chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, as the result of a separate leak investigation.
So that was the boomerang. Now, here's how it came back to hit Scooter Libby squarely between the eyes...
Senate Democrats were also pressing for a special prosecutor. Because Cheney had personally pushed for a criminal investigation of senators and their staff over the NSA intercepts, the Democrats insisted that the White House endure similar scrutiny over the leak of Plame's identity, according to several senior congressional staffers involved in the process.
With Fitzgerald's appointment as special prosecutor, Eckenrode found a sympathetic ear for his complaint that leak probes often went nowhere because suspects knew that reporters would never be forced to testify. Although the men agreed that reporters should be compelled to testify only as a last resort, Fitzgerald assured Eckenrode that he would demand such testimony if necessary.
And so, you had a game of leaks in which administration officials felt confident that the reporters they leaked to would never testify against them, no matter what. And so, Scooter Libby became one of the administration's "rogue agents," seeking to discredit an administration critic, they thought, with impunity. More of Murray:
The irony that Libby, once the vice president's top aide, was accused of concealing his role in leaking information to the press has not been lost on some. Graham said in an interview: "It's hard to believe that the chief of staff to the vice president was acting as a rogue agent. What we have learned from the trial validates the suspicion that Libby was not just operating as a lone ranger. He was carrying out what the vice president wanted him to do, which was to besmirch Joe Wilson. I think Libby has been a conspirator in one of the most reprehensible and damaging breaches of American security in modern history."
The piece then takes a slight detour, to reveal some nuggets about the new, old Dick Cheney, and his perennial purpose of subordinating the United States Congress to the president:
At the time of Cheney's phone call in June 2002, Graham and other lawmakers on the Intelligence committees suspected that the vice president viewed the leaking of the NSA intercepts as an opportunity to try to curtail what he believed were nettlesome congressional inquiries.
If that was, indeed, the vice president's main purpose for his angry call to Graham, it was not the first time that Cheney had sought to use a press leak as a pretext for constraining a congressional probe.
A recently declassified memo handwritten by Cheney more than 30 years ago when he was an aide to President Ford shows him considering whether to press the Justice Department to pursue criminal charges against The New York Times and reporter Seymour Hersh after the newspaper published an article revealing a highly classified espionage program against the Soviet Union. The memo was uncovered for a soon-to-be-aired documentary by the PBS program Frontline.
When the Justice Department balked at prosecuting anyone, Cheney adroitly tried to exploit the news report for other ends. He wrote under the heading "Broader ramifications": "Can we take advantage of it to bolster our position on the Church committee investigation? To point out the need for limits on the scope of the investigation?"
At the time, a select committee headed by then-Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, was investigating the CIA -- an unprecedented and historic inquiry that revealed everything from CIA-sponsored coups against foreign governments to attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, to illegal domestic spying.
Okay, back to the future. Remember how the right went bananas over Democrats and the New York Times supposedly aiding the terrorists by disclosing information about secret NSA intercepts? Well turns out, the big leakers in town during the Bush administration have been true blue, or should I say true red, Republicans:
In the NSA leak probe, the FBI focused primarily on news reports from June 2002 that on the night before September 11, 2001, the National Security Agency had intercepted two Arabic-language messages suggesting that terrorist attacks against the United States were imminent. The messages that were overheard said, "The match is about to begin" and "Tomorrow is zero hour." But they were not translated until September 12.But:
The messages were discussed at length by Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, who was NSA's director, during a joint closed-door session of the House and Senate Intelligence committees on June 19, 2002. Not long after the hearing concluded, CNN aired a report disclosing the two messages. The next morning, The Washington Post and USA Today published more-detailed reports. It was then that Cheney called Graham, and that Graham then met with Goss, Shelby, and Pelosi.
Senior intelligence officials have insisted that even if the messages had been translated immediately, authorities most likely could not have prevented the 9/11 attacks. But they said that the leak revealed possible sources and methods of intelligence-gathering, and therefore was a major security breach.
The FBI swarmed over Capitol Hill, interviewing virtually every senator and House member who served on the Intelligence committees, as well as the staffs of both panels. Before long, investigators began to focus on Shelby. And as they did, Shelby, who had initially supported the investigation, took to denouncing it.
In August 2002, when the FBI inquired about having members of Congress and their staffs take polygraph examinations, Shelby began to pointedly voice opposition to the investigation, telling the press: "I don't know who among us would take a lie detector test. First of all, they're not even admissible in court, and second of all, the leadership [of both parties] has told us not to do that." More broadly, he complained: "Here we are investigating the FBI for huge failures, and now we're asking them to investigate us."
Among those who provided information to the FBI incriminating Shelby was Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron. He told investigators that Shelby shared information about the intercepts shortly after the June 19 hearing, according to sources close to the investigation.
Immediately after Shelby spoke with him, Cameron told the FBI, he watched as Shelby walked down a Senate office building hallway and conversed with Dana Bash, then a producer, and now a correspondent, for CNN. Cameron was not privy to the Shelby-Bash conversation, but CNN later ran a story about the intercepts based on information that was almost identical to what Shelby had told Cameron. Cameron, who indicated that he was irked that Shelby shared the information with a competitor, also told investigators that he delayed a broadcast of his story because he wanted to make sure that he was not compromising intelligence sources and methods, according to these sources.
