Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Dick Cheney gave an entire speech, and forgot to apologize for outing a CIA agent
So...the Obama v. Cheney distant family feud / national security showdown is over, and Dick Cheney, who was engaged in a protracted struggle with the CIA every day of his shadow presidency, up to and including inducing his chief of staff to out a clandestine CIA officer, is the lone voice defending the brave operatives at Langley from the evil liberals who don't appreciate their service? Yes, well....

Cheney's speech to the American Enterprise Institute (any wonder the two outlets to get advanced copies of Cheney's durge were Fox News and the Weekly Standard...?) contained nothing unexpected, unless you count Cheney's sudden love for the CIA as unexpected.

As for President Obama's speech, you definitely get the feeling that it's starting to bug him that so many of us out here in Americanland want him to "re-litigate" the torture policies of the past. But Obama's main points were well taken: he is not a continuation of George W. Bush, and sorry Dick, but the previous administration did clearly subvert American values. But Obama's strongest point may have been this: that the previous administration's response to the 9/11 attacks was haphazard at best.

By the way, Cheney's obsession with the CIA-torture nexus isn't new. You probably won't recall this, because the media has had no interest in it, but according to investigative reporter Jane Mayer and others, as recounted by Jason Leopold:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney intervened in CIA Inspector General John Helgerson investigation into the agency’s use of torture against alleged “high-value” detainees, but the watchdog was still able to prepare a report that concluded the interrogation program violated some provisions of the International Convention Against Torture.

The report, which the Obama administration may soon declassify, was completed in May 2004 and implicated CIA interrogators in at least three detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and referred eight criminal cases of alleged homicide, abuse and misconduct to the Justice Department for further investigation, reporter Jane Mayer reported in her book, The Dark Side, and an investigative report published in The New Yorker in November 2005.

In The Dark Side, Mayer described the report as being “as thick as two Manhattan phone books” and contained information, according to an unnamed source, “that was simply sickening.”

“The behavior it described, another knowledgeable source said, raised concerns not just about the detainees but also about the Americans who had inflicted the abuse, one of whom seemed to have become frighteningly dehumanized,” Mayer wrote. “The source said, ‘You couldn't read the documents without wondering, 'Why didn't someone say, "Stop!'""

Mayer added that Cheney routinely “summoned” Inspector General Helgerson to meet with him privately about his investigation, launched in 2003, and soon thereafter the probe “was stopped in its tracks.” Mayer characterized Cheney’s interaction with Helgerson as highly unusual.

Cheney’s “reaction to this first, carefully documented in-house study concluding that the CIA’s secret program was most likely criminal was to summon the Inspector General to his office for a private chat,” Mayer wrote. “The Inspector General is supposed to function as an independent overseer, free from political pressure, but Cheney summoned the CIA Inspector General more than once to his office.

“Cheney loomed over everything,” the former CIA officer told Mayer. “The whole IG’s office was completely politicized. They were working hand in glove with the White House.”

But Mayer said Cheney's intervention in Helgerson's probe proved that as early as 2004 “the Vice President's office was fully aware that there were allegations of serious wrongdoing in the [torture] Program." Helgerson has denied that he was pressured by Cheney.
Go figure...

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posted by JReid @ 12:06 PM  
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Dubya to Dick: bug off!
More evidence that Dubya was dumb, but not that dumb...
In the waning days of the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney launched a last-ditch campaign to persuade his boss to pardon Lewis (Scooter) Libby - and was furious when President George W. Bush wouldn't budge.

Sources close to Cheney told the Daily News the former vice president repeatedly pressed Bush to pardon Libby, arguing his ex-chief of staff and longtime alter ego deserved a full exoneration - even though Bush had already kept Libby out of jail by commuting his 30-month prison sentence.

"He tried to make it happen right up until the very end," one Cheney associate said.

In multiple conversations, both in person and over the telephone, Cheney tried to get Bush to change his mind. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in the federal probe of who leaked covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press.

Several sources confirmed Cheney refused to take no for an answer. "He went to the mat and came back and back and back at Bush," a Cheney defender said. "He was still trying the day before Obama was sworn in."

After repeatedly telling Cheney his mind was made up, Bush became so exasperated with Cheney's persistence he told aides he didn't want to discuss the matter any further.
And the NYDN's Tom DeFrank reports that the Bush-Cheney relationship became more "businesslike" than warm over time, after the WMD not turning up and the rosy Iraq scenarios not panning out and such. I suppose even George W. Bush could tell when his presidency was ruined, and who contributed most to ruining it.

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posted by JReid @ 10:17 PM  
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Bush panned on the right for leaving Libby hanging
Add the neocon defenders of outing CIA agents to the list of people who can't stand former President Bush:
Former Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed publicly with his boss just four times in the eight years they served together. Yesterday, however, on the first day after the official end of the Bush administration, Cheney disagreed with George W. Bush once more.

Cheney told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whom he described as a "victim of a serious miscarriage of justice," deserved a presidential pardon.

Asked for his reaction to Bush's decision Cheney said: "Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and honorable men I've ever known. He's been an outstanding public servant throughout his career. He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush's decision."

