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Profile: Ari Fleischer
Positions that Ari Fleischer has held:
- White House Press Secretary (2001-2003)
September 28, 2002
“This is not a matter open to negotiations with Iraq. This is a matter for discussions with the United Nations. It’s clear for all the world to see that Iraq’s intentions are to delay, to argue, to confuse and finally to defy, so they can continue to build up their arms. It makes it even more important for the United Nations to take strong action.”
[Washington Post, 9/29/2002]
October 21, 2002
“Regime change remains Congress’ policy, assigned by the president, remains law of the land, it remains the American position and a position that the president and everybody in his Cabinet strongly supports.”
[White House, 10/21/2002]
October 22, 2002
“The policy is regime change. Saddam Hussein is the heart of the regime.”
[White House, 10/22/2002]
November 23, 2002
“The President’s position is either he will disarm or we will remove him so Iraq is disarmed”
[White House, 10/23/2002]
December 2, 2002
“We have intelligence information about what Saddam Hussein possesses…. If Saddam Hussein indicates that he has weapons of mass destruction and that he is violating United Nations resolutions, then we will know that Saddam Hussein again deceived the world. If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”
[White House, 12/2/2002; Washington Post, 12/3/2002]
December 5, 2002
“The president of the United States and the secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it…. President Bush has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Tony Blair has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Richard Butler has said they do. The United Nations has said they do. The experts have said they do. Iraq says they don’t. You can choose who you want to believe.”
[Associated Press, 12/5/2003; CBC News, 12/5/2002]
January 9, 2003
“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”
[White House, 1/9/2003]
January 16, 2003
“The president views this as troubling and serious…. What the world wants to know is if Saddam Hussein has disarmed. Possession of chemical warheads is not a good indication that the man has disarmed.”
[New York Times, 1/17/2003]
February 18, 2003
“Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction [sic].”
[White House, 2/18/2003; Financial Times, 1/16/2004]
March 21, 2003
“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly. This was the reason that the president felt so strongly that we needed to take military action to disarm Saddam Hussein, since he would not do it himself.”
[White House, 3/21/2003]
Ari Fleischer was a participant or observer in the following events:
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White House press secretary Ari Fleischer reveals Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status to Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. Fleischer, returning from Africa aboard Air Force One, attacked the credibility of Plame Wilson’s husband, war critic Joseph Wilson, just hours before (see 3:20 a.m. July 12, 2003). Since then, Vice President Dick Cheney has coordinated a White House strategy to discredit Wilson (see July 12, 2003). Fleischer tells Pincus that the White House paid no attention to the 2002 mission to Niger by Wilson (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) because it was set up as a boondoggle by Wilson’s wife, whom Fleischer incorrectly identifies as an “analyst” with the agency working on WMD issues. Pincus will not reveal the Fleischer leak until October 2003. [Pincus, 7/12/2003 ; Nieman Watchdog, 7/6/2005; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007] Reporter Murray Waas will later write that Fleischer outed Plame Wilson to Pincus and others “in an effort to undermine Wilson’s credibility.” [American Prospect, 4/22/2005] Fleischer will later testify that he did not inform Pincus of Plame Wilson’s identity (see June 10, 2004 and January 29, 2007). “No sir,” he will say. “I would have remembered it if it happened.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007]
Two White House officials call at least six Washington journalists to tell them that former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife is a CIA agent. Wilson wrote an op-ed criticizing the administration’s Iraq policies and claiming that the allegations of Iraq’s attempts to buy uranium from Niger are unsubstantiated (see July 6, 2003). In return, administration officials are attempting to discredit Wilson by alleging that his wife, undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, sent him on the journey (see July 17, 2003). Plame Wilson will be outed as a CIA agent by conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003), who received the tip from two administration officials, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see Late June 2003) and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003 and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/28/2003] One of those journalists is the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus (see June 12, 2003), who later testifies that he learns of Plame Wilson’s identity from White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see (July 11, 2003)) on July 12. Pincus will testify that, during a conversation about the Iraq-Niger WMD claim, Fleischer “swerved off and said, in effect, don’t you know his wife works at CIA, is an analyst on WMD, and she arranged the trip, that’s why people weren’t paying attention to it.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007]
Outing 'Clearly ... For Revenge' - On September 27, a senior administration official will confirm that two officials, whom he/she does not name, called Novak and other journalists. “Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,” the senior official says. A reporter will tell Joseph Wilson that, according to either Armitage or Rove, “The real issue is Wilson and his wife.” Other sources will say that one of the leakers describe Plame Wilson as “fair game” (see July 21, 2003). When the administration official is asked why he/she is discussing the leakers, the response is that the leaks are “wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson’s credibility” (see September 28, 2003). Wilson will state publicly that he believes Rove broke his wife’s cover (see August 21, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/28/2003]
Wilson: Journalists Fear Reprisals - Wilson later writes: “A reporter told me that one of the six newspeople who had received the leak stated flatly that the pressure he had come under from the administration in the past several months to remain silent made him fear that if he did his job and reported on the leak story, he would ‘end up in Guantanamo’—a dark metaphor for the career isolation he would suffer at the hands of the administration. Another confided that she had heard from reporters that ‘with kids in private school and a mortgage on the house,’ they were unwilling to cross the administration.… What does it say for the health of our democracy—or our media—when fear of the administration’s reaction preempts the search for truth?” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 440]
In his final press conference before leaving the administration, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer continues to assert the possible validity of the admittedly false Iraq-Niger uranium claim (see Mid-January 2003 and 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). “I think this remains an issue about did Iraq sek uranium in Africa,” he says, “an issue that very well may be true. We don’t know if it’s true (see July 8, 2003), but nobody can say it’s wrong.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 100]
Time magazine, in an article by Matthew Cooper and two other reporters, asks the question, “Has the Bush administration declared war on a former ambassador who conducted a fact-finding mission to probe possible Iraqi interest in African uranium?” Its answer: “Perhaps.” The ambassador is Joseph Wilson, who flew to Africa in February 2002 to find the truth behind the charges that Iraq had secretly attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Wilson found no evidence to back up those claims (see March 4-5, 2002), and recently wrote a New York Times op-ed blasting the administration’s use of those claims to justify invading Iraq (see July 6, 2003).
White House Says Wilson's Report Bolstered Claims - Cooper reports that since Wilson’s op-ed was published, “administration officials have taken public and private whacks at Wilson, charging that his 2002 report, made at the behest of US intelligence, was faulty and that his mission was a scheme cooked up by mid-level operatives.” CIA Director George Tenet and White House press secretary Ari Fleischer have both criticized Wilson and disputed his conclusion, even stating that his findings in Niger actually strengthened the administration’s claims of an Iraq-Niger connection, saying that he reported a meeting with a former Nigerien government official who discussed being approached by an Iraqi official in June 1999 who wanted to expand commercial relations between the two countries. According to government officials, Wilson interpreted that overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. Fleischer said: “This is in Wilson’s report back to the CIA. Wilson’s own report, the very man who was on television saying Niger denies it… reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales” (see February 1999). Wilson disputes the characterization, saying that he never interpreted the discussion in the way the White House claims he did: “That then translates into an Iraqi effort to import a significant quantity of uranium as the president alleged? These guys really need to get serious.”
Wilson and the Forged Documents - Tenet has blasted Wilson for never discussing the forged Iraq-Niger documents (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001); for his part, Wilson said that he did not discuss the documents because he never saw them. And Fleischer says that Wilson erred in taking Nigerien officials at their word: “He spent eight days in Niger and he concluded that Niger denied the allegation. Well, typically nations don’t admit to going around nuclear nonproliferation.”
Claims that Wilson Sent at Behest of Wife - Other unnamed White House officials have insinuated that Wilson was sent to Niger at the behest of his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson (see February 13, 2002, February 13, 2002, Shortly after February 13, 2002, February 20, 2002, and February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), whom Cooper identifies as “a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” (see (June 12, 2003)). Cooper learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House political adviser Karl Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), though he does not cite Rove as his source in his article. Cooper writes, “These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband’s being dispatched [to] Niger” (see February 19, 2002). Wilson, according to Cooper, angrily disputes the contention that his wife sent him to Niger, saying: “That is bullsh_t. That is absolutely not the case. I met with between six and eight analysts and operators from CIA and elsewhere [before the February 2002 trip]. None of the people in that meeting did I know, and they took the decision to send me. This is a smear job.”
Wilson Sent Due to Cheney's Pressure? - A source whom Cooper identifies as “close to the matter” confirms that Wilson was sent to Niger after Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the CIA to find out about the Iraq-Niger allegations (see Shortly after February 12, 2002), though both Tenet and Cheney’s office deny doing so (see (February 13, 2002)). Cooper quotes Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, as saying: “The vice president heard about the possibility of Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger in February 2002. As part of his regular intelligence briefing, the vice president asked a question about the implication of the report. During the course of a year, the vice president asked many such questions and the agency responded within a day or two saying that they had reporting suggesting the possibility of such a transaction. But the agency noted that the reporting lacked detail. The agency pointed out that Iraq already had 500 tons of uranium, portions of which came from Niger, according to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA—see 1979-1982). The vice president was unaware of the trip by Ambassador Wilson and didn’t know about it until this year when it became public in the last month or so.” Other administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, claim they, too, heard nothing of Wilson’s report until recently. [Time, 7/17/2003]
Cooper to Testify about Sources - Cooper will eventually testify about his contacts with Rove and Libby during the investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak (see May 21, 2004, August 24, 2004, July 6, 2005, and July 13, 2005).
Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Joseph C. Wilson, George J. Tenet, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Matthew Cooper, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Time magazine
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
A Wall Street Journal op-ed claims that President Bush never claimed the Iraqis posed an “imminent threat” with their putative WMD programs, and that former ambassador Joseph Wilson is unfairly “moving the goalposts” by saying that the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD never passed what they call the “imminent threat test.” As far back as September 2001, after the attacks on New York and Washington, the Bush administration began claiming that Iraq posed a serious threat to the US (see September 11, 2001-March 17, 2003, Shortly After September 11, 2001, September 14, 2001, August 2002, and September 6, 2002). Bush had apparently characterized Iraq as an “imminent threat” even before becoming president (see May 17, 2000). Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has used the term “imminent threat” (see September 18, 2002), as have other members of the administration, such as press secretary Ari Fleischer, communications chief Dan Bartlett, and Defense Policy Board chief Richard Perle. Vice President Dick Cheney had publicly threatened Iraq with military action as far back as December 2001 (see December 11, 2001). Bush had included Iraq as one of the now-infamous “Axis of Evil” in early 2002 (see January 29, 2002). And Bush, Cheney, and top White House officials had characterized Iraq and Saddam Hussein as a threat since March 2002 (see March 24, 2002, August 15, 2002, August 20, 2002, August 26, 2002, Fall and Winter 2002, September 7, 2002, September 8, 2002, September 8, 2002, September 12, 2002, September 13, 2002, September 18, 2002, September 19, 2002, September 24, 2002, September 26, 2002, October 1, 2002, October 1, 2002, October 3, 2002, October 7, 2002, October 7, 2002, January 10, 2003, and March 6, 2003). Wilson will later observe, “While the Journal may have been technically correct that the president had not uttered those exact words, he [and his top officials] walked right up to the phrase.” He will note that Bush’s “staff and administration allies, of course, had been less concerned about splitting hairs as they promoted the invasion.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 367-368]
The day after reading a Washington Post article about the two White House sources who alerted reporters to Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity (see September 28, 2003), former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer retains a lawyer. Fleischer knows he is one of the White House officials who disclosed Plame Wilson’s identy to reporters (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, and 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003), and is therefore one of the White House sources referred to in the article. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; FireDogLake, 1/25/2007] According to documents later filed with the government, after reading the article, Fleischer realized that he might end up facing legal charges. A government witness will later state: “And he realized, when there was an ongoing criminal investigation, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but basically it was one of those moments when your heart goes in your throat, and you think, I could be in very big trouble here. And the following day he obtained legal counsel and began discussing with his attorney what kind of predicament he was in.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 1/27/2007]
The federal grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity subpoenas a large amount of White House records, including Air Force One telephone logs from the week before Plame Wilson’s public outing (see July 14, 2003); records created in July 2003 by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG—see August 2002), a White House public relations group tasked with crafting a public relations strategy to market the Iraq war to the public; a transcript of press secretary Ari Fleischer’s press briefing in Nigeria currently missing from the White House’s Web site (see 3:20 a.m. July 12, 2003); a list of guests at former President Gerald Ford’s July 16, 2003 birthday reception; and records of Bush administration officials’ contacts with approximately 25 journalists and news media outlets. The journalists include Robert Novak, the columnist who outed Plame Wilson, Newsday reporters Knut Royce and Timothy Phelps (see July 21, 2003), five Washington Post reporters including Mike Allen and Dana Priest (see September 28, 2003 and October 12, 2003), Time magazine’s Michael Duffy (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), NBC’s Andrea Mitchell (see July 8, 2003 and October 3, 2003), MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (see July 21, 2003), and reporters from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press. The subpoenas will be accompanied by a January 26 memo from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales that will set a January 29 deadline for production of the subpoenaed documents and records. Gonzales will write that White House staffers will turn over records of any “contacts, attempted contacts, or discussion of contacts, with any members of the media concerning [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson, his trip, or his wife, including but not limited to the following media and media personnel.” White House spokeswoman Erin Healy later says, “The president has always said we would fully comply with the investigation, and the White House counsel’s office has directed the staff to fully comply.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan will say: “It’s just a matter of getting it all together.… At this point, we’re still in the process of complying fully with those requests. We have provided the Department of Justice investigators with much of the information and we’re continuing to provide them with additional information and comply fully with the request for information.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 1/22/2004; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 1/22/2004; Newsday, 3/5/2004; Washington Post, 3/6/2004]
Entity Tags: Chris Matthews, US Department of Justice, Bush administration (43), Valerie Plame Wilson, Wall Street Journal, White House Iraq Group, Ari Fleischer, Time magazine, Alberto R. Gonzales, Andrea Mitchell, Scott McClellan, Timothy Phelps, Newsday, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr, Erin Healy, Dana Priest, Knut Royce, Robert Novak, NBC News, Michael Duffy, Associated Press, New York Times, MSNBC, Mike Allen
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Former White House press official Adam Levine testifies before the federal grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak. Levine, who is not suspected of leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to the press, is asked about White House public relations strategies. [Washington Post, 2/10/2004] Sources later say that Levine may have been asked to testify because between July 7 and July 12, 2003, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and White House communications director Dan Bartlett were in Africa with President Bush, and deputy press secretary Scott McClellan was on vacation, leaving Levine in charge of press relations during that period [Fox News, 2/11/2004] , and thus one of the few press officials to field telephone calls from reporters during that time. His testimony is described as “brief” and non-confrontational. Levine has spoken with FBI agents on several occasions as a part of the investigation. [CNN, 2/10/2004]
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald grants former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony in the Plame Wilson leak investigation. Fleischer is granted immunity from any criminal charge related to his involvement in the Plame Wilson identity leak (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, and 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003) except “against charges of perjury, giving false statement, or otherwise failing to comply with the Order of the Court.” Fleischer will testify to the FBI several days later. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 2/13/2004] In 2007, during the Lewis Libby trial, Fitzgerald will tell presiding Judge Reggie Walton (see January 25-27, 2007) that he opposed granting immunity to Fleischer because Fleischer’s lawyers refused to give a detailed “proffer” of what Fleischer would reveal. “They refused to give us a proffer,” Fitzgerald will say. “It wasn’t as if someone said ‘here’s what we’ll give you.’ It wasn’t something that we had laid out before us.… We were told he had relevant information. Frankly, I didn’t want to give him immunity, I was buying a pig in a poke. I did not know what we were going to get other than I knew it was going to be relevant to the case.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007]
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer is interviewed by the FBI regarding the Plame Wilson identity leak. Fleischer has already spoken to FBI agents under a grant of immunity from special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald (see February 13, 2004). According to Fleischer’s 2007 testimony in the Lewis Libby perjury trial (see January 16-23, 2007), he denies leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA employment status to Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus. Fleischer, despite his immunity, is lying (see 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003), though whether he lies to the FBI today or during his testimony before the court in 2007 is unclear. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007]
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak, files a motion with the court opposing the attempts to quash his subpoenas to reporters Judith Miller (see August 12, 2004 and After) and Walter Pincus (see 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003 and August 9, 2004). He argues that their testimony is vital to his investigation and that his questions will be limited in scope to preserve source confidentiality whenever possible. Fitzgerald’s affidavit contains detailed information about the previous grand jury testimony of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see June 10, 2004). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 9/27/2004 ] Days after Fitzgerald files his motion, Fleischer will again be interviewed by the FBI with regards to his knowledge and actions surrounding the Plame Wilson identity leak (see September 2004).
