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John Yoo, a former Justice Department official, celebrates the passage of the Military Commissions Act (see October 17, 2006). Yoo writes that Congress has ordered “the courts, in effect, to get out of the war on terror.” The bill is not so much a victory for the presidency, Yoo writes, as it is a loss for the judiciary, a “stinging rebuke to the Supreme Court. It strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear any habeas corpus claim filed by any alien enemy combatant anywhere in the world.” It supersedes the Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (see June 30, 2006), which Yoo calls “an unprecedented attempt by the court to rewrite the law of war and intrude into war policy… [a] stunning power grab.” Now, he writes: “Congress and the president did not take the court’s power grab lying down. They told the courts, in effect, to get out of the war on terror, stripped them of habeas jurisdiction over alien enemy combatants, and said there was nothing wrong with the military commissions. It is the first time since the New Deal that Congress had so completely divested the courts of power over a category of cases. It is also the first time since the Civil War that Congress saw fit to narrow the court’s habeas powers in wartime because it disagreed with its decisions. The law goes farther. It restores to the president command over the management of the war on terror. It directly reverses Hamdan by making clear that the courts cannot take up the Geneva Conventions. Except for some clearly defined war crimes, whose prosecution would also be up to executive discretion, it leaves interpretation and enforcement of the treaties up to the president. It even forbids courts from relying on foreign or international legal decisions in any decisions involving military commissions.” Yoo had previously authored numerous torture memos (see October 4, 2001, November 6-10, 2001, November 20, 2001, December 21, 2001, December 28, 2001, January 9, 2002, January 11, 2002, January 14, 2002, January 22, 2002, January 24-26, 2002, March 13, 2002, July 22, 2002, August 1, 2002, August 1, 2002, and March 14, 2003) and opinions expanding the power of the president (see September 21, 2001, September 25, 2001, September 25, 2001, October 23, 2001, October 23, 2001, and June 27, 2002). [Wall Street Journal, 10/19/2006]
A long shot of Firdos Square during the statue toppling process. A small knot of onlookers can be seen surrounding the statue at the far end of the area; most of the square is empty. Three US tanks can be seen stationed around the square. [Source: Ian Masters]A study by the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media is presented at the October 2006 conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The study features an in-depth examination of the iconic toppling of the Firdos Square statue of Saddam Hussein (see April 9, 2003, April 9, 2003, and April 10, 2003). The study notes that “wide-angle shots show clearly that the square was never close to being a quarter full [and] never had more than a few hundred people in it (many of them reporters).” But after the initial two-hour live broadcast of the statue’s fall, US broadcasters chose to repeat tightly focused shots that, in author Frank Rich’s words, “conjured up a feverish popular uprising matching the administration’s prewar promise that Americans would see liberated Iraqis celebrating in the streets” (see November 18-19, 2001, 2002-2003, August 3, 2002, and September 9, 2002). According to the study, some version of the statue-toppling footage played every 4.4 minutes on Fox News between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. the day of the statue’s fall, and every seven minutes on CNN. [Rich, 2006, pp. 83-84; Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, 10/22/2006]
Several days before US midterm elections, President Bush is asked at a press conference if the US is winning the war on terror. He replies: “Absolutely, we’re winning. Al-Qaeda is on the run.” He adds: “We’re winning, and we will win, unless we leave before the job is done. And the crucial battle right now is Iraq.” [White House, 10/25/2006]
Vice President Dick Cheney says foreign terrorists in Iraq are launching a spate of attacks in order to influence the upcoming US midterm elections—in essence, accusing terrorists of trying to sway Americans to vote for Democrats. Al-Qaeda and other terror groups active in Iraq are trying to “break the will of the American people.” He continues, “They’re very sensitive to the fact that we’ve got an election scheduled.” He goes on to claim that terror attacks in Iraq are being scheduled to coincide with US election events and to garner maximum media coverage to impact the elections. He provides no evidence for this. October saw one of the highest death tolls for US forces since the invasion of March 2003. Republicans fear that bad news from Iraq will cost them seats in the US Congress. Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff echoes Cheney’s statements, saying that Islamist militants are trying to “increase opposition to the war and have an influence against the president.” White House officials add that the US media is deliberately focusing on the “bad” news of casualties, carnage, and terrorist attacks, and failing to cover the “good” news coming out of the occupation. The White House and the Pentagon are launching a new propaganda effort to use “new media” outlets such as blogs to spread their message and counter what they say is a sophisticated propaganda effort by Islamists to manipulate the news and affect the US elections. [BBC, 10/31/2006]
The Lewis Libby defense team argues in a court filing that there was no such thing as an orchestrated plot to expose Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA official, and writes that Libby, a former White House official who told at least two reporters that Plame Wilson was a CIA official (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), had no reason to lie during the investigation of the leak (see October 14, 2003, November 26, 2003, March 5, 2004, and March 24, 2004). Libby’s lawyers want to present a wide-ranging defense concerning Libby’s duties and actions at the White House, while special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney prosecuting the case, wants to stay narrowly focused on evidence that Libby lied under oath to the FBI and to a grand jury. “It is doubtful that anyone committed an ‘underlying crime’ here,” Libby’s lawyers write. “The government’s investigation began as an effort to discover which government officials had ‘leaked’ Ms. Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA to Mr. Novak” (see July 14, 2003). The Libby lawyers base their argument on the fact that former State Department official Richard Armitage leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to a reporter before Libby did (see June 13, 2003). “Members of the jury will have heard for years that Mr. Libby leaked classified information about Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA, due to inaccurate reports in the press,” the defense attorneys write. “Indeed, the government has contributed to the likely misimpressions that potential jurors will have about this case.” In previous filings, Fitzgerald has argued that the upcoming trial should not be a forum to debate the leak itself or question why Libby was charged and others were not. [Associated Press, 11/14/2006]
Vice President Dick Cheney asks a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought against him by a former CIA official, Valerie Plame Wilson, who says the White House leaked her identity to the press (see July 13, 2006). He is joined in his request for dismissal by his former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who is also named in the lawsuit. According to a report by the Associated Press, Cheney’s lawyers say the lawsuit “invented constitutional rights, intruded on national security discussions, and came two years after the statute of limitations had expired.” Cheney’s lawyers also say Plame Wilson has no grounds to bring the lawsuit, and even if she does, Cheney has “qualified immunity” from civil suits by his position as a senior member of the executive branch, and is “absolutely immune from suits for civil damages.” Cheney’s lawyers write in their brief: “Plaintiffs invite the judicial branch to permit intrusive discovery into those communications and to discern which among them might be, as a matter of tort law, wrongful and which not.… Such an inquiry cannot be squared with basic separation of powers principals.” [Associated Press, 11/14/2006; MSNBC, 11/14/2006; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 11/14/2006 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 11/14/2006 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 11/14/2006 ]
The International Atomic Energy Agency is skeptical of the claim that Iran has made further progress in its uranium enrichment research program (see Mid-November, 2006). However, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiant tone does nothing to lessen US suspicions about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. A European diplomat says: “There is no evidence of a large-scale covert enrichment program inside Iran. But the Iranians would not have launched themselves into a very dangerous confrontation with the West on the basis of a weapons program that they no longer pursue. Their enrichment program makes sense only in terms of wanting nuclear weapons. It would be inconceivable if they weren’t cheating to some degree. You don’t need a covert program to be concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We have enough information to be concerned without one. It’s not a slam dunk, but it’s close to it.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006]
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announces that Iran has made further progress in its uranium enrichment research program. He says, “We know that some countries may not be pleased,” and although he insists Iran is abiding by international agreements, he adds, “Time is now completely on the side of the Iranian people.” In a recent meeting with a former senior administration official, Ahmadinejad questioned the US’s right to tell it that it could not enrich uranium. “Why doesn’t America stop enriching uranium?” he asked, and added, laughing, “We’ll enrich it for you and sell it to you at a fifty-per-cent discount.” [New Yorker, 11/27/2006] The IAEA is skeptical of the claim (see Mid-November 2006), and experts have alternative explanations for the claim (see Mid-November, 2006).
Thomas Friedman, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist who has recently been made a figure of fun for predicting resolution in Iraq “within six months” for the last three years (see May 6-11, 2006), writes that Iraq will be resolved one way or another within “10 months.” Friedman expands on his new prediction, saying Iraq “is so broken it can’t even have a proper civil war. There are so many people killing so many other people for so many different reasons—religion, crime, politics—that all the proposals for how to settle this problem seem laughable.… Iraq is in so many little pieces now, divided among warlords, foreign terrorists, gangs, militias, parties, the police, and the army, that nobody seems able to deliver anybody. Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war—it’s gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It’s Hobbes’s jungle. Given this, we need to face our real choices in Iraq, which are: 10 months or 10 years. Either we just get out of Iraq in a phased withdrawal over 10 months, and try to stabilize it some other way, or we accept the fact that the only way it will not be a failed state is if we start over and rebuild it from the ground up, which would take 10 years. This would require reinvading Iraq, with at least 150,000 more troops, crushing the Sunni and Shi’ite militias, controlling borders, and building Iraq’s institutions and political culture from scratch. Anyone who tells you that we can just train a few more Iraqi troops and police officers and then slip out in two or three years is either lying or a fool. The minute we would leave, Iraq would collapse. There is nothing we can do by the end of the Bush presidency that would produce a self-sustaining stable Iraq—and ‘self-sustaining’ is the key metric.” Friedman concludes: “This has left us with two impossible choices. If we’re not ready to do what is necessary to crush the dark forces in Iraq and properly rebuild it, then we need to leave—because to just keep stumbling along as we have been makes no sense. It will only mean throwing more good lives after good lives into a deeper and deeper hole filled with more and more broken pieces.” [New York Times, 11/29/2006] Four months ago, Friedman had written that the only way to resolve Iraq was to stop trying to rebuild the country and just find a way to exit gracefully (see August 4, 2006).
Thomas McInerney. [Source: New York Times]Several military analysts who serve as part of the Pentagon’s propaganda campaign to push the Iraq war and occupation (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond) emphasize their willingness to cooperate with the program even as they come to believe that they are being manipulated and deceived. NBC analyst Kenneth Allard, who has taught information warfare at the National Defense University, will later say that he has discerned an ever-widening gap between what he and his fellow analysts are being told and what subsequent investigation and book analyses will later reveal. Allard will say, “Night and day, I felt we’d been hosed.” Yet Allard continues to repeat Pentagon talking points on NBC. Other analysts feel fewer qualms. Thomas McInerney, a retired Air Force general and Fox News analyst, writes to the Pentagon regarding the talking points they have given him: “Good work. We will use it.” [New York Times, 4/20/2008]
The US intelligence community begins plumbing the data they have compiled on Iran’s nuclear weapons program in an attempt to shore up the Bush administration’s premature conclusion that Iran is on the verge of producing a nuclear weapon. Instead, their conclusions are that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003. In the process, White House aides begin a program of “deep dives,” or special briefings for President Bush to meet with not only his advisers but the actual analysts who study Iranian intelligence data, in an attempt to allow Bush to “get his hands dirty” with real intelligence and not just pre-digested summaries. Bush is dismayed at the lack of solid intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program and asks for more. When the intelligence community does provide more, it finds more and more evidence that Iran had shut down its nuclear weapons program years before. Those conclusions will be released in a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) a year later (see December 3, 2007).
Troubling Conclusions, White House Spin - Bush and his top officials don’t like the findings; if true, the reports disprove the entirety of the administration’s push to define Iran as an imminent threat to the Middle East. White House officials are initially skeptical, believing that the intelligence community might be a victim of Iranian disinformation. The intelligence agencies create a special “red team” of analysts to thoroughly test and, if possible, discredit the information. They are unable to do so. “They tried to figure out what exactly it would take to perpetrate that kind of deception, how many people would be involved, how they would go about doing it, when it would have been set up and so forth,” says one intelligence official. Analysts “scrubbed and rescrubbed” more than 1,000 pieces of evidence but conclude Iran’s program really had been shut down. Faced with that conclusion, the White House decides to focus on the findings that confirm their suspicions—that Iran did have a secret weapons program that could be restarted again. No one in the White House suggests that Bush tone down his rhetoric or change his policies towards Iran. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell decides to keep the new findings secret, the same position adopted by Vice President Cheney (see October 2006 and November 10, 2007). Only the Israelis are told of the new findings; Congress, the US’s European allies, and the UN’s monitoring agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are told nothing. McConnell will reluctantly change his mind out of a fear of leaks and possible charges of a coverup. That decision may come back to haunt the administration, particularly with the ill-will it will create among the US’s allies. Former State Department nonproliferation official Robert Einhorn says, “The administration is going to pay a price for not allowing allies in on it at an earlier date. The French had carried the administration’s water on this issue and really went out on a limb to get the European Union to adopt tough sanctions. And now the rug has been pulled out from under them.”
New NIE Draft Sparks Controversy - An NIE the year before (see August 2, 2005) had led the US to conclude that Iran was actively working on a nuclear weapons program. Congressional Democrats, not entirely convinced by the NIE’s conclusions and increasingly resistant to Bush’s push for confrontation with Iran, asks for a new NIE. Bush wants the new NIE to confirm his accusations and, in one official’s words, “get more information on Iran so we know what they’re up to.” The 2005 NIE had been based largely on information about Iran’s “Project 1-11,” a program that Iran is apparently pursuing to retrofit a ballistic missile to carry nuclear warheads (see Summer 2004). But no new information on Project 1-11 has been secured in three years, and the administration insists on new confirmations. “They just wouldn’t budge,” one agency official recalls. A new draft is completed in June, provoking heated discussions among agency and administration officials. CIA director Michael Hayden and NSA director Keith Alexander begin directing their agencies to closely monitor Iranians who were involved in their country’s nuclear program. Soon, communications intercepts from key Iranian officials indicate that the program had been mothballed in 2003. Some of the officials discuss their belief that the program may never be restarted.
Evolving NIE - As the draft NIE evolves, McConnell, with the assistance of his deputies Thomas Fingar and Donald Kerr, both national security veterans, lay down ground rules. One official later says that McConnell “quickly got the mantra down: ‘We must make a clear distinction between what we know and don’t know and what we judge to be the case.’” The internal debate over the NIE is sharp and often contentious. McConnell will finally inform Bush of the new conclusions—that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003—in August (see December 5, 2007 and December 3-4, 2007). In September, House and Senate intelligence committee members are informed as well. A September draft radically differs from the June version, based in large part on the communications intercepts and the exhaustive analysis on the data possessed by the CIA and NIE. The chief analysts are grilled by Hayden and his deputy Stephen Kappes, but the analyses stand up. Cheney, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, and other key officials will be given a preliminary briefing on the new NIE on November 15; Bush, finalizing a Middle East peace conference in which he will try to rally Middle Eastern countries against Iran, is not officially told of the new NIE until November 28. Bush immediately tells Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (see November 26-28, 2007), and Cheney appraises Israeli Foreign Minister Ehud Barak. Discussions about whether or not to keep the NIE secret lead to McConnell’s decision to make a declassified version public. A top intelligence official says, “We knew it would leak, so honesty required that we get this out ahead, to prevent it from appearing to be cherry picking.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]
Entity Tags: Keith Alexander, Ehud Barak, Don Kerr, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Ehud Olmert, International Atomic Energy Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Robert Einhorn, National Security Agency, Mike McConnell, Michael Hayden, Stephen Kappes, Thomas Fingar, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran
The US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program launches an advertising campaign in dozens of airports in the US. The program distributes hundreds of wanted posters featuring al-Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden. But strangely, the campaign is limited to the US and includes such airports as Londonderry, New Hampshire, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which are not locations frequented by al-Qaeda leaders. Walter Deering, head of the Rewards for Justice program until 2003, will later point out that advertising in the wrong places can bog down investigators with false leads. “We’d get a lot of tips that were totally off the wall.” [Washington Post, 5/17/2008] Most al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding in the tribal region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. But since at least the start of 2004, the Rewards for Justice program has been conducting little to no advertising in Pakistan (see January 2004).