Bush's decision not to pardon Libby has angered many of the president's strongest defenders. One Libby sympathizer, a longtime defender of Bush, told friends she was "disgusted" by the president. Another described Bush as "dishonorable" and a third suggested that refusing to pardon Libby was akin to leaving a soldier on the battlefield. ...

Sure hate it.

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posted by JReid @ 3:44 PM  
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Mr. Know-it-all?

Every so often, something happens -- sometimes big, sometimes small -- that forces you to contemplate the possibility that George W. Bush isn't a stupid as he seems to be. ... that somehow, he actually does know what's going on around him, and that worse, he is in on it. This used to happen to me with Ronald Reagan from time to time -- those moments when you got the feeling that he may have only seemed senile, but in fact, was the mastermind behind all the bad things being done in his name (Iran Contra was such a moment, but looking back, I'm leaning more toward his being used by people like Ollie North and Elliot Abrams...)

This is that kind of moment for GWB, and it comes courtesy of a doughey, sweaty little Texan named Scott, who used to work at the White House... Today, the company that's publishing his "tell all" book issued a couple of tantalizing paragraphs related to Scott's role in the cover-up following the outing of CIA covert agent Valerie Plame. Bloomberg picks it up from there:

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan writes in a memoir that he unintentionally misled the public about the leak of a CIA operative's name because of misinformation given to him by President George W. Bush, political adviser Karl Rove and other top officials.

A three-paragraph excerpt from the book released today by the publisher doesn't give details of what the president told McClellan. The case eventually led to the indictment and conviction of Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

``I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,'' McClellan, 39, wrote. ``There was one problem. It was not true.''

McClellan wrote that he ``unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff, and the president himself.''
The White House, through its current flaks, has of course denied that Georgie would EVER ask anyone to lie, much less about the leaking of classified information -- something he claimed back in 2003 he knew not a thing about. As for McClellan -- the White House is implying that "he thinks the paragraphs were taken out of context." How Dana Perrino knows what Scott McClellan thinks is not explained, unless of course Dick Cheney is somewhere in a secret location, to which poor Scott has been dragged, bound and gagged, and is now telling him what he thinks.

What's intriguing about the McClellan eruption is that it brings us back to the fundamental question that Patrick Fitzgerald was never able to answer for us during the Plame leak investigation, because of the sand thrown in his eyes by the perjurious Scooter Libby: namely, who inside the White House knew that Scooter Libby was peddling classified information that the White House hoped would discredit Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had blown the whistle on the Bush administration's foreknowledge of the emptiness of their charges about Iraq and yellowcake from Niger. Who knew, and who may have ordered Libby, and perhaps others (Newsweek's new golden boy Karl Rove comes to mind... kudos to the editors at Time, by the way, for having higher standards...) to leak Plame's identity, outing and endangering her and anyone who worked with her, and blowing years of weapons intelligence that had been gathered by her through the CIA front company Brewster Jennings.

Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby clearly suggests that he believes that the vice president was involved -- perhaps even the key player in the treasonous game of hardball. But McClellan's little paragraphs open the door to the possibility that the culprits in the unprecedented betrayal of a covert agent by her own government -- something brand new in American history -- may have gone all the way to the top.

Funny, that.

A reporter on MSNBC tonight suggested that the book is "Scottie's revenge," and says that McClellan left the White House bitter and angry at having been misused by the White House in the Libby affair. David Gregory disagreed with the revenge thing (he would, he doesn't often go out on a limb when it comes to politics...) but he did agree that McClellan left the White House a bitter man. He certainly seems to be putting some distance between himself and the 22 other administration officials involved in either the leak itself, or the cover-up. ... including one rather dim, but maybe not-so dumb ... George W. Bush. More on the case against Bush in the Plamegate affair from Thinkprogress here.

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posted by JReid @ 10:12 PM  
Monday, July 09, 2007
Quick take headlines: to Panama and beyond!
Supporters of Manuel Noriega are anticipating his possible release from a Miami prison in September ... but all I want to know is whether or not he was a CIA informant...

Hearing alert! The Senate judiciary committee plans to call Patrick Fitzgerald to testify in their investigation of Libby commutationgate.

Inside the neoconservative mind: Bill Kristol likes George W. Bush more when he's Machiavellian. And he loves it when the president goes to the tired Clinton well for cover for his own disgraceful actions. Kristol's explanation of the timing of Bush's Libby rescue: he did it because the Clintons were in Iowa, and he wanted to distract the media into talking about them, and about Bill's pardons. And Kristol says, that's a good thing...

I can't think of a more horrible crime. A gang of teenaged hoodlums ambush and gang rape a woman -- a mom -- and then force her 12-year-old son to join in, at gunpoint. The two out of about 10 masked, gun-wielding monsters that Palm Beach, Florida police have caught? They're aged 16, and 14. Yep. 14. Unbegoddamnedlievable. Meanwhile, the father of one of the teens, who apparently come from the requisite screwed up backgrounds, is standing by his boy. Yeah. Figures. Blah blah blah... send them to jail for life...