A congressional staff member, the sources said, recounted to the FBI that Shelby told the staffer about the NSA intercepts -- that Al Qaeda was about to attack the United States, but that the intercepts were not translated until after September 11. Shelby indicated to the staffer that the issue should be brought to the press's attention, although the staffer said that Shelby did not provide specific details of the information that the senator wanted divulged, the sources said.
The investigation stalled when investigators were unable to compel Cameron, Bash, and other reporters to provide evidence or to testify before a federal grand jury on the sources for their stories.
Graham says that even if Shelby had leaked information about the intercepts to the press, Graham believes with some degree of certainty that certain executive branch officials did so as well. Although CNN broke the story, the next-day stories in The Post and USA Today contained details that Hayden had not disclosed to the Intelligence committees, Graham said. "That would lead a reasonable person to infer the administration leaked as well, or what they were doing was trying to set us up... to make this an issue which they could come after us with."
Unfortunately, though, their zeal to capture Congressional leakers was about to bite the Bushies in the arse. So here it is: the twice told tale of how the Plame leak came to be:
The main justification for invading Iraq had been that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction. But with inspectors unable to find any evidence of an Iraqi WMD program, the White House blamed the CIA for faulty intelligence. Senior CIA officials, in turn, said that the White House had often misrepresented accurate intelligence information.
It was during that volatile time, on July 6, 2003, that Wilson wrote his New York Times op-ed alleging that the administration had distorted intelligence information about Iraq's purported attempt to procure uranium. When Cheney and Libby learned that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and might even have played a role in selecting him for the Niger mission, they perceived his allegations as one more effort by the CIA to shift blame away from the agency.
Four days later, on July 10, 2003, Mary Matalin, a senior aide to Cheney at the time, warned Libby that Wilson was a "snake" and that his "story has legs," Deputy Special Prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg said in court at Libby's trial.
Matalin then suggested a course of action, according to Zeidenberg: "We need to address the Wilson motivation. We need to be able to get the cable out. Declassified. The president should wave his wand."
Two days later, on July 12, 2003, Cheney and Libby flew together to the Norfolk naval base in Virginia, where they attended ceremonies to christen the USS Ronald Reagan.
On the way home on Air Force Two, the two men sat alone in a front compartment as Cheney counseled Libby on what to say to the press. One bit of advice: Provide reporters with details of the CIA debriefing of Wilson's Niger mission.
The vice president told Libby that the president had waved his wand.
Upon landing at Andrews Air Force Base, Libby and Cathie Martin, a press aide to Cheney, searched for a private room so that Libby could call Time magazine's Matthew Cooper and other reporters. Later from home, he also spoke to Judith Miller.
It was toward the end of conversations with both reporters that Libby told them that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, Miller and Cooper testified.
Before the trial, Cheney denied that he ever authorized anyone to provide information about Plame to the media -- or that he even suggested such a thing. But FBI agent Deborah Bond testified that on the return trip from Norfolk, the vice president might indeed have talked with Libby about revealing Plame's CIA connection to the press. "Mr. Libby told us he believed they may have talked about it but he wasn't sure," Bond told the court.
As if that's not enough meat and potatoes for you, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff has also learned that Karl Rove got an advanced peek at Bob Novak's notorious July 2003 newspaper column outing Valerie Plame three days before its publication, meaning that he knew that Plame -- a valuable CIA asset -- was going to be exposed, along with her covert operation to discover what Iran and Iraq had in the way of WMDs. Rove knew, and did nothing, meaning either that he considered the article to be confirmation of a job well done, or a convenient plot to tag along with that would have the desired effect of damaging an administration critic (Amb. Joe Wilson). Either way, it certainly explains why Rove took those five trips to the grand jury, and probably only very narrowly escaped indictment. Novak, true to form, first leaked his scoop to a Washington lobbyist, who reportedly then shared it with Rove. From Novak's testimony in the Libby trial:
Asked by one of Libby's lawyers if he had talked about Plame with anybody else before outing her in his column, Novak said he'd discussed her with a lobbyist named Richard Hohlt. Who, the lawyer pressed, is Hohlt? "He's a very good source of mine" whom I talk to "every day," Novak replied. Indeed, Hohlt is such a good source that after Novak finished his column naming Plame, he testified, he did something most journalists rarely do: he gave the lobbyist an advance copy of his column. What Novak didn't tell the jury is what the lobbyist then did with it: Hohlt confirmed to NEWSWEEK that he faxed the forthcoming column to their mutual friend Karl Rove (one of Novak's sources for the Plame leak), thereby giving the White House a heads up on the bombshell to come. ...
The more you learn about Plamegate, the more it becomes clear that the White House -- both wings -- cared less about the national security of the United States than they did about scapegoating the CIA over their hole-ridden case to go to war with Iraq. But the big question is, will Dick Cheney pull off the same escape act that Karl Rove did, and will the president pardon Scooter Libby before Patrick Fitzgerald can zero in on Tricky Dick and indict the fat bastard.
Labels: CIA, CIA leak trial, Iraq war, Joe Wilson, Patrick Fitzgerald, Plamegate, Robert Novak, Scooter Libby, Valerie Plame, WMD
|posted by JReid @ 8:21 PM