Tuesday, October 04, 2005

SCOOTERGATE

Sunday’s Washington Post is a complete mind-blower. On the front page, bottom left, under INSIDE, is an Analysis by Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus:

White House’s Role in Leak is Clearer

“It has become increasingly clear that two of the most powerful men in the Bush administration were more involved in the unmasking of a CIA operative than the White House was willing to admit in 2003.”

On page A5, top of the fold, competing only with Tiffany and Rolex for precious space:

Role of Rove, Libby in CIA Leak Case Clearer
“As the CIA leak investigation heads toward its expected conclusion this month, it has become increasingly clear that two of the most powerful men in the Bush administration were more involved in the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame than the White House originally indicated.

“With New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s release from jail Thursday and testimony Friday before a federal grand jury, the role of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, came into clearer focus. Libby, a central figure in the probe since it’s earliest days and the vice president’s main counselor…”

The vice president’s main counselor.

Do you see what I see? I can hardly stand it. Say it with me:

SCOOTERGATE!

Oh, how the word falls trippingly off the tongue.

As I see it, "main counselor" means someone in a position to advise the vice president on matters such as how to “out” a CIA operative without using her name or leaving a trail of crumbs back to his own door. Which is what he and Karl Rove happened to do. Months ago, I said this thing was sliced paper-thin and now we see our thinnest cut of all. They didn’t have to say her name. All they had to do was mention the bitch who was married to that SOB Wilson, and leave our intrepid investigative journalists to root around for a name and a job description, and then call around for verification. They are professionals, after all. Professionals verify with a second source. Suddenly it’s all so clear.

One drops a rumor and the other “heard it, too”. Two sources, no names mentioned, story verified. Valerie Plame is o.u.t.

We still haven't discussed the Vanity Fair article, but in answer to Carl Frank’s question, Vanity Fair is not my "guide to topicality," it is merely another validation of my earlier assertion that Rovegate, make that Scootergate, is not going to blow over in a couple of days. Not a couple of days after Memorial Day, as Carl originally predicted, not even a couple of days from now. Maybe a couple of days after pigs violate White House airspace.

Libby, “…the Vice President’s main counselor, discussed Plame with at least two reporters but testified that he never mentioned her name or her covert status at the CIA, according to lawyers in the case.

“His story is similar to that of Karl Rove, President Bush’s top political adviser. Rove, who was not an initial focus of the investigation, testified that he, too, talked with two reporters about Plame but never supplied her name or CIA role.”

Bush and Cheney Aides’ Testimony Contradicts Earlier White House Statement

“In October 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that he personally asked Libby and Rove whether they were involved, ‘so I could come back to you and say they were not involved.’ Asked if that was a categorical denial of their involvement, he said, 'That is correct.'”

Oh sweet Jesus. Seems like it was just yesterday that President Clinton’s media flack was standing before you, swearing up and down that his boss had assured him personally that he did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.

Finally, after years of wrong-headed, mean-spirited, politically motivated investigations into Whitewater, investigations which uncovered exactly nothing, the rabid right got hold of the President’s pecker and impaled him on it.

And now, “two of the most powerful men in the Bush administration” turn out to be “more involved” in a vindictive attack on a woman because her husband had them by the short and curlies, “ than the White House originally indicated.”

That flapping sound you hear? Chickens coming home to roost, Bubba. Like the hippies always say, What goes ‘round, comes ‘round. And what’s coming ‘round to hit Spawn upside his empty puppet head is a million pound shithammer. Yes, indeed.

Nevermind Iraq. Nevermind Katrina. Nevermind FEMA. Nevermind Rita. Nevermind raiding our national infrastructure in the name of tax cuts. Leave all that bubbling on the back burner for a minute and ponder this: An investigation which has now taken longer than Watergate, an investigation which will probably cost more than Whitewater, winds up fingering two of the most powerful men in the Bush administration.

But has a crime been committed? And by virtue of that crime, has national security been harmed?