Meanwhile, violence in Baghdad hits a new high ... or a new low... 100 dead in a single suicide bombing this weekend.

On the campaign front, Nixon stooge Fred Thompson comes down to bore the young people of South Florida... I wonder how the young consevatives will feel about Freddie's past lobbying in favor of abortion rights...?

Rudy gets jeered over his anti-flat tax stance ...

And Barack Obama's campaign has its own private Watergate break-in.

...and on airplane, somewhere high above Studio City, it's Clay Aiken, you little bitch...

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posted by JReid @ 7:07 AM  
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Wayne Madsen unloads on Libby
The latest WMR report has what its author claims are the goods on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the free and fully paid up former would-be inmate number 28301-016 (who now probably won't even face probation...):

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been a long-serving intelligence agent for Israel's Mossad, according to a veteran CIA "official cover" officer who spoke to WMR on deep background. The CIA's Clandestine Service has, over the years, gathered a tremendous amount of intelligence on Libby's activities on behalf of Mossad.

Libby served as the lawyer for Switzerland-based American fugitive financier Marc Rich, aka Mark David Reich, who is also known to be an Israeli intelligence asset and someone Israel relies upon for missions that demand "plausible deniability" on the part of the Mossad. Rich heads up a worldwide empire of dummy corporations, foundations, and numbered bank accounts that have been involved in sanctions busting and weapons smuggling. The nations involved include Israel, United States, United Kingdom, Iran, Panama, Colombia, Russia, Iraq (under Saddam Hussein), Cuba, Spain, Nigeria, Singapore, Bolivia, Jamaica, Bermuda, France, Italy, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Australia, Argentina, Peru, Ireland, Zambia, Sweden, Monaco, and apartheid South Africa.

In 1983, the then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York urged jail time for Rich and his partner Pincus Green for racketeering. The name of that U.S. Attorney is Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani, who is now running for president, praised Bush's decision to commute Libby's jail sentence. After Clinton's pardon of Rich, Giuliani said he was "shocked." Paul Klebnikov, the Moscow editor for Forbes' Russian edition, wrote about the connections of Rich to Russian gangsters like Boris Berezovsky, a business partner of Neil Bush, in his book "Godfather of the Kremlin." Klebnikov was shot to death gangland-style on a Moscow street on July 9, 2004.

Libby not only provided the Mossad with a top agent inside the White House but also an important conduit for the Russian-Israeli Mafia.

Libby arranged for Rich's eleventh hour pardon by outgoing President Bill Clinton in January 2001. The pardon of Rich was urged in a phone call to Clinton by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, as well as Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert.
A bit more, from further down the post:

Libby worked for Paul Wolfowitz in the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1982 to 1985. Libby again worked for Wolfowitz in the Pentagon as the Principal Undersecretary for Strategy and Resources. Libby later became the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and served as a chief aide to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

It was while Libby was working for Wolfowitz at State, the FBI arrested Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who had delivered enough highly-classified U.S. documents they could have entirely filled a garage. It was well known that Pollard had a "control officer" within the Reagan administration. The control officer was code-named "Mega."

Current British Lord Chancellor and former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that during Middle East peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, "It's a toss-up whether [Libby] is working for the Israelis or the Americans on any given day." Clinton's Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder told the House Government Affairs Committee in 2001 that he discovered much more about Rich after Clinton's pardon and said, "Knowing everything that I know now, I would not have recommended to the president that he grant the pardon."

It has also been reported that, in addition to pressure from leading neocons in the United States to keep Libby out of jail, Bush was urged by leading Israeli government officials to prevent Libby from going to prison.
Interesting, and who knows, it may even be true...

And if it is, how ironic wouldi it be if Libby's get out of jail free trick winds up aiding an alleged Hamas operative? Already, defense attorneys are lining up to file "Libby motions" for their clients convicted of obstruction and perjury... nice work, Bushie.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is planning hearings on the Libby affair, and on the use of the presidential clemency power. Not sure how far that will get.

More Libby-Rich intrigue here, from Conspiracy Planet.

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posted by JReid @ 9:15 PM  
Quick take headlines: Thursday as Monday
What a strange thing it is to have a day off in the middle of the week ... it's enough to make Thursday feel like a Monday. Oh well ... here's what-a-gwan:

Conversations:

Al Gore to Tipper: "Well, at least the boy was in a Prius..." (after his son gets pinched for possession of marijuana, Xanax, Adderol, Soma and more. And just days before daddy's 7-7-07 global warming concert? Duuuude...

Venus Williams to Maria Sharapova: "Thwak!"

Fort Lauderdale's mayor to gay men: "No sex in the champagne room public restroom!" Cue the robot toilet!!!

Robert Novak to Valerie Plame and her husband Joe Wilson: screw you.

Historian to Bush: you're no Harry Truman.

Close calls?

A man is arrested outside Barack Obama's hotel in Iowa holding an eight-inch knife. Scary, with shades of Bobby Kennedy, or a security detail overacting? I hope for the latter but fear the former is more on the money.

Untruths?

