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According to sources with firsthand knowledge, alleged perjurer Lewis Libby (see October 28, 2005), the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, has given indications of the nature of his defense in his upcoming trial (see January 16-23, 2007). Libby will tell the court that he was authorized by Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials to leak classified information to reporters to build public support for the Iraq invasion and rebut criticism of the war. Prosecutors believe that other White House officials involved in authorizing the leak of classified information may include former Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House political strategist Karl Rove. Libby has already made this claim to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak (see March 24, 2004). As he told the grand jury, Libby will claim that he was authorized to leak classified information to rebut claims from former ambassador Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame Wilson’s husband, that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make a public case for war. Libby allegedly outed Plame Wilson, a covert CIA agent, as part of the White House’s effort to discredit Wilson. Libby is not charged with the crime of revealing a covert CIA agent, but some of the perjury charges center on his denials of outing Plame Wilson to the FBI and to the grand jury. Libby has admitted revealing Plame Wilson’s identity to reporter Judith Miller (see August 6, 2005); he also revealed classified information to Miller.
Risk of Implicating Cheney - Law professor Dan Richman, a former federal prosecutor, says it is surprising that Libby would use such a defense strategy. “One certainly would not expect Libby, as part of his defense, to claim some sort of clear authorization from Cheney where none existed, because that would clearly risk the government’s calling Cheney to rebut that claim.” Reporter Murray Waas writes that Libby’s defense strategy would further implicate Cheney in the White House’s efforts to discredit and besmirch Wilson’s credibility (see October 1, 2003), and link him to the leaks of classified information and Plame Wilson’s CIA identity. It is already established that Libby learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Cheney and at least three other government officials (see 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003 and (June 12, 2003)).
Similarities to North's Iran-Contra Defense Strategy - Waas compares Libby’s defense strategy to that of former Colonel Oliver North, charged with a variety of crimes arising from the Iran-Contra scandal (see February 1989). Libby’s defense team includes John Cline, who represented North during his trial. Critics call Cline a “graymail” specialist, who demands the government disclose classified information during a trial, and uses potential refusals to ask for dismissal of charges. Cline won the dismissal of many of the most serious charges against North when Reagan administration officials refused to declassify documents he said were necessary for North’s defense. The special counsel for the Iran-Contra investigation, Lawrence Walsh, believed that Reagan officials refused to declassify the documents because they were sympathetic to North, and trying North on the dismissed charges would have exposed further crimes committed by more senior Reagan officials. It is likely that Cline is using a similar strategy with Libby, according to Waas. Cline has already demanded the disclosure of 10 months’ worth of Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs), some of the most highly classified documents in government (see January 31, 2006). The Bush administration has routinely denied requests for PDB disclosures. A former Iran-Contra prosecutor says: “It was a backdoor way of shutting us down. It was a cover-up by means of an administrative action, and it was an effective cover-up at that.… The intelligence agencies do not declassify things on the pretext that they are protecting state secrets, but the truth is that we were investigating and prosecuting their own. The same was true for the Reagan administration. Cline was particularly adept at working the system.” Michael Bromwich, a former associate Iran-Contra independent counsel and a former Justice Department inspector general, says it might be more difficult for the Bush administration to use a similar strategy to undercut special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, because Fitzgerald was appointed by the attorney general, not a panel of judges as were Walsh and Whitewater special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Both Walsh and Starr alleged that they were impeded by interference from political appointees in the Justice Department. Bromwich’s fellow associate Iran-Contra counsel William Treanor, now the dean of Fordham University’s Law School, agrees: “With Walsh or Starr, the president and his supporters could more easily argue that a prosecutor was overzealous or irresponsible, because there had been a three-judge panel that appointed him,” Treanor says. “With Fitzgerald, you have a prosecutor who was appointed by the deputy attorney general [at the direction of the attorney general]. The administration almost has to stand behind him because this is someone they selected themselves. It is harder to criticize someone you yourself put into play.” (Waas 2/6/2006)
'This Is Major' - Progressive author and columnist Arianna Huffington writes: “This proves just how far the White House was willing to go to back up its deceptive claims about why we needed to go to war in Iraq. The great protectors of our country were so concerned about covering their lies they were willing to pass out highly classified information to reporters. And remember—and this is the key—it’s not partisan Democrats making this claim; it’s not Bush-bashing conspiracy theorists, or bloggers reading the Aspen roots (see September 15, 2005). This information is coming from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as filed in court papers. This is major.” (Huffington 2/9/2006)
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