The Bush administration imposes what reporter and author Charlie Savage will later call “unprecedented controls” on scientists working with the US Geological Survey (USGS), an agency that studies environmental issues such as global warming and endangered species. Now, USGS scientists must submit research papers and prepared speeches to White House officials for approval prior to dissemination. The rules also require the scientists to let the public affairs office know about “findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.” USGS scientists say that the restrictions mean that government officials are monitoring and censoring their work. “The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,” says Jim Estes, a marine biologist who has worked for USGS since the 1970s. “But to me it feels like they’re doing this to keep us under their thumbs.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 106-107]
The cover of the Review, depicting a Native American displaying a scalp. [Source: Dartmouth Review via Huffington Post]The Dartmouth Review, a conservative weekly student newspaper funded by off-campus right-wing sources (see 1980), publishes its latest edition; the cover depicts a Native American as what Indian Country Today later describes as a “crazed ‘savage’ holding up a scalp.” The cover headline: “The Natives Are Getting Restless”; the story ridicules Native American students for protesting a recent spate of anti-Native incidents on campus. Dartmouth College was founded in 1769 as a school for Native Americans, and has a long history of supporting Native American causes; in light of its history, the local and national Native American communities have been dismayed in recent years by what they call the anti-Indian sentiments espoused by the Review and other Dartmouth students. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) joins with the student organization Native Americans at Dartmouth (NAD) to ask college administrators to address the recent string of “culturally insensitive, biased, and racist” events that they say have created a hostile campus environment at the school. “Colleges and universities are places where diversity and tolerance should foster productive, inclusive, and thriving intellectual communities,” says NCAI President Joe Garcia. “When cartoonization, mockery, and insensitivity of Native peoples, cultures, and traditions persist on college campuses, Native students are at a unique disadvantage in that intellectual community. NCAI joins NAD, [Dartmouth] President James Wright, and the broader Dartmouth community in condemning the recent series of biased incidents at the college, and stands with NAD in its efforts at combating bias in your community.” In recent months, Review staffers and Dartmouth students have orchestrated a number of events that Native Americans call racist and intolerant, including the distribution of homecoming shirts depicting a knight performing a sex act on an American Indian caricature, and the physical disruption by fraternity pledges of an American Indian drumming circle. The publication of the Review with its offensive cover sends the Native American community, and its supporters, into new levels of outrage, with Indian Country Today noting that the illustration of the “savage” has often been used by anti-Native American organizations. Over 500 students, faculty, and administrators take part in a demonstration supporting the Native American community. In response, the Review editor, Daniel Linsalata, calls the cover “hyperbolic” and “tongue-in-cheek,” and says that while he “regret[s]” that the cover “may have” offended some, he stands behind “the editorial content” of the edition. The remainder of his response attacks NAD, and argues that the cover is appropriate to the discussion: “The accusation that this cover was maliciously designed as a wantonly racist attack on Native Americans is patently false,” he says. Wright issues a statement apologizing for the racial slur. Four days after Linsalata’s response, editors Nicholas Desai and Emily Ghods-Esfahani write that the cover was “a mistake” that “distracted attention from the serious journalism the Dartmouth Review has been publishing.” [Dartmouth Review, 12/2/2006; Dartmouth Review, 12/6/2006; Indian Country Today, 12/15/2006]
After the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report is tossed aside by President Bush (see December 2006), his neoconservative advisers quickly locate a study more to their liking. Not surprisingly, it is from the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute. The study, written by Frederick Kagan (the brother of Robert Kagan, a signatory of the 1998 PNAC letter urging then-President Clinton to overthrow Saddam Hussein—see January 26, 1998), was commissioned in late September or early October by Kagan’s AEI boss, Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign and defense studies at the institute. Kagan later says that Plekta thought “it would be helpful to do a realistic evaluation of what would be required to secure Baghdad.” The study is released during a four-day planning exercise that coincides with the release of the ISG report, but Kagan says neither the timing nor the report itself has anything to do with the ISG. “This is not designed to be an anti-ISG report,” Kagan insists. “Any conspiracy theories beyond that are nonsense. There was no contact with the Bush administration. We put this together on our own. I did not have any contact with the vice president’s office prior to… well, I don’t want to say that. I have had periodic contact with the vice president’s office, but I can’t tell you the dates.” Kagan’s study, with the appealing title “Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq,” says that 20,000 more US troops deployed throughout Baghdad will turn the tide and ensure success. The study becomes the centerpiece of Bush’s “surge” strategy (see January 2007). [Unger, 2007, pp. 342-343]
Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (see November 6-December 18, 2006) holds one of his final meetings with a group of retired military officers who serve as “independent analysts” for various television news broadcasts. The analysts are integral parts of a widespread Pentagon propaganda operation designed to promote the Iraq war (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond).
Vitriolic Comments - Rumsfeld, who is accompanied by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, is unrestrained in his contempt for a number of Iraqis and Americans involved in the occupation. According to Rumsfeld, Iraq’s interim Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, is an ineffectual “windsock.” Anti-American Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is “a 30-year-old thug” who wants “to create a Hezbollah” in Iraq; al-Sadr, in Rumsfeld’s estimation, is “not a real cleric and not well respected. [Grand Ayatollah] Sistani has, of course, all the respect… and he doesn’t like him.… He opposes what he does, but he at the present time has (a) survived (b) does not have perfect control over the Sadr elements.” He lauds former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, a fellow neoconservative who now serves as the US ambassador to Iraq, but in the next breath lambasts Khalilzad’s successor in Afghanistan, Ronald Neuman. “The guy who replaced him is just terrible—Neuman,” Rumsfeld says. “I mean he’s a career foreign service officer. He ought to be running a museum somewhere. That’s also off the record. No, he ought to be assistant to the guy… I wouldn’t hire the guy to push a wheelbarrow.”
Rewriting History - When Rumsfeld is asked about former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki’s statement that he believed it would take several hundred thousand US troops to keep the peace in post-invasion Iraq (see February 25, 2003), Rumsfeld attempts to rewrite history, suggesting that he was ready to send more troops, but the commanders on the ground did not want them. He is asked: “What’s become conventional wisdom, simply Shinseki was right. If we simply had 400,000 troops or 200 or 300? What’s your thought as you looked at it?” Rumsfeld replies: “First of all, I don’t think Shinseki ever said that. I think he was pressed in a congressional hearing hard and hard and hard and over again, well, how many? And his answer was roughly the same as it would take to do the job—to defeat the regime. It would be about the right amount for post-major combat operation stabilization. And they said, ‘Well, how much is that?’ And I think he may have said then, ‘Well maybe 200,000 or 300,000.’” Both Pace and an analyst tell Rumsfeld that Shinseki’s words were “several hundred thousand,” and Rumsfeld continues, “Now it turned out he was right. The commanders—you guys ended up wanting roughly the same as you had for the major combat operation, and that’s what we have. There is no damned guidebook that says what the number ought to be. We were queued up to go up to what, 400-plus thousand.… They were in the queue. We would have gone right on if they’d wanted them, but they didn’t, so life goes on.” [Chicago Tribune, 5/7/2008] In reality, Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz publicly derided Shinseki’s estimation, and hounded him into early retirement for his remarks (see February 27, 2003). And one of the commanders in the field that Rumsfeld cites, General James “Spider” Marks, has already noted that Rumsfeld personally denied multiple requests from the field for more troops (see April 16, 2006).
Entity Tags: Sayyid Ali Husaini al-Sistani, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Hezbollah, Eric Shinseki, Donald Rumsfeld, James Marks, Ronald Neuman, Moqtada al-Sadr, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, Peter Pace, Paul Wolfowitz
Timeline Tags: US Military, Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda
John Garrett, a retired Marine colonel, Fox News analyst (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond), and lobbyist who helps defense firms win Pentagon contracts in Iraq, contacts the Pentagon just before President Bush announces the “surge” in Iraq (see January 10, 2007). Garrett tells Pentagon officials, “Please let me know if you have any specific points you want covered or that you would prefer to downplay.” [New York Times, 4/20/2008]
Author Craig Unger asks a former State Department official if, had there been no attacks on 9/11, the Bush administration would have still invaded Iraq. “Absolutely,” the official replies. “They would have done it under any circumstances. Absolutely no doubt about it. They had the road map. They had the plan.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 213]
A State Department official reflects on the Bush administration’s expectation that Iraq would function smoothly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the administration’s complete failure to anticipate an insurgency and the sectarian strife which together have engulfed the country in violence. The official, who chooses to remain anonymous to interviewer Craig Unger, says this all happened because the neoconservatives driving the White House foreign policy know next to nothing about Iraq’s history and culture. “In all the literature they’ve written about Iraq, you will not see anything by them that has anything about the nature of Iraqi society,” the official says. “It was as if that stuff did not exist. Likewise, they did not think about Iraq in the context of the region. They viewed those things as distractions from their larger objectives. That is what was so frustrating about [Brent] Scowcroft (see October 2004) and others who spent a lifetime developing knowledge and expertise to examine the unintended consequences of various policies.” Scowcroft and other “realists” in the administration, most prominently Colin Powell, were derided, mocked, and ultimately driven out of the administration by the neoconservatives, to the detriment of the administration’s Iraq policies. [Unger, 2007, pp. 305-306]
Roger Ailes, the founder and chairman of Fox News (see October 7, 1996), makes a joke to an audience of news executives: “It is true that Barack Obama is on the move,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s true that President Bush called [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf and said, ‘Why can’t we catch this guy?’” The joke is a deliberate conflation between the names of presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) and Osama bin Laden. Ailes has Steve Doocy and the other hosts of his network’s morning news show Fox and Friends begin making similar jokes. Fox insiders will later note that while the banter between Doocy, Brian Kilmeade, and Gretchen Carlson appears to be mostly ad-libbed, it is actually highly structured; Ailes uses the show as one of the primary vehicles to get his daily message into what reporter Tim Dickinson will call “the media bloodstream.” Ailes meets with Doocy, Kilmeade, and Carlson every day before the 6:00 a.m. start; a former Fox News deputy will later say: “Prior to broadcast, Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson—that gang—they meet with Roger. And Roger gives them the spin.” Doocy is the first Fox News figure to publicly state that Obama attended a radical Islamist madrassa as a child, a falsification that begins circulating on the Internet around this same time (see October 1, 2007). [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]
The Pentagon-sponsored “military analysts” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond) have been so successful in shaping the media response and public opinion towards the war that others in the Bush administration begin making use of them as well. General David Petraeus, newly appointed to command US forces in Iraq, meets with the analysts, presumably to craft the message they will spread in the media about the benefits of Petraeus’s appointment. [New York Times, 4/20/2008]
Scott Shane. [Source: Charlie Rose (.com)]As the perjury and obstruction trial of former White House aide Lewis Libby gets underway (see January 16-23, 2007), the New York Times publishes a profile of Libby that paints him as a relatively nonpartisan figure with a keen intellect, a literary bent, and a driving interest in upholding the nation’s security. Most of the quotes used in the profile are from members of the Libby Legal Defense Trust (see After October 28, 2005 and February 21, 2006). The profile, written by Times reporter Scott Shane, emphasizes Libby’s complex nature, calling him “paradox[ical]” and contrasting his literary aspirations and buttoned-down demeanor with a fondness for tequila shooters and his use of his childhood nickname, “Scooter.” Shane lines up quotes from Libby’s friends and supporters who express their dismay at the charges he faces, and their disbelief that anyone could conceive of his involvement in any sort of criminal enterprise. “I don’t often use the word ‘incomprehensible,’ but this is incomprehensible to me,” says Dennis Ross, a foreign policy expert and the only Democrat on the Defense Trust board. “He’s a lawyer who’s as professional and competent as anyone I know. He’s a friend, and when he says he’s innocent, I believe him. I just can’t account for this case.” Shane writes that Libby’s friends and former colleagues consider the charges, and the conduct of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in prosecuting the case, both “unjust [and] a terrible irony.” Vice President Dick Cheney’s former communications adviser, Mary Matalin, says of Libby, “He’s going to be the poster boy for the criminalization of politics, and he’s not even political.” Matalin notes that Libby was often described as “Cheney’s Cheney,” an “absolutely salient translator” of the ideas and policy initiatives of Cheney, his former boss. But neoconservative Francis Fukuyama, who once worked with Libby in the State Department, says regardless of Libby’s closeness to Cheney, he is not a conservative ideologue. “He never struck me, even knowing him as I do, as an ideologue,” Fukuyama says. “I wouldn’t say I have a particularly good handle on his worldview.” In many ways, Shane notes, Libby was one of the driving forces behind the Iraq war. “Libby didn’t plan the war,” says historian John Prados, one of the few people quoted in the profile who are not close friends or political allies of the former White House aide. “But he did enable the administration to set out on that course. He was the facilitator.” Famed Washington attorney Leonard Garment, who headed a law firm Libby once worked for, calls Libby “reliable, immensely hard working, and guarded.” Garment once represented Richard Nixon during the Watergate investigation (see August 28, 1974). Libby’s friend Jackson Hogen, who describes himself as a liberal Democrat, says that Libby’s wife Harriet is also a Democrat. “She probably cancels his vote every four years,” Hogan says. “It’s a credit to Scooter that he can maintain a friend like me and a wife like her all these years.” Libby’s driving passion, say Matalin and other close friends and colleagues, is the security of the nation. “What animates him is security,” Matalin says. “On 9/12 [the day after the 9/11 attacks], there were but a handful of people who had the strategic grasp of terrorism that he did.” As a person, Hogen says that while Libby “puts up a tough front… there’s a kind human being in there who’s really gotten beat up in this affair.” Shane winds up his profile with a quote from liberal columnist Paul Andersen, who lunched with Libby last summer while Libby was vacationing in Colorado. “I got a feeling for him as a family man, a guy who likes the mountains,” Andersen recalls. “Later, it seemed like he was nursing some serious pain. It seemed a dreadful shame that circumstances can sometimes ruin lives.” [New York Times, 1/17/2007] Author and progressive blogger Marcy Wheeler is contemptuous of the Shane article, writing that it is almost obsequious in its regard for Libby, and notes that Shane’s “profile” of Libby is restricted to those who support him and raise money for his defense fund, including Ross, Fukuyama, and Matalin. Wheeler advises Shane, “[I]f you’re going to do a profile, base it on neutral observers.” Wheeler also speculates that Shane may even be trying to echo the defense’s talking points, observing that at the beginning of a trial that hinges on Libby’s divulging of a CIA official’s covert identity, Shane quotes several people who note how “reserved” Libby is, even quoting one as saying Libby is silent as “a tomb” on security matters. Shane, Wheeler notes, also hits on Libby’s “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006) by quoting several of his friends on his propensity for hard, intense work. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/17/2007]
Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Jackson Hogen, Harriet Libby, Francis Fukuyama, Dennis Ross, Leonard Garment, Scott Shane, New York Times, Paul Andersen, Mary Matalin, Marcy Wheeler, Libby Legal Defense Trust, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John Prados, Patrick J. Fitzgerald
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Investigative reporter Robert Parry, writing for the progressive Web news outlet ConsortiumNews, notes that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage may be far more intimately involved with the 2003 White House attempt to besmirch the credibility of former ambassador Joseph Wilson than has been previously noted (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). Armitage was the first administration official to expose former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status to a reporter (see June 13, 2003), and later leaked it again (see July 8, 2003), that time to columnist Robert Novak, who exposed Plame Wilson in a July 2003 column (see July 14, 2003). Parry writes that conventional media wisdom paints Armitage as an outsider, not a member of the White House inner circle, and a skeptic about the Iraq war; therefore, the media argues, Armitage’s leaks of Plame Wilson’s identity were “inadvertent” and merely coincidental to the White House efforts to claim that former ambassador Joseph Wilson was sent to Africa (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) for partisan reasons by his wife. Parry notes that, as recently as September 2006, the Washington Post joined with conservative supporters of the Bush administration to claim that the White House did not intentionally “orchestrate” the leak of Plame Wilson’s identity (see Late August-Early September, 2006), and that Armitage had no connection with whatever efforts went on inside the White House to leak her identity. However, Parry notes, the mainstream media has consistently ignored the deep connections between Armitage and White House political savant Karl Rove, who many believe did orchestrate the Plame Wilson leak. According to Parry, “a well-placed conservative source… [a]n early supporter of George W. Bush who knew both Armitage and Rove… told me that Armitage and Rove were much closer than many Washington insiders knew.” Armitage and Rove became friends during the first weeks of the Bush administration’s first term, and they cooperated with one another to pass backchannel information between the White House and State Department. The source tells Parry that it is plausible to surmise that Armitage leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to two separate reporters, not by accident, but in collusion with Rove’s strategy to besmirch Wilson by exposing his wife’s CIA identity. Novak printed his column outing Plame Wilson using two primary sources—Armitage and Rove (see July 8, 2003 and July 8 or 9, 2003). The source says that Novak’s initial claim of being given Plame Wilson’s identity (see July 21, 2003) suggests, in Parry’s words, “Armitage and Rove were collaborating on the anti-Wilson operation, not simply operating on parallel tracks without knowing what the other was doing.” The source finds the media’s assumption that Armitage “inadvertently” let Plame Wilson’s identity slip out, almost as gossip, amusing, and inaccurate. “Armitage isn’t a gossip, but he is a leaker,” the source says. “There’s a difference.” [Consortium News, 1/17/2007]
Entity Tags: Karl C. Rove, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard Armitage, Robert Parry, Washington Post, US Department of State, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his listeners that professional football games often look like fights between two African-American street gangs. Discussing a recent National Football League (NFL) game which featured some apparently objectionable celebrating by players after scoring a touchdown, Limbaugh says that such “over the top” celebrations are sparked by “cultural” differences between black and white players. “There’s something culturally wrong that is leading to all this… classless” behavior, he says, and continues: “Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it.” [Media Matters, 10/12/2009] Two years later, Limbaugh will address his comment on his broadcast. He will fail to apologize for the remark, and will say instead: “It was not racial. Bloods and Crips makes it look racial. But the way I chose to describe it. I could have perhaps chosen a different term.” Limbaugh claims that his remark was taken “out of context” by the news media, and cites the “hypocrisy” of the media in reporting his comments as possibly racially offensive. [Media Matters, 10/14/2009] Limbaugh will be thwarted in his 2009 attempt to buy the St. Louis Rams NFL franchise (see October 15, 2009) because of his racially inflammatory remarks against black football players, including this one and a 2003 slur involving African-American quarterback Donovan McNabb (see September 28 - October 2, 2003). Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay will tell other owners, “When there are comments that have been made that are inappropriate, incendiary, and insensitive… our words do damage, and it’s something that we don’t need.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will call Limbaugh’s comments “divisive” and something that cannot be tolerated from an NFL owner. [New York Post, 10/13/2009]
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney prosecuting former White House senior aide Lewis Libby for perjury and obstruction (see January 16-23, 2007), says that the evidence clearly shows Libby lied to both the FBI and the grand jury when he failed to disclose his involvement in the press leak of the identity of then-covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. Fitzgerald says Libby learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from at least five different government sources, including his then-boss, Vice President Dick Cheney (see 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003, 2:00 p.m. June 11, 2003, 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003, and (June 12, 2003)). Libby’s claims that he learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from NBC reporter Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003), Fitzgerald says, are specious. Evidence proves that Libby had discussed Plame Wilson’s identity well before he spoke to Russert. “You can’t learn something on Thursday that you’re giving out on Monday,” Fitzgerald says. He lays out a rough timeline of the events leading up to, and following, Plame Wilson’s public exposure (see July 14, 2003), and gives an overview of the evidence showing that Libby lied about his actions under oath. [Pensito Review, 1/23/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007; CBS News, 1/25/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007; Washington Post, 7/3/2007] Fitzgerald walks the jury through a timeline of events surrounding each of the five charges Libby faces—two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice—and tells the jury what evidence he will present to prove each of the charges. Fitzgerald plays actual audiotapes of Libby making his alleged lies before an earlier grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004); court observer Christy Hardin Smith, a former prosecutor, writes of the tactic, “The jurors in the criminal trial were riveted as they listened to the defendant’s voice, while they watched his reaction live in the courtroom as he was also hearing his testimony.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 1/23/2007] Plame Wilson will call Fitzgerald’s opening statement “a very narrow but compelling argument that Libby [the former chief of staff for Cheney] had lied, often, in response to investigators’ questions about with whom he had discussed me and my CIA employment (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). Fitzgerald seemed to place Vice President Dick Cheney at the center of the case by saying that Cheney himself had disclosed my identity to Libby (see March 24, 2004) and later intervened to have White House press secretary Scott McClellan issue a misleading public statement clearing Libby of any involvement in the leak of my name to reporters” (see October 4, 2003). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 282-284]
Theodore Wells, the lead lawyer for the Lewis Libby defense team, makes his opening statement to the jury in the Libby perjury and obstruction trial (see January 16-23, 2007), and proclaims Libby’s innocence of all charges. While Libby may have misspoken to the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003) and the Plame Wilson grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004) about his involvement in leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status to reporters, he never lied to either one, Wells says, because there was never any intent to lie. He was not trying to cover anything up, Wells asserts, because he did nothing illegal or questionable. “This is a case about memory, about recollection, and about words,” Wells says. Wells surprises observers by claiming Libby was made a scapegoat by the White House in order to protect President Bush’s chief political strategist Karl Rove. Rove has admitted to being a source of the original leak (see October 15, 2004, February 2004, and October 14, 2005). Wells tells the jury that Libby believes his former colleagues in the Bush administration tried to “set him up” to “take a fall” in the investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak. According to Wells, Libby said to his then-boss, Vice President Dick Cheney: “They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb.” Libby, according to Wells, believed he was being sacrificed to protect Rove. Wells says that Libby told Cheney, “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.” Wells tells the jury: “Mr. Libby was not concerned about losing his job in the Bush administration. He was concerned about being set up, he was concerned about being made the scapegoat.… People in the White House are trying to protect Karl Rove.” Libby was considered “just a staffer,” while Rove “was viewed as a political genius… the lifeblood of the Republican Party.” [Pensito Review, 1/23/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007; CBS News, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Plame Wilson will observe, “The tactic went against the conventional wisdom that Libby would play the good soldier, say nothing of value, and receive a presidential pardon if convicted.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 282-284] In a PowerPoint presentation, Wells presents the jury with the following bullet points about Libby:
He gave his best good faith recollection;
Any misstatements by him were innocent mistakes;
He had no knowledge that Plame Wilson’s job status was classified;
He did not push reporters to write about Plame Wilson;
He did not leak to Robert Novak: Richard Armitage did;
He is innocent and had no motive to lie.
