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Context of 'October 31, 2005: Conservative Columnist Calls for Repeal of Independent Counsel Statute'

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Patrick Fitzgerald.Patrick Fitzgerald. [Source: US Department of Justice]Citing potential conflicts of interest, Attorney General John Ashcroft formally recuses himself from any further involvement in the investigation of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see September 26, 2003 and September 30, 2003). The Justice Department names Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney for the Chicago region, to handle the investigation. In a letter to Fitzgerald authorizing the position, Deputy Attorney General James Comey writes: “I hereby delegate to you all the authority of the attorney general with respect to the department’s investigation into the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity, and I direct you to exercise that authority as special counsel independent of the supervision or control of any officer of the department.” Many believe that Ashcroft’s continued involvement has become politically untenable, and that the investigation has reached a point where his potential conflicts of interest can no longer be ignored. The White House steadfastly denies that any of its officials leaked Plame Wilson’s name to conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first outed Plame Wilson in his column (see July 14, 2003), or any other member of the press. The FBI has already spoken to White House political adviser Karl Rove, suspected of being one of Novak’s sources; Rove has close political ties to Ashcroft. Upon Ashcroft’s recusal, the investigation was given over to Comey, who immediately named Fitzgerald to head the investigation. Fitzgerald and Comey, himself a former Manhattan prosecutor, are close friends and colleagues. [Office of the Deputy Attorney General, 12/30/2003 pdf file; Associated Press, 12/30/2003; New York Times, 12/31/2003]
Appearance of Conflict of Interest - Comey tells the press: “The attorney general, in an abundance of caution, believed that his recusal was appropriate based on the totality of the circumstances and the facts and evidence developed at this stage of the investigation. I agree with that judgment. And I also agree that he made it at the appropriate time, the appropriate point in this investigation.” Comey says that while Ashcroft denies an actual conflict of interest exists, “The issue that he was concerned about was one of appearance.” White House officials say that President Bush had no role in the decision; some White House and law enforcement officials were surprised upon learning of Comey’s decision.
Investigation Reaching into White House? - Some Democrats believe that Ashcroft’s recusal is an indication that the investigation is moving into the White House itself. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says of Comey’s decision, “This isn’t everything that I asked for, but it’s close.” In regards to Fitzgerald, Schumer says, “I would have preferred to have someone outside the government altogether, but given Fitzgerald’s reputation for integrity and ability—similar to Comey’s—the glass is three-quarters full.” Governor Howard Dean (D-VT), a leading Democratic contender for the presidency, says Ashcroft’s decision “is too little, too late.” For the last three months, the investigation has been run by John Dion, the Justice Department’s chief of counterespionage. Whether Fitzgerald will ask Dion or other Justice Department investigators to remain on the case remains to be seen. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he thought maybe he ought to keep some or all of the career folks involved,” says Comey. Fitzgerald has the authority to issue subpoenas and grant immunity on his own authority, Comey confirms. “I told him that my mandate to him was very simple. Follow the facts wherever they lead, and do the right thing at all times. And that’s something, if you know this guy, is not something I even needed to tell him.” [New York Times, 12/31/2003]
Fitzgerald's 'Impressive Reputation' - Fitzgerald has earned an “impressive reputation,” in Plame Wilson’s words, as a government prosecutor. In 1993, he won a guilty plea from Mafia capo John Gambino, and a conviction against Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see July 3, 1993). He put together the first criminal indictment against Osama bin Laden. In 2003 he indicted former Illinois Republican governor George Ryan on fraud and conspiracy charges; in 2005, he indicted several aides of Chicago Democratic mayor Richard Daley on mail fraud. He brought charges of criminal fraud against Canadian media tycoon Conrad Black. As Plame Wilson will write, “Fitzgerald was not easily intimidated by wealth, status, or threats.”
'Belated Christmas Present' - In 2007, Plame Wilson will write: “It was a belated but welcome Christmas present. Ashcroft had clearly given some thought to his extensive financial and personal ties to Karl Rove, who even then was believed to have had a significant role in the leak, and made the right decision.” She will also add that several years after the recusal, she hears secondhand from a friend of Ashcroft’s that Ashcroft was “troubled” and “lost sleep” over the administration’s action. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 174-175]

Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Karl C. Rove, US Department of Justice, John Dion, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, James B. Comey Jr., Bush administration (43), Charles Schumer, Howard Dean, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

The Washington Post, in a laudatory profile of newly named special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald (see December 30, 2003), notes that some administration critics worry about Fitzgerald’s objectivity. Fitzgerald is close friends with the man who named him to the post, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, and is the godfather of one of Comey’s children. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) calls on Comey to “relinquish his authority to limit or interfere with the investigation.” Lieberman says Fitzgerald’s appointment means “there is still no real independence and autonomy.” [Washington Post, 1/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Washington Post, Joseph Lieberman, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, James B. Comey Jr.

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is harshly critical of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see December 30, 2003). The investigation, he says, is “just running like a chain saw right through the lifeline that reporters have to sources who will tell you the truth, what’s really going on.” It is “undermining the core function in journalism.… We better wake up to what’s going on in the seriousness on the assault on the First Amendment that’s taking place right before our eyes.” Woodward does not mention that he is one of the reporters who was contacted by a Bush administration official about Plame Wilson being a CIA agent (see June 13, 2003); he has also withheld his knowledge of the case from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his own editors (see November 16-17, 2005). [Media Matters, 11/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Bob Woodward

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward criticizes the investigation into the identity leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Woodward does not mention that he is one of the reporters who was contacted by a Bush administration official about Plame Wilson being a CIA agent (see June 13, 2003); he has also withheld his knowledge of the case from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and his own editors (see November 16-17, 2005). Woodward tells a CNN audience: “I’m not sure there’s any crime in all of this. The special prosecutor has been working 18 months. Eighteen months into Watergate we knew about the tapes. People were in jail. People had pled guilty. In other words, there was a solid evidentiary trail. I don’t see it here.… Well, it may just be politics as usual. I mean, [White House senior adviser Karl] Rove’s defenders say, look, the evidence is, and the evidence is, that he was saying Joe Wilson [Plame Wilson’s husband], who was criticizing the administration on weapons of mass destruction really had an ax to grind and got his job because his wife had worked at the CIA and recommended him, so there’s fuzziness to this.” [Media Matters, 11/16/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Bob Woodward, Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Karl C. Rove, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

In an op-ed, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen pleads with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to terminate his investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak. “The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago, and prosecute some real criminals,” Cohen writes. Fitzgerald, Cohen asserts, has accomplished nothing besides jailing New York Times reporter Judith Miller (see July 6, 2005) and “repeatedly haul[ing] this or that administration high official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably wasn’t one in the first place but that now, as is often the case, might have metastasized into some sort of coverup—but, again, of nothing much.” Cohen advises Fitzgerald to “[g]o home, Pat.” He says that for administration officials, the investigation is “[n]ot nice,” but is an example of Washington business as usual. “This is rarely considered a crime,” Cohen writes. Perhaps the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson, a clandestine CIA agent, “might technically be one,” but Cohen writes that “it was not the intent of anyone to out a CIA agent and have her assassinated (which happened once) but to assassinate the character of her husband. This is an entirely different thing. She got hit by a ricochet.” Cohen writes that Fitzgerald may be considering indicting White House officials, not for outing Plame Wilson, but for related crimes, perhaps disclosing secrets or on some sort of conspiracy charges. “Whatever the case, I pray Fitzgerald is not going to reach for an indictment or, after so much tumult, merely fold his tent, not telling us, among other things, whether Miller is the martyr to a free press that I and others believe she is or whether, as some lefty critics hiss, she’s a double-dealing grandstander, in the manner of some of her accusers.” Cohen says that the larger issue is “control of information,” and explains: “If anything good comes out of the Iraq war, it has to be a realization that bad things can happen to good people when the administration—any administration—is in sole control of knowledge and those who know the truth are afraid to speak up. This—this creepy silence—will be the consequence of dusting off rarely used statutes to still the tongues of leakers and intimidate the press in its pursuit of truth, fame, and choice restaurant tables. Apres Miller comes moi.” Intimidating reporters would have more far-reaching effects than bringing what Cohen calls “trivial charges” to court. “Please, Mr. Fitzgerald,” Cohen concludes, “there’s so much crime in Washington already. Don’t commit another.” [Washington Post, 10/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Bush administration (43), Judith Miller, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard Cohen

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Slate’s Jacob Weisberg.Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. [Source: Paid Content (.org)]Jacob Weisberg, a senior editor of Slate magazine, warns liberals that the possible prosecution of White House official Karl Rove and/or former White House aide Lewis Libby may not be cause for celebration. “Opponents of the Bush administration are anticipating vindication on various fronts—justice for their nemesis Karl Rove, repudiation of George W. Bush’s dishonest case for the Iraq war, a comeuppance for Chalabi-loving reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times, and even some payback for the excesses of independent counsels during the Clinton years,” he writes. Weisberg calls support for the potential prosecutions “self-destructive,” and explains: “Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about [special prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald’s investigation from the start. Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they’ll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press’s right to find out, the government’s ability to disclose, and the public’s right to know.” Weisberg calls the law that is at the heart of the Plame Wilson investigation, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), “flawed,” and the entire Fitzgerald investigation “misbegotten.” The law is difficult to use for a conviction because it requires that prosecutors prove intent to do harm. “Under the First Amendment, we have a right to debate what is done in our name, even by secret agents,” Weisberg writes. “It may be impossible to criminalize malicious disclosure without hampering essential public debate.” After calling the White House “negligent” and “stupid” for revealing Plame Wilson’s CIA status, he says that no one has shown Rove, Libby, or any other official leaked her name with the intent of causing her or her career harm. Weisberg writes: “[A]fter two years of digging, no evidence has emerged that anyone who worked for Bush and talked to reporters about Plame… knew she was undercover. And as nasty as they might be, it’s not really thinkable that they would have known. You need a pretty low opinion of people in the White House to imagine they would knowingly foster the possible assassination of CIA assets in other countries for the sake of retaliation against someone who wrote an op-ed they didn’t like in the New York Times” (see July 6, 2003). The outing of Plame Wilson was “accidental,” Weisberg claims, part of the Bush administration’s attempts to defend itself against its failure to find WMD in Iraq. Weisberg calls Fitzgerald “relentless and ambitious,” implying that he is pursuing the case for the fulfillment of his personal ambition, and says that no evidence exists of anyone breaking any laws, whether it be the IIPA, statutes against perjury or conspiracy, obstruction of justice, or anything else. Fitzgerald will indict someone for something, Weisberg states, because not to do so would seem like he failed in his investigation. Fitzgerald is sure to bring what Weisberg calls “creative crap charges of his own devising” against someone, be it a White House official or a reporter. Weisberg concludes by calling Fitzgerald’s investigation “a disaster for freedom of the press and freedom of information.” [Slate, 10/18/2005]

