"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
Vice President Dick Cheney makes only three brief appearances in the 22-page federal indictment that charges his chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby Jr., with lying to investigators and misleading a grand jury in the C.I.A. leak case. But in its clear, cold language, it lifts a veil on how aggressively Mr. Cheney's office drove the rationale against Saddam Hussein and then fought to discredit the Iraq war's critics.The document now raises a central question: how much collateral damage has Mr. Cheney sustained?
Although Mr. Cheney makes only three appearances in the indictment, the episodes tell a story of a vice president directly involved in an effort to learn about Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who emerged in 2003 as a critic of the way the administration used prewar intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. The episodes do not shed light on the action that set off the special prosecutor nearly two years ago: who first leaked the name of Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, an undercover officer at the C.I.A., as an attempt to denigrate Mr. Wilson's trip as a nepotistic junket arranged by his spouse.
Mr. Cheney's most interesting appearance in the indictment is on Page 5, where he is described as telling Mr. Libby, on June 12, 2003, that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the C.I.A. in the counterproliferation division. "Libby understood that the vice president had learned this information from the C.I.A.," the indictment states.
Mr. Cheney also appears on Page 8, when he flew with Mr. Libby and others on Air Force Two on July 12, 2003, to Norfolk, Va. On the return trip, the indictment states, Mr. Libby "discussed with other officials aboard the plane" what he should say to reporters in response to "certain pending media inquiries," including questions from Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.
The grand jury has now concluded that at least one of the president's men committed crimes. We are heartened that our system of justice is working and appreciative of the work done by our fellow citizens who devoted two years of their lives to grand jury duty.
The attacks on Valerie and me were upsetting, disruptive and vicious. They amounted to character assassination. Senior administration officials used the power of the White House to make our lives hell for the last 27 months.
But more important, they did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime.
The war in Iraq has claimed more than 17,000 dead and wounded American soldiers, many times more Iraqi casualties and close to $200 billion.
It has left our international reputation in tatters and our military broken. It has weakened the United States, increased hatred of us and made terrorist attacks against our interests more likely in the future.
It has been, as Gen. William Odom suggested, the greatest strategic blunder in the history of our country.
We anticipate no mea culpa from the president for what his senior aides have done to us. But he owes the nation both an explanation and an apology.
There has been a tendency in the media, as well the Democratic establishment to take - what they perceive as - the moral high road with Libby's indictment, by calling it "a sad day for America". Why is this a sad day for America? Sure, it's a sad day for Libby, and the rest of the Bush Administration. It's a sad day for the neocon agenda. It's a sad day for the Republican loyalists. It's a sad day for the wealthy and privileged who believe they are beyond reproach. But it is not a sad day for America.
Quite to the contrary, it is the first of - I hope - many more days of accountability and consequence for an administration that is all to comfortable with deceiving and manipulating the very constituents they promised to protect and serve. There have been many sad days for America since the Bush Administration came to power, but this is not one of them...
A sad day for America is when its government manipulates the facts to gain public support for an unnecessary war.
A sad day for America is when its government sends its troops into harms way ill prepared.
A sad day for America is when its government ignores Geneva conventions and tortures prisoners of war.
A sad day for America is when its government stays on vacation while an entire city is under water.
A sad day for America is when its government gives tax cuts to the rich, and drops aid for the poor.
A sad day for America is when its government appoints incompetent cronies at the cost of its citizens' safety.
A sad day for America is when its government chooses political advantage over national security.
But today? I am sure the Democratic establishment who echoes this sad-day-for-America bullet point are actually quite gleeful on the inside... So why do so they choose to obfuscate the fact that this is a clear win for the reality-based community? Why should we share the shame with those who have been promoting and excusing everything that is wrong with our nation?
No, this is not a sad day for America; it is the dawn of hope. It is a day that proves that our justice system can, and sometimes works. It is a day of encouragement, that even those who appear to be above the law, are in fact not. It is a day where we learned that good men like Fitzgerald who respect and uphold the law do in fact exist among the gaggle of political opportunists who sellout to the highest bidder.
Today is a hopeful day for America, and hopefully not the last.
The lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide is outlining a possible criminal defense that is a time-honored tradition in Washington scandals: A busy official immersed in important duties cannot reasonably be expected to remember details of long-ago conversations. [...] Libby, who resigned immediately, was operating amid "the hectic rush of issues and events at a busy time for our government," according to a statement released by his attorney, Joseph Tate.