The British government says the idea that the eight doctors and others who were arrested in the recent attempts at creating 'splosions at Glasgow and London airports were al-Qaida isn't quite accurate... now THIS is al-Qaida, if you still believe they are the boogeyman the administration wants you to believe they are...

Not so smart?

Some Iraq war protesters are pulling a thoreau and withholding federal taxes. Good luck with that one...

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posted by JReid @ 9:01 AM  
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:

  • 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)
And of course, there's Scooter.

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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.

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.”
Does that translate to "kiss my ass?"

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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.

"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.
Talk about compassionate conservatism...

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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...?


Bingo.

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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.

Update 2: 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.


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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.
Previous:



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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: Yes.

DIGENOVA: Absolutely.

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.

MATTHEWS: Right.

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...

MATTHEWS: Right.

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...

MATTHEWS: Right.

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...

MATTHEWS: OK.

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...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: No, what was the underlying—what was the underlying crime?

(CROSSTALK)

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...

MATTHEWS: Right.

DIGENOVA: ... in which there was a case pending in a United States district court.

MATTHEWS: Right.

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.

(CROSSTALK)
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!
Update: 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...

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posted by JReid @ 3:05 PM  
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
You are not alone
... Paris Hilton... Scooter's going to jail, too.

WASHINGTON - Former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for perjury and obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case.
He also gets a $250,000 fine, this stemming from his obstruction of justice in the CIA leak case that led to the outing of covert agent Valerie Plame and her high level operation to uncover WMD programs in the Middle East -- you know, that unimportant case the righties don't think matters...

Related: The die-hards mount an "heroic" campaign to hide from the inconvenient facts... CBS, please to reiterate the obvious: Plame ... covert ... Libby ... guilty.

Let the frog marching begin...

Update: Apparently, the letters vouching for his integrity sought by the Libby faction before his sentencing didn't work. Libby got one from Henry Kissinger, but pointedly, not from the man he's going to prison to save from justice: Dick Cheney. Instead, Cheney's office issued the following warm(ish) statement:
"Scooter has dedicated much of his life to public service at the State Department, the Department of Defense and the White House. In each of these assignments he has served the nation tirelessly and with great distinction. I relied on him heavily in my capacity as Secretary of Defense and as Vice President. I have always considered him to be a man of the highest intellect, judgment and personal integrity -- a man fully committed to protecting the vital security interests of the United States and its citizens. Scooter is also a friend, and on a personal level Lynne and I remain deeply saddened by this tragedy and its effect on his wife, Harriet, and their young children. The defense has indicated it plans to appeal the conviction in the case. Speaking as friends, we hope that our system will return a final result consistent with what we know of this fine man."
Hm.

Facing 2 and a half years, if I were Scooter, I would immediately begin cooperating with the special counsel and tell every goddamned thing I know about Cheney. The way of the Bushes is to let others swing, while they walk away (unless those "others" are Bush pals from Texas...) Dick Cheney was the target of the probe that Libby helped to thwart. He is culpable for feeding Libby the information he used to help destroy Valerie Plame's cover and then urging him to go ahead and blow it (hell, Dick even set up the meetings with reporters.) He pushed, or at best, allowed, Libby to lie to the FBI in order to save his own skin.

If Libby continues to protect the vice president, he is not just a felon, he's a damned fool.

Related: Guardian UK - the Rise and fall of Scooter Libby

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posted by JReid @ 11:55 AM  
Sunday, March 11, 2007
The real story behind Plamegate
Scooter Libby's conviction on perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI provided some satisfaction to those of us who have long believed that the current administration has been, since its inception, engaged in a criminal conspiracy to mislead Congress and the American people into supporting an invasion of Iraq, for the purpose of taking over that country's natural resources and controlling it currency. But the core question, which remains under debate, is whether there was an underlying crime, beyond Libby's lying lips. Bush supporters and conservatives (there is a distinction these days) argue that no such underlyng crime occurred, because, they insist, Valerie Plame was not a covert agent, having been out of the field for more than five years. They argue that this was a case about perfectly legitimate "push back" by the administration against critics of its pre-war claims, which got elevated when put into the hands of an overzealous prosecutor (exactly the flip side of their Clinton-era argument, which stated that lying and obstruction WERE the underlying crimes...)

But those of us on the other side have argued that first, Valerie Plame WAS a covert agent, otherwise the CIA would not have gone to the Justice Department to demand an investigation of her outing. Further, the stamp of "secret" that accompanied the memo to then Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding Plame's status speaks to how crucial her work was considered to the national security operations of the United States. Thirdly, critics of the administration have concluded that Libby only would have put himself in such legal jeopardy if he deemed it important to protect someone higher up -- in this case, the vice president -- from public disclosures that could damage him, either politically or legally. In fact, the Libby jury seems to have concluded that Libby did, in fact, become the willing fall guy, either for Karl Rove, or for Dick Cheney, or for someone else.

So we're back to the quetsion at hand: Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney went to great lengths to see that Valerie Plame's identity wound up in the newspapers. Why?