Sometime during this month, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testifies a third time to FBI agents as part of the Justice Department’s invesigation into the Plame Wilson identity leak (see February 13, 2004 and June 10, 2004). (In his 2007 testimony in the Lewis Libby perjury trial, Fleischer will claim to have been interviewed three times: January 2004, February 2004, and September 2004. At that time, it will be unclear whether Fleischer is misremembering the dates of his interviews or if there is another reason why his dates do not jibe with the facts.) [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2009]
Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus testifies before the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003 and August 9, 2004). Pincus refuses to divulge confidential sources, and refuses to divulge the name of the White House official who told him of Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA agent. He does, however, recount the substance of that conversation. [Associated Press, 9/17/2004; New York Times, 2006] In his deposition, Pincus says he agreed to be questioned by prosecutors only with his source’s approval. “I understand that my source has already spoken to the special prosecutor about our conversation on July 12, and that the special prosecutor has dropped his demand that I reveal my source,” Pincus says. “Even so, I will not testify about his or her identity.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2004; Associated Press, 9/17/2004] “The source has not discharged us from the confidentiality pledge,” says the Post’s executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr. [Washington Post, 9/16/2004] Pincus will later describe why he agreed to testify instead of go to jail to protect his sources. “I believed firmly that the sources controlled the privilege,” he will say. One of his sources had told Pincus, through lawyers, that since he had revealed his own identity, Pincus could testify but not name him publicly. Pincus will later say, “If their identity was known to [special prosecutor] Patrick Fitzgerald, what confidence was I breaking?” He agreed to testify if he could name his source in court, but protect the source’s identity publicly. Fellow reporter Lowell Bergman will later call it “a cute deal.” When Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter asks Bergman, “Can’t you make an argument that this was the pragmatic tactic to take?” Bergman will respond, “It is until you are the next reporter subpoenaed and you have no protection.” [Vanity Fair, 4/2006] Pincus’s source will later be revealed as former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003).
One day after the New York Times revealed that Karl Rove was a source for the 2003 outing of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2005), unnamed sources tell the New York Daily News that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is also examining the role of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in the leak. “Ari’s name keeps popping up,” one of the sources tells the Daily News. The press is not yet aware that Fleischer is, indeed, one of the White House officials who leaked Plame Wilson’s identity (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003), nor is it aware that Fitzgerald has offered Fleischer immunity in return for his testimony in his investigation (see February 13, 2004, June 10, 2004, and September 2004). Sources also note that Fitzgerald is focusing on Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Libby, whom one source describes as “totally obsessed with [Joseph] Wilson,” the husband of Plame Wilson who angered the administration by publishing an op-ed debunking a key claim President Bush used to justify his decision to invade Iraq (see July 6, 2003). And, the sources say, Fitzgerald is keenly interested in a State Department memo revealing Plame Wilson’s identity (see June 10, 2003 and (July 15, 2005)). [New York Daily News, 7/15/2005] Author and blogger Marcy Wheeler, covering the Libby perjury trial in 2007, will write of her suspicions that the information to the Daily News was leaked by Rove, or someone close to him, to attempt to turn media attention away from himself and onto someone else. “Clearly, the behind-the-scenes media campaign was giving reporters fresh meat (in the form of Fleischer) to distract them from Rove,” Wheeler will write. Wheeler will note that while the media remains interested in Rove, the apparent distraction attempt will work, with media attention focusing on Fleischer and how the memo may incriminate him in the investigation. She will write, “The press, which just a day before had been in a frenzy reporting Rove’s demonstrable role in the CIA leak, had abruptly shifted its attention to chasing down a story implicating Fleischer and (to a lesser degree) [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell in unsubstantiated ways.” Wheeler goes on to observe: “The leak campaign against Fleischer served one other purpose, albeit a crafty one. Since Libby had told Fleischer of Valerie [Plame] Wilson’s identity in such a way that made it appear that Libby knew her identity was classified, Fleischer was a potential witness against Libby. Focusing suspicion on Fleischer would undermine his role as a witness if Libby were to face charges. The leaks about Fleischer and the [State Department] memo served several purposes: They distracted the press corps from validated revelations of Rove’s involvement; they provided an alternative source for the Novak leak and a provenance for that leak outside the White House; and they impugned a potential witness at a trial. All of this was possible because some journalists didn’t question what they were being fed by their unnamed sources.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/4/2007]
Prosecutors in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak case (see December 30, 2003) become intensely interested in a 2003 State Department memo (see June 10, 2003) detailing how former ambassador Joseph Wilson—Plame Wilson’s husband—was chosen to journey to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from that country (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). The memo also sheds light on the role Wilson’s wife played in his selection. Prosecutors are trying to learn whether White House officials learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from the memo, if any officials then leaked her name to the press, and if those officials were truthful in their testimony about the memo. It is possible that the memo could show that the State Department told the White House of Plame Wilson’s identity as an undercover CIA agent before July 6, 2003, when Wilson publicly lambasted the Bush administration’s justification for war with Iraq in a New York Times op-ed (see July 6, 2003). It is as yet unclear who actually saw the memo, or whether it was the original source of information for whoever gave Plame Wilson’s name to conservative columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003). Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer is also a person of interest in the investigation. Prosecutors want to know how much detailed information he had about the State Department memo. [New York Times, 7/16/2005]
The Washington Post prints an article by reporter Barton Gellman about the intelligence leaks from the White House that led to the outing of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson. The article examines the question of whether Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, obstructed the FBI investigation into Plame Wilson’s exposure in order to protect Cheney. [Washington Post, 10/30/2005] According to journalist and blogger Joshua Micah Marshall, the Post deleted a key portion of Gellman’s story shortly after it appeared on the Post’s Web site (the edited version is what makes it into print). The deleted portion noted that on July 12, 2003, Cheney told Libby “to alert reporters of an attack launched that morning on [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson’s credibility by Fleischer, according to a well-placed source” (see July 12, 2003 and 3:20 a.m. July 12, 2003). [Joshua Micah Marshall, 10/30/2005] A criminal lawyer who blogs under the moniker “Anonymous Liberal” speculates that the Post may have removed the reference to Fleischer because Fleischer was a source for Post reporter Walter Pincus. Pincus is identified in Gellman’s article as receiving information from an unidentified White House source who, like Libby, attacked Wilson and implied that he was sent to Niger by his wife (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, October 17, 2003, and July 20, 2005). [Anonymous Liberal, 10/30/2005]
Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Barton Gellman, Ari Fleischer, “Anonymous Liberal”, Bush administration (43), Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Valerie Plame Wilson, Joshua Micah Marshall
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Slate reporter John Dickerson, who formerly worked for Time magazine during the initial Plame Wilson identity leak investigation coverage, writes of his knowledge of, and participation in, the investigation, including his knowledge that White House official Karl Rove leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to Dickerson’s colleague, Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Dickerson co-wrote a July 2003 Time article with Cooper (see July 17, 2003) that led to Cooper’s subpoena from the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation (see August 9, 2004 and September 13, 2004), his being held in contempt of court (see October 13, 2004), and his eventual testimony (see July 13, 2005). However, Dickerson was never subpoenaed to testify before the Fitzgerald grand jury. He writes that he accompanied the gaggle of reporters with President Bush on his trip to Africa in July 2003, and of the extensive time spent by two “senior administration official[s]” telling him how partisan and unreliable Plame Wilson’s husband Joseph Wilson is, and how he should investigate what “low-level” CIA official sent Wilson to Niger (see July 11, 2003). “I thought I got the point,” Dickerson writes. “He’d been sent by someone around the rank of deputy assistant undersecretary or janitor.” Dickerson goes on to observe, “What struck me was how hard both officials were working to knock down Wilson” (see October 1, 2003). After returning from the trip, Cooper told Dickerson that Rove had informed him of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity. “So, that explained the wink-wink nudge-nudge I was getting about who sent Wilson,” Dickerson writes. Cooper and Dickerson were careful, Dickerson writes, to ensure that other reporters would not learn of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from either of them. And Dickerson did not want to encroach on Cooper’s arrangement with Rove. Dickerson writes: “At this point the information about Valerie Plame was not the radioactive material it is today. No one knew she might have been a protected agent—and for whatever reason, the possibility didn’t occur to us or anyone else at the time. But it was still newsworthy that the White House was using her to make its case. That Scooter Libby and Karl Rove mentioned Plame to Matt was an example of how they were attempting to undermine Wilson. They were trying to make his trip look like a special family side deal not officially sanctioned by the agency.” [Slate, 2/7/2006; Slate, 2/7/2006] In 2007, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will testify that he informed Dickerson of Plame Wilson’s identity (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), a statement that Dickerson will dispute. [Slate, 1/29/2007]
Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, John Dickerson, Karl C. Rove, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Time magazine, Valerie Plame Wilson, Matthew Cooper, Joseph C. Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
A court filing by Lewis Libby’s defense team lists the witnesses the lawyers say they intend to put on the stand in their client’s defense. The list includes:
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see June 13, 2003, After October 28, 2005, and November 14, 2005);
Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, and 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003);
Former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman (see June 10, 2003);
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (see July 16, 2004);
White House political strategist Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003);
Former CIA Director George Tenet (see June 11 or 12, 2003, July 11, 2003 and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003);
Former US ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003);
Former CIA covert operative Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003);
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley (see July 21, 2003 and November 14, 2005);
CIA briefers Craig Schmall (see 7:00 a.m. June 14, 2003), Peter Clement, and/or Matt Barrett;
Former CIA officials Robert Grenier (see 4:30 p.m. June 10, 2003, 2:00 p.m. June 11, 2003, and 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003) and/or John McLaughlin (see June 11 or 12, 2003);
Former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow (see 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), and Before July 14, 2003);
Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington (see July 8, 2003);
Former Cheney press secretary Cathie Martin (see 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003); and
Cheney himself (see July 12, 2003 and Late September or Early October, 2003).