Yes. And yes.

So what was the crime?

I’m going out on a limb here and calling it:

Not only were two of the most powerful men in the Bush administration behind the CIA leak, they were also involved in the bogus intelligence report that Iraq was shopping for uranium in Niger.

Uranium in Niger? What does that have to do with the CIA leak? The CIA leak was about discrediting Joseph Wilson, because Joseph Wilson had discredited the President's claim, made in his 2003 State of the Union address, that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program, justifying our invasion of Iraq.

That’s why they had to take Wilson out.

By any means necessary.

“Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.”

At least two or more. Well, now. We’ve got our Rove. And we’ve got our Libby. Judge Patrick J. Fitgerald has just handed us a two-fer. Now all we need is to establish a criminal purpose.

Call me crazy, but from where I’m sitting – that would be the catbird seat – it looks more like a putt than a drive.

According to the Post, regarding the recently released Judith Miller, “it is doubtful her testimony would on its own lead to charges against any government officials. But, the source said, her account could establish a piece of a web of actions taken by officials that had an underlying criminal purpose.”

Again, I’m saying that the criminal purpose will turn out not to be the destruction of Joseph Wilson, but instead, the deception of Congress for the purpose of invading Iraq. The genesis of Fitzgerald's case will begin with the fake intelligence, not with the CIA leak.

Going back to the seed of this bitter fruit, let’s not forget that Vice President Dick Cheney had a piece of sending Joe Wilson to Niger in the first place. At the time, Cheney was reported to have a great deal of interest in proving that Saddam Hussein was in the market for uranium.

“The Niger claim was central to the White House’s rationale for war, and Wilson was on a one-man crusade to disprove it. Early on, his actions caught the eye of the vice president’s office, which was often the emotional and intellectual force pushing the United States to war based on fears of potential weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Cheney and Libby were intimately involved in building the case for the war, which included warnings that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was actively pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Cheney’s staff was “looking into Wilson” as early as May 2003, nearly two months before Plame was outed. “What stirred the interest of the vice president’s office was a May 6 New York Times column by Nicholas D. Kristof in which the mission to Niger was described without using Wilson’s name. Kristof’s column said Cheney had authorized the trip.”

According to the Post, “Cheney did not know that a query he made much earlier to a CIA briefer about a report alleging Iraq was seeking Niger uranium had triggered Wilson’s trip. ‘They were very uptight about the vice president being tagged that way,’ a former senior CIA official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. ‘They asked questions that set off a chain of inquiries.’”

No wonder Cheney got so steamed. It was the fatal flaw in an otherwise perfect scheme. The teeniest, tiniest little arrow pointing straight back at him. A needle of truth to a great big balloon of plausible deniability.

Cheney did not know that a query he made much earlier to a CIA briefer about a report alleging Iraq was seeking Niger uranium had triggered Wilson’s trip.”

That phrase might as well have been written in neon. I mentioned in my first blog entry, SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN, that every now and then certain words or phrases set the hairs on my arms at attention. The vice president’s “query to a CIA briefer” was exactly that type of phrase. It glared. It vibrated. "That’s it!" I said to myself. "That has to be the original seed."

Maybe all Cheney had to do was casually ask if the “CIA briefer” had heard about “a report alleging Iraq was seeking Niger uranium.” Maybe that’s all the “briefer” had to hear. Oliver North didn’t have to be told to use cocaine money to buy guns for the Contra guerillas in Nicaragua. He knew he was fighting a communist evil-doer. He knew God was on his side. After that, he was free to improvise.

So maybe the “CIA briefer” went off and did a little improvising of his own. Maybe he dropped a word here, a word there, that the “report alleging Iraq was seeking Niger uranium” was true. Or that it needed to be true. That the big guy wanted it to be true. Spread the word. From an Italian cutout to a British agent and back to the CIA, who then report that "British intelligence has learned that Sadddam Hussein has recently sought uranium..."