Wells then engages the jury in a long explanation of Libby’s responsibilities, emphasizing his role in the administration’s efforts in the war on terror. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007] After a break for lunch, Wells resumes going through his version of events. He introduces a key element of the “memory defense” (see January 31, 2006), that Libby knew of Plame Wilson’s CIA status in July 2003 when he leaked her identity to reporters, but forgot that he knew it in October, when he denied knowing of her classified or covert status to the FBI and the grand jury. Wells equates Libby’s alleged memory difficulties with “similar” memory difficulties by the reporters involved in the leak to be examined during the trial. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007]
Marc Grossman. [Source: NNDB (.com)]Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald calls his first witness in the Lewis Libby perjury trial, former State Department official Marc Grossman. Grossman testifies to his June 2003 conversation with Libby, where he revealed then-covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status to Libby (see 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003). [Washington Post, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Informed Libby of Plame Wilson's CIA Identity - Grossman, formerly the undersecretary of state for political affairs, testifies that the information about Plame Wilson was given to Libby “in about 30 seconds of conversation.” He says he spoke to Libby several times a week. He testifies that when Libby asked him about Joseph Wilson’s 2002 Niger trip (see May 29, 2003), he knew nothing about it, which he found somewhat embarrassing. “I should have known,” he says. He testifies that his immediate supervisor, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, knew nothing of the Wilson trip either. Grossman says he asked Carl Ford of the State Department’s in-house intelligence agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), and State’s head of African affairs, Walter Kansteiner, for information on the Wilson trip. Both Ford and Kansteiner knew of the trip, Grossman testifies, and both told him that Wilson had reported to the CIA on the trip (see March 4-5, 2002, (March 6, 2002) and March 8, 2002). Grossman says he asked Armitage if it was permissible for him to ask Wilson directly about the trip, and receiving permission, did so. According to Grossman, Wilson told him about the Niger trip, and said he thought the trip had been at the request of the Office of the Vice President (see (February 13, 2002)). It was after his conversation with Wilson that Grossman spoke to Libby about the trip, and informed him that Wilson’s wife was a CIA employee. Grossman testifies that he prepared a memo for Libby after his return from a trip to Spain and North Africa (see June 10, 2003), using information provided by Ford. According to Grossman, it was Ford who alleged Plame Wilson orchestrated her husband’s trip to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, October 17, 2003, and July 20, 2005), but Grossman is not aware of the inaccuracy of Ford’s information. Grossman says he felt it somewhat inappropriate that Plame Wilson would have put her husband up for the trip. He informed Libby of Plame Wilson’s supposed role in her husband’s trip to Niger the day after putting together the memo on the trip (see 12:00 p.m. June 11, 2003). Grossman tells the court: “I think I said that there was one other thing that he [Libby] needed to know—that Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the agency. Meaning the CIA. I phrased it that way because he was senior to me, it was my responsibility to make sure he had the whole context.” According to Grossman, Libby denied that his office had anything to do with sending Wilson to Niger. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007; USA Today, 1/24/2007] Grossman also recalls speaking on the phone with Wilson on June 9, 2003, and recalls Wilson being angered by comments from then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on a recent edition of Meet the Press (see June 8, 2003). “He was furious.… He was really mad,” Grossman recalls. Grossman testifies that Wilson said he might publicly correct Rice’s characterization of the Iraq-Niger uranium affair (see June 9, 2003-July 6, 2003). [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007; ABC News, 1/24/2007] Grossman also testifies that Armitage informed him on February 23, 2004 that he had revealed Plame Wilson’s status to columnist Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003). He says that Armitage characterized his leak to Novak as “one of the dumbest things” he had ever done. Grossman testified to the FBI a day later (see February 24, 2004) and informed it of Armitage’s leak. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/23/2007]
Defense Attacks Grossman - The second day of testimony begins with the Libby defense team cross-examining Grossman. Defense lawyer Theodore Wells attacks Grossman’s credibility, accusing him of being a “crony” of Armitage and implying that, because he talked to Armitage the night before he testified to the FBI, his credibility is questionable. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007; Washington Post, 1/25/2007] Wells elicits an admission from Grossman that he did not show Libby the INR memo, and notes that Grossman cannot produce documents to prove he spoke with either Ford or Kansteiner; the State Department routinely destroys emails after archiving them for 90 days, Grossman says. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007] Wells also attempts to portray Grossman as self-contradictory, eliciting an admission that Grossman told the FBI that he and Libby had talked on the phone (see October 17, 2003 and February 24, 2004), but now says he and Libby spoke face-to-face. “You accept the fact that you told the FBI something different on February 24, 2004, than you told this jury?” Wells asks, to which Grossman replies, “Yes, sir.” Wells also focuses on Grossman’s contact with Armitage, who spoke to him a day before he testified to the FBI about his leaking of Plame Wilson’s identity (see October 2, 2003). “He—Richard Armitage—told the FBI that he… disclosed Mrs. Wilson’s work status at the CIA to Robert Novak?” Wells asks. Grossman replies, “Yes, sir.” [ABC News, 1/24/2007; Mother Jones, 1/25/2007; CBS News, 1/25/2007]
Entity Tags: Marc Grossman, Richard Armitage, Office of the Vice President, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Walter Kansteiner, Condoleezza Rice, Joseph C. Wilson, Theodore Wells, Carl W. Ford, Jr., Valerie Plame Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh calls Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and actress Halle Berry “Halfrican Americans.” According to progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, Limbaugh, discussing Obama’s nascent presidential candidacy, says, “Barack Obama has picked up another endorsement: Halfrican American actress Halle Berry.” Limbaugh then says, “‘As a Halfrican American, I am honored to have Ms. Berry’s support, as well as the support of other Halfrican Americans,’ Obama said.” Limbaugh later concedes that Obama “didn’t say it.” Limbaugh tells his audience that Obama “is the son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya.” [Media Matters, 1/24/2007]
Robert Grenier. [Source: PBS]Former CIA official Robert Grenier testifies in the Lewis Libby perjury trial. He tells the jury that he received a telephone call from Libby on June 11, 2003, asking about the Niger trip made by former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see 2:00 p.m. June 11, 2003). [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007; CBS News, 1/25/2007; Associated Press, 1/25/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Grenier was the CIA’s “Iraq Mission Manager,” a new position created by then-Director George Tenet. His job was to coordinate the CIA’s disparate efforts on Iraq. As part of his job, he often attended Deputies Committee meetings, where he met Libby. He worked on a regular basis with Libby as part of his position. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007]
Contradicts Libby's Claims - Grenier’s testimony directly contradicts Libby’s claim that he first learned of then-CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity from NBC bureau chief Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003). Grenier says he quickly surmised that Libby was attempting to compile information on Wilson in order to discredit him (see 4:30 p.m. June 10, 2003). Grenier testifies that he knew nothing of Wilson’s Niger trip before Libby’s request, and to his surprise at being contacted by Libby to discuss Wilson. “It was pretty clear he wanted answers,” Grenier says. “It was unusual for him to call in the first place.… He was serious.” Grenier testifies that after his first meeting with Libby, Libby pulled him out of a meeting with Tenet to find out more about Wilson. “Someone came to the door and beckoned me out,” Grenier recalls. “I don’t think I’ve ever been pulled out a meeting with the director before.” Grenier testifies that he spoke to someone in the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD), who informed him of the trip and of Plame Wilson’s CIA status. (At the time, Plame Wilson worked in CPD.) The CPD person did not say Plame Wilson’s name directly, but identified her as “Wilson’s wife.” Grenier told Libby that the CIA had sanctioned Wilson’s trip to Niger, and that Wilson’s wife was involved in the decision; Grenier says that the information seemed to please Libby (see 2:00 p.m. June 11, 2003). Grenier also testifies that Libby discussed the feasibility of leaking the information about Wilson and his wife to the press, and says that after talking with CIA press liaison Bill Harlow, he told Libby, “We can work something out.” Libby told Grenier that Vice President Dick Cheney’s communications director, Cathie Martin, would coordinate the effort with Harlow and the CIA public affairs office (see 5:27 p.m. June 11, 2003); Libby had Martin speak with Harlow about the effort, a choice Grenier testifies he found “surprising.” He adds that when he read the newspaper column outing Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003), he deduced that the information had come from someone in the White House. [ABC News, 1/24/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007; Mother Jones, 1/25/2007; Washington Post, 1/25/2007] Grenier testifies that after informing Libby of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity, he “felt guilty very briefly” about revealing personnel information that is usually closely held by the CIA. [USA Today, 1/24/2007] According to a transcript taken by court observer and progressive blogger Marcy Wheeler, Grenier says: “I didn’t know her name, so I didn’t give her name, but by saying Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA, I was revealing the identity of a CIA officer. It wasn’t absolutely necessary, that is information that we guard pretty closely, and if we don’t have to say it, we don’t.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007]
Attacking Grenier's Memory - But Grenier’s testimony differs somewhat from his earlier statements to the FBI and to Patrick Fitzgerald’s grand jury (see December 10, 2003). Grenier said in earlier statements that he wasn’t sure if Plame Wilson’s name had come up in the conversations with Libby. It was only later, he testifies, that he developed what he calls “a growing conviction” that he’d mentioned “Wilson’s wife” to Libby. An attorney for Libby, William Jeffress, sharply questions Grenier on the inconsistencies in his story, forcing the agent to admit at one point that “my recollection of a lot of conversations from that time are pretty vague.” Grenier stays with his current claims, saying that he’d been “conservative” when he first talked to investigators, not wanting to cast “suspicion on Mr. Libby” unnecessarily. [ABC News, 1/24/2007; Mother Jones, 1/25/2007; Washington Post, 1/25/2007] Grenier testifies that when talking to the FBI, he couldn’t be completely sure he had disclosed Plame Wilson’s identity to Libby (see December 10, 2003), but when testifying before the grand jury, he testified that he definitely had given Libby that information. Jeffress says, “You told the FBI that you did not discuss Valerie Wilson with Mr. Libby.” Grenier replies: “I told them I really didn’t recall clearly whether I had said so or not. I think there’s some confusion, frankly, in this report from the FBI.” Grenier continues: “My memory of what I said in that meeting, I believe that that I conveyed in that meeting, and I want to caution, it’s hard for me to parse out what I said in what meeting and what time, but what I believe I reported to the FBI initially was that in my conversation, my second conversation, with Mr. Libby on June 11, I couldn’t recall clearly whether I told him that Mr. Wilson’s wife was working in the unit that dispatched him to Niger. I may have, but I didn’t have a clear recollection.” Jeffress reminds Grenier that five weeks had passed between his FBI appearance and his testimony before the grand jury, and asks, “In those five weeks, you didn’t remember having told Mr. Libby about Mr. Wilson’s wife?” Grenier replies, “I did not remember.” Jeffress presses: “When you testified before the grand jury, did you tell the grand jury that you had no clear recollection of having told Mr. Libby anything about Mr. Wilson’s wife, although it is possible [you] may have done so?” Grenier replies that he had tried to give the most conservative answer. However, when he appeared before the grand jury a second time, in 2005 (see July 29, 2005), he was read his original testimony. He was startled, Grenier says. “I remembered it and thought that I had always remembered it,” he testifies. “I was saying what I believed to be true at the time and subsequently had a different recollection.” Jeffress asks: “Do you find that your memory gets better the farther away you are in time? Does your memory improve with time?” Grenier laughs and answers, “Not in all cases, no.” Grenier now states that he is sure he told Libby about Wilson’s wife being a CIA official, but is not sure he told Libby her name. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007; National Review, 1/25/2007; New York Times, 2/4/2007]
Refusing to Pin Blame on CIA - Grenier tells Jeffress that he is not entirely sure the FBI interviewer got his responses correct. According to Wheeler’s transcript, Grenier testifies: “I would like to state, I have the greatest respect for the FBI, but the FBI agent may not have gotten what I said exactly right. What is important is that my belief that the WH [White House] was throwing blame on the CIA—not for Wilson’s trip—but for not having provided proper warning to the WH on this issue of Iraq’s attempt to buy nukes.” Wheeler writes that in her estimation, Jeffress is attempting to blame the CIA for the Bush administration’s faulty and misleading claims about Iraq’s WMDs, an attempt in which Grenier refuses to participate. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007]
Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Counterproliferation Division, Catherine (“Cathie”) Martin, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, Bill Harlow, Valerie Plame Wilson, William Jeffress, Marcy Wheeler, Robert Grenier, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
CIA officer Craig Schmall, who regularly briefed both Lewis Libby and his former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, testifies that Libby had spoken to him about former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s Niger trip on June 14, 2003 (see 7:00 a.m. June 14, 2003). [MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Libby Quizzed Schmall about Wilson Trip - Schmall is now a manager in the Directorate of Intelligence. In 2003, he was the CIA’s assigned briefer for Libby and later Cheney. He recalls that at the June 14 briefing, Libby was “annoyed” that someone at the CIA had apparently discussed sensitive issues with a reporter, specifically regarding allegations that Cheney was pressuring CIA officials to produce slanted intelligence “proving” Iraq harbored WMDs. He then asked Schmall about Wilson’s Niger trip. Libby wanted to know why someone told Wilson that the Office of the Vice President had pushed for his trip to Niger. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007]
'Grave Danger' of Leaking CIA Official's Identity - Schmall testifies that when he read Robert Novak’s column outing Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003), he expressed his concerns to both Cheney and Libby. “I thought there was a grave danger leaking the name of a CIA officer,” Schmall says he told the two. “Foreign intelligence services where she served now have the opportunity to investigate everyone whom she had come in contact with. They could be arrested, tortured, or killed.” [National Journal, 2/15/2007]
Jury Cannot Consider Plame Wilson's CIA Status - Before the defense cross-examines Schmall, Judge Reggie Walton instructs the jury that it will not receive evidence of Plame Wilson’s CIA status—i.e. whether or not she was a covert official—and whether her outing posed a real risk to national security. According to a transcript by court observer and progressive blogger Marcy Wheeler, Walton says: “Her actual status, or damage, are totally irrelevant to your assessment of defendant’s guilt or innocence. You may not speculate or guess about them. You may consider what Mr. Libby believed about her status.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/24/2007]
Defense Impugns Schmall's Memory - Defense lawyer John Cline reads item after item from the 27 points in a morning briefing prepared for Libby by Schmall; the CIA briefer cannot recall any of the items. “This was very important stuff,” Cline observes. The Associated Press will later write, “Cline wants to make the point that if Schmall cannot remember the details of the briefing—which included more than two dozen potential terrorist threats or intelligence issues—it is plausible Libby forgot about it, too.” Cline also establishes that Schmall is not clear about who from the prosecution was present during his 2004 discussion with FBI interviewers (see April 22, 2004). [Associated Press, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007; New York Times, 2/4/2007]
Judge: 'Suicide' if Libby Fails to Testify - The defense’s cross-examination of Schmall spills over into the morning of January 25. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald performs a brief redirect of Schmall, attempting to establish his reliable memory. The defense successfully objects to Fitzgerald’s line of questionining; Wheeler speculates that Fitzgerald is trying to lead Schmall too strongly. Lawyers for both sides engage in a lengthy sidebar over whether the defense can use Schmall as part of its “memory defense” strategy (see January 31, 2006) without actually putting Libby on the stand; Walton says the defense will commit “suicide” if Libby fails to testify (see January 24, 2007). Walton instructs the jury that Cline’s questions are not evidence, they are only to consider Schmall’s answers. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/25/2007]
Entity Tags: Craig Schmall, John Cline, Joseph C. Wilson, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Office of the Vice President, Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Novak, Reggie B. Walton, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Marcy Wheeler, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
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
On the Washington Post’s radio broadcast, Post columnist Richard Cohen falsely claims that former ambassador and war critic Joseph Wilson claimed in a 2003 op-ed (see July 6, 2003) that Vice President Dick Cheney sent him to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Wilson actually wrote that CIA officials sent him to Niger to investigate the possibility that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from that country, that “Cheney’s office had questions about” the charges (see (February 13, 2002)), and the CIA wanted to “provide a response to the vice president’s office” (see March 5, 2002). After citing this falsehood, Cohen calls the case against former White House official Lewis Libby, accused of committing perjury in his denials of involvement in the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA identity leak (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), a “silly case.” All the White House was trying to do, Cohen states, was to “get their story out” after Wilson had “misrepresented the genesis of his trip to Africa” (see October 1, 2003). Cohen also repeats the frequently debunked notion that it was Wilson’s wife who sent him to Niger (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, and October 17, 2003). Cohen says he “almost feel[s] sorry” for Cheney, who by having Plame Wilson outed was “just [Cheney] trying to get his story out in the conventional Washington way.” Cohen also repeats the falsehood that many people knew Plame Wilson was a CIA agent (see September 29, 2003 and September 30, 2003) and her covert status was “not a tightly held secret” (see Before July 14, 2003, July 14, 2003, July 21, 2003, September 27, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, and October 23-24, 2003). [Media Matters, 1/31/2007]
Judith Miller, center, enters the courtroom. Her lawyer Robert Bennett is escorting her inside. [Source: Kevin Wolf / AP]Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who spent 85 days in jail trying to avoid testifying to the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see July 6, 2005), testifies in the trial of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see January 16-23, 2007). Miller testifies that Libby told her in confidence that the wife of a prominent critic of the Iraq war, Joseph Wilson, worked at the CIA (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). Libby has testified that he first learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status three weeks later, from reporter Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003 and March 24, 2004). [CBS News, 1/25/2007; Washington Post, 7/3/2007]
'Perverted War of Leaks' - During their first meeting, Miller testifies: “Mr. Libby appeared to me to be agitated and frustrated and angry. He is a very low key and controlled guy, but he seemed annoyed.” Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald asks, “Did he indicate what he was annoyed at?” Miller replies, “He was concerned that the CIA was beginning to backpedal to try to distance itself from the unequivocal intelligence estimates it had provided before the war.” She goes on to say that Libby had called the CIA’s action “a perverted war of leaks.” During their subsequent meetings, Libby exhibited an increasing irritation with the idea that the CIA would leak information to put distance between itself and earlier estimates of Iraqi WMD capabilities. According to Miller: “He said that nobody had ever [sic] come to the White House from the CIA and said, ‘Mr. President, this is not right.’ He felt that if the CIA had had such doubts, they should have shared them with the president.”