Entity Tags: Judith Miller, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Jacob Weisberg, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes that the Fitzgerald investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak is running the risk of moving too far, too fast, and may end up jailing Bush administration officials without good cause. Kristof cites two Republican-driven investigations from the 1990s—the “fanatical” Kenneth Starr investigation of former President Clinton and the “appalling” 10-year pursuit of former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros—to warn that the Fitzgerald investigation, like those he cites from the 1990s, may be moving into murkier areas than originally warranted, i.e. the investigation into who leaked the name of a clandestine CIA agent. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald may be “considering mushier kinds of indictments,” Kristof writes, “for perjury, obstruction of justice, or revealing classified information. Sure, flat-out perjury must be punished. But if the evidence is more equivocal, then indictments would mark just the kind of overzealous breach of prosecutorial discretion that was a disgrace when Democrats were targeted. And it would be just as disgraceful if Republicans are the targets.” Kristof acknowledges that White House officials “behaved abominably in this affair,” and says, “the idea of a government official secretly using the news media… to attack former Ambassador Joseph Wilson [is] sleazy and outrageous. But a crime? I’m skeptical, even though there seems to have been a coordinated White House campaign against Mr. Wilson” (see October 1, 2003). “My guess is that the participants in a White House senior staff meeting discussed Mr. Wilson’s trip and the charges that the administration had knowingly broadcast false information about uranium in Niger—and then decided to take the offensive. The leak of Mrs. Wilson’s identity resulted from that offensive, but it may well have been negligence rather than vengeance.” Kristof doubts that anyone in the White House knew that Plame Wilson was an undercover agent, and believes that “some official spread the word of Mrs. Wilson’s work at the CIA to make her husband’s trip look like a nepotistic junket.” He calls such behavior “appalling,” and says that columnist Robert Novak “was absolutely wrong to print the disclosure” (see July 14, 2003). “But there’s also no need to exaggerate it,” he concludes. The entire Plame Wilson affair is an example of “backstabbing politics,” he writes, “but not… obvious criminality.” Therefore, Fitzgerald should be wary of handing down indictments, both in the interest of legal restraint and for fear that indicting “White House officials on vague charges of revealing classified information… will have a chilling effect on the reporting of national security issues.” [New York Times, 10/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Nicholas Kristof, Clinton administration, Robert Novak, Henry Cisneros, Joseph C. Wilson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward slams ‘Plamegate’ special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. In an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live, he calls Fitzgerald’s investigation “disgraceful.” When asked if he knew who might have leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to the press, Woodward claims—falsely—that he has no idea. “I wish I did have a bombshell,” he says. “I don’t even have a firecracker.” The leak, he says, is merely “gossip and chatter” of interest only to “a junkyard-dog prosecutor” like Fitzgerald who “goes everywhere and asks every question and turns over rocks and rocks under rocks and so forth.” Woodward also claims that the CIA’s assessment of the damage likely to have been done by the leak is “minimal.” Woodward says: “They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn’t have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone, and there was just some embarrassment. So people have kind of compared—somebody was saying this was [similar to the cases of convicted spies] Aldrich Ames or Bob Hanssen, big spies. This didn’t cause damage.” Woodward is ignoring reports that the damage caused by the leak may well have been severe and widespread (see Before September 16, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, October 23-24, 2003, and February 13, 2006); he also fails to note an upcoming report by his own newspaper that notes the CIA has not yet completed its assessment of the damage, but speculates as to just how severe the damage is believed to be (see October 29, 2005). [CNN, 10/27/2005; Media Matters, 10/31/2005; Media Matters, 11/16/2005; Time, 11/20/2005] Woodward does not mention that he is one of the reporters who was contacted by a Bush administration official about Plame Wilson being a CIA agent (see June 13, 2003). He has also withheld his knowledge of the case from Fitzgerald and his own editors (see November 16-17, 2005).

Entity Tags: Washington Post, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Bob Woodward, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Valerie Plame Wilson, Larry King

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Screen graphic from CNN’s coverage of Lewis Libby’s indictment.Screen graphic from CNN’s coverage of Lewis Libby’s indictment. [Source: CNN / Flickr]Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, is indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby is accused of “outing” Valerie Plame Wilson, an undercover CIA agent, to the press (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, and 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003), and then lying about it to the FBI and to a grand jury empaneled by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (see December 30, 2003, March 5, 2004, and March 24, 2004). Libby immediately resigns his position as Cheney’s chief of staff. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/28/2005 pdf file; CNN, 5/14/2006; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; Washington Post, 7/3/2007]
Five Counts of Obstruction, Two Counts of Perjury - Libby is indicted on five counts of obstruction of justice and two counts of perjury. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/28/2005 pdf file; MSNBC, 2/21/2007] Though the original investigation was of the Plame Wilson leak, Fitzgerald says it is important to understand that Libby’s crimes, though not the prime focus of the initial investigation, should be prosecuted as well. “Investigators do not set out to investigate the statute, they set out to gather the facts,” he says. The indictment does not charge Libby with knowingly disclosing the identity of a covert agent. [New York Times, 10/28/2005]
Confirms that CIA Agent's Status Classified; Important to National Security - Fitzgerald confirms that the fact of Plame Wilson’s employment at the CIA was in and of itself classified information, and not to be shared to the media or the public. He says: “The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It’s important that a CIA officer’s identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation’s security.… [T]he damage wasn’t to one person. It wasn’t just Valerie Wilson. It was done to all of us” (see Before September 16, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, October 23-24, 2003, and February 13, 2006). [New York Times, 10/28/2005; Nation, 3/16/2007]
Libby Lied about Knowledge of Plame Wilson's Status, Indictment Charges - The indictment charges that Libby lied when he claimed that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from NBC reporter Tim Russert (see November 24, 2003, March 5, 2004, March 24, 2004, and August 7, 2004). Instead, the indictment charges, Libby learned about Plame Wilson and her possible role in sending her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate claims of Iraqi attempts to buy uranium (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) from a number of people, including an undersecretary of state (see June 10, 2003), a CIA officer who regularly briefed him on national security issues (see 2:00 p.m. June 11, 2003), an unidentified “senior CIA officer,” and from his superior, Cheney (see (June 12, 2003)). In his turn, Libby shared that information with several officials in the Office of the Vice President, including Cheney’s senior counsel David Addington (see July 8, 2003), Cheney’s national security adviser John Hannah (see May 29, 2003), and Cheney’s press secretary at the time, Cathie Martin (who may have actually informed Libby—see 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003). “In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson” (see June 23, 2003), Fitzgerald says. “[T]o be frank, Mr. Libby gave the FBI a compelling story,” he adds. “It would be a compelling story that will lead the FBI to go away if only it were true. It is not true, according to the indictment.” [New York Times, 10/28/2005; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/28/2005 pdf file; National Journal, 10/30/2005] (The unidentified “senior CIA officer” is later revealed to be Frederick Fleitz, who served both as a senior officer at the Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control (WINPAC) desk and as Undersecretary of State John Bolton’s chief of staff—see (June 11, 2003).) [Raw Story, 11/2/2005] Jeralyn Merritt, a criminal defense attorney who writes for the progressive blog TalkLeft, notes that according to the indictment, the phrases used by Libby in his denials to the grand jury were nearly verbatim echoes of Cheney’s own denials as told to NBC’s Tim Russert in September 2003 (see September 14, 2003). [Jeralyn Merritt, 10/31/2005]
Sought Information on Plame Wilson's CIA Status - The indictment also charges that Libby sought information from the CIA and the State Department about Plame Wilson’s CIA status, and tried to determine whether she had been responsible for sending her husband to Niger. According to the indictment, Libby asked David Addington, the chief counsel to Cheney, “in sum and substance, what paperwork there would be at the CIA if an employee’s spouse undertook an overseas trip.” The court papers do not say what action, if any, Addington may have taken in response to Libby’s request. [New York Times, 10/28/2005; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 10/28/2005 pdf file; National Journal, 12/16/2005]
Discussed with Multiple Officials before Leaking to Reporters - In a press conference, Fitzgerald walks reporters and listeners through the indictment: from Libby’s learning of Plame Wilson’s identity from State Department and CIA sources and from Cheney, through his discussing it with at least three White House officials, all before the supposed “disclosure” from Russert. Libby subsequently lied to the FBI and to Fitzgerald’s grand jury about those discussions with government officials and again with Miller and Time reporter Matthew Cooper. “[H]e lied about it afterwards,” Fitzgerald says, “under oath and repeatedly.… [A]nyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct, and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.” [New York Times, 10/28/2005]
Leak Seriously Jeopardized National Security - Fitzgerald tells reporters that the leaking of a CIA officer’s identity is a serious breach of national security. “This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter,” he says. “But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important.” Fitzgerald continues: “At a time when we need our spy agencies to have people work there, I think just the notion that someone’s identity could be compromised lightly… [discourages] our ability to recruit people and say, ‘Come work for us… come be trained… come work anonymously here or wherever else, go do jobs for the benefit of the country for which people will not thank you.” Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says: “Revealing the identity of a covert agent is the type of leak that gets people killed. Not only does it end the person’s career… it puts that person in grave personal danger as well as their colleagues and all the people they have had contact with.” [New York Times, 10/28/2005; National Journal, 10/30/2005]
Charges Are Serious, Not 'Technicalities' - Responding to a question about Republican charges that Libby is being charged as a “technicality,” and Fitzgerald “overreached” his authority in filing the indictment, Fitzgerald says: “That talking point won’t fly. If you’re doing a national security investigation, if you’re trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven… that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.… [T]he truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.… Any notion that anyone might have that there’s a different standard for a high official, that this is somehow singling out obstruction of justice and perjury, is upside down.… If these facts are true, if we were to walk away from this and not charge obstruction of justice and perjury, we might as well just hand in our jobs. Because our jobs, the criminal justice system, is to make sure people tell us the truth. And when it’s a high-level official and a very sensitive investigation, it is a very, very serious matter that no one should take lightly.” [New York Times, 10/28/2005]
Explanation for Delay in Filing Indicitment - Fitzgerald gives one reason for the delay in filing the indictment against Libby. When asked why he went to such lengths to compel the testimony of reporters such as Miller (see September 30, 2005) and Cooper (see July 13, 2005), Fitzgerald replies that the rights of the accused are paramount in his mind. The testimony of Miller, Cooper, and other journalists could bolster the case against Libby, or could help exonerate him. The possibility that he might charge someone, only to learn later that one of the journalists who had declined to testify had information to clear the person, was something that “frightens me,” Fitzgerald says. “I think the only way you can do an investigation like this is to hear all eyewitnesses.” [New York Times, 10/28/2005; National Journal, 11/12/2005]
No Charges against Cheney - Asked whether the investigation found evidence of criminal acts by Cheney, Fitzgerald answers: “We make no allegation that the vice president committed any criminal act. We make no allegation that any other people who provided or discussed with Mr. Libby committed any criminal act. But as to any person you asked me a question about other than Mr. Libby, I’m not going to comment on anything.” Fitzgerald refuses to comment on whether White House political strategist Karl Rove or anyone else will be named as co-conspirators, charged, or even named in court. [New York Times, 10/28/2005]

Entity Tags: John Hannah, Judith Miller, John D. Rockefeller, John R. Bolton, Karl C. Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Jeralyn Merritt, Frederick Fleitz, Central Intelligence Agency, David S. Addington, Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, Valerie Plame Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of State, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Tim Russert, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Matthew Cooper

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

In an op-ed, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial staff accuses special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald of “criminalizing politics” in his investigation of the Plame Wilson leak. Fitzgerald’s investigation, the editorial reads, has taken two years, cost millions of dollars, jailed a reporter (see July 6, 2005), “and preoccupied some of the White House’s senior officials.” The investigation has culminated in the indictment of former White House official Lewis Libby (see October 28, 2005), not for leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity to the press, but for what the Journal calls “contradictions between his testimony and the testimony of two or three reporters about what he told them, when he told them, and what words he used.” The Journal writes that there is no evidence, at least to the public’s knowledge, that Libby lied to anyone, be it the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003), the grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004), or anyone else. Nowhere has anyone alleged a motive for Libby’s alleged perjury, the Journal states (see June 2003, June 3, 2003, June 11, 2003, June 12, 2003, June 19 or 20, 2003, July 6, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 7, 2003 or Shortly After, 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, July 7-8, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 18, 2003, October 1, 2003, April 5, 2006, and April 9, 2006). And, the Journal notes, Libby was not a source for the column that actually outed Plame Wilson as a CIA official. The Journal questions the existence of any White House “conspiracy to silence administration critics,” and if there was, it writes, “it was more daft than deft.” Instead, the Journal writes, the Libby indictment “amounts to an allegation that one official lied about what he knew about an underlying ‘crime’ that wasn’t committed.” Fitzgerald is merely involving himself in what the Journal calls “a policy dispute between an elected administration and critics of the president’s approach to the war on terror, who included parts of the permanent bureaucracy of the State Department and CIA.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/29/2005]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Bush administration (43), Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Wall Street Journal

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Syndicated conservative columnist Cal Thomas writes that because the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation is nothing more than a witch hunt to tar Bush administration officials over the war in Iraq, the special prosecutor law under which Patrick Fitzgerald is conducting his investigation should be abolished. According to Thomas, President Clinton was lauded by the media, and his investigator, special prosecutor Kenneth Starr, was universally portrayed as a “sex maniac with a political agenda” who was hounding a “decent man” over a legal, if morally questionable, sexual liaison. “Thus, Clinton’s lies under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky were not a big deal.” The media is giving “saturation coverage” to the Libby indictments, Thomas claims, while it gave “short shrift” to Clinton administration indictments such as then-Agriculture Secretary Michael Espy and HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros. The situation is different with accused perjurer Lewis Libby, Thomas writes (see October 28, 2005). Fitzgerald is being praised by media pundits as “an apolitical straight-shooter who is the definition of integrity” (see December 30, 2003, January 1, 2004, July 11, 2005, July 17, 2005, October 13, 2005, October 18, 2005, October 25, 2005, October 27, 2005, and October 29, 2005), and is running a fair and non-partisan investigation into crimes committed by Libby and perhaps other White House officials. According to Thomas, Fitzgerald is doing little more than working for administration critics who didn’t get their way over Iraq: “[t]hose who lost the policy battle over going to war are now fighting a rear-guard action in an attempt to damage the Bush administration and win the political war in time for the 2006 Congressional elections and certainly by the 2008 presidential contest.” Thomas says that since the Independent Counsel Law was passed in 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, it has brought few convictions and cost taxpayers an inordinate amount of money. “Enough Democrats and Republicans have been forced to run this gauntlet that perhaps a truly bipartisan solution can be found to end it,” Thomas concludes. “That Libby’s indictments are not about policy, but about who remembers what and when, ought to be the final straw in this ridiculous process.” [Town Hall (.com), 10/31/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Cal Thomas

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, described by observers as a moderate liberal, castigates US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and the government lawyers who successfully prosecuted former White House senior aide Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby (see October 28, 2005 and March 6, 2007). Unlike some of his more conservative colleagues (see October 29, 2005, October 31, 2005, November 4, 2005, November 17, 2005, November 18, 2005, December 8, 2005, April 9, 2006, April 17, 2006, July 12, 2006, Late August-Early September, 2006, September 2-5, 2006, September 5, 2006, September 5, 2006, September 7, 2006, October 16, 2006, January 17, 2007, February 16, 2007, February 16, 2007, February 27, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 8-9, 2007, March 9, 2007, and March 11, 2007), Cohen does not plainly state that Libby is innocent of any crime. Rather, Cohen accuses Fitzgerald of doing the work of the “liberal press (especially the New York Times)” and “opponents of the Iraq war” in “mak[ing] a mountain out of a molehill.” The outing of clandestine CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003 and July 12, 2006) was nothing more than a “run-of-the-mill leak,” he writes. Moreover, he writes, Fitzgerald “wound up prosecuting not the leaker—Richard Armitage of the State Department (see June 13, 2003)—but Libby, convicted in the end of lying. Cohen justifies his claim by writing: “This is not an entirely trivial matter since government officials should not lie to grand juries, but neither should they be called to account for practicing the dark art of politics. As with sex or real estate, it is often best to keep the lights off.” Cohen goes on to call the Libby investigation “a train wreck—mile after mile of shame, infamy, embarrassment, and occasional farce.” He accuses Fitzgerald of using the power of his office to unjustly compel journalists to testify to their own knowledge and complicity in Libby’s leak. The Iraq war opponents “cheered” Fitzgerald on, Cohen writes, and goes on to say that those opponents “thought—if ‘thought’ can be used in this context—that if the thread was pulled on who had leaked the identity of Valerie Plame to Robert D. Novak, the effort to snooker an entire nation into war would unravel and this would show… who knows? Something. For some odd reason, the same people who were so appalled about government snooping, the USA Patriot Act, and other such threats to civil liberties cheered as the special prosecutor weed-whacked the press, jailed a reporter, and now will send a previously obscure government official to prison for 30 months.” Had the Iraq war only claimed 300 American lives and ended with a clear victory, Cohen writes, no one would have called for any such investigation. As it stands, he continues, the anti-war left and the “liberal press” demanded “scalps” and was given Libby’s. “Accountability is one thing,” Cohen writes. “By all means, let Congress investigate and conduct oversight hearings with relish and abandon. But a prosecution is a different matter. It entails the government at its most coercive—a power so immense and sometimes so secretive that it poses much more of a threat to civil liberties, including freedom of the press, than anything in the interstices of the scary Patriot Act.” He concludes by calling on President Bush to commute Libby’s sentence. [Washington Post, 6/19/2007; Salon, 6/19/2007] Cohen has previously asked that the prosecution of Libby be terminated (see October 13, 2005), called Libby’s prosecution “silly,” and misrepresented the facts behind the prosecution (see January 30, 2007). Author, columnist, and former civil liberties lawyer Glenn Greenwald, writing a response to Cohen’s column for his blog in the Internet news publication Salon, savages Cohen by mockingly “praising” Cohen’s column as perfectly “capturing the essence of our Beltway media.” Cohen’s exhortation to allow politics to be practiced with “the lights off” is, Greenwald asserts, “the central belief of our Beltway press.… If that isn’t the perfect motto for our bold, intrepid, hard-nosed political press, then nothing is.” Greenwald notes what he calls the “multiple falsehoods” of Cohen’s argument—the appointment of Fitzgerald to investigate the leak that outed Plame Wilson was not a result of pressure from the “liberal press” or what Cohen calls the “sanctimon[ious]” anti-war left, unless the CIA and the Justice Department are left-wing organizations (see July 30, 2003, Before September 16, 2003 and December 30, 2003). Greenwald writes that the core of Cohen’s apparent horror and indignation at the pursuit of the Plame Wilson leak is that his colleagues in the media were investigated and in one instance jailed (see July 6, 2005). “As any prosecutor knows—and Martha Stewart can attest—white-collar types tend to have a morbid fear of jail,” Greenwald quotes Cohen as writing. Greenwald responds: “Indeed, it is so terribly unfair to investigate powerful government officials because, as ‘white-collar types,’ they have a ‘morbid fear of jail’—in contrast, of course, to blue-collar types, and darker ones still, who really do not mind prison at all. Why would they? It’s their natural habitat, where they belong. That is what prison is for. That has been the real point here all along. The real injustice is that prison is simply not the place for the most powerful and entrenched members of the Beltway royal court, no matter how many crimes they commit. There is a grave indignity to watching our brave Republican elite be dragged before such lowly venues as a criminal court and be threatened with prison, as though they are common criminals or something. How disruptive and disrespectful and demeaning it all is.” Greenwald says that the “most valuable lesson of Cohen’s column… is that the overriding allegiance of our permanent Beltway ruling class is to the royal court which accords them their status and prestige. That overarching allegiance overrides, easily, any supposed partisan, ideological or other allegiances which, in their assigned roles, they are ostensibly defending.” Were the Beltway press to actually investigate and pursue stories instead of “snuggling” with their “friends” in government, it would expose corruption and foster justice, instead of encouraging corruption and fostering injustice. Greenwald concludes: “Our media stars have not merely stood idly by while our highest government officials engage in endless deceit and corruption. They actively defend it, enable it, justify it, and participate in it. Keeping the lights off is their principal function, one which—with rare and noble exceptions—they perform quite eagerly.” [Salon, 6/19/2007]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard Armitage, New York Times, Richard Cohen, Glenn Greenwald, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak, Patrick J. Fitzgerald

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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