I have come to the conclusion that Cheney and Libby became so desperate to refute Joe Wilson, not so much because they thought he was a threat, but bcasue they saw his disclosures -- his very presence in Niger -- as the latest challenge from a recalcitrant CIA, which had been fighting the administration the whole way on Iraq intelligence. Outing Valerie Plame wasn't about punishing Joe Wilson, or about hurting Valerie Plame -- it was about slapping down the CIA, impeding its work on finding the truth about WMD (something Plame had dedicated her work to) and stopping any additional CIA officials from daring to challenge Bush, Cheney or their operatives inside the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans on the subject of Iraq's WMD or supposed nuclear programs.

Last week, we had 27 year CIA veteran Ray McGovern on the program for the second time. He made much the same point on the air, and does so in his latest piece for Common Dreams. McGovern writes:

CIA analysts were still insisting, correctly, that there were no meaningful ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, despite Tenet's acquiescence to Powell's request that Tenet sit behind him on camera as Powell wove his web of half- and un-truths at the UN. (Watching Tenet sit impassively as Powell spoke of a "sinister nexus" between al-Qaeda and Iraq was a tremendous blow to the morale of the courageous analysts who had resisted that particular recipe for cooking intelligence. As for their colleagues working on WMD, most of them had long since been pressured to cave in to Cheney's pressure during the dozen visits he made to CIA headquarters and were not as incensed.)

No trace had been found of weapons of mass destruction. In some quarters (even in the corporate press) the casus belli had morphed into a casus bellylaughi. Reports in Fox News that Saddam had somehow transported his WMD to Syria undetected (or maybe buried them in the desert) elicited widespread ridicule. Constant reminders of how difficult it is to find something in such a large country as Iraq - "the size of California" - were wearing thin. The attempt to associate uranium enrichment with the (in)famous aluminum tubes had, well, gone down the tubes. And the "mobile biological weapons laboratories," initially applauded by the president himself as proof the administration had found the WMD, turned out to be balloon-making machines for artillery practice, as the Iraqis had said. It was getting very embarrassing.

So this new challenge from Joe Wilson and his obnoxiously expert wife made for a very bad hair day. Cheney readily saw it as payback by honest CIA professionals for all the crass arm-twisting they had experienced at the hands of Cheney and kemosabe Libby. It is not hard to put oneself in Cheney's frame of mind as he witnessed the gathering storm.

Worst of all, the Iraq-Niger caper was particularly damaging, since it was tied directly to the office of the vice president. There was that unanswered question regarding who commissioned the forgery in the first place. And not even Judy Miller could help this time, since most thinking folks knew her to be a shill for the Bush administration.

And yet this insubordination, this deliberate sabotage, had to be answered. Something had to be done, and quickly, so that others privy to sensitive information about the litany of lies leading up to the war would not think they could follow Wilson's example and go to the press. ...
But wait, there's more. Because ultimately, Plamegate was about protecting the administration from an even more damaging truth -- that they probably knew Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction long before they made the decision to invade, and the decision to invade was itself made long before 9/11 provided the excuse. A second piece from Common Dreams, by investigative reporter Dave Lindorf, breaks it down:
way back in early 2001 there was a pair of burglaries at the Niger Embassy in Rome and at the home of the Niger ambassador. Police investigating the crimes found that the only things stolen were official stationary and some official stamps, used to make documents official. A cleaning lady and a former member of Italy's intelligence service were arrested for the crimes. They were odd burglaries to be sure, since there is precious little one could use, or sell, such documents for, given the country involved. I mean, it might make sense to steal official stationary from the French Embassy in Rome, which a thief might use to finagle a pass to the Cannes Festival. But Niger?

Jump to October 2001. A few weeks after the 9-11 attacks, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accompanied by his ministers of defense and intelligence, made a visit to the White House. There he reportedly handed over the forged Niger documents (they were on Niger government stationary, and had Niger government stamps!), which appeared to be receipts for uranium ore, made out to Saddam Hussein. Now forget the matter of why either Hussein or Niger's government would want paper receipts for such an illegal transaction, and forget the matter of how Hussein would have transported 400 tons of yellow dust across the Sahara to his country without somebody noticing. The simple fact is that Bush's own intelligence experts at the CIA and State Department promptly spotted the forgeries, and they were dumped.

We know this because we know, from the likes of onetime National Security Council counterterrorism head Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that Bush was pushing for war with Iraq almost as soon as he finished reading My Pet Goat following the attack on the Twin Towers. Surely if the White House had even thought those Niger documents might be legit, they would have leaked or broadcast them all over creation.

They didn't. The documents were deep-sixed, and mentioned to no one.

But according to some dedicated investigative reporters at the respected Italian newspaper La Repubblica, they resurfaced before long at a very suspicious meeting. This meeting occurred in December 2001 in Rome, and included Michael Ledeen, an associate of Defense Department Undersecretary for Policy Douglas Feith and a key figure in the White House's war-propaganda program, Larry Franklin, a top Defense Intelligence Agency Middle East analyst who later pleaded guilty to passing classified information to two employees of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), convicted Iraqi bank swindler Ahmed Chalabi, then head of the CIA-created Iraqi National Congress, and Harold Rhode of the sinister Defense Department Office of Special Plans, that office set up by the White House and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld under Feith's direction to manufacture "evidence" to justify a war on Iraq. Also at this peculiar meeting were the heads of the Italian Defense Department and of SISMI, the Italian intelligence agency.