The defense also:
Wants notes from a September 2003 White House briefing where Powell reportedly claimed that many people knew of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity before it became public knowledge;
Implies that Grossman may not be an unbiased witness;
Suspects Fleischer may have already cooperated with the investigation (see June 10, 2004);
Intends to argue that Libby had no motive to lie to either the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003) or the grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004); and
Intends to argue that columnist Robert Novak’s primary source for his column exposing Plame Wilson as a CIA official was not Libby, but “a source outside the White House” (see July 8, 2003). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 3/17/2006 ; Jeralyn Merritt, 3/18/2006]
Criminal defense attorney Jeralyn Merritt believes Libby’s team may be preparing to lay blame for the Plame Wilson leak on Grossman. She writes that, in her view, “Libby’s lawyers are publicly laying out how they intend to impeach him: by claiming he is not to be believed because (either or both) his true loyalty is to Richard Armitage rather than to the truth, or he is a self-aggrandizing government employee who thinks of himself a true patriot whose duty it is to save the integrity of the State Department.” [Jeralyn Merritt, 4/4/2006] Libby’s lawyers indicate that they will challenge Plame Wilson’s significance as a covert CIA official (see Fall 1992 - 1996, April 2001 and After, Before September 16, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, October 23-24, 2003, and February 13, 2006). “The prosecution has an interest in continuing to overstate the significance of Ms. Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA,” the court filing states. They also intend to attempt to blame Armitage, Grossman, Grenier, McLaughlin, Schmall, and/or other officials outside the White House proper as the real sources for the Plame Wilson identity leak. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 3/17/2006 ; Truthout (.org), 3/18/2006]
Entity Tags: Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak, Robert Grenier, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Colin Powell, Ari Fleischer, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Bill Harlow, Richard Armitage, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Stephen J. Hadley, Matt Barrett, George J. Tenet, Peter Clement, Craig Schmall, Jeralyn Merritt, John E. McLaughlin, David S. Addington, Karl C. Rove, Joseph C. Wilson, Marc Grossman, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Lewis Libby’s defense team files a response to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s rejection of its demands for more classified documents (see April 5, 2006).
Defense Lawyers Intend to Subpoena Wilson, White House Officials - In the filing, Libby’s lawyers indicate that they intend to call for testimony a number of people involved in the Plame Wilson leak, including former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002 and July 6, 2003), White House political strategist Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), State Department official Marc Grossman (see June 10, 2003), former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, and 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003), and former CIA Director George Tenet (see June 11 or 12, 2003, July 11, 2003 and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). The defense would consider Wilson a “hostile witness” if they indeed subpoena his testimony. Many of these potential witnesses were also disclosed by the Libby team a month earlier (see March 17, 2006).
Limiting Document Requests - The defense also agrees to limit its future document requests “to documents that are currently in the actual possession of the OSC [Office of Special Counsel] or which the OSC knows to exist.”
Libby Claims No Memory of Key Conversation - Libby’s lawyers also assert that Libby remembers nothing of conversations he had with Grossman, in which Grossman has testified that he told Libby of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status (see May 29, 2003, June 10, 2003, 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003, and October 17, 2003). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 4/12/2006 ; Truthout (.org), 4/14/2006] However, sources close to the case say that “a half-dozen witnesses” have testified as to the accuracy of Grossman’s claims. A former State Department colleague of Grossman’s says: “It’s not just Mr. Grossman’s word against Mr. Libby’s. There were other people present at the meeting at the time when Mr. Grossman provided Mr. Libby with details about Ms. Plame’s employment with the agency. There is an abundance of evidence Mr. Fitzgerald has that will prove this.” Investigative reporter Jason Leopold observes: “The meeting between Libby and Grossman is a crucial part of the government’s case against Libby. It demonstrates that Libby knew about Plame Wilson a month or so before her name was published in a newspaper column and proves that Libby lied to the grand jury when he testified that he found out about Plame Wilson from reporters in July 2003.” [Truthout (.org), 4/14/2006]
In his book The Greatest Story Ever Sold, author and New York Times media critic Frank Rich writes that President Bush never entered Iraq with any idea of “nation-building.” Bush “never talked about building a democracy in Iraq” during the planning and marketing of the invasion, Rich writes. “The reason he didn’t talk about it was not that he was consciously trying to keep a hidden, hard-to-sell motive secret. The record shows that, for once, Bush’s private convictions actually did match his public stance. Neither he nor the administration had any intention of doing any nation-building. The war plan was an easy exercise in regime change, a swift surgical procedure, after which the Iraqis would be left to build their own democracy by spontaneous civic combustion, like Eastern Europeans after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Americans would hang around in small numbers, perhaps, to protect the oil ministry—the only institution they did protect after routing Saddam. Every single administration action of the time confirms that nation-building was not in the cards. That’s why General Jay Garner was picked as the top American official after the fall of Baghdad (see January 2003): The White House wanted a short-term military emissary rather than a full-dress occupation administrator because the job description required only that he manage a quick turnaround of power to the Iraqis and an immediate exit for American troops. That’s why [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and the war cabinet bought a Tommy Franks plan to draw down those troops from 130,000 to 30,000 by the fall of 2003. It’s also why the only serious prewar plan for rebuilding Iraq, the State Department’s ‘Future of Iraq’ project, was shelved by the White House (see April 2002-March 2003). General Anthony Zinni’s ‘Desert Crossing’ plan for Iraq occupation, which he bequeathed to Franks, his successor, was also shunted aside (see April-July 1999). Any such bothersome little details were entrusted instead to the Defense Department’s Douglas Feith, whose only (non) qualification was that he had been a loyal provider of cherry-picked Iraq intelligence to [Vice President Dick] Cheney and [Cheney’s then-chief of staff Lewis ‘Scooter’] Libby before the war.… Had nation-building been in the White House’s plan, surely someone would have bothered to investigate what nation was being rebuilt.” Even after Garner’s replacement by Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer (see May 11, 2003), nation-building wasn’t on the agenda. The two heads of “private-sector development” in Iraq were, in Rich’s words, “a former Bush campaign finance chair in Connecticut and a venture capitalist who just happened to be [then-press secretary] Ari Fleischer’s brother.” The CPA was staffed by “twentysomethings with no foreign service experience or knowledge of Arabic simply because they had posted their resumes at the Heritage Foundation (see June 25, 2004).… The ‘nation-building’ that America finally did undertake was an improvised initiative, heavier on PR than on achievement, to justify the mission retroactively. Only then did the war’s diehard defenders disingenuously grandfather it in as a noble calling contemplated by the Bush White House from the start.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 213-214]
Entity Tags: Heritage Foundation, Donald Rumsfeld, Ari Fleischer, Anthony Zinni, Douglas Feith, George W. Bush, L. Paul Bremer, Thomas Franks, Jay Garner, Frank Rich, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
After a heated debate in the courtroom, Lewis Libby’s lawyers file a brief with the court attempting to preclude the testimony of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. The lawyers say that Fleischer’s testimony is potentially “inflammatory” and “prejudicial” against their client, and speculate that by testifying Fleischer is attempting “to curry favor with the government.” The lawyers are referring to the fact that Fleischer received immunity from prosecution for his cooperation with the prosecutors (see February 13, 2004). Moreover, the lawyers state, Fleischer’s state of mind is relevant to the motion. “[I]t appears that the government is attempting to persuade the jury through Mr. Fleischer’s testimony that Mr. Libby had a motive to lie because he was in a similar position to Mr. Fleischer. Because Mr. Fleischer feared criminal prosecution in light of the article in question [referring to a Washington Post article the government intends to introduce into evidence—see September 28, 2003], this argument goes, Mr. Libby must have have a similar fear, and therefore motive to lie. This court should not allow the government to prejudice Mr. Libby by using testimony concerning Mr. Fleischer’s state of mind for this impermissible purpose.” The prosecution notes that in defense lawyer Theodore Well’s opening statement (see January 23, 2007), the jury was already told of Fleischer’s immunity, and if the defense intends on attacking Fleischer, he needs to be able to explain why he asked for immunity. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 1/27/2007] The motion will be denied; Fleischer will testify two days later (see January 29, 2007).
Cathie Martin entering the courthouse. [Source: New York Times]Cathie Martin, the former spokeswoman for Vice President Dick Cheney, testifies that she told Cheney and his former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby about Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status weeks before Libby claims to have learned that information from reporter Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003 and March 24, 2004). [CBS News, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] At the time in question, Martin was Cheney’s assistant for public affairs. She now works at the White House as the deputy director of communications for policy and planning. As Cheney’s assistant, she worked closely with Libby and handled most press inquiries for Cheney and Libby. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007]
Passed along Information about Plame Wilson to Libby, Cheney - Martin testifies that in her presence Libby spoke with a senior CIA official on the telephone, and asked about the Joseph Wilson trip to Niger. She says she then spoke with CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, who told her that Wilson went to Niger on behalf of the agency, and that Wilson’s wife worked at the agency (see 5:25 p.m. June 10, 2003). Martin then says that she subsequently told both Libby and Cheney that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA (see 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003). The International Herald Tribune notes: “The perspective she laid out under questioning from a federal prosecutor was damaging to Libby.… She bolstered the prosecution’s assertion that Libby was fully aware of [Plame] Wilson’s identity from a number of administration officials, and did not first learn about her from reporters, as he has claimed. Perhaps more important[ly], she testified as a former close colleague of Libby’s and demonstrated her familiarity with him by repeatedly referring to him by his nickname, Scooter.” [International Herald Tribune, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007] Of Plame Wilson’s outing by Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003), she testifies, “I knew it was a big deal that he had disclosed it.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007]
Testifies that Cheney Coordinated Attack on Wilson - Martin also gives detailed evidence that it was Cheney who coordinated the White House counterattack against Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson, in retaliation for his op-ed debunking administration claims that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger (see July 6, 2003). She testifies that during the first week of July 2003, she and her staff were told to increase their monitoring of the media, including television news (which until that point had not been monitored closely), and to make transcripts of everything that was said pertaining to administration policies and issues. She testifies that Cheney and Libby were both very interested in what the media was reporting about Iraqi WMDs, and whether Cheney’s office had ordered Joseph Wilson to go to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). She discusses the talking points she disseminated to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer regarding Cheney’s lack of involvement in sending Wilson to Niger (see 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003). Martin testifies that she had already been using those talking points, based on conversations she had had with Libby, but sent the memo to Fleischer because of Wilson’s appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows (see July 6, 2003). According to Martin, Cheney “dictated” the talking points for Fleischer, and included direct quotes from the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), which had been partially declassified without her knowledge (see July 12, 2003)—she says she urged Cheney and Libby to declassify the NIE before leaking information from it to reporters. (Judge Reggie Walton tells the jury, “You are instructed that there is no dispute between the parties that on July 8 certain portions of the NIE had been declassified, although Ms. Martin had not been made aware of the declassification.”) Martin testifies that Cheney told Libby to speak directly to reporters about Wilson, effectively bypassing her and other communications staffers in his office. Martin also says she told Cheney and Libby that Plame Wilson worked for the CIA days before Libby claims he “first” learned it from NBC reporter Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003). Martin refuses to confirm that either Cheney or Libby suggested leaking Plame Wilson’s identity as part of a strategy to discredit her husband. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Falsely Accused of Leaking Information to NBC Reporter - Martin goes on to describe a senior staff meeting at the White House, where she was implictly accused of leaking information to NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell (see July 9, 2003). She denies leaking the information to Mitchell, and testifies that Libby spoke with Mitchell about such subjects. [International Herald Tribune, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007]
Defense Notes Change in Martin's Testimony - The defense notes that Martin has changed the dates of some of her recollections from her previous statements to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigators. [International Herald Tribune, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; New York Times, 2/4/2007] The defense’s cross-examination of Martin extends into Monday, January 29; Fitzgerald briefly redirects her testimony. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007]
Attempt to Slow Trial Fails - A January 25 attempt by defense attorney Theodore Wells to slow the pace of the trial fails. Wells attempts to delay Martin’s testimony by complaining that he has not had an opportunity to review what he calls a “whole box” of the original copies of Martin’s notes. It would, Wells says, take hours for the defense team to read and review the notes. Fitzgerald reminds the court that the defense has had the notes for a year. Wells then complains that some of the notes are illegible. “I think that’s a bit of a spin,” Fitzgerald retorts, noting that he is only using about four pages of notes as evidence. “These copies were legible. Show me the pages that weren’t legible.” Judge Reggie Walton says that since it would be unethical for Wells to misrepresent his inability to read the documents, he has to accept Wells’s assertion. Fitzgerald then produces the notes, a small stack of documents that do not comprise a “whole box.” Walton, apparently exasperated, tells Wells he can review the notes during his lunch hour, and refuses to delay the trial. [New York Times, 2/10/2007]
Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Andrea Mitchell, Bill Harlow, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Bush administration (43), Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Tim Russert, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Reggie B. Walton, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Theodore Wells, Robert Novak
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Ari Fleischer, outside the courthouse where the Libby trial is underway. [Source: Life]Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer testifies in the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see January 16-23, 2007), and tells the court that he learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Libby three days before Libby has said he first learned of it. If Fleischer is telling the truth, then Libby cannot have been truthful in his claims. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has told the court that in 2004 he offered Fleischer blanket immunity in return for his testimony (see February 13, 2004), without being sure what Fleischer would say in court. The defense team calls the arrangement highly unusual, and days before attempted to bar Fleischer’s testimony (see January 25-27, 2007). [MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2009] The prosecution quickly elicits Fleischer’s admission that if he lies under oath, his immunity agreement becomes void and he, too, can be prosecuted. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2009]
Libby Told Fleischer of Plame Wilson's Identity - Testifying under oath, Fleischer tells prosecuting attorney Peter Zeidenberg (handling the examination for Fitzgerald) that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby during a lunch with him on July 7, the day after Plame Wilson’s husband’s controversial op-ed appeared in the New York Times (see July 6, 2003). Libby has told reporters he first learned about Plame Wilson’s identity on either July 10 or July 11 from NBC reporter Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003, March 5, 2004, and March 24, 2004). According to Fleischer, Libby told him: “Ambassador [Joseph] Wilson was sent by his wife. His wife works for the CIA.” Fleischer testifies that Libby referred to Wilson’s wife by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. Fleischer says, “He added it was hush-hush, on the Q.T., and that most people didn’t know it.” Fleischer also notes that Libby told him Plame Wilson worked in the Counterproliferation Division, where almost everyone is covert, though he testifies that he knows little about the CIA’s internal structure. Four days later, Fleischer heard of Plame Wilson’s CIA status again, that time from White House communications director Dan Bartlett (see July 6-10, 2003). Fleischer informed conservative columnist Robert Novak of Plame Wilson’s CIA status the same day he learned of it from Libby (see July 7, 2003), and told reporters David Gregory and John Dickerson the same information a week later in what he calls a casual conversation (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Fleischer insists he believed the information about Plame Wilson was not classified, saying, “[N]ever in my wildest dreams [did I think] this information would be classified.” [CBS News, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007; Washington Post, 1/30/2007; National Journal, 2/19/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2009]
Defense Cross - The defense notes that Fleischer originally mispronounced Plame Wilson’s maiden name as “plah-MAY,” indicating that he may have read about her instead of being told of her identity. Fleischer says under cross-examination that he did not reveal Plame Wilson’s identity to reporters until he heard about the CIA official from a second White House aide, Bartlett (see July 7, 2003, 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003, and July 15, 2005). It was after Bartlett’s “vent” about Wilson that Fleischer says he decided to inform two reporters, NBC’s David Gregory and Time’s John Dickerson, of Plame Wilson’s CIA status. (Dickerson has said Fleischer did not tell him Plame Wilson was a CIA official—see February 7, 2006.) Fleischer testifies that neither Libby nor Bartlett invoked a White House protocol under which colleagues warned him when they were providing classified information that could not be discussed with reporters. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/29/2007; Washington Post, 1/30/2007; New York Times, 2/4/2007]
Post: Fleischer Impugns Libby 'Memory Defense' - The Washington Post calls Fleischer “the most important prosecution witness to date,” and continues: “Though a series of government officials have told the jury that Libby eagerly sought information about [Wilson], Fleischer was the first witness to say Libby then passed on what he learned: that Wilson’s wife was a CIA officer who had sent him on a trip to Africa.… Fleischer also reinforced the prosecution’s central argument: that Libby had been so determined to learn and spread information about Wilson and Plame that he could not have forgotten his efforts” (see January 31, 2006). [Washington Post, 1/30/2007] In 2004, Libby testified that he could not remember if he discussed Plame Wilson with Fleischer, though he admitted that he may have. [US Department of Justice, 3/5/2004 ]
Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, John Dickerson, David Gregory, Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Dan Bartlett, Peter Zeidenberg, Bush administration (43), Counterproliferation Division, Valerie Plame Wilson, Ari Fleischer, Robert Novak, Tim Russert
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
FBI agent Deborah Bond testifies for the prosecution in the trial of former White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see January 16-23, 2007). Bond took over the Libby investigation when the previous head, John Eckenrode (see November 24, 2003), retired. She discusses two interviews she held with Libby, in October and November 2003 respectively (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003). She says that in one interview Libby acknowledged that his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, “may have talked” on July 12, 2003, about telling the press that former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, worked at the CIA, though Libby told her that he was “not sure” the conversation actually took place. According to Bond, Libby acknowledged that he and Cheney “may have” discussed the Plame Wilson matter the same day, while the two flew back to Washington from Norfolk aboard Air Force Two (see July 12, 2003); Libby said that Cheney might have learned about Plame Wilson’s CIA status from CIA Director George Tenet or another CIA official, though he was not sure. Cheney was wondering how to discredit Plame Wilson’s husband, war critic Joseph Wilson. Days before, Cheney had written in the margin of an op-ed by Wilson a question about the possibility of Plame Wilson sending her husband on a fact-finding “junket” to Niger (see July 7, 2003 or Shortly After). Libby told the FBI during a November 2003 interview that, in the agent’s words, “there was a discussion whether to report to the press that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA” during that July 12 flight. “Mr. Libby told us he believed they may have talked about it but he wasn’t sure.” In the hours after the discussion, Libby called reporter Judith Miller; in their conversation, he outed Plame Wilson as a CIA official and accused her of sending her husband to Niger (see Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), though Bond testifies that Libby denied ever mentioning Plame Wilson to Miller. Libby also called Time reporter Matthew Cooper and confirmed that Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, and had been involved in her husband’s trip (see 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003). Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff says of Bond’s testimony, “This is significant, because it bring [sic] Cheney himself far more directly into the case, and for the first time suggests that it was the vice president who wanted the news about Wilson’s wife to be circulated to the news media.” Bond’s testimony also establishes the first time Libby claimed he “forgot” about learning Plame Wilson’s CIA status until “remembering” in October 2003. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/1/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/1/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/1/2007; Washington Post, 2/2/2007; Associated Press, 2/2/2007; National Journal, 2/15/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007] The defense presses Bond to acknowledge that Libby told her he was unsure of his memory and needed to consult his notes to be sure of his facts. Defense lawyer Theodore Wells also notes that Bond’s notes from the Libby interview are incomplete, and fail to mention Libby’s denials of disclosing Plame Wilson’s identity to Miller. Bond says that while she is sure Libby denied discussing Plame Wilson’s CIA identity with then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see January 29, 2007), FBI notes of Libby’s testimony contain no record of such a denial. The notes say that he may have discussed it, but he couldn’t recall. “Adamantly might not be the perfect word,” Bond testifies. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/1/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/1/2007; Associated Press, 2/5/2007; FireDogLake, 2/5/2007; FireDogLake, 2/5/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Deborah Bond, George J. Tenet, Judith Miller, John Eckenrode, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Ari Fleischer, Michael Isikoff, Joseph C. Wilson, Matthew Cooper, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Valerie Plame Wilson, Theodore Wells
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Walter Pincus, at his desk at the Washington Post. [Source: PBS]The defense in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction trial opens its case by presenting a string of reporters who all deny learning of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby. The defense begins with the testimony of Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, who has reported on national security and intelligence issues for decades. Pincus testifies that he learned about Plame Wilson’s identity from White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, a claim Fleischer has denied (see July 7, 2003 and January 29, 2007); Libby claims he never discussed Plame Wilson with Fleischer (see 12:00 p.m. July 7, 2003). Pincus is questioned by defense lawyer William Jeffress. Pincus says he testified to the FBI in September 2004 (see September 15, 2004), not merely because Libby granted him a waiver releasing him from their confidentiality agreement, but because he understood that Libby wanted him to testify. In cross-examination, Fitzgerald confirms that Libby lied to Pincus. Libby, whom Pincus confirms was a source for a May 2003 article, told Pincus for that article that “an aide to Vice President Cheney” asked the CIA for more information about Iraqi WMDs, which led to the CIA’s dispatching former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger (see May 2003). In fact, Cheney himself asked the CIA for that information. Author Marcy Wheeler, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, writes, “So Libby lied to Pincus to distance Cheney from Wilson’s trip.” Pincus testifies that he did not write about Plame Wilson for the Post. [Associated Press, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; Washington Post, 7/3/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Based on Monday’s parade of reporters testifying that they were not told of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity by former White House official Lewis Libby (see February 12, 2007, February 12, 2007, February 12, 2007, February 12, 2007, and February 12, 2007), National Review columnist Byron York asks the same question Libby’s lawyers are asking during the trial: if Libby leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to reporters Judith Miller and Matt Cooper (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), why didn’t he leak it to the other reporters who testified? York writes: “Each was covering events in Washington during that intense period in mid-2003 when the Bush administration came under attack from former ambassador Joseph Wilson over its case for war in Iraq. Each interviewed Libby, then Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff. And each heard nothing from Libby about Valerie Plame Wilson.… Did Cheney, who is portrayed in some scenarios as the mastermind of the leak, tell Libby to disclose Mrs. Wilson’s identity to Matt Cooper and not to Bob Woodward? To Judith Miller and not to Robert Novak?” These are the questions York says the defense hopes the jury will ask. York notes that Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus directly contradicted former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer’s claim that he did not tell Pincus of Plame Wilson’s identity, an exchange York says heavily damages Fleischer’s credibility. The defense contends that Libby may have learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from other, unnamed reporters; Libby, the defense says, later “misremembered” his source as being NBC’s Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003 and February 7-8, 2007), who has contradicted Libby’s claim that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from him. York says that the most telling moments came during the testimony of Post reporter Bob Woodward, who played an audiotape of his conversation with then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who told him of Plame Wilson’s identity well before Libby exposed the CIA official to the press (see June 13, 2003). Armitage’s statement that “everyone knows it” refers, York writes, to Joseph Wilson being the anonymous former ambassador criticizing the Bush administration in the press, but York notes that some in the jury might take the reference to mean that “everyone knows” of Plame Wilson’s CIA status. “In any event, none of it had anything to do with Libby, except that Libby was not the one leaking,” York concludes. [National Review, 2/13/2007]
Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Bush administration (43), Bob Woodward, Ari Fleischer, Byron York, Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, Richard Armitage, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak, Tim Russert, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph C. Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
With one exception, the jury comes to the courtroom wearing red Valentine’s Day T-shirts. [Source: Art Lien / Court Artist (.com)]The defense in the Lewis Libby trial (see January 16-23, 2007) rests after a speech by defense attorney John Cline, who tells jurors about Libby’s briefings on terrorist threats, bomb scares, insurgent attacks, and other issues. [ABC News, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007]
Jury Intends to 'Act Independently' - In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the jurors all enter the courtroom wearing identical red shirts with white hearts on the chests (one juror, an art historian and former museum curator, is not so attired). Juror 1432, whose name is not available to the press, stands up and says to Judge Reggie Walson, “We wanted to express our appreciation to you for our comfort and our safety thanks to the marshals.” The juror then adds: “This is where our unity ends.… We are committed to act independently… and base our decision on an independent basis.” Judge Reggie Walton calls the jurors “conscientious” and thanks them for their service. [ABC News, 2/14/2007; Associated Press, 2/14/2007; New York Sun, 2/15/2007] Court artist Art Lien predicts that the one juror who refuses to wear the red T-shirt will “surely [be] the likely holdout when it comes to a verdict.” [Art Lien, 2/14/2007]
Judge Denies Request to Recall Reporter - Walton denies a defense request to recall NBC reporter Tim Russert (see February 7-8, 2007). When Russert, who has a law degree, testified for the prosecution, he said he did not know that a witness could have a lawyer present during his testimony before prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (see November 24, 2003) and August 7, 2004). The defense has three video clips from Russert’s broadcasts during the investigation of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair that indicate he did know witnesses could have lawyers present. Russert was not forced to testify before the grand jury (see August 9, 2004), and the defense argues that he was given favorable treatment by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. Had Walton allowed the clips into evidence, he would have allowed the defense to recall Russert to explain the inconsistencies. “It does touch on his credibility,” Walton says. “His credibility, it seems to me, is crucial to this case. He’s probably, if not the most important, one of the most important witnesses.” Lead defense attorney Theodore Wells also argues that Russert misrepresented himself during the investigation, saying, “He went around the country telling people he was this great protector of the First Amendment,” when in fact he had cooperated with the probe. “It was totally kept out of the public record and Mr. Russert took great advantage of that.” But Walton eventually agrees with Fitzgerald, who says Libby’s attorneys already had five hours of cross-examination with Russert after 15 minutes of testimony, and because they were apparently unsuccessful in shaking his credibility, they want a “do over.” Fitzgerald says it does not matter to the case what Russert knew about grand jury procedure, and therefore he should not be recalled. Walton agrees, saying, “It’s a totally, wholly collateral matter.” [Associated Press, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007; New York Sun, 2/15/2007]
Denies Request to Admit Classified Evidence - Walton also reiterates his refusal to allow Libby’s former CIA briefers to testify on his behalf (see February 13-14, 2007). Walton says he had decided to allow the defense to enter a large number of classified documents into evidence to prove Libby’s daily workload and bolster his “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006) because he understood Libby would testify in court and subject himself to cross-examination by the prosecution; since Libby is declining to testify (see February 13-14, 2007), Walton rules he will not allow the material to be entered into evidence. “This seeks to get Mr. Libby’s statement [that he did not lie about his knowledge of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status, he merely “misremembered” it when testifying to the FBI and the grand jury] in through the back door without opening him up to cross-examination.… I just don’t buy that, counsel. I don’t think you can play coy by suggesting Mr. Libby is going to testify” and then hold the government to the deal without putting Libby on the stand. “It was absolutely understood from everything that was said to me that Mr. Libby was going to testify.” Defense lawyers should not be able to use the pretrial process for handling classified information to force disclosures based on a particular defense and then use that information in a different way, Walton says. “It’s too much of a game now. This is supposed to be about finding the truth. I won’t permit it.” The defense protests, saying the decision violates Libby’s Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. Walton shakes his head in refusal and says, “If I get reversed [on appeal] on this one, maybe I have to hang up my spurs.” [ABC News, 2/14/2007; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 2/14/2007; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007; New York Sun, 2/15/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Stipulation Read into Evidence - Before the defense rests, the lawyers read a stipulation (a statement of fact agreed to by both sides) from former FBI agent John Eckenrode, who led the FBI’s initial leak investigation (see September 26, 2003). Eckenrode’s statement focuses on a report he wrote concerning two occasions of his speaking to Russert about the leak (see November 24, 2003 and August 7, 2004). Russert testified during the trial that Eckenrode had contacted him to discuss statements in which Libby said he had learned about Plame Wilson from Russert (see February 7-8, 2007). Eckenrode’s statement says Russert told him he had one or possibly two conversations with Libby on or around July 10, 2003, but couldn’t remember all the details. Eckenrode stipulates that Russert “[d]oes not recall saying anything about the wife of Ambassador Wilson.… Although he could not rule out the possibility he had such an exchange, Russert was at a loss to remember it.” The defense hopes this statement helps bolster Libby’s “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006). [ABC News, 2/14/2007]
Testimony Phase Concludes - Fitzgerald does not call rebuttal witnesses, merely reading a brief rebuttal statement noting that Plame Wilson had worked at the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD) at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Walton then tells the jury, “All of the evidence has now been presented in this case.” The defense rests its case after only two days of witness testimony over three days, whereas the prosecution’s case spanned 11 days. [CBS News, 1/25/2007; ABC News, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007]
Defense Lawyer Says Decision for Libby, Cheney Not to Testify Was His Own - After the jury is dismissed for the day, Wells tells the judge that it was his decision not to have either Libby or Vice President Dick Cheney testify (see February 13-14, 2007). “It was my recommendation,” he says. “I had the vice president on hold right up to the last minute. [H]e had his schedule open.” Wells says the defense began to reverse its initial intention to put Libby on the stand when the government turned over evidence that could undermine the testimony of some prosecution witnesses. He cites the grant of immunity to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, another Plame Wilson identity leaker (see February 13, 2004). “The canvas and the landscape radically changed” after the defense learned more about the government witnesses, Wells says. The defense does not believe the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Libby perjured himself before FBI investigators and a grand jury. Wells says: “There’s no box on the verdict sheet that says ‘innocent’ or ‘you didn’t tell the whole story.’ The box says ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’” Ultimately, Wells says, “We have to make decisions on our client’s best interest.” The trial now moves to closing arguments and then jury deliberations leading to a verdict. [ABC News, 2/14/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/14/2007; New York Sun, 2/15/2007]
Entity Tags: Art Lien, Ari Fleischer, John Cline, Valerie Plame Wilson, Tim Russert, John Eckenrode, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Reggie B. Walton, Theodore Wells
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Former CIA agent Larry Johnson, who trained with outed CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003), pens an angry rebuttal of former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing’s critique of the Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see February 18, 2007). Johnson accuses Toensing of “plumbing new depths of delusion and crazed fantasies,” notes that her op-ed should have been titled “I Am Ignorant of Basic Facts,” and excoriates the Washington Post for printing it. Johnson directly refutes two of Toensing’s strongest rejoinders: Plame Wilson was not a covert agent and Joseph Wilson misled the public about his trip to Niger, his report on his findings, and his public discussions of his wife’s CIA status. [Huffington Post, 2/18/2007] In 2007, Plame Wilson will add, “Toensing apparently hadn’t been following the trial very closely, or else she would have known that each of her ‘charges’ had been refuted in ample documentary and witness testimony.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 292]
Plame Wilson's Covert Status - Johnson writes: “Valerie Plame was undercover until the day she was identified in Robert Novak’s column. I entered on duty with Valerie in September of 1985. Every single member of our class—which was comprised of case officers, analysts, scientists, and admin folks—were undercover. I was an analyst and Valerie was a case officer. Case officers work in the Directorate of Operations and work overseas recruiting spies and running clandestine operations. Although Valerie started out working under ‘official cover’—i.e., she declared she worked for the US government but in something innocuous, like the State Department—she later became a NOC aka non official cover officer. A NOC has no declared relationship with the United States government. These simple facts apparently are too complicated for someone of Ms. Toensing’s limited intellectual abilities.” Johnson also notes that he and his fellow CIA veterans Jim Marcinkowski, Brent Cavan, and Mike Grimaldi, accompanied by another CIA veteran who declined to be identified, appeared on ABC News in 2003 and verified Plame Wilson’s covert status (see October 22-24, 2003). And the facts introduced into evidence in the Libby trial show that at least four White House officials—Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), Karl Rove (see July 8, 2003 and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Ari Fleischer (see July 7, 2003), and Richard Armitage (see June 13, 2003 and July 8, 2003)—told journalists that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent. The result was not only Plame Wilson’s exposure as a former NOC agent but the exposure of her NOC cover company, Brewster Jennings (see October 3, 2003). Johnson writes, “That leak by the Bush administration ruined Valerie’s ability to continue working as a case officer and destroyed an international intelligence network.” [Huffington Post, 2/18/2007] Plame Wilson will dismiss Toensing’s claim about her covert status as “dead wrong,” and ask a simple question: since Toensing is not a CIA employee herself, how does she know what Plame Wilson’s status was? [Wilson, 2007, pp. 292]
Joseph Wilson - Johnson notes that Toensing alleges an array of impropriety on Joseph Wilson’s part. Johnson counters that Toensing suffers from an apparent “reading disability.” The facts are plain: Vice President Dick Cheney asked his CIA briefer for information on the Iraq-Niger uranium claim in early February 2002 (see 2002-Early 2003 and (February 13, 2002)), and the CIA asked Wilson to investigate the matter a week later (see Shortly after February 13, 2002). Johnson writes: “Joe was a natural choice for the job. He had headed up the Africa desk at the National Security Council, he had served as an ambassador in West Africa, and had saved American lives from Saddam [Hussein] during the first Gulf War (see August 6, 1990 and September 20, 1990). He was not chosen by his wife, Valerie Plame. She only wrote a memo, at the behest of her boss in the Counterproliferation Divison of the Directorate of Operations, identifying Joe’s qualifications (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, October 17, 2003, and July 20, 2005). And she was asked to inform her husband about the CIA’s interest in him going to Niger to help answer a request from Vice President Cheney, who wanted to know if there was any truth to reports that Iraq was seeking uranium in Niger.… Valerie was not in the room when the decision was made nor was she in an administrative position with the clout to send her husband on such a mission.” This set of facts was confirmed by a memo from the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR—see June 10, 2003) introduced during the trial. Johnson writes: “Too bad Ms. Toensing did not take time to read the CIA report produced from Mr. Wilson’s trip. He made it very clear in that report that Iraq had not purchased or negotiated the purchase of uranium.” [Huffington Post, 2/18/2007]
Limitations of IIPA - Plame Wilson will write of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), which Toensing helped negotiate in 1982, “If anything, her rantings pointed out the shortcomings of the bill she helped author—that is, the difficulty of prosecuting someone who had violated the law and passed along the covert identity of an operations officer to someone who did not have a security clearance.” Whether such an officer is currently overseas when their cover is blown is irrelevant, Plame Wilson will note; “[w]e use such things as alias passports, disguises, and other tradecraft secrets to do this. It’s called clandestine operations. Just as a general is still a general whether he or she is in the field or serving at the Pentagon, an operations officer by definition has responsibilities that don’t vanish depending on location.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 292]
Jury Tampering? - Johnson writes that Toensing’s op-ed is so obviously another attempt to defend Libby, Cheney, and other White House officials, and to smear prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s and the Wilsons’ credibility, that it can legitimately be considered an attempt at jury tampering—an attempt to influence the jury deciding Libby’s guilt or innocence. Johnson asks: “Just days before the Libby jury retires to consider a verdict, why was Toensing allowed to publish an article rife with lies and misstated facts? Why does the paper that played a key role in exposing the tyranny of Richard Nixon now allow this shallow woman to smear prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald?”
Public Service - According to Johnson, Fitzgerald has performed a public service in exposing the lies of Cheney, Libby, and others in the White House. “Cheney and Libby feared what the American people might do if they discovered they had been lied to about the case for war in Iraq. Now there is no doubt. They did lie and these lies have been exposed. Unfortunately, the Victoria Toensings of the world seem hell bent on perpetuating the lies and living in the delusional world that it is okay to out an undercover CIA officer during a time of war. While Toensing has the right to be wrong, we ought to ask why a paper with the reputation of the Washington Post is lowering its journalistic standards, ignoring ethics, and enabling the spread of lies. I think the owner of the Washington Post has some ‘splaining’ to do.” [Huffington Post, 2/18/2007]
Entity Tags: Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Washington Post, Counterproliferation Division, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Brewster Jennings, Brent Cavan, Ari Fleischer, Victoria Toensing, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard Armitage, Bush administration (43), Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Larry C. Johnson, Karl C. Rove, Mike Grimaldi, Jim Marcinkowski, Joseph C. Wilson, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert Novak, Patrick J. Fitzgerald
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Victoria Toensing, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, writes an op-ed for the Washington Post structured to imitate a legal indictment. Toensing asks if anyone can explain “why Scooter Libby is the only person on trial in the Valerie Plame [Wilson] leak investigation?” (The Washington Post, which publishes the op-ed, does not disclose Toensing’s own ties to Libby’s defense—see March 23, 2005. [Washington Post, 2/18/2007] Neither does it disclose the longtime personal relationship between Toensing, her husband Joseph DiGenova, and columnist Robert Novak, who outed Plame Wilson—see July 14, 2003. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 292] Neither does it disclose Toensing’s frequent criticisms of the investigation, including her position that the CIA and/or Joseph Wilson is responsible for outing Plame Wilson, and her belief that the entire trial is invalid (see November 2-9, 2005, November 3, 2005, November 7, 2005, and September 15, 2006).) Toensing dismisses the arguments laid out by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, lied to grand jurors (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004) in order to keep secret a White House conspiracy to besmirch the reputation of White House critic Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003). Toensing calls the Libby indictment a “he said, she said” case based on conflicting testimony from other people. She proceeds to lay out her own “indictments”:
Patrick Fitzgerald - for “ignoring the fact that there was no basis for a criminal investigation from the day he was appointed,” for “handling some witnesses with kid gloves and banging on others with a mallet,” for “engaging in past contretemps with certain individuals that might have influenced his pursuit of their liberty, and with misleading the public in a news conference because… well, just because.” Toensing argues that Fitzgerald should have known from the outset that Plame Wilson was never a covert agent, and if he didn’t, he could have merely asked the CIA. Toensing writes, “The law prohibiting disclosure of a covert agent’s identity requires that the person have a foreign assignment at the time or have had one within five years of the disclosure, that the government be taking affirmative steps to conceal the government relationship, and for the discloser to have actual knowledge of the covert status.” Toensing is grossly in error about Plame Wilson’s covert status (see Fall 1992 - 1996, Late 1990s-2001 and Possibly After, April 22, 1999, (July 11, 2003), Before July 14, 2003, July 22, 2003, July 30, 2003, September 30, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, January 9, 2006, February 13, 2006, and September 6, 2006). She also insinuates that Fitzgerald has two conflicts of interest: one in prosecuting Libby, as Fitzgerald investigated the Clinton-era pardon of financier Marc Rich, who was represented by Libby, and another in moving to jail reporter Judith Miller for refusing to provide evidence (see July 6, 2005) because Fitzgerald had subpoenaed Miller’s phone records for another, unrelated prosecution. Toensing questions Fitzgerald’s grant of immunity to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer (see January 29, 2007), and complains that Fitzgerald allowed NBC News bureau chief Tim Russert to be interviewed with his lawyer present (see August 7, 2004), while columnist Robert Novak “was forced to testify before the grand jury without counsel present.” She concludes by accusing Fitzgerald of “violating prosecutorial ethics by discussing facts outside the indictment during his Oct. 28, 2005, news conference” (see October 28, 2005).
The CIA - “for making a boilerplate criminal referral to cover its derriere.” The Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), which Toensing helped negotiate in 1982, was never violated, she asserts, because Plame Wilson was never a covert agent. Instead of handling the issue internally, Toensing writes, the CIA passed the responsibility to the Justice Department by sending “a boiler-plate referral regarding a classified leak and not one addressing the elements of a covert officer’s disclosure.”