It all went like clockwork until Joseph Wilson opened his big fat mouth. And then the New York Times laid the whole thing at Cheney’s feet. No wonder he was pissed.

He needed damage control and he wanted revenge. If he could destroy Wilson he could have both.
“By early June, several weeks before Libby is said to have known Plame’s name, the State Department had prepared a memo on the Niger case that contained information on Plame in a section marked ‘(S)” for secret’,” according to Sunday’s Washington Post. “Around that time, Libby knew about the trip’s origins, though in an interview with The Washington Post at the time, he did not mention any role played by Wilson’s wife.

“By July 12, however, both Rove and Libby and perhaps other senior White House officials knew about Wilson’s wife’s position at the CIA and, according to lawyers familiar with testimony in the probe, used that information with reporters to undermine the significance of Wilson’s trip.”

I would like to thank Walter Pincus, Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonig for this article. It pretty much lays the whole thing out. Walter Pincus has been on the case from the beginning, and in fact provided much of the basis for my original argument in SWEET LITTLE SIXTEEN. He should get a Pulitzer Prize for his work.

It doesn’t take much to make the last leap from what Pincus and company reported Sunday to what I’m reading between the lines:

Judge Patrick J. Fitzgerald is about to launch a conspiracy case involving some of the most powerful men in the known universe.

“Conspiracy cases are viewed by criminal prosecutors as simpler to bring than more straightforward criminal charges, but also trickier to sell to juries. ‘That would arguably be a close call for a prosecutor, but it could be tried,' a veteran Washington criminal attorney with longtime experience in national security cases said yesterday.”

If it can be tried, I say it will.

Now that Judith Miller is out of jail, her piece of the puzzle will soon become clearer. Apparently, she had permission to name her source long before she ever went to jail. So why did she insist on going to jail? We now know her source is Scooter Libby. So what in the world was she hiding?

Miller was well known as a White House mouthpiece, spouting the White House line on weapons of mass destruction long before the war. Maybe she went to jail to grab herself some much needed high ground. Or maybe she went to jail to protect something other than the source of the CIA leak.

Maybe she knew the Niger intelligence report was bogus. And just maybe she knew where it originated. Maybe the source of the CIA leak and the bogus intel were one and the same.

If her source for the Plame story was Scooter Libby, can the big guy, his boss, the Vice President of the United States, be far behind?

And irony of ironies, the bogus intel report that paved our way to war also triggered Joseph Wilson’s trip to Africa. Which begat the New York Times article, which begat the CIA leak, which very well may beget the unraveling of a "web of actions taken by officials that had an underlying criminal purpose."

Can criminal purpose be proved in this case?

I think it can. Because of the politically motivated but not necessarily criminal acts of two or more of the most powerful men in the Bush administration, American national security has been irreparably harmed. This takes us back to the original investigation into whether the official secrets act was violated. Our perps had to knowingly and intentionally cause harm to national security. I still think that will be hard to prove. Proving that they intended to harm Joseph Wilson will not.

And that was after they had deceived the United States Congress into starting a war.

If Libby and/or Rove, or even Dick Cheney himself, turn out to be the source of the false intelligence report, I think criminal purpose will be the least of the charges.

10 Comments:

Blogger Michael Sheridan said...

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3:16 PM  
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Blogger Carl said...

At the risk of repeating myself, the White House didn't "out" a covert agent--Plame's identity wasn't a secret; if they did, it isn't a crime; WaPo editor Bob Woodward's recent revelation confirms Administration discussions with reporters pre-date Joe Wilson's July 6, 2003, op-ed; and, most importantly, everything Wilson subsequently said about his Niger trip was a lie--which the Administration had a duty to rebut.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

Further links showing Wilson lied:

The bi-partisan U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, July 7, 2004--see pages 39-47, 50-51 and 73-82.

Republican-only Senate amplifications on Wilson.

The British Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, July 14, 2004 (Butler report)--see pages 121-25.

9:14 PM  

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