Outing Plame Wilson - Miller testifies that Libby broached the subject of Joseph Wilson’s trip to Africa (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) during their first meeting. At the time, Wilson was still criticizing the administration anonymously (see May 6, 2003), and few outside Washington knew who he was. Miller says that Libby began by calling Wilson “that clandestine guy,” and only later began referring to him by name. Miller testifies, “He [Libby] said the vice president did not know that Mr. Wilson had been sent on this trip” (see March 5, 2002). Libby told Miller that Cheney did not know of Wilson and “did not get a readout” on Wilson’s findings. As “an aside,” Miller testifies, Libby told her during their first meeting that Wilson’s wife “worked in the bureau.” Miller says at first she was not sure what he was referring to, and speculated that “the bureau” might mean the FBI, but, she says, “it became clear that he was referring to the CIA.” Libby never indicated whether Plame Wilson was a covert official, but during the second meeting, he told her (incorrectly) that Plame Wilson worked in WINPAC, the Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control Center of the CIA. Libby, Miller testifies, viewed the entire Wilson trip as “a ruse—that’s the word he used—an irrelevancy.” She confirms that during their second meeting, Libby took the unprecedented step of having her identify him in her reporting as “a former Hill staffer,” an apparent attempt to mislead readers into thinking the information he was providing to her was coming from someone who used to work in Congress. Miller testifies that she wanted to write about Plame Wilson being a CIA official, but her editor at the Times, Jill Abramson, refused to allow it. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007; National Review, 1/31/2007]
Leaking NIE Material - Miller says that Libby began providing her with sensitive information culled from the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE—see October 1, 2002) during their second and third meetings. Libby told her that the classified information from the NIE was even stronger in its support of Iraqi WMD claims than what he was giving her. Miller wasn’t sure if the information Libby gave her was classified or unclassified. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007]
'Refreshed' Memory with Notes - Fitzgerald shows Miller that in her initial testimony before his grand jury (see September 30, 2005), she failed to mention her first discussion of Plame Wilson’s identity with Libby on June 23. Miller claims that she refreshed her memory of that first discussion from her notes of the meeting, which she found in a shopping bag near her desk at the Times, and clarified her testimony in a later appearance (see October 12, 2005).
Defense Focuses on Self-Contradictions - During the defense’s cross-examination, Libby’s attorney William Jeffress hammers at Miller over her seemingly contradictory testimony, sometimes eliciting testy responses. Miller tells the court that her memory “is mostly note-driven,” and that rereading the notes “brought back these memories” of the June 23 meeting. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007; National Review, 1/31/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007] Author Marcy Wheeler, observing the proceedings for the progressive blog FireDogLake, notes that Miller seems extremely nervous and fidgety under Jeffress’s cross-examination. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007] Miller’s January 30 court testimony ends almost an hour ahead of schedule after Jeffress attempts to ask her about other sources besides Libby with whom she may have discussed Wilson. Miller’s attorney, Bob Bennett, objects, saying questions about other sources are off limits. Judge Reggie Walton dismisses the jury for the day and listens to arguments for and against the line of questioning. Jeffress tells Walton, “I think she’s going to say she couldn’t remember which is very important to her credibility.” Defense lawyer Theodore Wells adds that it is important to have Miller answer the question because it would cast doubt on her testimony. “This is classic 101 [witness] impeachment,” he says. Walton will rule against the line of questioning, agreeing with Fitzgerald that quizzing Miller about her information on Iraqi WMDs is irrelevant to the charges pending against Libby. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007; Wall Street Journal, 1/31/2007]
'I Just Don't Remember' - The next day, Jeffress continues to aggressively cross-examine Miller. She tells the court she is not completely sure she learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby before she learned it elsewhere, giving Libby’s lawyers an avenue to challenge her memory and her credibility. Miller now says she cannot be “absolutely, absolutely certain” that she first heard about Plame Wilson from Libby. As with earlier government witnesses (see January 23-24, 2007, January 24-25, 2007, January 24, 2007, and January 29, 2007), the defense lawyers challenge Miller’s memory and recollection of events. Jeffress notes that she misspelled Plame Wilson’s name in her notes, identifying her as “Valerie Flame.” Miller shows signs of irritation during the cross-examination, at one point repeating loudly: “I just don’t remember. I don’t remember.” [Marcy Wheeler, 1/30/2007; New York Times, 1/31/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/31/2007; New York Times, 2/4/2007]
Entity Tags: Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Reggie B. Walton, Marcy Wheeler, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Judith Miller, Theodore Wells, Robert T. Bennett, Jill Abramson, Tim Russert, William Jeffress, Valerie Plame Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald enters a copy of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s July 13, 2003 op-ed, “National House of Waffles,” into evidence in the Lewis Libby trial. The copy is heavily marked with notes from Libby. Fitzgerald blacked out most of the column, not because of security concerns, but to focus the jury’s attention on the section at the bottom. He directs the jury’s attention to the section that reads: “When the president attributed the information about Iraq trying to get Niger yellowcake to British intelligence (see 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003), it was a Clintonian bit of flim-flam. Americans did not know what top Bush officials knew: that this ‘evidence’ could not be attributed to American intelligence because the CIA had already debunked it. [Condoleezza] Rice did not throw out the line, even though the CIA had warned her office that it was sketchy. Clearly, a higher power wanted it in. And that had to be Dick Cheney’s office. Joseph Wilson, former US ambassador to Gabon, said he was asked to go to Niger to answer some questions from the vice president’s office about that episode and reported back that it was highly doubtful” (see July 6, 2003). Libby’s notes read in part, “not us” and “not to us” in response to Dowd’s suggestions that the CIA had debunked the evidence pointing to an Iraqi attempt to obtain Nigerien uranium. [National Public Radio, 3/7/2007; Office of the Special Prosecutor, 5/2007 ]
Time reporter Matt Cooper testifies at the perjury and obstruction trial of former White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby about his conversations with Libby concerning the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Cooper confirms that he learned that Plame Wilson worked with the CIA from both Libby and White House political strategist Karl Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), but did not ask Libby how he knew Plame Wilson was indeed a CIA officer. According to Cooper, when he mentioned learning from Rove that Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, Libby said, “I’ve heard that too.” Cooper says that Libby did not qualify his statement in any way, though in 2004, Libby testified to the grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004) that he told both Cooper and reporter Judith Miller that he was merely citing rumors he had heard from other reporters (see July 10 or 11, 2003). Cooper confirms that Libby did not indicate the information about Plame Wilson was classified, nor did he say anything about learning it from other journalists. Libby’s lawyers attack Cooper’s credibility, noting that his testimony does not precisely match what he told his editors at the time, and suggest he could have learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from other reporters. [Marcy Wheeler, 1/31/2007; Washington Post, 2/1/2007; National Review, 2/1/2007; New York Times, 2/4/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Cooper initially said that he considered Libby’s remark “off the record,” a term reporters use to indicate that a comment cannot be used in print. Later, Cooper says he considered it confirmation that could be used as background attribution. He also acknowledges that he changed the wording of Libby’s quote slightly for the Time article. Cooper testifies that he didn’t take any notes on that exchange or include it in his memo to his editor and fellow reporters. “I can’t explain that,” he says. “It was late in the day. I didn’t write it down, but it is my memory.” [Associated Press, 1/31/2007]
Rove's Involvement - Cooper’s testimony gives defense lawyers the opportunity to bring up Rove’s involvement, since Cooper learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from Rove before he learned it from Libby (see 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003). Cooper says that he was told by Rove that Plame Wilson, not Vice President Dick Cheney, sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger (see July 6, 2003). [CBS News, 1/25/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 1/31/2007]
Sloppy Journalism - The Washington Post notes of Cooper’s testimony juxtaposed with Judith Miller’s, who preceded him on the stand (see January 30-31, 2007): “The pair’s turn on the witness stand also provided an unflattering portrayal of how some of Washington’s most prominent journalists work. If the testimony of half a dozen government officials earlier in the trial exposed infighting at the highest levels of the Bush administration, the testimony of Cooper and Miller exposed jurors—and the public—to the sloppy and incomplete note-taking of reporters, their inability to remember crucial interviews, and, in Miller’s case, important interview notes stuffed into a shopping bag under her desk.” [Washington Post, 2/1/2007]
In his new book America at Night, author and former CIA agent Larry Kolb writes: “[O]ur government has spent trillions turning Iraq into the world’s largest terrorist training camp, while pursuing policies guaranteed to keep at least a billion people around the workd intensely pissed at us. Our military forces are so overstretched that, if any real threat emerges, we will risk being seen as a paper tiger. And in spite of all the blue ribbon panels and commissions, and the new layer of bureaucracy called the Department of Homeland Security, the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to make us safe at home, America is less safe now from terrorism and cataclysm than it ever was.” [Kolb, 2007, pp. 225-226]
Martin Peretz, the editor in chief of The New Republic, falsely accuses Jewish billionaire George Soros of being a Nazi collaborator. Soros is now a target of conservative opprobrium for his financial support of Democratic and progressive causes. As a 14-year-old boy, Soros escaped from the Nazis by hiding with a non-Jewish family in Hungary; the father of that family sometimes served deportation notices to Hungarian Jews. Peretz now calls Soros “a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel.” The progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters notes that Peretz is following the lead of right-wing extremists David Horowitz and Richard Poe, whose book The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party claimed that Soros “survived [the Holocaust] by assimilating to Nazism.” The book was found to be riddled with doctored quotes and factual errors (see August 8, 2006). Peretz uses a transcript of a 1998 interview Soros gave to 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft to prove his claim, but edits the transcript to leave out a key section that shows Soros did not collaborate with Nazis. [Media Matters, 2/5/2007; New Republic, 2/12/2007] (The article is dated February 12, 2007, but was posted on the New Republic Web site a week earlier.)
Bishop Thomas Tobin, the head of Rhode Island’s Catholic diocese, informs US Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) that he is now denying him the sacrament of Communion over his support for abortion rights. Tobin will publicly confirm his action in November 2009. He will also say he advises Kennedy not to take Communion from any Catholic priest. According to his 2009 statement, Tobin tells Kennedy it would be “inappropriate” for him to continue receiving Communion, “and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so.” Kennedy is the son of US Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and a product of the most prominent Catholic family in American politics. He will reveal Tobin’s ban to a Rhode Island reporter, and say Tobin implemented the ban “because of the positions that I’ve taken as a public official”; Tobin will then issue a statement confirming his decision. Tobin will claim to be victimized by Kennedy’s revelation, and say that his discussion with Kennedy was “pastoral and confidential.” Tobin will say, “I am disappointed that the congressman would make public my request of nearly three years ago that sought to provide solely for his spiritual well-being.” He will conclude: “I have no desire to continue the discussion of Congressman Kennedy’s spiritual life in public. At the same time, I will absolutely respond publicly and strongly whenever he attacks the Catholic Church, misrepresents the teachings of the church, or issues inaccurate statements about my pastoral ministry.” In October 2009, Kennedy will criticize Catholic bishops for threatening to oppose health care reform legislation if it does not include restrictions, which will prompt Tobin to call Kennedy’s position “unacceptable to the church and scandalous to many of our members.” CNN will report that “most bishops and priests oppose using communion as a ‘political weapon.’” [CNN, 11/23/2009]
Columnist Byron York, writing for the conservative National Review, writes that two of the five felony counts against Lewis Libby have so little basis in evidence that it is difficult to see how Libby could be found guilty on those charges. York writes that a charge of perjury and a charge of making false statements depend entirely on the testimony of one person, former Time reporter Matthew Cooper, who testified for the prosecution the day before the column is published (see January 31, 2007). York states that both charges rest on a single line of hastily typed notes from Cooper: “had somethine and about the wilson thing and not sure if it’s ever,” and Cooper’s “shaky” testimony. York interprets Cooper’s testimony as indicating he is not now sure what he meant when he typed that line, and is unsure if it applies to the question of whether Libby told him about CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson. Cooper testified that Libby confirmed for him that he had “heard” Plame Wilson was the CIA official who sent her husband, Joseph Wilson, on a fact-finding mission to Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002 and July 6, 2003). According to York, Cooper’s testimony before the Fitzgerald grand jury in 2005 (see July 13, 2005) and the snippet of Cooper’s notes “gave the jury all the evidence it would receive on Counts Three and Five of the indictment. Count Three accused Libby of making a false statement to the FBI during interviews on October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003. That false statement consisted of Libby telling the FBI that when he talked to Cooper, he told Cooper that he, Libby, had been hearing about Mrs. Wilson from reporters. That statement was false, Fitzgerald alleged, because Cooper said it never happened.” York argues that Cooper’s trial testimony does not support his testimony before the grand jury. [National Review, 2/1/2007]
Lewis Libby, second from left, and members of the press watch video of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan’s press briefing. [Source: Art Lien / NBC]In the Lewis Libby perjury trial, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald plays video excerpts from press briefings by White House press secretary Scott McClellan, who fielded questions about the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA identity leak (see October 4, 2003 and October 7, 2003). Judge Reggie Walton has ruled that he does not grant credibility to charges by Libby’s defense team that Libby is being “scapegoated” by the White House to protect White House political strategist Karl Rove, and denies the defense’s attempt to suppress the videos. “There’s no evidence of an effort to throw [Libby] under the bus,” Fitzgerald argues to Walton, and he says he wants to show the videos to disprove Libby’s contention of scapegoating. However, Walton rules that because the press briefings were so emotionally charged (see September 29, 2003 and July 11, 2005), to allow the jury to hear them in their entirety would prejudice it against Libby. Instead, prosecutors read aloud the questions reporters asked McClellan and the jurors see only brief excerpts. The videos show McClellan assuring reporters that he had been assured Libby did not leak classified information, and promising that any White House official who did leak information would be summarily fired. [Washington Post, 2/2/2007; Associated Press, 2/2/2007; Los Angeles Times, 2/2/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
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
Author and media observer Eric Boehlert, writing for the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, criticizes the majority of mainstream news reporters and publications for failing to report aggressively and even accurately on the Plame Wilson leak investigation. Boehlert writes that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald “has consistently shown more interest—and determination—in uncovering the facts of the Plame scandal than most Beltway journalists, including the often somnambulant DC newsroom of the New York Times. Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid DC press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men—not journalists—who were running down leads, asking tough questions, and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House.” While Fitzgerald had subpoena power, Boehlert admits, reporters often had inside information that they consistently failed to reveal, instead “dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House’s obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame” Wilson. Boehlert writes that if not for Fitzgerald’s dogged investigation, the entire leak story would have “simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.”
'Watergate in Reverse' - “In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse,” Boehlert writes. “Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.”
Going Along to Avoid Angering White House - Boehlert believes that in the early days of the investigation, most Washington reporters agreed with President Bush, who said that it was unlikely the leaker’s identity would ever be unearthed (see October 7, 2003). Historically, leak investigations rarely produced the leaker. “So if the leakers weren’t going to be found out, what was the point of reporters going public with their information and angering a then-popular White House that had already established a habit for making life professionally unpleasant for reporters who pressed too hard?” Boehlert asks. Now, of course, the press is pursuing the Libby trial for all it’s worth.
Early Instances of Misleading - Boehlert notes a number of instances where media figures either deliberately concealed information they had about who leaked Plame Wilson’s name, or were transparently disingenuous about speculating on the leaker’s identity. ABC reported in July 2005 that “it’s been unknown who told reporters the identity of Valerie Plame” for two years, an assertion Boehlert calls “silly” (see October 3, 2003). The following Washington journalists all had inside information to one extent or another about the case long before the summer of 2005: Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003), Tim Russert (see August 7, 2004), Andrea Mitchell (see July 20, 2003 and July 21, 2003), David Gregory (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Chris Matthews (see July 21, 2003), Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Michael Duffy (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), John Dickerson (see February 7, 2006), Viveca Novak (see March 1, 2004), Judith Miller (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), and Bob Woodward (see June 13, 2003). Had they come forward with the information they had, the identity of the various White House leakers would have been revealed much sooner. “[B]ut none of them did,” Boehlert writes. “Instead, at times there was an unspoken race away from the Bush scandal, a collective retreat that’s likely unprecedented in modern-day Beltway journalism.”
Cheerleading for Bush - Many journalists without inside information were openly cheering for the Bush administration and against the investigation, Boehlert contends. They included the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof (see October 1, 2003 and October 25, 2005), Newsweek’s Evan Thomas (see October 1, 2003 and November 7, 2005), Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (see October 13, 2005 and January 30, 2007), fellow Post columnist Michael Kinsley (see October 28, 2005 and January 31, 2007), Slate editor Jacob Weisberg (see October 18, 2005), and Post columnist David Broder (see July 10, 2005 and September 7, 2006). Author and liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler, in her book on the Plame affair entitled Anatomy of Deceit, wrote that in her view, the media was attempting to “mak[e] the case that the press should retain exclusive judgment on the behavior of politicians, with no role for the courts.”
Fighting to Stay Quiet during the Election Campaign - Many journalists tried, and succeeded, to keep the story quiet during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Matthew Cooper refused to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury until mid-2005, when he asked for and was granted a waiver from Karl Rove to reveal him as the source of his information that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent (see July 13, 2005). Boehlert notes that Cooper’s bosses at Time decided to fight the subpoena in part because they “were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year” (see July 6, 2005).
Russert, NBC Withheld Information from Public - Russert also withheld information from Fitzgerald, and the American public, until well after the November 2004 election. Boehlert notes that Russert “enjoyed a very close working relationship with Libby’s boss, Cheney,” and “chose to remain silent regarding central facts.” Russert could have revealed that in the summer of 2004, he had told Fitzgerald of his conversation with Libby during the summer of 2003 (see August 7, 2004). Libby had perjured himself by telling Fitzgerald that Russert had told him of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, when in reality, the reverse was true (see March 24, 2004). Instead, Russert testified that he and Libby never discussed Plame Wilson’s identity during that conversation, or at any other time. But neither Russert nor his employer, NBC News, admitted that to the public, instead merely saying that Libby did not reveal Plame Wilson’s identity to Russert (see August 7, 2004). Boehlert writes, “But why, in the name of transparency, didn’t the network issue a statement that made clear Russert and Libby never even discussed Plame?”
Woodward's Involvement - Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, an icon of investigative reporting (see June 15, 1974), told various television audiences that Fitzgerald’s investigation was “disgraceful” and called Fitzgerald a “junkyard prosecutor” (see October 27, 2005), and said the leak had not harmed the CIA (see July 14, 2003, July 21, 2003, September 27, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, and October 23-24, 2003). Woodward predicted that when “all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great” (see July 7, 2005). While Woodward was disparaging the investigation (see July 11, 2005, July 17, 2005, and October 28, 2005), he was failing to reveal that he himself had been the recipient of a leak about Plame Wilson’s identity years before (see June 13, 2003, June 23, 2003, and June 27, 2003), which, Boehlert notes, “meant Woodward, the former sleuth, had been sitting been sitting on a sizeable scoop for more than two years.” Boehlert continues: “If at any point prior to the Libby indictments Woodward had come forward with his information, it would have been politically devastating for the White House. Instead, Woodward remained mum about the facts while publicly mocking Fitzgerald’s investigation.”
Conclusion - Boehlert concludes: “Regardless of the outcome from the Libby perjury case, the trial itself will be remembered for pulling back the curtain on the Bush White House as it frantically tried to cover up its intentional effort to mislead the nation to war. Sadly, the trial will also serve as a touchstone for how the Beltway press corps completely lost its way during the Bush years and became afraid of the facts—and the consequences of reporting them.” [Media Matters, 2/6/2007]
Entity Tags: David Gregory, David Broder, Richard Cohen, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Steve Soto, Tim Russert, Time magazine, Viveca Novak, Andrea Mitchell, Nicholas Kristof, Bob Woodward, Washington Post, Bush administration (43), New York Times, Robert Novak, Michael Kinsley, Chris Matthews, Jacob Weisberg, George W. Bush, Evan Thomas, Eric Boehlert, John Dickerson, Joseph C. Wilson, NBC News, Karl C. Rove, Marcy Wheeler, Matthew Cooper, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Media Matters, Michael Duffy, Judith Miller
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
The British government admits it should have credited a postgraduate student’s article as being part of its so-called “Dodgy Dossier” on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (see February 3, 2003). “In retrospect we should have acknowledged” that sections of the document were based on an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi, says a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair. Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats, says the incident is “the intelligence equivalent of being caught stealing the spoons.… The dossier may not amount to much but this is a considerable embarrassment for a government trying still to make a case for war.” Labour leader Glenda Jackson, an outspoken opponent of war with Iraq, calls the dossier “another example of how the government is attempting to mislead the country and Parliament on the issue of a possible war with Iraq. And of course to mislead is a Parliamentary euphemism for lying.” Blair’s spokesman disputes the allegation that the government lied; instead, he says, “We all have lessons to learn.” The Blair administration insists the dossier is “solid,” no matter what its sources. “The report was put together by a range of government officials,” says a Downing Street spokesman. “As the report itself makes clear, it was drawn from a number of sources, including intelligence material. It does not identify or credit any sources, but nor does it claim any exclusivity of authorship.” Conservative Party shadow defense secretary Bernard Jenkin says his party is deeply concerned about the dossier. “The government’s reaction utterly fails to explain, deny, or excuse the allegations made in it,” he says. “This document has been cited by the prime minister and Colin Powell as the basis for a possible war. Who is responsible for such an incredible failure of judgment?” [Associated Press, 2/7/2003; BBC, 2/7/2003; Office of the Prime Minister, 2/7/2003; New York Times, 2/8/2003]
Artist’s sketch of Tim Russert testifying in the Libby trial. [Source: Art Lien / CourtArtist (.com)]NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert testifies in the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see January 16-23, 2007), following almost three days of videotaped testimony from Libby (see February 7, 2007). Russert’s testimony is virtually identical to statements he previously made to an FBI investigator (see November 24, 2003) and to the Plame Wilson grand jury (see August 7, 2004).
Never Discussed Plame Wilson with Libby - Questioned by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Russert contradicts Libby’s 2004 testimony, where Libby said he learned of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity from Russert in July 2003 (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004). Russert says that in July 2003 he spoke with Libby, who complained about MSNBC news anchor Chris Matthews’s coverage of the Iraq war (see July 10 or 11, 2003). Libby testified that at the end of that phone call, Russert broached the subject of war critic Joseph Wilson and told him that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA, saying, “[A]ll the reporters know” that Plame Wilson is a CIA officer. Russert tells the jury: “That would be impossible. I didn’t know who that person was until several days later.” He adds: “If he had told me [Plame Wilson’s identity], I would have asked him how he knew that, why he knew that, what is the relevance of that. And since [it was] a national security issue, my superiors [would] try to pursue it.”
Cross-Examination Focuses on Faulty Recollections - Libby’s lawyer, Theodore Wells, is skeptical of Russert’s denial. “You have the chief of staff of the vice president of the United States on the telephone and you don’t ask him one question about it?” he asks. “As a newsperson who’s known for being aggressive and going after the facts, you wouldn’t have asked him about the biggest stories in the world that week?” Russert replies, “What happened is exactly what I told you.” Wells cites a transcript of Russert’s initial testimony before the FBI, in which he said he could not rule out discussing Plame Wilson with Libby. Russert says he doesn’t believe that is what he told the FBI. Wells asks, “Did you disclose in the affidavit to the court that you had already disclosed the contents of your conversation with Mr. Libby?” Russert attempts to answer, saying, “As I’ve said, sir…” but Wells cuts him off, saying, “It’s a yes or no question.” Russert responds, “I’d like to answer it to the best of my ability.” Wells says: “This is a very simple question. Either it’s in the affidavit or it’s not. Did you disclose to the court that you had already communicated to the FBI the fact that you had communicated with Mr. Libby?” Russert answers, “No” (see Late February or Early March, 2004). Wells attempts to raise questions about Russert’s ethics and credibility, and implies that Russert wanted to see Libby face charges. In follow-up questioning, Fitzgerald asks Russert, “Did you take joy in Mr. Libby’s indictment?” Russert replies: “No, not at all. And I don’t take joy in being here” in the courtroom as a witness. During the second day of Russert’s testimony, defense lawyers ask why Russert told the FBI about his conversation with Libby, but said he would not testify if subpoenaed; Russert says he viewed the FBI conversation and the subpoena differently. During redirect, Fitzgerald notes that during Libby’s grand jury testimony, Libby claimed that he had indeed learned of Plame Wilson’s identity from his then-boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, but had forgotten about it, and when Russert told him about Plame Wilson’s CIA status, it was as if it were new information to him (see February 6, 2007). [FireDogLake, 2/7/2007; FireDogLake, 2/7/2007; FireDogLake, 2/7/2007; FireDogLake, 2/7/2007; FireDogLake, 2/7/2007; FireDogLake, 2/7/2007; CNN, 2/8/2007; New York Times, 2/9/2007; Associated Press, 2/9/2007; MSNBC, 2/12/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007] The Associated Press writes: “Wells wants to cast Russert as someone who cannot be believed, who publicly championed the sanctity of off-the-record conversations but privately revealed that information to investigators. Russert said he viewed the FBI conversation and testimony to prosecutors differently.” [Associated Press, 2/9/2007]
Potential Mistrial Averted - The jurors are not supposed to read about the trial in the press or watch television coverage of it; resultingly, they are provided newspapers with the pertinent information scissored out. As the jurors enter the courtroom for Russert’s second day of testimony, Judge Reggie Walton notes that they were given newspapers with a Washington Post article, headlined “Tim Russert on the Uncomfortable Side of a Question,” unredacted. A juror brought the newspaper to the attention of the marshals immediately upon receipt of it, and no juror admits to having read it. Walton rules that no harm has been done, and a potential mistrial is averted. [FireDogLake, 2/7/2007]
Liberal author and blogger Arianna Huffington observes that in essence there are two trials going on in the Prettyman Courthouse in Washington: the “real” perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis Libby (see January 16-23, 2007) and the less defined “trial” of the Washington press corps, which appears to be infused with members who are more concerned with their “chummy relationship[s]” with government officials than in reporting the truth. Huffington singles out NBC bureau chief Tim Russert, whose recent testimony in the Libby trial “speaks volumes about the very chummy relationship that has developed between the Washington press corps and government officials, and reflects badly on Russert’s commitment to journalistic transparency and to keeping the public—and even NBC management—informed” (see February 7-8, 2007 and February 8, 2007). The media “trial,” Huffington writes, “will be decided by the court of public opinion. No one will go to jail, but credibility will, and should be, affected—and that will be a very significant byproduct of the Libby trial.” [Huffington Post, 2/8/2007]
In this courtoom sketch, Lewis Libby, at right, watches Robert Novak testify. [Source: Art Lien / NBC News]Conservative columnist Robert Novak, who publicly outed covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003), testifies in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction trial. He is questioned by lead defense attorney Theodore Wells. Like his colleague Bob Woodward (see February 12, 2007), Novak testifies that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from former State Department official Richard Armitage (see July 8, 2003). He tells the court that both Armitage and White House official Karl Rove have given him permission to disclose their identities as his sources, and to discuss the content of their conversations. Novak says his conversation with Armitage was understood to be entirely on background, and he did not take notes or record the conversation. “I assumed I could write what he said, but I wouldn’t be able to identify him,” he says. Novak testifies, “I had no help and no confirmation from Mr. Libby” concerning Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003), and notes that he had already decided to write about former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger when he spoke to Armitage (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). He goes on to call Wilson “obnoxious.” [USA Today, 2/12/2007; Associated Press, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; National Review, 2/13/2007; Washington Post, 2/13/2007; New York Times, 2/13/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler and Newsweek assistant managing editor Evan Thomas both testify, in brief stints, in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction case. Both testify that they did not learn of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from Libby. Kessler says he focuses in his reporting on US foreign policy, and says he spoke twice to Libby in July 2003 without discussing Plame Wilson (see July 12, 2003). He says that as per instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s communications team, all of his conversations with Libby were considered “deep background,” and Libby is a confidential source. He says he learned of Plame Wilson’s covert status as a CIA official from reading Robert Novak’s column (see July 14, 2003). Thomas then testifies, identifying himself as primarily reporting on national security and political issues. He says he spoke to Libby perhaps a dozen times during the summer of 2003, without discussing Plame Wilson. [USA Today, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Kessler and Thomas are the last of six journalists to testify for the defense in today’s proceedings (see February 12, 2007, February 12, 2007, February 12, 2007, and February 12, 2007). The Associated Press writes that the defense is trying to portray Libby as an administration scapegoat, being forced to take the blame for leaks made by other White House officials. [Associated Press, 2/12/2007]
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]
Judge Reggie Walton refuses to allow the defense in the Lewis Libby trial to have NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell testify. In October 2003, Mitchell told MSNBC talk show host Don Imus that she and other reporters knew Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA official, but she later retracted the statement (see October 3, 2003). Walton does not agree with defense lawyer Theodore Wells’s contention that Mitchell’s statement, even though later retracted, somehow impeaches the credibility of her NBC colleague Tim Russert, who testified last week that he did not tell Libby of Plame Wilson’s CIA status (see February 7-8, 2007). Debra Bonamici, a lawyer for the prosecution, tells the court: “The question to be asked is what purpose would be served by impeaching their witness? Defense intends to ask about an unrelated subject—what Libby said to Mitchell, we presume that defense would want her to be credible. This is a ruse to present the non-admissible testimony [referring to the defense’s previous attempts to play the videotape of Mitchell’s conversation with Imus—see February 8, 2007]. They’ve got no reason to impeach, they’re setting up a straw man so they can impeach.” Walton rules that the defense is asking the jury to speculate that reporters such as Mitchell and Russert knew Plame Wilson’s identity, then speculate that Libby learned about Plame Wilson from Russert, and thusly infer that Libby was telling the truth to investigators. “I think there’s a lot of mischief that comes with that,” Walton says. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007]
New York Times reporter David Sanger, a veteran White House correspondent and the third reporter to testify for the defense in the Lewis Libby perjury and obstruction trial, testifies that he did not learn of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby. He testifies that he spoke to Libby for a lengthy July 2003 Times article about intelligence matters, and for a number of articles about Vice President Dick Cheney, Libby’s former boss. Sanger says he only learned about Plame Wilson’s CIA status by reading the Robert Novak column (see July 14, 2003). [USA Today, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] Libby did reveal classified information to Sanger, though not about Plame Wilson (see July 2, 2003).