Joseph Wilson - for “misleading the public about how he was sent to Niger, about the thrust of his March 2003 oral report of that trip, and about his wife’s CIA status, perhaps for the purpose of getting book and movie contracts.” Toensing writes that Wilson appeared on Meet the Press the same day as his op-ed was published in the New York Times, and told host Andrea Mitchell, “The Office of the Vice President, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked and that response was based upon my trip there.” Toensing accepts Cheney’s denial of any involvement in Wilson’s trip and his denial that he was ever briefed on Wilson’s findings. Toensing argues that Wilson lied when he told other reporters that he was sent to Niger because of his “specific skill set” and his connections in the region (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), and not because his wife sent him (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, October 17, 2003, and July 20, 2005). Toensing uses portions of the Senate Intelligence Committee report to bolster her claim (see June 11, 2003 and July 9, 2004). She also challenges Wilson’s assertions that his oral report on his trip was not classified (see March 4-5, 2002, (March 6, 2002), March 8, 2002, and March 5, 2002). And she accuses Wilson of “play[ing] coy” about his wife’s CIA status.
The Media - for “hypocrisy in asserting that criminal law was applicable to this ‘leak’ and with misreporting facts to wage a political attack on an increasingly unpopular White House.” Major newspapers have “highfalutin’, well-paid” lawyers who should have known better than to let their clients call for special investigations into the Plame Wilson leak. The media has consistently “display[ed] their prejudice in this case.”
Ari Fleischer - “because his testimony about conversations differs from reporters’ testimony, just as Libby’s does.” Fleischer testified under oath that he revealed Plame Wilson’s identity to two reporters, Time’s John Dickerson and NBC’s David Gregory (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Dickerson denies it and Gregory refuses to comment. Fleischer testified he did not tell the Washington Post’s Walter Pincus about Plame Wilson’s identity, contradicting Pincus’s own testimony that Fleischer did, indeed, ask repeatedly about the Wilsons (see January 29, 2007 and February 12, 2007). Because Fleischer “contradicted Pincus as materially as Libby contradicted Russert or Time’s Matthew Cooper,” he should be indicted as well. Instead, Fitzgerald gave Fleischer immunity in return for his testimony (see February 13, 2004). In that case, Toensing argues, Fitzgerald should indict Pincus insamuch as his testimony differs from Fleischer’s.
Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage - for not publicly revealing that he was perhaps the first to leak Plame Wilson’s name to the press (see June 13, 2003 and July 8, 2003). Armitage also discussed his FBI interview with his then-subordinate, Marc Grossman, the night before Grossman was due to meet with FBI investigators (see June 10, 2003).
The US Justice Department - for “abdicating its legal and professional responsibility by passing the investigation off to a special counsel out of personal pique and reasons of ambition.” Both then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his deputy, James Comey, could have asked the CIA to confirm Plame Wilson’s covert status, Toensing writes. She also insinuates that Comey acted improperly in giving the investigation to Fitzgerald, “a former colleague and one of his best friends.” [Washington Post, 2/18/2007]
Refutation - Toensing’s arguments are refuted by former CIA agent Larry Johnson, who accuses Toensing of attempted jury tampering (see February 18, 2007).
Entity Tags: John Dickerson, Valerie Plame Wilson, US Department of Justice, Victoria Toensing, Walter Pincus, John Ashcroft, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Ari Fleischer, Central Intelligence Agency, Tim Russert, Senate Intelligence Committee, Washington Post, Richard Armitage, Larry C. Johnson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Judith Miller, Joseph C. Wilson, Joseph diGenova, James B. Comey Jr., Robert Novak, Matthew Cooper, Office of the Vice President, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Marc Rich, Marc Grossman
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Peter Zeidenberg (left) and Patrick Fitzgerald outside the courthouse during the Libby trial. [Source: Reuters / Jonathan Ernst]After some final sparring between opposing counsel, the prosecution makes its closing argument in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction trial. Assistant prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg opens with a lengthy presentation summing up the prosecution’s case against Libby. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007]
Evidence Proves Libby Lied to FBI, Grand Jury - According to Zeidenberg, the evidence as presented shows that Libby lied to both the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003) and the grand jury empaneled to investigate the Plame Wilson identity leak (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004). He lied about how he learned about Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity, who he spoke to about it, and what he said when he talked to others about Plame Wilson. A number of witnesses, including NBC reporter Tim Russert (see February 7-8, 2007), testified about Libby’s discussions to them about Plame Wilson’s identity. Libby forgot nine separate conversations over a four-week period, Zeidenberg says, and invented two conversations that never happened, one with Russert and one with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper. “That’s not a matter of forgetting or misremembering,” he says, “it’s lying.”
No Evidence of White House 'Scapegoating' - The defense argued in its opening statement that Libby was being “scapegoated” by the White House to protect the president’s deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove (see January 23, 2007). No witness, either for the prosecution or the defense, referenced any such effort to scapegoat Libby. The defense may have promised evidence showing such a conspiracy to frame Libby, but, Zeidenberg says, “unfulfilled promises from counsel do not constitute evidence.”
Libby Learned of Plame Wilson's Identity from Five Administration Officials in Three Days - Zeidenberg then walks the jury through the testimony as given by prosecution witnesses. Both former State Department official Marc Grossman (see January 23-24, 2007) and former CIA official Robert Grenier testified (see January 24, 2007) that Libby had badgered Grossman for information about former ambassador and administration critic Joseph Wilson (see May 29, 2003), and Grossman not only told Libby about Wilson and his CIA-sponsored trip to Niger, but that Wilson’s wife was a CIA official (see June 10, 2003 and 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003). Zeidenberg notes, “When Grossman told this to Libby, it was the fourth time, in two days, that Libby had been told about Wilson’s wife.” Libby had learned from Vice President Cheney that Wilson’s wife was a CIA official (see (June 12, 2003)). Two hours after Libby’s meeting with Grossman, Grenier told the jury that Libby had pulled him out of a meeting to discuss Wilson (see 2:00 p.m. June 11, 2003). During that impromptu discussion, Grenier told Libby that Wilson’s wife was a CIA official. Libby then learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Cathie Martin, Cheney’s communications aide (see 5:25 p.m. June 10, 2003 and 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003). Martin, who testified for the prosecution (see January 25-29, 2007), learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from CIA press official Bill Harlow. Zeidenberg ticks off the officials who informed Libby of Plame Wilson’s CIA status: Cheney, Grenier, Martin, and Grossman. (Zeidenberg is as yet unaware that Libby had also heard from another State Department official, Frederick Fleitz, of Plame Wilson’s CIA status—see (June 11, 2003)). On June 14, Libby heard about Plame Wilson from another CIA official, briefer Craig Schmall (see 7:00 a.m. June 14, 2003), who has also testified for the prosecution (see January 24-25, 2007). Schmall’s testimony corroborates the testimony from Martin, Grossman, and Grenier, Zeidenberg asserts.
Leaking Information to Judith Miller - On June 23, just over a week after learning Plame Wilson was a CIA official, Libby informed then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller of Plame Wilson’s CIA status (see June 23, 2003). Why? Zeidenberg asks. Because Libby wanted to discredit the CIA over what Libby saw as the agency’s failure to back the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMDs. Miller is the sixth person, Zeidenberg says, that Libby talked to about Plame Wilson. Miller also testified for the prosecution (see January 30-31, 2007).
Told Press Secretary - On July 7, Libby told White House press secretary Ari Fleischer about Plame Wilson (see 12:00 p.m. July 7, 2003). Fleischer, under a grant of immunity from the prosecution, also testified (see January 29, 2007). By that point, Wilson had published his op-ed in the New York Times (see July 6, 2003), a column the administration considered to be highly damaging towards its credibility. Libby told Fleischer that the information about Plame Wilson was to be kept “hush hush.” However, Zeidenberg says, it is likely that Libby intended Fleischer to spread the information about Plame Wilson to other reporters, which in fact he did (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Fleischer is the seventh person that evidence shows Libby spoke to concerning Plame Wilson.
Conferring with Cheney's Chief Counsel - The eighth person in this list is David Addington. At the time, Addington was Cheney’s chief counsel; after Libby stepped down over being indicted for perjury and obstruction (see October 28, 2005), Addington replaced him as Cheney’s chief of staff. Addington also testified for the prosecution (see January 30, 2007). Libby asked Addington if the president could legally declassify information at will, referring to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (NIE—see October 1, 2002). Libby planned on leaking NIE material to Miller on July 8 (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003).
Leaking Classified Material to Miller - As stated, Libby indeed leaked classified material to Miller, during their meeting at the St. Regis Hotel. The “declassification” was highly unusual; only Cheney, Libby, and President Bush knew of the declassification. Libby again told Miller of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, and this time told her, incorrectly, that Plame Wilson worked in the WINPAC (Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control) section of the agency. Cheney and Libby chose Miller, of all the reporters in the field, to leak the information to, Zeidenberg says; in her turn, Miller went to jail for almost three months rather than testify against Libby (see October 7, 2004). That fact damages her credibility as a prosecution witness.
The Russert Claim - Zeidenberg then turns to NBC’s Russert, who also testified for the prosecution (see February 7-8, 2007). Zeidenberg notes that after lead defense attorney Theodore Wells initially asserted that neither Russert nor any other reporter testifying for the prosecution was lying under oath, Wells and other defense attorneys cross-examined Russert for over five hours trying to prove that he indeed did lie. Libby claimed repeatedly to the grand jury that Russert told him of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity (see July 10 or 11, 2003), an assertion Russert has repeatedly denied. Zeidenberg plays an audiotape of Libby’s grand jury testimony featuring Libby’s assertion. Libby, Zeidenberg states, lied to the grand jury. Russert never made any such statement to Libby. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007] The defense tried to assert that Russert lied about his conversation with Libby because of some “bad blood” between the two. However, “evidence of [such a] feud is completely absent from the trial.” And if such a feud existed, why would Libby have chosen Russert to lie about before the jury? Such an assertion is merely a desperate attempt to discredit Russert, Zeidenberg says.
Matthew Cooper - Zeidenberg then turns to former Time reporter Matthew Cooper, another recipient of a Libby leak about Plame Wilson (see 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003). Cooper also testified for the prosecution (see January 31, 2007). When Libby told the grand jury that Cooper asked him about Plame Wilson being a CIA official, and Libby said he responded, “I don’t know if it’s true,” Libby lied to the jury. Zeidenberg plays the audiotape of Libby making the Cooper claim. Had Libby made such a statement, Cooper could not have used it as confirmation of his own reporting. Cooper did indeed use Libby as a source for a Time article (see July 17, 2003). Cooper’s testimony is corroborated by Martin’s recollection of the Libby-Cooper conversation. Zeidenberg says: “Martin was present. She never heard any of what you heard Libby just hear it. She never heard, ‘I don’t know if it’s true.’ If she had heard it, she would have said something, because she knew it was true.”
FBI Agent Bond's Testimony - Zeidenberg briefly references testimony from FBI agent Deborah Bond (see February 1-5, 2007), who told the court that Libby may have discussed leaking Plame Wilson’s identity to the press. Bond’s testimony corroborates the prosecution’s assertion that Libby attempted to obscure where he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity.
Grounds for Conviction - Zeidenberg reminds the jury of the three separate instances the prosecution says are Libby lies, then tells them if they find any one of the three statements to be actual lies, they can convict Libby of perjury. “You don’t have to find that all three were false beyond reasonable doubt,” he says. “You have to unanimously agree on any one.” Of the two false statements Libby is charged with making to investigators, the jury need only find one of them is truly false.