According to La Repubblica, it was at that meeting that a plan was hatched to resurrect the forged Niger documents, and to give them credibility by recycling them through British intelligence.

And that is what Bush was referring to when, in his 2003 State of the Union address, he famously frightened a nation by declaring, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

Bush lyingly implied that this was new information, when in fact he knew--had to know--that the "evidence" in British hands was the same set of documents he had been offered by Berlusconi almost a year and a half earlier, which had been declared to be bogus. ...
That, my friends, is the real story behind Plamegate, and as Lindorf points out further down in the piece, it's right there, waiting for some enterprising mainstream media organization to uncover.

The question is, will anyone do so.

On Friday, Valerie Plame will testify before Henry Waxman's House committee on government reform. Let's hope that's the first step in getting the truth out. If it does emerge, it could mean there is incontrovertible proof that the president, the vice president, and key members of the administration committed high crimes -- lying to Congress, misleading the country into war, and, as we have seen the bribes and dollar unfold, engaging in war profiteering.

Kind of makes Monicagate look like a walk in the park.

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 PM  
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
On the tenth day of Fitzmas...
... the jury gave to me, four guilty counts against Libby... Take it away, MSNBC:
WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was convicted Tuesday of lying and obstructing an investigation into the leak of a CIA operative’s identity.

Libby is the highest-ranking White House official to be convicted of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal of the mid-1980s. The conviction focused renewed attention on the Bush administration’s much-criticized handling of weapons of mass destruction intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The verdict culminated an almost four-year investigation into how CIA operative Valerie Plame’s name was leaked to reporters in 2003. The trial revealed how top members of the Bush administration were eager to discredit Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Libby, who was once Cheney’s most trusted adviser and an assistant to President Bush, was expressionless as the jury verdict was announced on the 10th day of deliberations. His wife choked out a sob and sank her head.
Libby was found guilty on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury for his statements about what he learned from Tim Russert and Matt Cooper of Time Magazine and one of two counts of lying to the FBI (about Russert, but not about Cooper). Prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald did throw out some red meat for Bushophiles:
Fitzgerald said the CIA leak investigation was now inactive. “I do not expect to file any additional charges,” he said. “We’re all going back to our day jobs.”
What? No squeezing Scooter to give up the Dark Lord, Dick Cheney? One can still hold out hope, Jeralyn Merritt and her commenters know well.

There's still an outside possibility that the Libby conviction will have a ripple effect on Mr. Cheney, who is being treated for deep vein thrombosis, who remains a rather unhealthy lout, and who could still resign before Dubya completes his term if the oven gets hot enough.

Again, hope springs eternal. And the speculation on a possible early retirement for Sicky Dick isn't exactly dead, including at Mark Daniels' blogspot:
The Bush Administration, trying to assert its leadership on Iraq, the war on terrorists, and a number of domestic initiatives, may decide that they can't afford a drawn-out defense of the Vice President. Cheney, a loyal soldier, may also be able to use his new health issues as a convenient (and legitimate) reason for stepping down. His resignation would give Bush Administration critics one less thing to complain about. And the right replacement nominated by Mr. Bush could earn him points and goodwill.

The most likely opponents of a Cheney resignation, at least in the short run, would be Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Mitt Romney, frontrunners for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. They would be fearful that any new veep who gained popularity would be likely to sweep their cracks at the presidency aside, automatically becoming the frontrunner for Republicans next year. If Cheney is to resign, they will lobby for the President to nominate a Republican elder statesman for President, someone like Richard Lugar or John Warner, people unlikely to run for the presidency themselves.
For now, kudos to Pat Fitzgerald and to the jury on a job well done. Libby was proved to be a liar, and the "cloud over the White House" remains. Congress, it's your move.

Update: The reax are coming in to the Libby convictions. Dick Cheney and the prez are quotably "saddened" -- Dubya even watched the verdict on the picture box.

A juror in the case says the panel felt sorry for Libby, feeling that he was the fall guy. The question is, fall guy for whom?

Meanwhile, the National Review swings for the pardon.

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posted by JReid @ 3:04 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.

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.
But:
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. ...


Fascinating.

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.

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posted by JReid @ 8:21 PM  
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Quick take headlines: Tuesday
New Bush, same as the old Bush -- the prez seeks more power, this time over domestic affairs.

What's the latest on the domestic spying front? Why it's the FBI, conducting widespread surveillance that's akin to the NSA warrentless wiretaps. Groovy! No wonder 58 percent of Americans just want the Bush term to be over, already.

Ari Fleischer testifies at the Scooter Libby trial -- contradicting Dick's right hand man on the subject of just when Scooter found out about Valerie Plame's identity (he testified that Scooter told him three days before Scooter's fabled convo with Tim Russert -- you know, the one where he heard about Plame for the "first time" -- during the one and only lunch Libby ever invited Ari to...) BTW, the Ari-Libby convo was "hush hush, on the QT..." On the stand today: Judy Miller.

South Dakota lawmakers try it again on abortion.

Shiite pilgrims attacked on the high holiday of Ashura in Iraq. And how about this sunny outlook on Iraq:
The US must draw up plans to deal with an all-out Iraqi civil war that would kill hundreds of thousands, create millions of refugees, and could spill over into a regional catastrophe, disrupting oil supplies and setting up a direct confrontation between Washington and Iran.

This is the central recommendation of a study by the Brookings Institution here, based on the assumption that President Bush's last-ditch troop increase fails to stabilise the country - but also on the reality that Washington cannot simply walk away from the growing disaster unleashed by the 2003 invasion.

Even the US staying to try to contain the fighting, said Kenneth Pollack, one of the report's authors, "would consign Iraqis to a terrible fate. Even if it works, we will have failed to provide the Iraqis with the better future we promised." But it was the "least bad option" open to the US to protect its national interests in the event of full-scale civil war.

US troops, says the study, should withdraw from Iraqi cities. This was "the only rational course of action, horrific though it will be", as America refocused its efforts from preventing civil war to containing its effects.

The unremittingly bleak document, drawing on the experience of civil wars in Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Congo and Afghanistan, also offers a remarkably stark assessment of Iraq's "spill-over" potential across the Persian Gulf region.

It warns of radicalisation and possible secession movements in adjacent countries, an upsurge in terrorism, and of intervention by Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ending an all-out civil war, the report says, would require a force of 450,000 - three times the present US deployment even after the 21,500 "surge" ordered by President Bush this month. ...
Meanwhile, who's to blame for Iran's dramatic rise in power and influence in the Mideast? George W. Bush, start talking to the man in the mirror... And Europe, which blames the U.S. for Iran's rise, is balking at Bush administration attempts to force Western countries to cut ties to Tehran.

And let's not forget Afghanistan, where civilian deaths are on the rise, too.

Over on Capitol Hill, experts will testify today before a Russ Feingold-led Senate committee today that Congress does indeed have the authority to end the Iraq war. Who knew?

And last but not least, guess whose picture Russian special forces like to use for target practice?

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Throw Cheney from the train II

This morning on the radio show, James T and I discussed our theories about why with all of the Bush administration being eaten alive over missteps in Iraq, Condi Rice remains strangely unscathed. We speculated that it could be because she's seen as weak, and a mere reflection of her boss ... or because she has somehow insulated herself by staying out of the media's way ... ? My theory was that the administration was shielding Ms. Rice in order to preserve her political viability and popularity, just in case a very senior member of the administration was unable to fulfill his duties through the end of George W. Bush's term as president.

With that, take a look at the latest news from the Scooter Libby trial:
Lawyers Paint Libby as Sacrificial Lamb
By Matt Apuzzo
The Associated Press

Top White House officials tried to blame vice presidential aide "Scooter" Libby for the 2003 leak of a CIA operative's identity to protect President Bush's political strategist, Karl Rove, Libby's defense attorney said Tuesday as his perjury trial began.

I. Lewis Libby is accused of lying to FBI agents, who began investigating after syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed that a chief Bush administration critic, Joseph Wilson, was married to CIA operative Valerie Plame.

When the leak investigation was launched, White House officials cleared Rove of wrongdoing but stopped short of doing so for Libby. Libby, who had been asked to counter Wilson's criticisms, felt betrayed and sought out his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, Wells said.

"They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb," attorney Theodore Wells said, recalling Libby's end of the conversation. "I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected."

Rove was one of two sources for Novak's story. The other was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Nobody, including Rove and Armitage, has been charged with the leak. Libby is accused of lying to investigators and obstructing the probe into the leak.

Cheney's notes from that meeting underscore Libby's concern, Wells said.

"Not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder," the note said, according to Wells.

The description of the White House infighting was a rare glimpse into the secretive workings of Bush's inner circle. It also underscores how hectic and stressful the White House had become when the probe was launched.

By pointing the finger at Rove, whom he referred to as "the lifeblood of the Republican party," Wells sought to cast Libby as a scapegoat.

"He is an innocent man and he has been wrongly and unjustly and unfairly accused," Wells said.

Wait, wait, there's more ... take it away, David Corn:
And as the two legal teams began their courtroom battle, new information was disclosed about the leak affair, including the revelation that Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary at the time of the leak, had identified Valerie Wilson as a CIA officer to NBC News reporter David Gregory a week before the leak appeared in Robert Novak's July 14, 2003 column, and that Fleischer, during the subsequent criminal investigation, took the Fifth Amendment and demanded (and received) immunity before testifying to Fitzgerald's' grand jury. Fleischer told the grand jury that he had learned about Valerie Wilson's CIA affiliation first from Libby and then from Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. (This directly implicated yet two more White House officials in the scandal.) Gregory, though, did not report the information, and he later declined to talk to Fitzgerald about his conversation with Fleischer. Fitzgerald never subpoenaed him. (In a response to an email from a colleague asking about today's disclosure, Gregory emailed, "I can't help you, sorry.") The first day of the trial also brought the news that after the Justice Department opened an investigation of the CIA leak in fall 2003, Cheney pressured the White House press office to make a statement clearing Libby of any wrongdoing....
By then, the "White House press officer" in question was one chubby, Scott McClellan, who apparently was the recipient of a hand written note from Cheney, instructing him to tell the White House press pool that Karl had nothing to do with the leak, despite the fact that Rove was the main source for at least one reporter, Matt Cooper.

The upshot here is that there apparently was a battle between the offices of the president and vice president over who would take the fall over the Plame leak, and the White House decided to throw Cheney's man off the bus, to keep Rove handy for the 2004 election -- besides, Cheney might be able to live without his brain, having had long experience living without a heart -- but Dubya? Shee-it, without his brain, he's downright catatonic.

So what were Libby and Cheney up to in the summer of 2003? More from Mr. Corn:
The case, Fitzgerald acknowledged, has been playing against a large backdrop: the war in Iraq and the controversy regarding the Bush administration's selling of the war. He also conceded that it grew out of the leak scandal and the question of who in the Bush administration had outed Valerie Wilson to reporters after Joseph Wilson publicly accused the White House of having twisted and misrepresented the prewar intelligence. But Fitzgerald attempted to focus the jury on a limited matter: several statements Libby made to the FBI and the grand jury about his role in the leak affair.

In those statements--made during two FBI interviews and two grand jury appearances--Libby said that though he had once possessed official information about Valerie Wilson's CIA employment, he had forgotten all about that, that he then heard about her CIA connection from reporters (mainly, Tim Russert of Meet the Press), and that he subsequently discussed this gossip (not official information) with other reporters. His explanation was essentially this: I forgot to remember what I had once known but had forgotten.

Fitzgerald vowed that he would demonstrate this was a pack of lies. He previewed evidence and testimony cited in the indictment and pretrial submissions that (according to Fitzgerald) shows that Libby in June and early July 2003 was an active gatherer of official (and classified) information on Joseph Wilson and his wife. Fitzgerald pointed to several witnesses who will testify that Libby requested information on the Wilsons from them when they were government officials: Marc Grossman, the No. 3 at the State Department, Robert Grenier, a CIA official, Craig Schmall, a CIA briefer, and Cathie Martin, a spokesperson for Cheney. (Fitzgerald said that Libby called Grenier out of meeting to receive information on the Wilsons from him.) He also noted that Libby, according to Libby's own notes, had learned from Cheney that Valerie Wilson worked at the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA. (This is a unit within the agency's clandestine operations directorate.)

And then Fitzgerald said that he would produce several witnesses to prove that Libby, after obtaining official information on the Wilsons, conveyed some of it to two reporters (Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matt Cooper of Time) and to the White House press secretary at the time, Ari Fleischer (with the warning the material was "hush-hush").

Libby's story to the FBI and the grand jury was that on July 10, 2003--four days after Joe Wilson (news, bio, voting record) had published an op-ed article noting he had inside information proving the administration had misrepresented the case for war--he had called Russert, that Russert had told him that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, and that he (Libby) had believed that he was learning about her for the first time. (Libby testified that he was "taken aback" when he heard from Russert that Wilson's wife was a CIA official.) Yet, according to Fitzgerald, Libby had already discussed Valerie Wilson and her CIA affiliation with Fleischer on July 7 and with Miller on July 8. "You cannot learn something startling on Thursday that you were giving out on Monday and Tuesday," Fitzgerald declared. He charged that Libby had concocted the Russert tale to "wipe out" the fact that Libby had earlier been told about Valerie Wilson by Cheney. "This is not a case about bad memory," he maintained. Libby, he said, had been caught in a cover-up.

A diagram of Fitzgerald's case would be a straight line: Libby sought official information, he shared this classified material with reporters, he then made up a story to hide all this from investigators. To get a graphic representation of Well's argument, take a large pot of spaghetti--with plenty of sauce--and hurl it against the wall. Then look at the wall. ...
And what's it all about ... Libby?
...Because the CIA had screwed up the prewar intelligence, Wells suggested, Libby, acting on orders from Cheney and Bush, was trying to combat the popular perception--fueled by Wilson--that the White House had cooked the books on the way to war. After the criminal investigation began, Wells continued, the White House was willing to toss Libby to the wolves because Rove, the mastermind of the GOP, was too valuable to lose.
And so Rove worked like hell to keep from getting indicted, and after five trips to the grand jury, he proffered something that convinced Fitzgerald to back off. No such luck for Louis, who is now experiencing the burn of that ole' meat grinder.

Watch this trial carefully. I think it very well could end with a bang: a shot heard round the capitol as Cheney gets sucked deeper and deeper into the grinder with his former top intel guy, and suddenly, Tricky Dick needs to spend more time with his family.

Then Bushie can woo Southern Methodist with something shiny and new for his now sketchy presidential library -- the first African-American woman vice president.

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 PM  
Monday, January 15, 2007
Want to cover the Scooter Libby trial?
Then get a blog... Helloooo .... Dick...

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posted by JReid @ 8:05 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
Listen now:


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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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