Let's just clear the air on this ridiculous obfuscating early on: Libby was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice, because he impeded the investigation, making it impossible for the prosecutor to gather enough evidence to charge him with the substantive crime. This is not just a technicality he fell into... He willingly chose to lie and distort the facts to protect himself and the others involved. As Fitzgerald put it with his baseball analogy, he threw sand in the eyes of the umpire.
Scooter is far from being a victim here; he is a liar, a disgrace to his oath of office, and a traitor to his country. And on that note, the "journalists" who continue to propagate this spin are no better than he.
Friday's indictment says "Official A" is a "senior official in the White House who advised Libby on July 10 or 11 of 2003" about a chat with Novak about his upcoming column in which Plame would be identified as a CIA employee. Late Friday, three people close to the investigation, each asking to remain unidentified because of grand jury secrecy, identified Rove as Official A.
Beyond the evidence that the White House manipulated the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq, a group of senior White House officials not only orchestrated efforts to smear a critic of the war, but worked to cover up this smear campaign. In so doing, they ignored the rule of law, endangering our national security and the brave men and women who dedicate their lives to protecting our nation's security. I. Lewis Libby was a part of this internal White House group.
This is not only an abuse of power, it is an un-American abuse of the public trust. As Americans, we must hold ourselves and our leaders to a higher standard. We cannot fear dissent. We cannot fear the truth. And we cannot tolerate those who do.
More importantly, we can't ignore the glaring questions this case has raised about the rationale the Bush Administration used to send us to war in Iraq, a war that continues. American soldiers are still in harms way. Over 2,000 brave Americans have lost their lives, thousands of American soldiers have been wounded, and thousands of American families have made the ultimate sacrifice. Still, the President has no plan and no exit strategy. And still he hasn't answered the question, what are we doing in Iraq and when can our troops come home?
President Bush faces a serious test of leadership; will he keep his pledge to hold his Administration to high ethical standards and give the American people what they deserve, and will he answer to the American people for these serious missteps?
Rove's attorney Robert Luskin issued a statement Friday that Fitzgerald "has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges."
"Mr. Rove will continue to cooperate fully with the Special Counsel's efforts to complete the investigation," Luskin's statement said. "We are confident that when the Special Counsel finishes his work, he will conclude that Mr. Rove has done nothing wrong."
The investigation into who leaked the name of a covert CIA agent is not over, even after Friday's indictment of White House official Lewis Libby, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said.
"Is the investigation finished? It's not over," Fitzgerald said at a news conference. "But ... very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried in which you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you that the substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded."
BUSH THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF SAID HE'D FIRE ANYONE FOR LEAKING, THAT NOBODY WAS INVOLVED...
Asked in June 2004 if he'd stand by his pledge to fire anyone found to have leaked, Bush replied "yes." [Bush Press Conference: Savannah, GA, 6/10/04]
When the White House was asked specifically whether Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams or Lewis Libby told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said: "Those individuals -- I talked -- I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands." [White House Briefing, 10/10/03]
"I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." [Bush Remarks: Chicago, Illinois, 9/30/03]
"The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." [White House Briefing, 9/29/03]
BUSH THE CANDIDATE PROMISED TO UPHOLD THE HONOR AND INTEGRITY AT THE WHITE HOUSE...
"I will swear to uphold the laws of the land. But I will also swear to uphold the honor and the integrity of the office to which I have been elected, so help me God," said then-Governor George Bush [CNN, "Inside Politics," 8/11/00]
"Americans are tired of investigations and scandal, and the best way to get rid of them is to elect a new president who will bring a new administration, who will restore honor and dignity to the White House." [Then-Governor George Bush on CNN's "Burden of Proof," 9/15/00]
"Americans want to be assured that the next administration will bring honor and dignity to the White House." [Then-Governor George Bush on CNN's "Capital Gang," 8/13/00]
Associates of I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, expected an indictment on Friday charging him with making false statements to the grand jury in the C.I.A. leak inquiry, lawyers in the case said Thursday.
Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, would not be charged on Friday, but would remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said. As a result, they said, the special counsel in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, was likely to extend the term of the federal grand jury beyond its scheduled expiration on Friday.
According to the Times account, Cheney told Libby the covert name of the wife of Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. diplomat who had publicly alleged that the administration had mishandled of intelligence relating to Iraq's nuclear weapons programs. But several former and serving U.S. intelligence officials strongly disputed this. "That is simply not accurate," a very former senior CIA official told this reporter. "Libby's notes on this are misleading and inaccurate or both."
This source, supported by three others, alleged that it was a telephone call from the Department of State that first gave Libby the name of Plame. The name of the caller? No one is sure. But these sources said that the call definitely came from the State Department office of John Bolton, then the arms control chief of the department. These same sources alleged that two employees of Bolton, David Wurmser, a virulent pro-war hawk, first told Libby that Valerie Plame had sent Wilson to Niger to attempt to discredit the administration's line on Iraq's nuclear weapons programs.
According to these same sources, Cheney still remains at the center of the probe. "The effort is to show that Cheney orchestrated the White House attempts to discredit Wilson," said one.
Two sources said I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was shopping for a white-collar criminal lawyer and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove began assembling a public relations team in the event they are indicted.
Though there was considerable speculation among lawyers for witnesses in the case that Fitzgerald could choose to empanel a new grand jury and extend his investigation, two legal sources said he has indicated he does not plan to take that route and will wrap up the case today.
Pat Buchanan insists that Congress is more at fault for giving the president authority to go to Iraq... He continues, they should have known better, at least Bush and Cheney believed in the cause (video).
Former Bush I advisor, Ed Rogers, suggest the leak investigation is not an issue of national security, but rather a political witch hunt less serious than Clinton's impeachment (video).
Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.
Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.
The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.
The fact that it will never happen goes without saying, but it's interesting none the less that it made its way to the international press...
Saddam Hussein's defense committee wants to put U.S. President George W. Bush in the dock to mirror the Baghdad trial of the toppled Iraqi leader over a Shiite massacre, a Jordanian lawyer said Tuesday.
"We shall contact international and Arab lawyer associations and will put forward the proof allowing for a trial of the criminal Bush at the same time as the fake trial takes place in Iraq," Saleh Armouti told a meeting of the Amman-based Saddam defense committee.
If lawyers abroad fail to take the case to court, "we shall organize it in Jordan and will invite international supporters," Armouti said, without specifying on what grounds he wanted to try Bush.
Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to be a Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of stiff opposition and mounting criticism about her qualifications. Bush said he reluctantly accepted her decision to withdraw, after weeks of insisting that he did not want her to step down. He blamed her withdrawal on calls in the Senate for the release of internal White House documents that the administration has insisted were protected by executive privilege.
Chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports that Fitzgerald was not asking for a grand jury extension during his meeting with the federal judge, leaving people to wonder whether he was seeking sealed indictments, or something else.
Rep. Tom DeLay failed to comply with House requirements that he disclose all contributions to a defense fund that pays his legal bills, the Texas Republican acknowledged to House officials. He wrote officials that $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 was not reported anywhere. Another $17,300 was included in the defense fund's quarterly report but not in DeLay's 2000 annual financial disclosure report -- a separate requirement. Other donations were understated as totaling $2,800, when the figure should have been $4,450.
The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA officer's identity met for three hours Wednesday with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and his deputies, adjourning for the day without announcing any action. Fitzgerald is known to be putting the finishing touches on a two-year criminal probe that has ensnared President Bush's top political adviser Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis Libby.
Away from the federal courthouse, FBI agents conducted a handful of last-minute interviews to check facts key to the case. After the grand jury left for the day, federal prosecutors conferred for about an hour in the grand jury area of the federal courthouse. There was no word on whether Fitzgerald planned to make any announcement or when the grand jury planned to meet again.
An hour ago I was contacted by a U.S. government official close to the Fitzgerald case. This person told me that there WILL be indictments announced later this afternoon, and the Special Prosecutor will hold a press conference tomorrow.
Not sure how valid this is, but Raw Story reports:
Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked the grand jury investigating the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to indict Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers close to the investigation tell Raw Story.
Fitzgerald has also asked the jury to indict Libby on a second charge: knowingly outing a covert operative, the lawyers said. They said the prosecutor believes that Libby violated a 1982 law that made it illegal to unmask an undercover CIA agent.
Libby’s attorney, Joseph A. Tate, did not return a call seeking comment.
Two other officials, who are not employees in the White House, are also expected to face indictments, the lawyers said.
The grand jury had not yet decided on whether to make indictments at the time this article was published. It appears more likely that the jury would hand down indictments of perjury and obstruction than a charge that Plame was outed illegally.
Those close to the investigation said Rove was offered a deal Tuesday to plead guilty to perjury for a reduced charge. Rove’s lawyer was told that Fitzgerald would drop an obstruction of justice charge if his client agreed not to contest allegations of perjury, they said.
Rove declined to plead guilty to the reduced charge, the sources said, indicating through his attorney Robert Luskin that he intended to fight the charges. A call placed to Luskin was not returned.
New York Times reporter Judith Miller has begun discussing her future employment options with the newspaper, including the possibility of a severance package, a lawyer familiar with the matter, said yesterday.
The discussion about her future comes several days after the public rupture of the relationship between the Times and Ms. Miller, a 28-year veteran of the paper. Both the editor and the publisher of the Times have expressed regret for their unequivocal support for Ms. Miller when she spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the unmasking of a Central Intelligence Agency operative.
The negotiations began with a face-to-face meeting Monday morning between Ms. Miller and the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., said the lawyer familiar with the situation. A spokeswoman for the New York Times declined to comment. Ms. Miller didn't return calls.
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is not expected to make a public announcement today about the CIA leak investigation, a source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN. Experts say it's possible the grand jury still may consider indictments and, if it votes to return one or more, the indictments could remain under seal and be made public later.
Richard Welch, a brilliant Harvard-educated classicist, had been stationed in Greece as CIA station chief only a few months before he was murdered, by a radical Greek terrorist organization called the 17th of November, in the doorway of his house in Athens on Dec. 23, 1975. Had Agee not divulged his name, there is every reason to believe that Welch would be alive today after decades of loyal service to his country.
Largely as a result of Agee's perfidy and Welch's unnecessary death, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) of 1982 was enacted, making it a felony to knowingly divulge the identity of a covert CIA operative. It carries penalties of 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for each offense. There are those who dismiss the crime by saying, "Oh, Wilson only had a desk job." That is not a defense under this felony statute. It is for the CIA, not Karl Rove or Robert Novak, to determine who requires identity protection and who does not.
There is one final irony to this story. On Christmas Eve in 1975, I got a call at my home from the director of the CIA, William Colby. He asked if I would intervene with the White House to obtain presidential approval to have Welch buried at Arlington National Cemetery, a hero fallen in service to his country. I quickly called President Ford's chief of staff on Colby's behalf and made the request. Within two hours, the president had agreed to sign the order permitting Welch to be buried at Arlington.
Congressional negotiators are feeling heat from the White House and constituents as they consider whether to back a Senate-approved ban on torturing detainees in U.S. custody or weaken the prohibition, as the White House prefers. Led by Vice President Dick Cheney, the administration is floating a proposal that would allow the president to exempt covert agents outside the Defense Department from the ban.
In a possible sign that Fitzgerald may charge one or more officials with illegally disclosing Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation, FBI agents as recently as Monday night interviewed at least two people in her D.C. neighborhood to determine whether they knew she worked for the CIA before she was unmasked with the help of senior Bush administration officials. Two neighbors told the FBI they were shocked to learn she was a CIA operative.
The FBI interviews suggested the prosecutor wanted to show that Plame's status was covert, and that there was damage from the revelation that she worked at the CIA.
On Monday, two FBI agents, dressed in black, combed the northwest Washington neighborhood where Wilson and Plame live, flashing their badges and questioning neighbors about whether they knew about her affiliation with the CIA before she was exposed in an article by Novak in July 2003.
Critics of the leak investigation have argued that it was an open secret that Plame worked for the CIA; if many people knew that she worked for the agency, it would make prosecution under the 1982 law protecting covert agents impossible.
But neighbors contacted by The Times said they told the FBI agents that they had no idea of her agency life, and that they knew her only as a mother of twins who worked as an energy consultant.
The agents "made it clear they were part of the Fitzgerald investigation, and they were basically tying up loose ends," said David Tillotson, a Washington lawyer and neighbor, who was among those interviewed Monday.
"They really only had one interest, and that was to know whether Valerie's identity, on what she did for a living, was known prior to the Novak article. It seemed they were trying to establish clearly that prior to the Novak article she was not widely known on the cocktail circuit," Tillotson said.
What will we find under the tree tomorrow? Happy holidays.
In the event that Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is implicated in the Valerie Plame-CIA spy case and forced to resign to defend himself -- still judged as unlikely by the White House -- administration insiders now believe that Karen Hughes would replace him. Earlier speculation focused on former Republican Party Chairman Ed Gillespie, who is handling the Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Miers. Hughes is a longtime Bush aide now in charge of Arab outreach at the State Department.
This just keeps getting better, and better. Good luck with that.
As I stated the last time there was a mass exodus from the detention camps: Is the US military releasing terrorist into the streets, or were these prisoners wrongfully accused? Either way, crimes against humanity are being committed. And what is the release criteria for that matter? The whole scenario reeks with bribery or appeasement of some sort, which I'm sure has nothing at all to do with the recently passed constitutional referendum...
It will be a double celebration to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on 4 November for some 525 detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, who will be released on that day, according to the Iraqi human rights minister, Narmin Uthman. An equal number of prisoners were released on the occasion of the referendum for the Iraqi constitution on 15 October. The Iraqi minister said that all the people who will be released were found innocent of the charges they were facing while in prison.
As an aside, just think of how many of the recently released prisoners, who were in fact innocent, are now sympathetic to the terrorists' cause after being subjected to the routine abuse that Abu Ghraib offers.
It takes firm leadership to preside over the bureaucracy. But it also takes a willingness to listen to dissenting opinions. It requires leaders who can analyze, synthesize, ponder and decide.
The administration's performance during its first four years would have been even worse without Powell's damage control. At least once a week, it seemed, Powell trooped over to the Oval Office and cleaned all the dog poop off the carpet. He held a youthful, inexperienced president's hand. He told him everything would be all right because he, the secretary of State, would fix it. And he did everything from a serious crisis with China when a U.S. reconnaissance aircraft was struck by a Chinese F-8 fighter jet in April 2001, to the secretary's constant reassurances to European leaders following the bitter breach in relations over the Iraq war. It wasn't enough, of course, but it helped.
Today, we have a president whose approval rating is 38% and a vice president who speaks only to Rush Limbaugh and assembled military forces. We have a secretary of Defense presiding over the death-by-a-thousand-cuts of our overstretched armed forces (no surprise to ignored dissenters such as former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki or former Army Secretary Thomas White).
It's a disaster. Given the choice, I'd choose a frustrating bureaucracy over an efficient cabal every time.
A strong military? This president likes to dress the part. But he rewards corporate defense contractors while stripping servicemen and women of financial support. He sent armed forces into Iraq without armored vests or vehicles. He hid flag-draped caskets from public view. He slowed federal support for wounded veterans by cutting staff members at the Veterans Benefit Administration, the office that handles service personnel's claims. Two years ago, he tried to cut combat pay from $225 to $150 a month and to trim the family separation allowance from $250 to $100. Perhaps most callously, Bush threatened to veto a plan to double the $6,000 payment to relatives of soldiers killed in action.
To deal with what they consider the darkest days of the Bush presidency, White House advisers have developed a twofold strategy -- confront head-on problems such as the Iraq death toll, while shifting attention to other areas such as conservative economic policies, according to a senior White House official, who spoke about internal deliberations only under the condition of anonymity. Bush advisers are taking clues from the playbooks of former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, both of whom weathered second-term scandals.
The White House strategy will unfold over the next several days, starting with yesterday's announcement of a new Federal Reserve Board chairman and continuing today with a presidential speech on Iraq at Bolling Air Force Base. Anticipating a barrage of criticism when the death toll hits 2,000, Bush will try to put the sacrifice in perspective by portraying the Iraq war as the best way to keep terrorists from striking the United States again, the official said. He will make the same case in another speech Friday in Norfolk.
According to the National Review lies regarding national security are just as trivial as lies about sex:
"At the end of the day," a former intelligence official told National Review last week, "this could end up being a situation where there wasn't a crime until there was an investigation."
So what? say the president's adversaries. Isn't that what happened in the Lewinsky scandal? "During the Monica madness, Clinton's champions argued that lies about sex are not really lies — or, at least, don't merit prosecution," David Corn of The Nation wrote on his blog on October 14. But now, Corn argued, things are different. "What about lies about leaking classified information? No one should get a pass for that."
"Sex with Lewinsky was not a crime," says a former Starr prosecutor. "But I would think that the answer is that there was, at the core, an underlying crime, namely the Whitewater offense for which Tucker and MacDougal were convicted, and thus that the Hubbell cover-up stuff was a real crime."
That was Lewinsky. So what about the current CIA leak investigation? Certainly there are no background crimes, like the convictions of Hubbell and the McDougals, from which any suspected crimes by Karl Rove, Lewis Libby and others could derive. If Fitzgerald charges that Rove or Libby or other officials violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, then there would be an allegation of an underlying crime, and all the discussion of lying about non-criminal activity would be moot. But if Fitzgerald does not bring any charges of betraying the identity of a covert agent or misusing classified information, but does bring charges of perjury, false statements, or obstruction of justice, then the case, unlike the Lewinsky matter, would be a classic cover-up without a crime.
I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.
The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration’s handling of intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear program to justify the war.
Lawyers said the notes show that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.
The CIA leak inquiry that threatens senior White House aides has now widened to include the forgery of documents on African uranium that started the investigation, according to NAT0 intelligence sources.
This suggests the inquiry by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame has now widened to embrace part of the broader question about the way the Iraq war was justified by the Bush administration.
Fitzgerald's team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with Yellowcake uranium. This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House.
This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case, that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated. This was the same charge that imperiled the government of Bush's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after a BBC Radio program claimed Blair's aides has "sexed up" the evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
There can be few more serious charges against a government than going to war on false pretences, or having deliberately inflated or suppressed the evidence that justified the war.
After a Cabinet meeting, Bush was asked whether he agreed with Republican suggestions that Fitzgerald may be overzealous and that possible perjury charges would be little more than legal technicalities. "This is a very serious investigation," Bush said. Rove sat behind the president in the Cabinet room; across the room sat Libby.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is known for his sarcastic, world-weary and at times dark sense of humor. He once quipped to an aide that he planned to stay as Vice President Cheney's top adviser until "I get indicted or something."
A critical early success for Fitzgerald was winning the cooperation of Robert D. Novak, the Chicago Sun-Times columnist who named Plame in a July 2003 story and attributed key information to "two senior administration officials." Legal sources said Novak avoided a fight and quietly helped the special counsel's inquiry, although neither the columnist nor his attorney have said so publicly.
We have to ask: What has Fitzgerald been investigating for the last two years? Consider this:
In early October 2002, Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba, a writer for Italy's Panorama magazine, delivered some documents to the U.S. embassy in Rome: a cache of letters and other papers purporting to be correspondence between officials of the Niger government and the Iraqis relating to the acquisition of uranium "yellowcake." The documents soon found their way to Washington, D.C., where key administration officials were quick to incorporate them into their "talking points" for war with Iraq and into Bush's Jan. 28, 2003 speech.
When the IAEA asked to see evidence of the administration's contentions, they were put off, until finally the Niger uranium documents were handed over. It took IAEA scientists just a few hours to demonstrate that the documents were not only forgeries, but were particularly crude ones at that an amateur could have debunked them using Google. As the Washington Post reported, one administration official's response was "We fell for it."
And even this...
"Previous versions of the report were redacted and had all the names removed, though it was possible to guess who was involved. This version names Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the report and indicates that former CIA officers Duane Clarridge and Alan Wolf were the principal forgers. All three had business interests with Chalabi."
As well as this...
A veteran of the Iran-Contra scandal, Ledeen played an important role in the "arms for hostages" scheme by setting up meetings between the American government and the Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar. Not all that unexpected coming from a self-proclaimed advocate of Machiavelli's amoralism. Today, Ledeen is among the most visible and radical neoconservative ideologues whose passion for a campaign of serial "regime-change" in the Middle East is undiminished by the Iraqi debacle. Just as the Roman senator Cato the Elder finished his perorations with the command "Carthage must be destroyed," so Michael "Creative Destruction" Ledeen closes his hopped-up warmongering essays with "Faster, please!," an exhortation presumably addressed to his confreres in the Bush administration.
Which would explain the increased scope and duration of the investigation...
Fitzgerald's reported interest in the Italian parliamentary report indicates just how his investigation is broadening. The forgeries, the lies fed to us by Ahmed Chalabi and his fellow "heroes in error," the leakage of vital U.S. secrets to the Iranians all point to the existence of the conspiracy the prosecutor is tasked with uncovering. In the course of their campaign of deception, the conspirators not only outed a CIA agent who was working in the vital area of nuclear proliferation, they also passed on classified information to foreign nationals, including the Israelis and the Iranians. They committed forgery and God knows what other crimes.
Which hopefully would lead to this...
Before Fitzgerald is done, we'll see the warlords of Washington hauled before a court of the people. We'll hear the whole sordid story of how a band of exiles, at least two foreign intelligence agencies, and a cabal of neoconservatives inside the Pentagon and the vice president's office bamboozled Congress and the American people into going to war. As the indictments come down, so will the elaborate narrative so carefully constructed by the War Party in the run-up to war be exposed as a tissue of fabrication, forgery, and fraud.
All of this would certainly explain the backstabbing in the White House as of late, as well as the tenacity in which they went after Wilson in the first place. How ironic that an attempted coverup could end up being the catalyst that finally brings down the house of lies... But isn't that always how the corrupt fall.
Bush is turning on his own; just think what will happen when the Fitz actually hits the fan...
Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the "blame game." They describe him as beset but unbowed, convinced that history will vindicate the major decisions of his presidency even if they damage him and his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
At the same time, these sources say Bush, who has a long history of keeping staffers in their place, has lashed out at aides as his political woes have mounted.
"The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider. "Andy [Card, the chief of staff] gets his share. Karl gets his share. Even Cheney gets his share. And the press gets a big share."
The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.
Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."
Those caught up in the maelstrom include a power couple with a big secret, a duo of no-longer-anonymous Bush administration officials and a constellation of media heavyweights with secrets, too. It runs the spectrum from the biggest of big fish, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, to the merest of minnows, White House functionaries.
Fitzgerald is said to be investigating for possible Cheney involvement, in particular. Both the president and vice president have been questioned by investigators, although not under oath.
Also note the cliff notes style summary included in the piece, which would serve as a catch up for those who have not been (obsessively) following the case. Happy holidays.
We will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.
The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake: America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests. We will show purpose without arrogance. We will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength.
Scooter Libby or Karl Rove are going to be judged criminals for perhaps acknowledging her name, perhaps knowing, though there's no evidence they did, that she was a covert operative... That's a crime?
Tom DeLay is not a criminal... Are we seriously going to pretend that shuffling hard and soft money around which hundreds of politicians have done over the last two decades, before McCain-Feingold was enacted [is a crime]?
Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald appears to be laying the groundwork for indictments this week over the outing of a covert CIA operative, including possible charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, lawyers involved in case said on Sunday.
Top administration officials are expected to learn from Fitzgerald as early as Monday whether they will face charges as the prosecutor winds up his nearly two-year investigation, the lawyers said.
Fitzgerald could convene the grand jury as early as Tuesday to lay out a final summary of the case and ask for approval of possible indictments, legal sources said. The grand jury hearing the CIA leak case normally meets on Wednesdays and is scheduled to expire on Friday unless Fitzgerald extends it.
There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda on 9/11. There was scant Pentagon planning for securing the peace should bad stuff happen after America invaded. Why, exactly, did we go to war in Iraq?
"It still isn't possible to be sure - and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq war," writes the New Yorker journalist George Packer, a disenchanted liberal supporter of the invasion, in his essential new book, "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq." Even a former Bush administration State Department official who was present at the war's creation, Richard Haass, tells Mr. Packer that he expects to go to his grave "not knowing the answer."
Maybe. But the leak investigation now reaching its climax in Washington continues to offer big clues. We don't yet know whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby or Karl Rove has committed a crime, but the more we learn about their desperate efforts to take down a bit player like Joseph Wilson, the more we learn about the real secret they wanted to protect: the "why" of the war.
To piece that story together, you have to follow each man's history before the invasion of Iraq - before anyone had ever heard of Valerie Plame Wilson, let alone leaked her identity as a C.I.A. officer. It is not an accident that Mr. Libby's and Mr. Rove's very different trajectories - one of a Washington policy intellectual, the other of a Texas political operative - would collide before Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury. They are very different men who play very different White House roles, but they are bound together now by the sordid shared past that the Wilson affair has exposed.
In Mr. Rove's case, let's go back to January 2002. By then the post-9/11 war in Afghanistan had succeeded in its mission to overthrow the Taliban and had done so with minimal American casualties. In a triumphalist speech to the Republican National Committee, Mr. Rove for the first time openly advanced the idea that the war on terror was the path to victory for that November's midterm elections. Candidates "can go to the country on this issue," he said, because voters "trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America." It was an early taste of the rhetoric that would be used habitually to smear any war critics as unpatriotic.
But there were unspoken impediments to Mr. Rove's plan that he certainly knew about: Afghanistan was slipping off the radar screen of American voters, and the president's most grandiose objective, to capture Osama bin Laden "dead or alive," had not been achieved. How do you run on a war if the war looks as if it's shifting into neutral and the No. 1 evildoer has escaped?
Hardly had Mr. Rove given his speech than polls started to register the first erosion of the initial near-universal endorsement of the administration's response to 9/11. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey in March 2002 found that while 9 out of 10 Americans still backed the war on terror at the six-month anniversary of the attacks, support for an expanded, long-term war had fallen to 52 percent.
Then came a rapid barrage of unhelpful news for a political campaign founded on supposed Republican superiority in protecting America: the first report (in The Washington Post) that the Bush administration had lost Bin Laden's trail in Tora Bora in December 2001 by not committing ground troops to hunt him down; the first indications that intelligence about Bin Laden's desire to hijack airplanes barely clouded President Bush's August 2001 Crawford vacation; the public accusations by an F.B.I. whistle-blower, Coleen Rowley, that higher-ups had repeatedly shackled Minneapolis agents investigating the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, in the days before 9/11.
These revelations took their toll. By Memorial Day 2002, a USA Today poll found that just 4 out of 10 Americans believed that the United States was winning the war on terror, a steep drop from the roughly two-thirds holding that conviction in January. Mr. Rove could see that an untelevised and largely underground war against terrorists might not nail election victories without a jolt of shock and awe. It was a propitious moment to wag the dog.
Enter Scooter, stage right. As James Mann details in his definitive group biography of the Bush war cabinet, "Rise of the Vulcans," Mr. Libby had been joined at the hip with Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz since their service in the Defense Department of the Bush 41 administration, where they conceived the neoconservative manifesto for the buildup and exercise of unilateral American military power after the cold war. Well before Bush 43 took office, they had become fixated on Iraq, though for reasons having much to do with their ideas about realigning the states in the Middle East and little or nothing to do with the stateless terrorism of Al Qaeda. Mr. Bush had specifically disdained such interventionism when running against Al Gore, but he embraced the cause once in office. While others might have had cavils - American military commanders testified before Congress about their already overtaxed troops and equipment in March 2002 - the path was clear for a war in Iraq to serve as the political Viagra Mr. Rove needed for the election year.
But here, too, was an impediment: there had to be that "why" for the invasion, the very why that today can seem so elusive that Mr. Packer calls Iraq "the 'Rashomon' of wars." Abstract (and highly debatable) neocon notions of marching to Baghdad to make the Middle East safe for democracy (and more secure for Israel and uninterrupted oil production) would never fly with American voters as a trigger for war or convince them that such a war was relevant to the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11. And though Americans knew Saddam was a despot and mass murderer, that in itself was also insufficient to ignite a popular groundswell for regime change. Polls in the summer of 2002 showed steadily declining support among Americans for going to war in Iraq, especially if we were to go it alone.
For Mr. Rove and Mr. Bush to get what they wanted most, slam-dunk midterm election victories, and for Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney to get what they wanted most, a war in Iraq for reasons predating 9/11, their real whys for going to war had to be replaced by fictional, more salable ones. We wouldn't be invading Iraq to further Rovian domestic politics or neocon ideology; we'd be doing so instead because there was a direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda and because Saddam was on the verge of attacking America with nuclear weapons. The facts and intelligence had to be fixed to create these whys; any contradictory evidence had to be dismissed or suppressed.
Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney were in the boiler room of the disinformation factory. The vice president's repetitive hyping of Saddam's nuclear ambitions in the summer and fall of 2002 as well as his persistence in advertising bogus Saddam-Qaeda ties were fed by the rogue intelligence operation set up in his own office. As we know from many journalistic accounts, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby built their "case" by often making an end run around the C.I.A., State Department intelligence and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Their ally in cherry-picking intelligence was a similar cadre of neocon zealots led by Douglas Feith at the Pentagon.
This is what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell's wartime chief of staff, was talking about last week when he publicly chastised the "Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal" for sowing potential disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. It's this cabal that in 2002 pushed for much of the bogus W.M.D. evidence that ended up in Mr. Powell's now infamous February 2003 presentation to the U.N. It's this cabal whose propaganda was sold by the war's unannounced marketing arm, the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, in which both Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove served in the second half of 2002. One of WHIG's goals, successfully realized, was to turn up the heat on Congress so it would rush to pass a resolution authorizing war in the politically advantageous month just before the midterm election.
Joseph Wilson wasn't a player in these exalted circles; he was a footnote who began to speak out loudly only after Saddam had been toppled and the mission in Iraq had been "accomplished." He challenged just one element of the W.M.D. "evidence," the uranium that Saddam's government had supposedly been seeking in Africa to fuel its ominous mushroom clouds.
But based on what we know about Mr. Libby's and Mr. Rove's hysterical over-response to Mr. Wilson's accusation, he scared them silly. He did so because they had something to hide. Should Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove have lied to investigators or a grand jury in their panic, Mr. Fitzgerald will bring charges. But that crime would seem a misdemeanor next to the fables that they and their bosses fed the nation and the world as the whys for invading Iraq.