Defense Assertions - Zeidenberg turns to Libby’s main defense, that he was so overwhelmed with important work as Cheney’s chief of staff that it is unreasonable to expect him to remember the details that he is accused of lying about (see January 31, 2006). Zeidenberg says the trial has elicited numerous instances of conversations Libby had, for example his conversation with Rove about Robert Novak (see July 8 or 9, 2003), that he remembered perfectly well. Zeidenberg then plays the relevant audiotape from the grand jury proceedings. Why is it, he asks, that Libby can remember that conversation so well, but consistently misremembered nine separate conversations he had about Plame Wilson? “When you consider Libby’s testimony, there’s a pattern of always forgetting about Wilson’s wife,” Zeidenberg says. Libby remembered details about Fleischer being a Miami Dolphins fan, but didn’t remember talking about Plame Wilson. He remembered talking about the NIE with Miller, but not Plame Wilson. He remembered talking about declassification with Addington, but not Wilson’s wife. Zeidenberg calls it a “convenient pattern,” augmented by Libby’s specific recollections about not discussing other issues, such as Cheney’s handwritten notes about Wilson’s op-ed (see July 7, 2003 or Shortly After). The defense also claims that Libby confused Russert with Novak; Zeidenberg puts up pictures of Russert and Novak side by side, and asks if it is credible to think that Libby made such a mistake. The entire “memory defense,” Zeidenberg says, is “not credible to believe. It’s ludicrous.” Libby was far too involved in the administration’s efforts to discredit Wilson (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). [Associated Press, 2/20/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Motive to Lie - Zeidenberg addresses the idea of motive: why would Libby lie to the FBI and the grand jury, and why nine government witnesses would lie to the Libby jury. “Is it conceivable that all nine witnesses would make the same mistake in their memory?” he asks. Not likely. It is far more likely that Libby was motivated to lie because when he testified to FBI investigators, he knew there was an ongoing investigation into the Plame Wilson leak. He knew he had talked to Miller, Cooper, and Fleischer. He knew the FBI was looking for him. He knew from newspaper articles entered into evidence that the leak could have severely damaged Plame Wilson’s informant network and the Brewster Jennings front company (see Before September 16, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 11, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, October 23-24, 2003, October 29, 2005, and February 13, 2006). Even Addington’s testimony, about Libby asking him about the legality of leaking classified information, is evidence of Libby’s anxiety over having disclosed such information. And Libby knew that such disclosure is a breach of his security clearance, not only risking his job, but prosecution as well. So when he is questioned by the FBI, he had a choice: tell the truth and take his chances with firing and prosecution for disclosing the identity of a covert agent, or lie about it. “And, ladies and gentlemen,” Zeidenberg says, “he took the second choice. He made up a story that he thought would cover it.” And when caught out, he claimed to have forgotten that he originally knew about Plame Wilson’s identity. Libby, Zeidenberg says, “made a gamble. He lied. Don’t you think the FBI and the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers?” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; Murray Waas, 12/23/2008]
No Conspiracy, Just a Lie - Zeidenberg concludes by telling the jury that there was no grand White House conspiracy to scapegoat Libby, nor was there an NBC conspiracy to smear him. The case is just about Libby lying to federal authorities. “When you consider all the evidence, the government has established that the defendant lied to the FBI, lied to the grand jury, and obstructed justice.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Entity Tags: Matthew Cooper, Peter Zeidenberg, Theodore Wells, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson, Tim Russert, Marc Grossman, Robert Grenier, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Frederick Fleitz, Judith Miller, Bush administration (43), Bill Harlow, Ari Fleischer, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Craig Schmall, David S. Addington, Joseph C. Wilson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Deborah Bond, Karl C. Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Defense lawyer Theodore Wells makes his closing argument to the jury, as Judge Reggie Walton looks on. [Source: Art Lien / Court Artist (.com)]Defense lawyer Theodore Wells makes his team’s closing argument in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction trial. Wells is following a two-hour closing argument by assistant prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg (see 9:00 a.m. February 20, 2007). [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007]
Indignation - Wells begins by saying he finds Zeidenberg’s arguments so incredible, he thinks he might be drunk. “[I]t sure sounded like I said a lot of things I could not deliver on,” he says. Court observer Marcy Wheeler, notating the arguments for the progressive blog FireDogLake, writes that while Zeidenberg came across as dispassionate and methodical, Wells’s tone is indignant and charged with emotion. In her book Fair Game, former CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson later describes Wells’s demeanor as “over the top, emotional… stalking the courtroom and changing the pitch and cadence of his voice like a seasoned Baptist preacher.” Wells says he will refrain from besmirching Zeidenberg’s character over some of the claims made in his argument, “because I don’t want to be personal.” Wells says that in the grand jury proceedings where Libby allegedly lied under oath (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004), lawyers asked “the same question time after time after time,” causing Libby to stumble and misstate himself. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 293; Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Revives Claim of Libby Being 'Scapegoated' - Wells denies claiming the existence of a White House conspiracy to “scapegoat” Libby in his opening statement (see January 23, 2007), saying he instead merely put into evidence the so-called “meat grinder” note from Vice President Dick Cheney that asserted it would be unfair to protect White House official Karl Rove and sacrifice Libby (see October 4, 2003). (Wells is misstating the contents of the note; it does not mention Rove at all.) Instead of lying, Wells says, Libby was “fight[ing] to get clear,” fighting to save his credibility after White House officials “blew him off.”
'He Said, She Said' - Wells asserts Libby’s complete innocence of all the charges brought against him, and says the entire body of evidence amounts to nothing more than a case of “he said, she said,” indicating that witnesses contradicted and disputed one another. Libby’s recollections, Wells says, are different from those of the reporters who testified for the prosecution. None of the charges pertain to Libby’s conversations with the White House officials who testified for the prosecution. The question hinges on whether Libby lied about his conversations with reporters Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, and Robert Novak. One of the charges, hinging on Libby’s statements about his conversation with Miller, is no longer in contention. Of the conversation with Cooper (see 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003), Wells says Libby was truthful when he told Cooper he “didn’t know” whether Plame Wilson was a CIA official or not. The evidence supports Libby’s position, Wells says.
Tim Russert - Wells turns to NBC reporter Tim Russert, whom Libby claimed told him about Plame Wilson being a CIA official (see July 10 or 11, 2003). Russert either lied under oath, Wells says, or had a major memory lapse. Because of what Wells calls Russert’s contradictory testimony, that “in and of itself is reasonable doubt,” and grounds for acquittal. The prosecution is flatly wrong in its timeline of events. It is almost certain Russert read Robert Novak’s column naming Plame Wilson as a CIA official on July 11, 2003, after it was issued on the Associated Press wire (see July 11, 2003), and informed Libby of that fact during their conversation shortly thereafter. Perhaps Russert merely misremembered the dates or the events of his discussion with Libby, Wells says, but his testimony was wrong. “You cannot convict Mr. Libby solely on the word of this man,” he says. “It would just be fundamentally unfair.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; Associated Press, 2/20/2007]
Presumed Innocent - Wells admonishes the jury not to forget that Libby is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Libby didn’t testify (see February 13-14, 2007) because the defense is not required to prove the innocence of the accused. The only question, Wells states, is whether Libby is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Did the government prove that guilt beyond a reasonable doubt? Wells says no. He then ticks off the five counts of criminal behavior that Libby is charged with, and links each one of them to either Russert, Cooper, or both. In the instances of both reporters, Wells says, there is doubt as to their recollections and therefore doubt as to whether Libby lied about his conversations with them. Wells calls it “madness… that someone would get charged with this.” If Libby misstated himself, Wells says, he did so with good intentions, with a good-faith effort to tell the truth. There was no “deliberate, purposeful intent to lie.” Wells walks the jury through his version of events, which he says proves Libby told the truth to the best of his ability throughout. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Jeffress - William Jeffress, another defense attorney, takes up the defense’s closing argument after lunch. Wheeler writes that his demeanor is far calmer and reasonable than Wells’s emotional presentation. Jeffress says that common sense alone should lead the jury to find that Libby either told the truth as he understood it or merely misremembered as an honest mistake. The case, he says, is about memory first and foremost. Libby may have misremembered, Jeffress says. The reporters who testified may have misremembered. It is plausible to think that Libby learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status in June 2003, told some government officials, then in the crush of events, forgot about it until July, when he learned it again from Russert. Jeffress walks the jury through a timeline of how reporters learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from various government officials other than Libby, and says some of them, particularly former press secretary Ari Fleischer, may well have lied under oath to cover themselves (see January 29, 2007). Jeffress plays selections from Libby’s grand jury testimony to bolster his arguments about the various reporters learning of Plame Wilson’s identity from other officials.
Motive to Lie? - Libby had no motive to lie, Jeffress asserts. He was never charged with violating the statutes covering the exposure of a covert intelligence agent (see May 10, 2006). No one has testified that they knew without a doubt that Plame Wilson was covert, though the prosecution implied it more than once. If newspaper articles claimed that Plame Wilson was covert, those articles cannot be taken as factual; many articles and op-eds asserted that Plame Wilson was never covert. “It remains far from clear that a law was violated.” And Libby had no way to know that Plame Wilson was herself covert. No one, not Libby or any other government official who exposed Plame Wilson’s identity, lost their job over exposing her CIA status.
Judith Miller - Jeffress again turns to the issue of reporters’ credibility, beginning with Miller. Her testimony (see January 30-31, 2007) was, he says, marred with mistakes and failures of memory, even going so far as testifying, when she spoke to the grand jury, that she had not learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Libby (see September 30, 2005), and then reversing that claim in subsequent testimony (see October 12, 2005). “Pretty amazing, a person testifying about this after not remembering for two years,” Jeffress observes. As Libby kept no notes of his conversations with Miller, he has only his word to refute her claims. Miller, Jeffress says, is an unreliable witness.
Matthew Cooper - Jeffress, who is running out of time for his portion of the close, turns to Cooper. The difference between Libby’s recollection of events and Cooper’s is, Jeffress asserts, the difference that the government wants the jury to convict on three separate charges. Yet Cooper never wrote about Plame Wilson until after her status was made public. Libby did not serve as a source for his reporting (see July 17, 2003). And as with Miller, Cooper’s testimony proved his failure to keep accurate notes (see January 31, 2007).
Cathie Martin - Jeffress moves quickly to address the testimony of Cathie Martin, then a communications aide to Cheney (see January 25-29, 2007). Martin testified that Libby’s version of his telephone conversation with Cooper was incorrect, and as she was there for the conversation, her testimony is accurate. However, Martin misremembered the number of calls made (two, not one) and did not hear Libby’s side of the conversation accurately. She had no way to know what Cooper was saying on the other end.
Jeffress Concludes - Jeffress concludes by telling the jurors that they are the first people to examine the case “through the lens of a presumption of innocence.” The prosecution, he says, has not proven the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. “It’s not even close.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Wells Continues - Theodore Wells once again addresses the jury. He has less than an hour to finish. He refers back to the “meat grinder” note from Cheney that proves, Wells says, Libby did not leak classified information (see June 27, 2003, July 2, 2003, 7:35 a.m. July 8, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). Wells also revisits his claim that Libby was “left out to dry” by other White House officials. He disputes the timeline of events from the prosecution, again attacks the credibility of prosecution witnesses such as Russert and Fleischer, and calls the prosecution’s evidence “circumstantial” and unconvincing. He even disputes that Libby was involved in any effort to discredit Joseph Wilson, or that there even was an effort among White House officials to do so. As he reaches the end of his time, Wells’s demeanor once again begins to exhibit agitation and indignation, and he calls the idea that Libby, whom he says devoted himself to serving the Bush administration, committed a crime in that service “outrageous.” He revisits the contention that Libby’s memory was faulty and failed him at inopportune times, calls the courtroom a “laboratory of recollection,” and asks the jurors if they can emphathize with Libby’s forgetfulness. He reminds the jury of former Cheney aide John Hannah’s claims to that effect, and his testimony to Libby’s stressful job (see February 13, 2007). Libby, Wells says, deserves the “benefit of the doubt.” Wells admits that Libby “made mistakes” in his grand jury testimony, but those mistakes were honest “misrecollect[ions].” During his final minutes, Wells becomes emotional, breaking into tears and imploring the jurors not to sacrifice Libby because they might disapprove of the Bush administration or the war in Iraq. “This is a man with a wife and two children,” he says. “He is a good person. He’s been under my protection for the past month. I give him to you. Give him back! Give him back to me!” Wells sits down, sobbing. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; Associated Press, 2/20/2007; Washington Post, 2/21/2007; New York Sun, 2/21/2007]
Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Ari Fleischer, Marcy Wheeler, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, Judith Miller, John Hannah, William Jeffress, Karl C. Rove, Tim Russert, Matthew Cooper, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert Novak, Theodore Wells, Peter Zeidenberg, Valerie Plame Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Fred Thompson. [Source: Politico]Former US Senator Fred Dalton Thompson (R-TN), who plays an executive district attorney in the popular television crime drama Law and Order, writes a column for the National Review ironically titled “Law and Disorder,” lambasting the Lewis Libby trial verdict (see March 6, 2007). Thompson, who has aspirations to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, says that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald “look[ed] like a man who has dodged a bullet and is ready to get out of town” after his post-verdict press conference. Thompson labels the trial verdict a “sorry state of affairs” and says Libby was convicted for two reasons.
Justice Department 'Folded under Political and Media Pressure' - First, “the Justice Department folded under political and media pressure because of the Plame [Wilson] leak and appointed a special counsel,” thus “abdicat[ing] their official responsibility” to refuse to investigate the leak. Secondly, “[t]he Plame/Wilson defenders [referring to Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband, war critic Joseph Wilson] wanted administration blood because the administration had had the audacity to question the credibility of Joe Wilson and defend themselves against his charges.” The Justice Department, “in order to completely inoculate themselves, gave power and independence to Fitzgerald that was not available to Ken Starr, Lawrence Walsh, or any prior independent counsel under the old independent counsel law. Fitzgerald became unique in our judicial history in that he was accountable to no one. And here even if Justice had retained some authority they could hardly have asked Fitzgerald why he continued to pursue a non-crime because they knew from the beginning there was no crime.” Thompson writes that, once appointed special counsel, “Fitzgerald began his Sherman’s march through the law and the press until he thought he had finally come up with something to justify his lofty mandate—a case that would not have been brought in any other part of the country” (Thompson is referring to Washington, DC, which many conservatives consider an unusually liberal area of the nation; presumably he is arguing that the jury was unduly comprised of liberals—see January 16-23, 2007). The media, Thompson writes, was by then “suffering from Stockholm syndrome—[t]hey feared and loved Fitzgerald at the same time. He was establishing terrible precedent by his willingness to throw reporters in jail over much less than serious national security matters—the Ashcroft standard! Yet Fitzgerald was doing the Lord’s work in their eyes. This was a ‘bad leak,’ not a ‘good leak’ like the kind they like to use. And it was much better to get the Tim Russert and Ari Fleischer treatment than it is to get the Judith Miller treatment [referring to Russert’s supposed ‘preferential treatment’—see February 14, 2007 and February 16, 2007—Fleischer’s grant of immunity—see February 13, 2004—and Miller’s jailing for contempt—see July 6, 2005]. Fitzgerald paid no price for his prosecutorial inconsistencies, his erroneous public statements, or his possible conflicts of interest. And now they get to point out how this case revealed the ‘deep truths’ about the White House.”
2004 Testimony from Libby Undermined Claim of Innocence - The second reason Libby was convicted, Thompson writes, was his decision to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury “without counsel… with this controversy swirling around him while trying to remember and recount conversations with various news reporters—reporters who he knew would be interviewed about these conversations themselves” (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004). (Libby is himself a lawyer, and spoke with White House counsel before testifying.) Libby’s decision to testify without the presence of counsel, says Thompson, is the action of “a man with nothing to hide… who doesn’t appreciate the position he is in or what or whom he is dealing with.” Libby was convicted out of actions stemming from his own “naivety” (sic), Thompson writes. [National Review, 3/7/2006]
Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, jointly respond to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s revelation that he had unknowingly misled the public as part of a White House campaign of deception surrounding the “outing” of Plame Wilson, then an undercover CIA agent (see November 20, 2007). The Wilsons quote the words of former President George H. W. Bush in labeling the Bush administration officials they believe betrayed Plame’s identity—Lewis Libby, Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, and Ari Fleischer—as “the most insidious of traitors” (see April 26, 1999). McClellan’s naming of George W. Bush as being “involved” in orchestrating the campaign of deception makes Bush, they write, a “party to a conspiracy by senior administration officials to defraud the public.” The two continue: “If that isn’t a high crime and misdemeanor then we don’t know what is. And if the president was merely an unwitting accomplice, then who lied to him? What is he doing to punish the person who misled the president to abuse his office? And why is that person still working in the executive branch?”
Criticism of Mainstream Media - The Wilsons are particularly irate at the general failure of the mainstream media, with the exception of several MSNBC pundits and reporters, to pay much attention to McClellan, instead dismissing it as “old news.” The Wilsons write: “The Washington press corps, whose pretension is to report and interpret events objectively, has been compromised in this matter as evidence presented in the courtroom demonstrated. Prominent journalists acted as witting agents of Rove, Libby and Armitage and covered up this serious breach of US national security rather than doing their duty as journalists to report it to the public.” They quote one reporter asking if McClellan’s statement was not anything more than “another Wilson publicity stunt.” The Wilsons respond: “Try following this tortuous logic: Dick Cheney runs an operation involving senior White House officials designed to betray the identity of a covert CIA officer and the press responds by trying to prove that the Wilsons are publicity seekers. What ever happened to reporting the news? Welcome to Through the Looking Glass.” They conclude with the question, again using the elder Bush’s words: “Where is the outrage? Where is the ‘contempt and anger?’” [Huffington Post, 11/22/2007]
Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard Armitage, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Ari Fleischer, MSNBC, George Herbert Walker Bush, Joseph C. Wilson, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Center for Public Integrity logo. [Source: Center for Public Integrity]The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a non-profit, non-partisan investigative journalism organization, releases an analysis of top Bush administration officials’ statements over the two years leading up to the March 18, 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Significance - Analysts and authors Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith state that the analysis proves that the Bush administration engaged in deliberate deception to lead the country into war with Iraq, and disproves the administration’s contention that its officials were the victims of bad intelligence. CPI states that the analysis shows “the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.” According to CPI’s findings, eight top administration officials made 935 false statements concerning either Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction or Iraq’s links to al-Qaeda, between September 11, 2001 and the invasion itself. These statements were made on 532 separate occasions, by the following administration officials: President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and former White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Foundation of Case for War - These deliberate falsehoods “were the underpinnings of the administration’s case for war,” says CPI executive director Bill Buzenberg. Lewis says, “Bush and the top officials of his administration have so far largely avoided the harsh, sustained glare of formal scrutiny about their personal responsibility for the litany of repeated, false statements in the run-up to the war in Iraq.” According to the analysis, Bush officials “methodically propagated erroneous information over the two years beginning on September 11, 2001.” The falsehoods dramatically escalated in August 2002, just before Congress passed a war resolution (see October 10, 2002). The falsehoods escalated again in the weeks before Bush’s State of the Union address (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003) and Powell’s critical presentation to the United Nations (see February 5, 2003). All 935 falsehoods are available in a searchable database on the CPI Web site, and are sourced from what the organization calls “primary and secondary public sources, major news organizations and more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches, and interviews.” CPI finds that “officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements.”
Breakdown - The tally of falsehoods is as follows:
Bush: 260. 232 of those were about Iraqi WMD and 28 were about Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda.
Powell: 254, with 244 of those about Iraq’s WMD programs.
Rumsfeld and Fleischer: 109 each.
The analysis only examines the statements of these eight officials, but, as CPI notes, “Other administration higher-ups, joined by Pentagon officials and Republican leaders in Congress, also routinely sounded false war alarms in the Washington echo chamber.”
An 'Impenetrable Din' - Lewis and Reading-Smith write that the “cumulative effect of these false statements,” amplified and echoed by intensive media coverage that by and large did not question the administration’s assertions, “was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war.” CPI asserts that most mainstream media outlets were so enthusiastically complicit in the push for war that they “provided additional, ‘independent’ validation of the Bush administration’s false statements about Iraq.” Lewis and Reading-Smith conclude: “Above all, the 935 false statements painstakingly presented here finally help to answer two all-too-familiar questions as they apply to Bush and his top advisers: What did they know, and when did they know it?” [Center for Public Integrity, 1/23/2008; Center for Public Integrity, 1/23/2008] The Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin approvingly calls the study “old-fashioned accountability journalism.” [Washington Post, 1/23/2008]
Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Charles Lewis, Center for Public Integrity, Bush administration (43), Bill Buzenberg, Ari Fleischer, Al-Qaeda, Colin Powell, Dan Froomkin, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, Condoleezza Rice, Scott McClellan, Paul Wolfowitz, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense, Mark Reading-Smith
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer says he has no problem with certain methods of torture documented in recently released Bush administration memos (see April 16, 2009). “I don’t know what I think about waterboarding,” Fleischer says. “I think waterboarding is pretty close to the line. But I’m not an expert in it, and I think, when it comes to that, you really can’t go by what a layman has come to learn by reading newspapers.… [S]leep deprivation, I have no problem with. I think it’s all is how it’s conducted and to what extent things go (see April 21, 2009). [I]f you read those documents, it was conducted with medical people being present to make certain that it didn’t enter the area where you go from a harsh technique—and I think it’s appropriate to be harsh with people after September 11 who might be able to prevent the next attack.” Even so, Fleischer says he is not a proponent of torture. Asked by interviewer Anderson Cooper, “If it works, do you think, then, it’s justified?” Fleischer replies, “No, I don’t.” [CNN, 4/21/2009]
Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, writing for the online news outlet Politico, say that President Obama’s decision to present his “long form” birth certificate as proof of his US citizenship (see April 27, 2011) is a “decisive new turn in the centuries-long American history of political accusation and innuendo. By directly and coolly engaging a debate with his most fevered critics, Obama offered the most unmistakable validation ever to the idea that we are living in an era of public life with no referee—and no common understandings between fair and unfair, between relevant and trivial, or even between facts and fantasy.” The authors note that presidents have been pursued by “[l]urid conspiracy theories” for centuries. However, until now, those presidents have “benefited from a widespread consensus that some types of personal allegations had no place in public debate unless or until they received some imprimatur of legitimacy—from an official investigation, for instance, or from a detailed report by a major news organization.” That is no longer the case, they say (see April 27, 2011). Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs says: “There are no more arbiters of truth. So whatever you can prove factually, somebody else can find something else and point to it with enough ferocity to get people to believe it. We’ve crossed some Rubicon into the unknown.” The writers note their difficulty in envisioning former President Clinton “coming out to the White House briefing room to present evidence showing why people who thought he helped plot the murder of aide Vincent Foster—never mind official rulings of suicide—were wrong” (see April 27, 2011), or former President George W. Bush giving a press conference denying allegations that “he knew about the Sept. 11 attacks ahead of time and chose to let them happen.” Obama’s choice to release the documentation and even to make a personal appearance to announce it are a powerful indication that the political dynamic has changed. Obama advisers explain that he made the decision to do so “because of the radical reordering of the political-media universe over the past 15 years, or so. The decline of traditional media and the rise of viral emails and partisan Web and cable TV platforms has meant the near-collapse of common facts, believed across the political spectrum.” Debunking the myth of Obama’s “foreign birth” means nothing to a large percentage of Americans who still remain unconvinced, or firmly believe the myth, the authors write. After trying to ignore it and mock it into irrelevance, they write, Obama “finally gave in and affirmed a new truth of politics in the Internet era: Nothing can be dismissed and anything that poses a political threat must be confronted directly.” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer says: “We’re dealing with a lot of the same things Clinton and frankly Bush dealt with, but we’re dealing with them at 1,000 times the speed and with fewer referees. That is the downside of the disaggregation of the media. If you don’t want to believe what someone is telling you, you can go somewhere else. If you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the president is not American, you can go somewhere to find somebody to validate that.” Another Obama adviser, who remains anonymous, adds: “Clinton never had to deal with a fully formed Internet. [Conservative Web gossip Matt] Drudge’s power was born out of the revelations of 1998. A fully automated cable TV universe with the Internet is something that [Clinton] never had to deal with.” Clinton’s press secretary Joe Lockhart says: “You’ve lost the ability to starve a story to death. So what you have to do is raise the price of those who are making the charges. If Donald Trump is out there saying this, you’ve got to make him pay a price for throwing a bomb before too much collateral damage is done.… You literally can’t laugh anything off. There’s nothing neutral in politics. It’s either helping you or hurting you. You’ve got to make sure it’s helping you or you’re going to lose.” The authors note that politicians are learning to use this phenomenon to their own advantage. While Washington Republicans often bemoan the ascendancy of “fringe” pundits like Fox News’s Glenn Beck, the authors write, “they relish the way Beck and ideological confederates excite the GOP base, a contributing factor in the party’s strong performance in 2010.” The authors also point to Democrats’ willingness to allow “liberal commentators” to push for the truth behind George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the National Guard. The authors claim that the Obama team “enjoys giving the stage to the GOP’s most divisive voices,” noting that Gibbs and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel often called conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh “the de facto leader of the Republican Party.” Obama, and his successors, will have to do things previous presidents have never considered, from appearing on less “serious” talk shows such as those hosted by Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, or making appearances on networks such as the sports broadcaster ESPN. “It’s hard to see a president doing those things 10 or 20 years ago, but it’s become almost a requirement now,” Gibbs says. It is hard to know where to draw the line, Gibbs continues. “Does it become incumbent to prove everything wrong? You have to be very careful to not fall into that trap because you’ll spend all of your time and energy chasing your own tail.” Pfeiffer says most open-minded Americans will take the “long form” certificate as the evidence required to settle the issue: “There will be some segment of the population who will believe what they’re going to believe, regardless of anything else. But for the majority of the country, we have the capacity to correct the record and convince people of the truth. It’s not as easy as it used to be, but it’s possible.” Pfeiffer notes the “huge amount of time and energy” spent on dealing with the “birther” issue, time better spent, he says, on issues confronting the country. Former Bush administration political adviser Karl Rove says the Obama administration has attempted to use the “birther” controversy against Republicans: “The president himself has hoped Republicans would continue to talk about it, thereby damaging their own credibility. It was a useful diversion (see April 27, 2011). But take a look at recent polls. The problem was the view was taking hold among independents. He got worried it was about to spin out of control” (see April 27, 2011). Rove says Obama was attempting to “play rope-a-dope with Republicans,” a charge Pfeiffer denies (see April 28, 2011). “Up until a month ago, nobody really asked for the long form. It was fringe. It was a settled issue for 99 percent of the country.” Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer says: “It’s a terrible problem for the body politic. People like me who have been or are in the arena have an obligation to speak out against people in both parties who push untruths” (see January 25, 2001, January 25-27, 2001, and April 18, 2001). “The political discourse is much worse now, but that’s not always to the detriment of the so-called victim. In this case, President Obama came out looking better.” Lockhart agrees, saying: “Look at the rogue’s gallery of Clinton accusers. Most of them blew themselves up.” Lockhart acknowledges that for some, the issue will never be settled (see April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 27, 2011, April 28, 2011, and April 29, 2011). “They’ll probably ask for the first diaper. They’ll want to see the DNA.” [Politico, 4/28/2011]
Entity Tags: Joe Lockhart, Donald Trump, Dan Pfeiffer, Barack Obama, Ari Fleischer, Glenn Beck, Vince Foster, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Robert Gibbs, John F. Harris, George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Matt Drudge, Rahm Emanuel, Rush Limbaugh, Jonathan Martin
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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