Post reporter Bob Woodward testifies, questioned by defense lawyer William Jeffress. Judge Reggie Walton, members of the jury (whose faces are not depicted in the artist’s rendition), and members of the defense team look on. [Source: Art Lien / Court Artist (.com)]The defense in the Lewis Libby trial presents as its second witness Washington Post reporter and managing editor Bob Woodward. Under questioning by attorney William Jeffress, Woodward testifies that he learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status from former State Department official Richard Armitage (see June 13, 2003). After winning a ruling by Judge Reggie Walton over objections from the prosecution, the defense plays an audio tape of Woodward’s discussion with Armitage, where Armitage revealed Plame Wilson’s identity to him and told him, incorrectly, that Plame Wilson was an “analyst” for the agency (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, September 6, 2006, and March 16, 2007). Woodward notes that the only reason he is testifying about his discussion with Armitage is because Armitage “requested” that he do so, and adds that Libby, too, has given him permission to discuss their conversations. He goes on to note that he did not write about Plame Wilson for the Post or for his book. Woodward adds that while he interviewed Libby many times for his book Plan of Attack, he believes Libby never discussed Plame Wilson with him (see June 23, 2003 and June 27, 2003). “There’s no doubt that Libby didn’t say anything,” Woodward says. [Associated Press, 2/12/2007; Associated Press, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 2/12/2007; Washington Post, 2/13/2007; New York Times, 2/13/2007; MSNBC, 2/21/2007; Washington Post, 7/3/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
Criminal defense lawyer Jeralyn Merritt, picking up on a thread of criticism earlier discussed by reporter Dan Froomkin (see February 8, 2007) and liberal author/blogger Arianna Huffington (see February 8, 2007), writes that the Lewis Libby trial is exposing how quickly, and effectively, Vice President Dick Cheney turned to the Washington press corps to discredit and besmirch the credibility of war critic Joseph Wilson (see October 1, 2003). Merritt, writing for her blog TalkLeft, notes what she calls “the symbiotic relationship between prominent journalists and high ranking administration officials,” and adds: “The currency in Washington has always been information. That’s nothing new. But the Libby trial has laid bare, for anyone caring enough to take a look, how the administration used the press to present its unfounded case for war.” After war critic Joseph Wilson penned his July 2003 op-ed (see July 6, 2003), Cheney had his staffers phone reporters to discredit and impugn Wilson’s credibility as part of his strategy to use the press to counter Wilson’s criticisms (see July 7-8, 2003, 9:22 a.m. July 7, 2003, 12:00 p.m. July 7, 2003, July 8, 2003, July 8, 2003, 7:35 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 8 or 9, 2003, July 9, 2003, On or Around July 10, 2003, July 10, 2003, July 11, 2003, (July 11, 2003), 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003, July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003. 1:26 p.m. July 12, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, and Before July 14, 2003). Merritt writes, “Cheney’s first response, when he thought Wilson was suggesting publicly that he was the impetus behind Wilson’s trip to Niger, was to use the press as his personal attack vehicle.” [Jeralyn Merritt, 2/13/2007]
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
Columnist Byron York, writing for the conservative publication National Review, explains to readers why neither former White House official Lewis Libby nor Vice President Dick Cheney testified during Libby’s trial on perjury and obstruction charges (see February 13-14, 2007). York says that once the decision was made for Libby not to testify, there was no reason for Cheney to testify. “The vice president would likely have testified about Libby’s state of mind in May, June, and July of 2003, when the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq was under attack by former ambassador Joseph Wilson,” York writes. “The Libby defense has maintained that he, Libby, was tremendously busy at the time and might well have forgotten about the particulars of how he learned, and then forgot, about the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson. With Libby not testifying, it followed that Cheney wouldn’t either.” York then addresses the decision to keep Libby off the witness stand. For York, the question was not whether the jury needed to hear Libby talk about his role in exposing Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA official, but whether the jury needed to hear it again, after listening to eight hours of Libby’s grand jury testimony (see February 5, 2007 and February 6, 2007). “[B]y the time Libby had to decide whether to testify,” York writes, “the jury had already heard a lot of Lewis Libby testifying.” It had also heard audio of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald quizzing Libby. York writes: “Libby’s defenders are betting that jurors took from those recordings an impression not only of the defendant but of the prosecutor. And the impression that Libby’s supporters hope jurors will have is that of a prosecutor trying too hard to find a crime where there was none.” What jurors did not hear during those hours of audio evidence, York notes, was Fitzgerald asking Libby about former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage’s leak of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity (see June 13, 2003). York concludes: “[T]he entirety of Fitzgerald’s grand jury questioning might leave jurors with a more nuanced impression: that of a prosecutor who had received faulty information, or incomplete information, from other witnesses and who looked to Libby—and not those who had omitted or failed to remember key acts during their testimony—as the suspected criminal. The grand jury tapes reveal a prosecutor who had had sand thrown in his eyes—to use Fitzgerald’s famous image—but it had not been thrown by Lewis Libby.” [National Review, 2/15/2007]
FireDogLake blogger Jane Hamsher, writing for her blog’s coverage of the Libby trial. [Source: Michael Temchine / New York Times]The New York Times publishes a profile of some of the bloggers covering the Lewis Libby trial. The article, by Times reporter Scott Shane, focuses on the team of six writers and researchers who work on a volunteer basis for FireDogLake (FDL), a liberal blog owned by movie producer and author Jane Hamsher. According to Shane, “FireDogLake has offered intensive trial coverage, using some six contributors in rotation,” including “a former prosecutor [Christy Hardin Smith], a current defense lawyer [Jeralyn Merritt, who also writes for her own blog, TalkLeft], a Ph.D. business consultant [Marcy Wheeler, who has written a book, Anatomy of Deceit, on the subject],” a blogger who has covered the issue since Valerie Plame Wilson’s outing (the pseudonymous “Swopa”), an acknowleged expert on the Iraq/Niger uranium claims (the pseudonymous “eRiposte”), and Hamsher, “all of whom lodge at a Washington apartment rented for the duration of the trial.” Their work is so intensive and the bloggers so well-versed in the intricacies of the trial and its surrounding issues that “[m]any mainstream journalists use [FDL’s live coverage] to check on the trial.”
'Coming of Age' for Bloggers - Shane writes: “For blogs, the Libby trial marks a courthouse coming of age. It is the first federal case for which independent bloggers have been given official credentials along with reporters from the traditional news media” (see Early January, 2007). Robert A. Cox of the Media Bloggers Association says, “My goal is to get judges to think of bloggers as citizen journalists who should get the same protections as other journalists get.” Left-leaning bloggers such as those from FDL routinely disparage Libby and other Bush administration members in their writings, Shane notes, while right-wing blogs covering the trial, such as American Thinker, have targeted prosecution witnesses such as Tim Russert (see February 7-8, 2007) for their criticism. Sheldon Snook, the court official in charge of the news media, says the decision to admit bloggers (five to 10 out of the 100 or so reporters present on busy trial days) has worked out well. Snook tells Shane, “It seems they can provide legal analysis and a level of detail that might not be of interest to the general public but certainly has an audience.” Shane observes that “the Libby trial bloggers are a throwback to a journalistic style of decades ago, when many reporters made no pretense of political neutrality. Compared with the sober, neutral drudges of the establishment press, the bloggers are class clowns and crusaders, satirists and scolds.” Wheeler says covering the trial alongside mainstream reporters has confirmed some of her skepticism about mainstream journalism. “It’s shown me the degree to which journalists work together to define the story,” she says. “[O]nce the narrative is set on a story, there’s no deviating from it.” Hamsher, who is battling breast cancer, says of blogging, “There’s a snarky, get-under-the-surface-of-things quality to it that’s really me.” (The Times later notes that the FDL and other bloggers are not the first to cover a federal trial; anti-tobacco activist Gene Borio covered the trial of the federal government’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry in 2004.) [Marcy Wheeler, 2/8/2007; New York Times, 2/15/2007]
Countered 'Involved' Mainstream Media - In a contemporaneous interview with US News and World Report, Hamsher says of the mainstream coverage: “The media was having difficulty covering it because they were so involved in it. When the investigation started, Karl Rove’s attorney start[ed] putting out all this stuff. And every day the story would change and the blogosphere would document that. We had thousands of people showing up at our site and pointing out that the stories were never consistent. This story had so much information, and so many articles were written that it enabled the blogosphere to take in all of this information. And a cadre of professional people—not kids in their underwear—came together, compared notes, and developed a narrative of the story that was a pushback to the one that was being generated by the powers that be.… Our work on this particular topic has done a lot to defeat the notion that bloggers are fact free.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 2/15/2007] Salon’s progressive blogger Glenn Greenwald calls FDL’s trial coverage “intense, comprehensive, and superb.… [T]hey have produced coverage of this clearly significant event—one which has provided rare insight into the inner workings of the Beltway political and journalistic elite—that simply never is, and perhaps cannot be, matched by even our largest national media outlets.” He notes that even conservative news outlets such as the National Review have relied on FDL’s “liveblogging” of the trial for their reporting. [Salon, 2/15/2007] Shortly before the article comes out, Wheeler posts: “[T]he importance of having this story be told from a blogger’s perspective… is because there is so much about it the mainstream media cannot comfortably report. This story strikes at the core reasons why there are bloggers, why so many readers and writers have decided to invest their time in citizen driven media.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/8/2007]
Presiding Judge Treats Bloggers as Professionals - Smith writes: “For the record, Judge Walton’s entire staff and all the folks at the courthouse have been wonderful throughout the entire process. From the first day forward, our whole team of bloggers were treated like every other professional covering the case—there was no distinction made, no patronizing attitude, just the same treatment for all of us. The amount of work that has gone into covering this case has been astronomical—the live blogging, the courtroom observations, the late night analysis, all the IMs [instant messages] and phone calls to cross-check details—you name it. But so worth it, still, to get the entire story out and not just blurbs and bits. And I cannot thank Judge Walton and his staff enough for giving us this opportunity. Truly.”
Error in Reporting Corrected - Smith corrects an error in Shane’s reporting, noting that the Media Bloggers Association did not negotiate their media passes to gain admittance to the courtroom; that was done largely by Hamsher and the other FDL contributors, with assistance from author and fellow blogger Arianna Huffington. [Christy Hardin Smith, 2/15/2007]
Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), American Thinker, Robert Cox, Scott Shane, Sheldon Snook, Arianna Huffington, New York Times, “Swopa”, “eRiposte”, National Review, Reggie B. Walton, Marcy Wheeler, Media Bloggers Association, FireDogLake, Gene Borio, Glenn Greenwald, Christy Hardin Smith, Jeralyn Merritt, Karl C. Rove, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Jane Hamsher
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Accuracy in Media logo. [Source: Accuracy in Media] (click image to enlarge)Roger Aronoff writes a press release about the Lewis Libby trial for the conservative media watchdog organization Accuracy in Media (AIM). Aronoff agrees with the defense’s decision not to allow Libby or Vice President Dick Cheney to testify (see February 13-14, 2007), calling the prosecution’s case “surprisingly thin” and noting that the defense’s goal is to get Libby acquitted, “not put on a show for [MSNBC news pundits] Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, and the left-wing blogs.” Aronoff castigates the mainstream news media for being too aggressive in reporting on the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak and the accusations of White House involvement, saying instead that the media was not only sloppy and imprecise in its reporting, but it should have been far more willing to present the government’s assertions that it was merely defending itself against unfounded allegations by “left-wing” war critic Joseph 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). Aronoff accepts the defense’s argument that Libby knew of Plame Wilson’s identity from Cheney, forgot it, and “relearned it” from NBC reporter Tim Russert, thereby rendering charges that he perjured himself in his FBI and grand jury testimonies groundless (see February 6, 2007). Aronoff attacks the journalists who testified about their contacts with Libby, and saves his heaviest criticisms for Russert, whom he says was “embarrassed” by what Aronoff says was the destruction of his credibility during cross-examination (see February 7-8, 2007). Aronoff concludes that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald “scapegoated” Libby because of Fitzgerald’s inability to bring charges against anyone for the actual leak of Plame Wilson’s identity, and expects Libby to be either acquitted or the jury to “hang,” causing a mistrial. But the trial was really about giving “left-wing” media critics such as Matthews “a vehicle to once again claim that the war was based on lies and misrepresentations. This trial was to be their chance to further undermine the Bush administration.” [Accuracy in Media, 2/16/2007]
New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein, in an analysis of the Lewis Libby trial, says the jury has a “plethora of reasons to acquit Libby” if it chooses to do so. Gerstein runs through the defense’s attempts to paint Libby as having tremendous memory problems (see February 13, 2007), and reminds readers that the memories of several government witnesses have been challenged by the defense (see January 23-24, 2007, January 24-25, 2007, January 24, 2007, January 25-29, 2007, January 29, 2007, January 30-31, 2007, January 31, 2007, February 1-5, 2007, February 7-8, 2007, February 13, 2007, and February 14, 2007). The defense has also offered three different theories to explain Libby’s prosecution, including his victimization by reporters, the CIA, and State Department, and White House officials attempting to protect deputy chief of staff Karl Rove. “You throw out as much as you can, hoping to get one juror,” says criminal defense lawyer Edward Hayes. “People like conspiracy theories.” Another defense lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, says: “It’s not inconceivable you could get a couple of jurors to say, ‘I don’t think he’s guilty because of memory. We all forget some things.’ A couple of jurors might not like that argument but might be persuaded by the suggestion he’s a sacrificial lamb and the administration is protecting Rove.” On the other hand, the defense’s “scattershot approach” might make the jury lose faith in its arguments. Branfman says: “I think you have to be very careful throwing defenses into a case. [Prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald is going to look at the number of defenses and comment on that. If something was made in their opening statement and they didn’t deliver, he has the right to comment on that.” And Hayes adds that the defense should be careful in suggesting that all the prosecution witnesses are “out to get” Libby: “What you can’t do is argue that every single witness is a bad person, lying, and out to hurt somebody. That’s just too much.” Most of the defense lawyers interviewed by Gerstein say they agree with the defense’s decision not to allow Libby to testify. Brafman agrees with an argument recently advanced by conservative columnist Byron York (see February 15, 2007), that the jury had already heard Libby’s testimony through audiotapes of his previous testimony to a grand jury (see February 5, 2007 and February 6, 2007), and to allow Libby to restate his earlier testimony and be cross-examined again would be “superfluous and perhaps reckless.” Gerstein concludes with praise from Brafman about lead defense attorney Theodore Wells. “Ted Wells is probably one of the most eloquent criminal defense lawyers in the United States. He’s a very charming man,” Brafman says. “He’ll probably deliver one of the best summations anyone has ever seen in any case.” [New York Sun, 2/16/2007]
Neoconservative John Podhoretz, writing for the New York Post’s editorial page, provides much of the information the defense had attempted unsuccessfully to raise during the Libby perjury trial about NBC reporter Tim Russert (see February 14, 2007). Podhoretz is referring to a stipulation the jury heard in final testimony, written by former FBI agent John Eckenrode, who interviewed Russert about his knowledge and potential involvement in the press exposure of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson (see November 24, 2003). In the interview, Russert said he did not speak to then-White House official Lewis Libby about Plame Wilson, and did not inform him of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, though he could not rule it out completely. Libby has told both the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003) and a grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004) that he learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003). Russert gave a deposition for that same grand jury (see August 7, 2004) and testified in Libby’s trial (see February 7-8, 2007) that he was sure he never spoke to Libby about Plame Wilson. Podhoretz writes: “The question is: How could Russert’s memory of his July 2003 conversation with Libby improve over time? If he wasn’t sure about the details in November 2003, how could he be so certain about them when testifying before a grand jury in 2005? And be even more certain testifying in court in 2007? Should the jury believe Russert’s words now—or take more account of his words in November 2003?” (Podhoretz errs in stating Russert gave the deposition in 2005; he gave that deposition in August 2004.) Podhoretz then advises the Libby defense lawyers to use the apparent contradiction in their closing arguments, which are coming up in a matter of days: “The stipulation will allow the defense to make a strong case in closing arguments next week that Russert’s initial description of the phone call needs to be taken very seriously. The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The stipulation casts doubt on Russert’s firm testimony.” Podhoretz believes that the issue can likely lead the jury to find that it cannot conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Libby perjured himself. Podhoretz concludes by misrepresenting Russert’s statement to Eckenrode: according to Podhoretz, all it took was a single phone call from the FBI for Russert to breach his professional ethics by revealing information about sources to Eckenrode, when in reality Russert told Eckenrode he did not learn of Plame Wilson’s identity from Libby, and battled the subpoena that compelled his testimony for the grand jury (see May 13-20, 2004, May 21, 2004, May 21, 2004, June 2004, June 2, 2004, and June 4, 2004). Podhoretz concludes, “[M]aybe, just maybe, Russert’s original words from November 2003—words he should never have spoken in the first place—will help get my friend Scooter out of his disgraceful mess.” [New York Post, 2/16/2007]
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
Lead prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald delivers the rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument (see 11:00 a.m. February 20, 2007) in the final stage of the Lewis Libby perjury trial. Fitzgerald is transformed in his rebuttal, from the dispassionate, methodical presence he has displayed throughout the trial into a figure of outrage and scorn. He virtually leaps from his seat to rebut the defense’s argument, shouting: “Madness! Madness! Outrageous!” Tightening up somewhat, he tells the jury that in the defense’s characterization, “The government has brought a case about two witnesses, two phone calls. And they just want you to speculate. The defense wishes that were so. Saying it loudly, pounding the table, doesn’t change the facts. Let’s talk about the facts. Let’s get busy.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; Salon, 2/22/2007] Progressive blogger Jane Hamsher, who is present in the courtroom, describes Fitzgerald’s rebuttal as “lacerating and precise, speaking so quickly that the court reporter couldn’t catch up. His command of the material was a bit daunting, able to recall voluminous evidentiary document numbers simply by looking at some chart in his own brain.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 293; Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Nine Versus One - The case is anything but a “he said, she said” situation, as defense attorney Theodore Wells characterized it during his portion of the closing argument. It is, Fitzgerald says, about nine different people having one version of events, and Libby alone with a markedly different version. Fitzgerald focuses on NBC reporter Tim Russert, whom the defense spent a lavish amount of time and attention attempting to discredit. Instead of Russert being such an impeachable witness, Fitzgerald says, “I’ll tell you that Russert alone can give you proof beyond reasonable doubt.” And even without Russert’s testimony, there is plenty of evidence to convict Libby of perjury and obstruction. Fitzgerald refutes Wells’s contention that all of the prosecution witnesses had faulty memories, telling the jury: “I submit you can’t believe that nine witnesses remembered 10 conversations exactly the same wrong way.… It’s not one on one. It’s not, ‘He said, she said.’ Nine witnesses can’t all misremember.” He addresses the defense’s contention that Valerie Plame Wilson was not important, calling that characterization a “myth” and stating that to the Bush administration, “she wasn’t a person, she was an argument, she was a fact to use against [her husband Joseph] Wilson.” Fitzgerald quickly runs through the prosecution’s structure of events as laid down by its current and former administration witnesses and even some defense witnesses. The documents entered into evidence corroborate the prosecution’s contention that to Libby and his boss Vice President Dick Cheney, both Wilson and Plame Wilson were “hugely important.” Libby was “wrapped around the issue of who told him. He’s wrapped himself around the issue of Valerie Wilson.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
'Cloud over the Vice President' - Fitzgerald focuses on Cheney, saying: “There is a cloud over the vice president. He wrote on those columns. He had those meetings. He sent Libby off to the meeting with Judith Miller where Plame was discussed. That cloud remains because the defendant obstructed justice. That cloud is there. That cloud is something that we just can’t pretend isn’t there.” Libby was “not supposed to be talking to other people,” Fitzgerald says. “The only person he told is the vice president.… Think about that.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; Salon, 2/22/2007; Murray Waas, 12/23/2008] Plame Wilson will later write, “He suggested that [Cheney] was, at a minimum, complicit with Libby in the leak of my name.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 293]
Defense Objection - Fitzgerald lists example after example of Libby’s memory being far better than the defense describes. In the process, he tells the jury that Libby must have known Plame Wilson’s role at the CIA was important, and therefore something he was unlikely to forget, because he was “discussing something with people that could lead to people being killed.… If someone is outed, people can get in trouble overseas. They can get arrested, tortured, or killed.” Fitzgerald’s implication is clear: Plame Wilson was a covert agent. The defense objects, citing Judge Reggie Walton’s ruling that neither the prosecution nor defense will refer to Plame Wilson’s covert status. Fitzgerald tells the jurors they should think about the “people being killed” scenario to understand Libby’s “state of mind,” but they should not draw any conclusions about “whether it’s true or false.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; National Review, 2/21/2007; New York Sun, 2/21/2007]
No Conspiracy, Just Lies - The things Libby remembered best were the things we all remember best, Fitzgerald says: items that are unique, items that are important, and items that make you angry. The Plame Wilson identity issue, he says, was all three to Libby. His memory did not let him down. Instead, Fitzgerald says, Libby lied under oath. “He made his bet, planted his feet, and stuck. From then on he told the same story.” There is no conspiracy to scapegoat Libby, he reiterates (see January 23, 2007). There is just Libby, lying to protect his job and his freedom from imprisonment. “You know you’re not surprised on Thursday, if you gave it out Monday and Tuesday, you weren’t surprised.”
Conclusion - “Don’t you think the American people are entitled to answers?” Fitzgerald asks. “Don’t you think the FBI deserves straight answers?… He threw sand in the eyes of the FBI. He stole the truth of the judicial system. You return a verdict of guilty and you give the truth back.” [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007]
Judge Instructs Jury on Fitzgerald's Argument - After Fitzgerald concludes, Walton tells the jury: “I’m going to give you another cautionary. The truth of whether someone could be harmed based upon the disclosure of people working in a covert capacity is not at issue in this case. Remember what I have told you several times. Mr. Libby is not charged with leaking classified information.” Walton is referring to Fitzgerald’s implication that Plame Wilson was a covert CIA official. Walton dismisses the jurors for the day, and tells them that tomorrow they begin their deliberations. [Marcy Wheeler, 2/20/2007; National Review, 2/21/2007]
The Washington Post publishes a speculative article about the possible reactions that will ensue if Lewis Libby is acquitted. An acquittal, the article states, would be severely damaging to the reputation of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has for years been lambasted for trying a case that some believe should never have been brought to court. Attorney Robert Mintz says, “The stakes are enormously high.” If Fitzgerald loses this case, he says, “some will say he lost his way in his search for truth, just another case of a prosecutor who sets off and thinks they can’t come back unless they have a prosecution, no matter how trivial.” Fitzgerald’s reputation as a non-partisan prosecutor will be tarnished, Mintz notes. Other lawyers say Fitzgerald had a duty to bring the case to trial. Former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) says that no matter what the verdict, Fitzgerald will be judged as a prosecutor run amok who chased petty political crimes “to the ends of the Earth.… He had to realize early on that the matter he was appointed to investigate was not a crime. He should have put his little papers in his briefcase and gone back to Chicago.” Thompson sits on the board of the Libby Legal Defense Fund (see After October 28, 2005). [Washington Post, 2/22/2007]
Norman Podhoretz, one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism, meets with President Bush to urge a military strike against Iran. Podhoretz meets privately with Bush at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, with Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove taking notes. The meeting is not logged in Bush’s schedule. Podhoretz will become senior foreign policy adviser to presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY) (see October 28, 2007). The London Times characterizes the meeting as evidence of “the enduring influence of the neoconservatives at the highest reaches of the White House, despite some high-profile casualties in the past year.”
Iran Discussed - Podhoretz will say of his meeting with Bush: “I urged Bush to take action against the Iranian nuclear facilities and explained why I thought there was no alternative.… I laid out the worst-case scenario—bombing Iran—versus the worst-case consequences of allowing the Iranians to get the bomb.” Podhoretz recalls telling Bush: “You have the awesome responsibility to prevent another holocaust. You’re the only one with the guts to do it.” Podhoretz recalls Bush looking “very solemn.” Primarily, Bush listens without responding, though Podhoretz will recall both Bush and Rove laughing when he mentions giving “futility its chance,” a phrase used by fellow neoconservative Robert Kagan about the usefulness of pursuing United Nations sanctions against Iran.
No Sign of Agreement - “He gave not the slightest indication of whether he agreed with me, but he listened very intently,” Podhoretz will recall. Podhoretz is convinced that “George Bush will not leave office with Iran having acquired a nuclear weapon or having passed the point of no return”—a reference to the Iranians’ acquisition of sufficient technical capability to produce a nuclear weapon. “The president has said several times that he will be in the historical dock if he allows Iran to get the bomb. He believes that if we wait for threats to fully materialize, we’ll have waited too long—something I agree with 100 percent.”
No Need to Use Nukes - Podhoretz tells Bush that the US could neutralize Iran’s nuclear program without using its own nuclear weapons: “I’m against using nuclear weapons and I don’t think they are necessary.” Podhoretz is preparing a book, World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, which echoes the points he makes with Bush. According to Podhoretz, World War IV is the global struggle against terrorism (World War III was the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union). “The key to understanding what is happening is to see it as a successor to the previous totalitarian challenge to our civilization,” he says. Podhoretz asserts that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran are merely different fronts of the same long war. [London Times, 9/30/2007] Podhoretz says that “the debate [over Iran] is secretly over and the people who are against military action are now preparing to make the case that we can live with an Iranian bomb.” [Daily Telegraph, 11/1/2007]
In hindsight, most observers believe that the break-in of the Nigerien embassy in Iraq that began the entire Iraq-Niger uranium affair (see January 2, 2001) was nothing more than it seemed—a crime of opportunity by individuals seeking to make money through fraud (see June or July 1999). They note that the burglary took place before President Bush took office. But Colonel Patrick Lang is not so sure. Lang, a former Middle East analyst with the Defense Intelligence Agency, thinks that the entire affair may have been orchestrated to provoke an invasion of Iraq. He notes that he has no proof to back up his speculation. That being said, he goes on to note his belief that the US neoconservatives, who were so intensely interested in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, would not have hesitated to reach out to their friends in Italian intelligence (SISMI) even before Bush entered the White House. Lang tells author Craig Unger: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the neocons had their eye on Iraq. This is something they intended to do, and they would have communicated that to SISMI or anybody else to get the help they wanted.” SISMI would have cooperated, Lang says, if for no other reason than to ingratiate itself with the new US administration. Lang says: “These foreign intelligence agencies are so dependent on us that the urge to acquire IOUs is a powerful incentive by itself.… It would have been very easy to have someone go to Rome and talk to them or have one of the SISMI guys here [in Washington], perhaps the SISMI officer in the Italian embassy, talk to them.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 206-207]
Nieman Reports, a quarterly magazine about journalism, publishes an article by investigative journalist Craig Pyes describing how the US Army attempted to undermine a Los Angeles Times investigation looking into the March 2003 deaths of two Afghan detainees (see March 16, 2003). It is believed that members of a Special Forces detachment in Afghanistan murdered the two men, identified as Jamal Naseer and Wakil Mohammed, and then covered up the circumstances surrounding their deaths. An official investigation into the two deaths by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (CID) found insufficient probable cause to bring charges for either of the two deaths. As a result of the CID investigation, two soldiers were given noncriminal administrative letters of reprimand (see January 26, 2007) for “slapping” prisoners at the Gardez facility and for failing to report the death of Naseer. In his article, Pyes recounts the resistance he and his colleague Kevin Sack encountered from the military as they sought information about the two deaths. The military refused to disclose basic information about the circumstances surrounding the two deaths, including the two men’s identities, the circumstances of their detention, the charges against them, court papers, and investigative findings. The journalists also learned that soldiers had been told by their superiors that it was important that everyone be “on the same page in case there was an investigation.” During their investigation, they also discovered that “military examiners had made some significant errors, including their initial failure to identify the victims. They also grossly misidentified dates of crucial events and persistently failed to interview key people and locate supporting documents.” [Nieman Watchdog, 3/2/2007]
MSNBC ‘Breaking News’ image with photo of Lewis Libby immediately after he learns he is found guilty. [Source: MSNBC]A jury finds former White House official Lewis “Scooter” Libby guilty of multiple felonies relating to his divulging the identity of former CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity to the press (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). Libby is found guilty of two counts of perjury, one count of making false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice. He is acquitted of one count of lying to the FBI, Count Three of the charges. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 3/6/2007 ; Marcy Wheeler, 3/6/2007; Washington Post, 7/3/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007]
No Further Charges - The Associated Press writes, “The trial revealed how top members of the Bush administration were eager to discredit Plame [Wilson]‘s husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who accused the administration of doctoring prewar intelligence on Iraq.” Libby remains expressionless during the reading of the verdicts, but his wife sobs and lowers her head as the verdicts are announced. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says no additional charges pertaining to the Plame Wilson leak investigation will be filed. “The results are actually sad,” Fitzgerald tells reporters. “It’s sad that we had a situation where a high-level official person who worked in the office of the vice president obstructed justice and lied under oath. We wish that it had not happened, but it did.” Fitzgerald adds that Libby, by lying and obstructing justice, harmed the process of law, and made it more difficult to find out who actually did what in the Plame Wilson leak. [Associated Press, 3/6/2007; Christy Hardin Smith, 3/6/2007]
Libby the 'Fall Guy'; Memory Defense Implausible - Libby will be sentenced to 30 months in prison (see June 5, 2007). One juror, Denis Collins, tells reporters that he and his fellow jurors found passing judgment on Libby “unpleasant,” but that in final consideration, Libby’s story was too difficult to believe. Collins, a former Washington Post reporter, tells reporters that the jurors had constructed 34 poster-sized pages filled with information they distilled from the trial testimony (see March 1, 2007). They determined that Libby had been told about Plame Wilson’s CIA status at least nine different times, and could not accept the defense’s argument that he forgot about knowing it (see January 31, 2006). “Even if he forgot that someone told him about Mrs. Wilson, who had told him, it seemed very unlikely he would not have remembered about Mrs. Wilson,” Collins says. But, Collins goes on to say, the jurors believe there is more to the story than Libby’s criminal behavior. “We’re not saying we didn’t think Mr. Libby was guilty,” Collins says, “but it seemed like… he was the fall guy” for Vice President Dick Cheney, his former boss. Collins says the jurors felt “a tremendous amount of sympathy” for Libby, and wondered why they were not hearing from other White House officials in Libby’s defense, particularly Cheney and Bush political strategist Karl Rove. “It was said a number of times: ‘What are we doing with this guy here? Where’s Rove? Where are these other guys?’” He says that the testimony of Cheney aide John Hannah was particularly hurtful to Libby’s case (see February 13, 2007), with Hannah seesawing between claiming Libby had an “awful” memory (see January 31, 2006) and then saying he had an incredible grasp of minute details. Collins describes the jury as “dispassionate” in its deliberations, and adds that it took the jury over a week to conclude Libby was guilty of any charges. He says that one juror held out for Libby’s innocence on Count Three, based on reasonable doubt; otherwise the entire jury was unanimous for Libby’s guilt. Fitzgerald says that because Libby lied to both FBI investigators and the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak, it became impossible to fully investigate Cheney’s role in leaking Plame Wilson’s covert identity. [Associated Press, 3/6/2007; Jane Hamsher, 3/6/2007; Marcy Wheeler, 3/6/2007; Murray Waas, 12/23/2008] In her 2007 book Fair Game, Plame Wilson will reflect, “[I]t seemed that Libby’s defense tactic of casting him as a ‘scapegoat’ (see January 16-23, 2007) had worked, but not in the way they had intended.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 294-295]
New Trial? - Libby’s defense attorney, Theodore Wells, says he will request a new trial—something the BBC will call “a common tactic”—and if it is denied, Wells says he will appeal the verdict. Libby is fingerprinted and released on his own recognizance to await sentencing. [Christy Hardin Smith, 3/6/2007; BBC, 7/3/2007] “We have every confidence Mr. Libby ultimately will be vindicated,” Wells tells reporters. “We believe Mr. Libby is totally innocent and that he didn’t do anything wrong.” [Associated Press, 3/6/2007]
Weeping with Relief - Plame Wilson will recall watching the news on television: “To say I was a bundle of nerves—it felt like I needed two hands to stir the milk in my coffee—would be an understatement.” When the verdicts are read, she begins to “cry with relief,” and immediately calls her husband Joseph Wilson. His response: “Thank God. The charge of obstruction of justice was the most important.” Of her own feelings, Plame Wilson will write, “My feelings of deep sadness over the entire affair were tempered by relief that our justice system still worked as intended.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 294-295]
White House Response - White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino says President Bush watched news of the verdict on television in the Oval Office. Perino says the president respects the jury’s verdict but “was saddened for Scooter Libby and his family.” Perino says the verdict should not be construed as in any way embarrassing for the White House: “I think that any administration that has to go through a prolonged news story that is unpleasant and one that is difficult—when you’re under the constraints and the policy of not commenting on an ongoing criminal matter—that can be very frustrating.” [Associated Press, 3/6/2007]
Entity Tags: Denis Collins, John Hannah, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Dana Perino, Theodore Wells, Valerie Plame Wilson, Office of the Vice President, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Joseph C. Wilson, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Fox News tells viewers Libby not guilty. [Source: NewsCorpse (.com)]Fox News takes an alternate view from most news outlets in reporting Lewis Libby’s convictions on four out of five felony charges (see March 6, 2007). In its news crawler on the bottom of the television broadcast, it reports, “Scooter Libby found not guilty of lying to FBI investigators.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 295]
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, now a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a frequent guest on news talk shows, writes a brief and angry response to the news that Lewis Libby was convicted of four felony charges (see March 6, 2007). Frum writes, “The man who actually did the leaking continues to earn millions of dollars, go out to dinner, and be respectfully quoted by attentive journalists,” referring to former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see June 13, 2003). “Scooter Libby is publicly branded an oath-breaker on the basis of diverging recollections. Yet it was the man who set this case in motion, former ambassador Joe Wilson, who was caught in lie after lie by the Senate Intelligence Committee.” Frum is referring to Republican addendums to the committee’s 2004 report on Iraqi WMD, many of which have been proven false (see July 9, 2004). Lashing out further, Frum writes: “Now we remember why Democrats are so much more eager than Republicans to criminalize politics: Because they know that the ultimate power over the lives and liberties of the contestants is held by juries drawn from the most Democratic jurisdiction in the country. Would Scooter have been convicted—would a prosecutor ever have dared to try him—if the capital of the United States were located in say Indianapolis?” Frum concludes with a demand for a presidential pardon, writing: “It all makes you think: President Bush should have pardoned everybody involved in this case on the day Patrick Fitzgerald sent Judith Miller to jail. But it’s not too late: Pardon Scooter now.” [National Review, 3/6/2007] The National Review editors issue a similar condemnation of the trial and a demand for a presidential pardon (see March 6, 2007).
Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto joins his conservative colleagues at the National Review in calling the Lewis Libby trial verdict (see March 6, 2007) a “travesty” (see March 6, 2007 and March 6, 2007). Libby should never have been prosecuted at all, Taranto writes, and calls the courtroom proceedings a “show trial” that will allow “partisans of [war critic] Joseph Wilson [to] use the guilty verdict to declare vindication” (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). Like the National Review writers, Taranto insists that the trial proved Libby’s innocence, not his guilt; proved that Wilson, not the White House, lied about Iraqi WMDs (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002, Mid-January 2003, 9:01 pm January 28, 2003, and July 6, 2003); proved that Valerie Plame Wilson was not a covert agent for the CIA (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); and proved that no one from the White House leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to columnist Robert Novak (see June 19 or 20, 2003, June 27, 2003, July 2, 2003, July 6-10, 2003, July 8, 2003, 7:35 a.m. July 8, 2003, July 10, 2003, (July 11, 2003), July 12, 2003, July 12, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, July 14 or 15, 2003, and July 17, 2003). The entire case against Libby was “a tissue of lies,” Taranto argues. No one committed any crimes, he continues, and calls special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald “an overzealous prosecutor, one who was more interested in getting a scalp than in getting to the truth of the matter.” Libby could have avoided being prosecuted and convicted merely by refusing to “remember” anything under questioning, Taranto says, and concludes, “Therein lies a lesson for witnesses in future such investigations—which may make it harder for prosecutors to do their jobs when pursuing actual crimes.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/6/2007]
The editorial board of the conservative National Review demands that President Bush pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby immediately (see March 6, 2007). The editorial joins an angry demand for a presidential pardon in the magazine’s pages from former Bush speechwriter David Frum (see March 6, 2007). The editors write that Libby was “the target of a politicized prosecution set in motion by bureaucratic infighting and political cowardice,” powered by “liberal partisans” who leapt on the exposure of CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson and adopted her husband Joseph Wilson’s “paranoid persecution theory” (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). A “scandal-hungry media” joined in with the Wilsons to launch unwarranted attacks on the White House, the editors write, which eventually forced the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003). The editors blame the CIA, the State Department, Congressional Democrats, and the “liberal media” for forcing the issue, and say the Justice Department was too quick to appoint special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whom they note is a “close friend” of the person who appointed him, Deputy Attorney General James Comey (see December 30, 2003). The editors insist that Libby’s “imperfect memory” (see January 31, 2006) led to the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice, and the testimony of reporters throughout the trial proved that their memories were no better than Libby’s. The editors conclude: “There should have been no referral, no special counsel, no indictments, and no trial. The ‘CIA-leak case’ has been a travesty. A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Left’s fevers, the media’s scandal-mongering, and President Bush’s failure to unify his own administration. Justice demands that Bush issue a pardon and lower the curtain on an embarrassing drama that shouldn’t have lasted beyond its opening act.” [National Review, 3/6/2007]
Within hours of the four guilty verdicts against Lewis Libby being handed down (see March 6, 2007), former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing publishes a brief article on the Web site of the National Review, a conservative news and opinion publication, delineating the arguments behind a possible appeal of the verdicts. Toensing was a signatory of a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Libby (see March 23, 2005), and has written numerous articles attacking the prosecution and disparaging the trial (see November 2-9, 2005, November 3, 2005, November 7, 2005, September 15, 2006, and February 18, 2007). She writes that the trial verdicts “make… no logical sense, but that won’t bother the legal notions of an appellate court.” Toensing represents the verdicts as the jury finding that Libby lied to a grand jury about his conversation with Time reporter Matthew Cooper (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004), but did not lie about the same conversation to the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003). Toensing opines that “[t]he court punished Libby for not taking the stand,” which she says made Judge Reggie Walton “furious” and led him to limit Libby’s use of his “memory defense” (see February 12, 2007). She also objects to Walton’s refusal to allow the defense to attack NBC reporter Tim Russert for apparent contradictions in his testimony (see February 14, 2007). And she falsely states that Walton repeatedly allowed special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to characterize CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson as “classified” or “covert” during the trial, saying such characterizations were “highly prejudicial”; in reality, Walton prohibited the jury from hearing testimony that would confirm or deny Plame Wilson’s classified status, and supported a defense objection to Fitzgerald’s implication to such a status during his closing argument (see 9:00 a.m. February 20, 2007). Toensing notes that Fitzgerald did call Plame Wilson “classified” in a press conference held after Libby’s conviction was declared in the court, and reiterates her argument that exposing Plame Wilson’s CIA status does not constitute a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. [National Review, 3/6/2007] Ten days after Toensing’s article, Plame Wilson will confirm to Congress that she was a covert CIA official (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) up to the moment she was exposed by columnist Robert Novak (see March 16, 2007).
The New York Post joins the National Review (see March 6, 2007 and March 6, 2007) in demanding an immediate presidential pardon for convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007). The Post accuses “Democrats and Bush-bashers in the media” of “chortling with glee” over the guilty verdicts, and says special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald now “has a high-level scalp on his belt,” Libby’s. The Post joins many other conservative media pundits and publications in asking why Libby was prosecuted for leaking Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to the press (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003) when the first admitted leaker was another government official, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (see June 13, 2003). (The Post fails to note that Armitage admitted to his leak—see October 2, 2003—while Libby committed perjury and obstruction of justice in his untruthful denials of leaking Plame Wilson’s identity—see October 14, 2003, November 26, 2003, March 5, 2004, and March 24, 2004.) Instead, the Post writes, the entire investigation and trial was about “[s]coring points against [President] Bush. That much is obvious, given prosecutor Fitzgerald’s conduct during Libby’s trial.” The Post charges Fitzgerald with being “blatantly political” in charging Vice President Dick Cheney with orchestrating the leak and violating the court’s orders not to discuss Plame Wilson’s covert status (see 9:00 a.m. February 20, 2007). It paints the jury as “wholly confused,” and writes that perhaps the jury was less interested in issuing a fair verdict for Libby and more interested “in just going home.” The Post exhorts President Bush to pardon Libby, and writes: “Sure, he’d take a lot of political heat for it. But Libby was in the dock because of politics—and turnabout is fair play. Free Scooter Libby.” [New York Post, 3/7/2007]
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]
The Wall Street Journal joins the National Review (see March 6, 2007 and March 6, 2007), the New York Post (see March 7, 2007), and a law professor whom the Journal published in today’s editorial pages (see March 7, 2007) in demanding that President Bush pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007). The Journal’s editorial board hopes that “Bush will realize that this case was always a political fight over Iraq and do the right thing by pardoning Mr. Libby.” Like its fellow conservative pundits and media outlets, the Journal calls the conviction “a travesty of justice,” and writes that the Libby defense team “seems to have blundered by portraying Mr. Libby as the ‘fall guy’ for others in the White House. That didn’t do enough to rebut [special counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald’s theory of the case, and so the jury seems to have decided that Mr. Libby must have been lying to protect something. The defense might have been better off taking on Mr. Fitzgerald for criminalizing political differences.” Libby was “convicted of telling the truth about” Joseph and Valerie Plame Wilson “to some reporters (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003) but then not owning up to it.” The Journal believes Libby “tried to cooperate with the grand jury because he never really believed he had anything to hide” (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004). The entire case was brought, the Journal avers, to attack the Bush administration’s push for war with Iraq. The Bush administration bears its own culpability, the Journal says, for not “confront[ing] Mr. Wilson’s lies head on” and instead becoming “defensive,” allowing “a trivial matter to become a threat to the administration itself.” The White House should not have allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to recuse himself from the investigation (see December 30, 2003) and let the Justice Department appoint Fitzgerald to investigate the leaks. “Mr. Libby got caught in the eddy not because he was dishonest but because he was a rare official who actually had the temerity to defend the president’s Iraq policy against Mr. Wilson’s lies.” The Journal also criticizes “most of our brethren” in the media for “celebrating the conviction… because it damaged the Bush administration they loathe.” It concludes by asserting, “The time for a pardon is now.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/7/2007]
Constitutional law professor Ronald D. Rotunda, a former fellow at the conservative Cato Institute, publishes an editorial in the Wall Street Journal outlining an argument in favor of pardoning convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007). President Bush has the absolute power to issue a pardon, and Rotunda writes that “[i]n the unusual circumstances of this case, a presidential pardon is appropriate,” even before an appeal is filed. Rotunda bases his arguments for a pardon on similar assertions that other Libby supporters have made: no laws were broken in the exposure of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA official; Plame Wilson and her husband, war critic Joseph Wilson, “appeared to revel in the publicity” (see July 14, 2003 and July 14, 2003); former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, not Libby, first leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to a reporter (see June 13, 2003); and the guilty verdict hinged on the differing memories of the various participants in the White House leaks of Plame Wilson’s identity. In addition, according to Rotunda the charges against Libby were an “abuse” of the perjury statutes, and the verdict works to “normaliz[e] the criminalization of policy differences.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/7/2007; George Mason University, 2009]
Columnist Robert Novak, who first publicly exposed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA official in 2003 (see July 14, 2003), weighs in on the Lewis Libby felony convictions (see March 6, 2007). Novak accuses Democrats of trying to gin up “another Iran-Contra affair or Watergate” by demanding an investigation of the Plame Wilson leak, and of being after “much bigger game” than Libby—particularly Vice President Dick Cheney or White House political strategist Karl Rove. Novak then claims he played “but a minor role in [Libby’s] trial,” testifying only that he did not discuss Plame Wilson with Libby (see February 12, 2007). “Other journalists said the same thing under oath,” Novak writes, “but we apparently made no impression on the jury.” Novak goes on to say that “[t]he trial provided no information whatsoever about Valerie Plame [Wilson]‘s status at the CIA at the time I revealed her role in her husband’s mission. No hard evidence was produced that Libby was ever told she was undercover. [Special counsel Patrick] Fitzgerald had argued that whether or not she was covert was not material to this trial, and US District Judge Reggie B. Walton had so ruled.” (Novak’s statement contradicts former Justice Department official Victoria Toensing’s assertion that Fitzgerald repeatedly told the jury of Plame Wilson’s “classified” or “covert” status, even though Novak slams Fitzgerald for “referr[ing] to Mrs. Wilson’s secret status” during his closing statement—see 9:00 a.m. February 20, 2007). Novak denies revealing former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as one of his sources for his Plame Wilson article (see July 8, 2003), saying that Fitzgerald already knew that Armitage was one of his sources (see October 2, 2003). He writes that he assumed Fitzgerald’s knowledge “was the product of detective work by the FBI”; he did not know that Armitage had “turned himself in to the Justice Department three months before Fitzgerald entered the case, without notifying the White House or releasing me from my requirement of confidentiality” (in 2006, Novak wrote that he did name Armitage as a source—see January 14, 2004). Novak writes that President Bush “lost control of this issue when he permitted a special prosecutor to make decisions that, unlike going after a drug dealer or Mafia kingpin, turned out to be inherently political.” He concludes: “It would have taken courage for the president to have aborted this process. It would require even more courage for him to pardon Scooter Libby now, and not while he is walking out of the White House in January 2009.” [Washington Post, 3/8/2007]
Mona Charen. [Source: News New Mexico]Conservative columnist Rich Lowry, who often writes for the National Review, writes a harsh denunciation of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald in a syndicated column picked up by, among other media outlets, the Salt Lake Tribune. Lowry begins by joining other conservatives in calling for a presidential pardon for convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 8, 2007, and March 9, 2007), but quickly pivots to an all-out attack on Fitzgerald’s integrity as a prosecutor and on the jury that convicted Libby. Fitzgerald “had sufficient evidence to convince a handful of people drawn from Washington, DC’s liberal jury pool that Libby was guilty,” Lowry writes, and states, without direct evidence, that even the jury “didn’t believe Libby should have been in the dock in the first place.” Lowry echoes earlier arguments that Valerie Plame Wilson was exposed as a CIA official by her husband, Joseph Wilson (see November 3, 2005 and Late August-Early September, 2006), who, Lowry writes, should have known that once he wrote a column identifying himself as a “Bush-hater” (see July 6, 2003), questions would inevitably be asked as to why someone like him would be sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger. Lowry also echoes the false claim that Plame Wilson sent her husband on the mission (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, October 17, 2003, and July 20, 2005). “Fitzgerald let himself become an instrument of political blood lust,” Lowry writes. If Democrats and other opponents of the Bush administration want to “score points against ‘the case for war,’” Lowry writes, the way to do that “is through advocacy [and] political agitation,” not by “jailing [Vice President Dick Cheney’s] former chief of staff. This is the very definition of the criminalization of politics. If the other party occupies the White House, each side in our politics is willing to embrace this criminalization, even if it means doing violence to its own interests and principles.” [Salt Lake Tribune, 3/8/2007] A day later, Lowry’s National Review colleagues, Mona Charen and Thomas Sowell, echo Lowry’s charge that Fitzgerald’s investigation “criminalized politics.” Charen goes somewhat further, labeling Fitzgerald “Ahab” in reference to the obsessed whale-boat captain of Moby Dick, and compares the Libby trial with the alleged perjury committed by former President Clinton in a sexual harassment lawsuit, where Clinton denied having an affair with a White House intern. Sowell dismisses the entire leak investigation as a great deal of nothing, and writes that Libby’s life has been ruined so that “media liberals” can “exult… as if their conspiracy theories had been vindicated.” [National Review, 3/9/2007; National Review, 3/9/2007]
Washington Times editor Wesley Pruden calls on President Bush to immediately pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007), calling Libby’s prosecution “malicious” and Patrick Fitzgerald a “rogue prosecutor.” Bush could turn the guilty verdict “into a Democratic debacle” by “appealing successfully to the American spirit of fair play.” Pruden asserts, without evidence, that the jury has said “they had to put clothespins on their noses to return guilty verdicts.” But Bush, like other Republican presidents, lacks boldness, and makes the perpetual mistake of being too “nice” to “the enemy,” the Democrats. Once Bush explains his pardon to the American citizenry, “they would applaud settling the account,” Pruden writes. The only criminals in the entire affair are Fitzgerald and “the judges who let him get away with” prosecuting Libby. Pruden lambasts Republicans such as Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) who counsel caution about issuing a pardon. Pruden concludes, “A pardon, now, would right a grievous government wrong.” [Washington Times, 3/9/2007]
Syndicated columnist Linda Chavez extends the recent spate of conservative attacks on the integrity of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the aftermath of the Lewis Libby trial verdict (see March 6, 2007). Echoing columns by other conservative pundits and editorial boards (see March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 8-9, 2007, and March 9, 2007), Chavez accuses Fitzgerald and even “some jury members” of having inappropriate “motivations” to wreak harm on Libby’s former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney. Fitzgerald was either a deliberate or an unwitting tool of “virtually everyone on the left and much of the press” to pursue the leak of official Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status in an attempt to go after Cheney, a pursuit Chavez calls a “vendetta.” Chavez concludes: “It is clear that from the beginning, Fitzgerald’s only interest was in directly implicating the vice president in the leak. When he was unable to do so, he decided to punish Scooter Libby for protecting his boss.” [Post Chronicle, 3/11/2007] Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn joins Chavez in denouncing Fitzgerald, calling the prosecution “perverse” and a “mockery” of justice, and accusing Fitzgerald of deliberately attempting to besmirch the White House by prosecuting Libby. He concludes by saying that Fitzgerald’s conduct during the entire investigation and trial was a “disgrace.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/11/2007]
Drudge Report logo. [Source: Wikimedia (.org)]The Drudge Report, a conservative news Web site often touted as “the most successful independent news site on the Web,” vastly inflates its claims of readership, according to the Valleywag technology blog. The Drudge Report is operated by Matt Drudge and an assistant, and claims (as of February 2007) to have a readership of around 1.2 million unique visitors a month. However, Drudge and marketing research firm Comscore are apparently inflating the figure by as much as 2,000 percent. Drudge uses what Web site owners call a “meta-refresh,” which automatically “refreshes” a Web page already loaded in a user’s browser. Most sites let a user refresh the page on their own, but many news sites assume that visitors leave their sites open for hours, and have the site refresh on a periodic basis. Drudge has his site automatically refreshed 20 times an hour, or once every three minutes—a refresh rate considered quite aggressive in news site circles. Technical reporter Nick Denton writes: “What’s the effect on the site’s traffic? Each refresh counts as a new pageview, whether or not the user is watching, or the window remains visible. And there must be plenty of these inattentive readers: one site owner I know experienced a 20 percent jump in traffic after he introduced, as an experiment, an automatic refresh every half hour. Drudge loads anew every three minutes.” Denton concludes that while Drudge’s site is undoubtedly quite popular, his readership claims have been “hyped up to the point of misdirection.” [ValleyWag, 3/12/2007; FireDogLake, 3/12/2007]
A CNN/Opinion Research poll shows that almost 70 percent of Americans believe the president should not pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007). The results show that 69 percent oppose a pardon and 18 percent favor a pardon. Also, 52 percent believe that Libby’s former boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, was involved in covering up the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak. Twenty-nine percent disagree. [CNN, 3/12/2007] A poll published four days later by Gallup shows that 67 percent of those polled believe President Bush should not pardon Libby, and 21 percent believe that he should. The Gallup poll shows that 34 percent of Republicans support a pardon, along with 21 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats. [Gallup Poll News Service, 3/16/2007] Hours after the CNN poll comes out, NBC reporter and MSNBC commentator Andrea Mitchell, who was tangentially involved in the Libby case (see October 3, 2003 and February 12, 2007), tells a viewing audience: “[P]olling… indicates that most people think, in fact, that he should be pardoned. Scooter Libby should be pardoned.” [Eschaton, 3/12/2007]
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh says of liberals’ feelings about abortion: “It’s a sacrament to their religion.… Normally, people go for communion. Liberals go to the abortion clinic.” [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 58]
Valerie Plame Wilson testifies before the House Oversight Committee. [Source: Life]The House Oversight Committee holds a hearing about the ramifications of the Lewis Libby guilty verdict (see March 6, 2007) and the outing of former covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson (see July 14, 2003). Plame Wilson is the star witness, and for the first time publicly discusses the leak and her former status as a covert agent. As earlier revealed by authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris, Plame Wilson was the covert operations chief for the Joint Task Force on Iraq (JTFI), a section of the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD), which itself is part of the agency’s clandestine operations directorate. Indeed, as Libby special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has already stated, the fact of her employment with the CIA was itself classified information (see October 28, 2005). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 299; Think Progress, 3/16/2007; