Saturday, April 08, 2006

Libby's Secret Target: It Wasn't Just Wilson

Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, I. Lewis Libby, wasn't just out to sink the credibility of Joseph Wilson when he met with New York Times Reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003. He had another target, too.

We've known for a while that Miller agreed to falsely attribute the information Libby fed her to a "former Hill staffer." But the new filing by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, as revealed by the New York Sun, makes clear not only that Libby specifically requested to be identified as a "former Hill staffer," but, according to Fitzgerald:

In fact, on July 8, defendant spoke with Miller about Mr. Wilson after requesting that attribution of his remarks be changed to “former Hill staffer.”
Changed. Intriguingly, Fitzgerald never identifies what attibution Libby previously requested. Was it "White House insider"? "Senior White House official"? "A knowledgeable source in the executive branch"?

Why a "former Hill staffer"? Why not a former Defense Dept. staffer? Or a former State Dept. staffer? He's worked for both. If Libby wanted the intelligence on Iraq to be seen as credible, why not attribute it to one of them, either of which would be closer to the source of the information than the Hill?

It's true, Libby's work as a "former Hill staffer" was more recent. But let's look at a chronology of his work history to see whether that's really sufficient to make it an appropriate way to attribute intelligence about Iraq:
  • 2001-2005 - Assistant to the President, chief of staff to the Vice President and national security affairs adviser to the Vice President
  • 2000 - Adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney in the 2000 presidential campaign
  • 1995-2001 - Dechert, Price & Rhoads, Attorney
  • 1992-1995 - U.S. Department of Defense, deputy under secretary-policy
  • 1989-1992 - U.S. Department of Defense, deputy undersecretary-strategy and resources
  • 1985-1989 - Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, attorney
  • 1982-1985 - US Department of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, special projects director
  • 1981-1982 - US Department of State, policy planning staff, member
Libby's congressional staff position doesn't even rate a mention. Is it possible that he lied to Miller, or that he and Miller agreed to publish a blatant falsehood by referring to him as a "former Hill staffer"? Not exactly.

The official appendix of the Cox Committee confirms that Libby served as a "legal advisor." But the committee's appendix also specifically says that it was in operation for a "limited time...(effectively from July 1998 to the end of December 1998)..." Six months. And not only was it just six months, but those six months came while he had a day job as an attorney. So it could hardly have been a full-time effort.

And what was the Cox Committee investigating, anyway? Iraq? Proliferation of WMDs? After all, that would explain why Libby's work with them would be relevant to his citation as a source for Iraq intelligence. Here's how the committee report itself explains its mission (starting with its official title):
The Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China (the Select Committee) was established pursuant to House Resolution 463, adopted on June 18, 1998 (included at Appendix C). The Resolution authorized the Select Committee to investigate a broad range of issues relating to the transfer of U.S. technology to the People's Republic of China.
Not Iraq. Not the Middle East. The People's Republic of China.

So, six months of work, on a part-time basis, with no relevance to Iraq, eight years ago. How and why would Libby choose this particular part of his life for Miller to use in identifying to the world the source of classified information about Iraq?

The answer is not just to insulate the White House. He could have done that in ways that would have given the Iraq intelligence more credibility. It's not that he views his Hill position as particularly important work. On the site where he's trying to drum up support and cash, his time at the House of Representatives is listed last.

He chose Congress because the White House has consistently tried to undermine legislative oversight of the executive branch by trying to make Americans think members of Congress can not be trusted with classified information, that Congress might even leak classified information, for political purposes. President Bush has tried to push this notion in order to win support for his attempts to escape congressional oversight.

President Bush limited what his staff are allowed to tell Congress (see the memo here). He disputed legal requirements on executive-branch disclosures to Congress (here). (The Federation of American Scientists has a great set of links here.)

Here are some of Bush's public comments disparaging openly, or by implication, the trustworthiness and patriotism of politicians other than himself and his staff.

In discussing the Plame leak itself:
This is a town of -- where a lot of people leak. And I've constantly expressed my displeasure with leaks, particularly leaks of classified information...
In discussing his clampdown (see above) on releasing information to Congress:
We had some security briefings take place up on Capitol Hill that were a discussion about classified information and some of that information was shared with the press...

These are extraordinary times. Our nation has put our troops at risk. And therefore, I felt it was important to send a clear signal to Congress that classified information must be held dear, that there's a responsibility that if you receive a briefing of classified information, you have a responsibility. And some members did not accept that responsibility, somebody didn't. So I took it upon myself to notify the leadership of the Congress that I intend to protect our troops.

And that's why I sent the letter I sent. It's a serious matter, Dave, it's very serious that people in positions of responsibility understand, that they have a responsibility to people who are being put in harm's way. I'm having breakfast tomorrow with members of Congress. I will be glad to bring up this subject.

I understand there may be some heartburn on Capitol Hill. But I suggest if they want to relieve that heartburn, that they take their positions very seriously, and that they take any information they've been given by our government very seriously. Because this is serious business we're talking about...
Pres. Bush has had a lot of success demonizing Congress. The right wing has picked up on the idea that America is endangered if Bush shares information with Congress (see one representative rant here).

Libby chose to have Miller lie to the world and claim that classified information about America's enemy, Iraq, was leaked not from the White House (which claims it had legal authority to do so, and therefore should have had no motive to shield its identity as the source) and not from State or DOD (which would have reduced suspicions of political motivation while also boosting empirical credibility), but from Capitol Hill. It wasn't an honest attempt to characterize Libby as something other than a White House staffer. And it wasn't just a passing slur on the nation's legislative branch. It was part of a consistent White House message -- still in effect -- that Congress shouldn't have oversight of the White House because Congress can't be trusted.

Thanks to Fitzgerald, its a lot clearer now who can't be trusted, and who needs oversight now more than ever.

13 comments:

ceej said...

Nice piece.

A minor point: I believe Miller never attributed the remarks to "a former hill staffer" and in fact never wrote an article containing the leaked material. After she was criticized for (by her own account) agreeing to attribute the statements that way, she said it was no big deal because she had no intention of actually writing the article.

So, on another topic, what have you heard about Seymour Hersh's upcoming article stating that W. plans on using nukes in Iran?

Petty Larseny said...

Thanks for the correction. Not a minor point, either! I've tweaked my post appropriately. Thanks for the catch.

Howling Latina said...

This is one of the best posts I have ever read; stylistic and information-wise.

Wow!

Great work; and yes, it all makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Will they show a lot of talking about the leak ? and then find some excuse for the White house then busy as usal.

Anonymous said...

Nice catch, Larsen!

Blogenfreude said...

Excellent point. Scooter was nothing if not careful.

Enzo Titolo said...

It is amazing how comprehensive the Bush Administration is in increasing the powers of the Executive Branch and deflecting their accountability, while subtly (and not so subtly sometimes) attacking competing branches or checks on Executive power including:
* Congress,
* the Media
- (Judith Miller was jailed to protect her source of dis-information;
- they pay for fake news coverage here and in Irag;
- they've used a prostitute to lob softballs and be one of their chief mouthpieces);
* the Judiciary; and
* activists who are being spied on.

This Administration is a cancer on America, democracy, and the world.

We need to figure out a way to pre-empt Bush' use of the Presidential Pardon of Libby, Rove, Cheney, Hadley, maybe Condi on this matter.

Otherwise, we will see a replay of the Christmas Eve pardon of Cap Weinberger just as the Iran-Contra prosecution was finally getting close to the core of the Reagan Administration, including Colin Powell and Bush1 (who was not 'out of the loop').

Of course, the best pre-emption of the Presidential Pardon of these criminals and enemies of national security would be to co-impeach Bush and Cheney.

Anonymous said...

Judy "Judas" Miller may not have written on that stroy. But that in no way undermines the Plan, Intent and Group of Conspiritors who are functioning to undermine the very FUNCTIONING of OUR Government and its Public and Private Institutions.

In short, this is just one "Method of their Madness." And to see clearly here the d'evil-ish nature of this one small method... is TELLING.

Intention to Obstruct Government Functions; by use of subversion; by use of Constitutionaly provided Free Press... is the Precise PERVERSION of the PRINCIPLES, INSTITIONS and OATHS they swore to Uphold...

In a Word. EVIL. Another Word. Wicked. Know a Tree by Its Fruit.

Babe, this is No Liberty Tree.. Nope. Some Kinda Pseudo-Bush... maybe some kind of strange-burning bush, even.. depending on who is spinning the Lies.. (like NYT-JUDAS Miller- Scooting Libby)...But this Story and this non-Liberty Tree --- bush-thingy-creepy--needs its roots pulled from our fertile soil.

God Bless. Amen.

R said...

Very astute catch. I'm passing it around as Bush's war on Congress.

btw, I linked on via BUZZFLASH. They also link to this post.

Rurikid said...

On a parallel line, this is a comment I found on the Huffington Post:

Patrick Fitzgerald knows the truth.

Bush is lying through his teeth when he claims that the information was declassified prior to Libby being told, and revealing it for Political AND Strategic reasons (to shut down the Brewster Jennings operation).

http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/iln/osc/legal_proceedings.html

In the March 17, 2006 response, Fitzgerald states "in connection with an investigation concerning the disclosure to reporters of then-classified information regarding the employment of Valerie Plame".

"THEN CLASSIFIED."

Do you think he would have said that if it were not true? Listen to the ONE TRUE VOICE on this topic. If it had been declassified, don't you think at least one of the witnesses that he has deposed would have told him that - Under Oath?

The Administration has the entire MSM parroting the line that it is not illegal because the President declassified it prior to the leak.

THEY ARE ALL REPEATING A LIE WITH NO PROOF.

Fitzgerald has the proof.

This information WAS NOT declassified when it was leaked.

Bush and Cheney are guilty of TREASON.

By: plunger on April 10, 2006 at 06:02am


Also, it is my feeling that the whole Joe Wilson angle is just a White House red-herring whose purpose is to distract attention from this: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=node/4939

CV said...

Good Point, very subtle.
There was a more direct target of the Leak/Treason.
Valery Plame and her team.
Thought experiment:
You front for Guns&Bombs Inc., Executive, you own stock...and over the years you've been in the Wild Arms Market in service of this or that cause. Along the way you've dealt with some really bad guys and seen weapons and technology change hands that most people think are only owned by Governments. You've been one of the hands.
One day, one way or another you become, say, the Vice-pResident of the United States. You have now a golden opportunity to smoke out the team of Counter-Proliferators that CIA is running against your blackmarket operations. That's one less worry when you make those deals, that team has been rolled up.

Batocchio said...

Great analysis! Spot on...

NewWorldOdor said...

From The New World Order Dictionary:
Dumbocracy (noun):A system of government in which the ruling party is determined by whoever can lie to the people most effectively. Example: the United States of America, esp. since 2000 A.D. (ie. yr. zero on the new world order calendar) Note that dumbocracies exist primarily in societies where the public education system sucks, the media is a propaganda machine, and religious fundamentalism thrives. Often devolves into full-blown Moronarchy (see separate entry.)

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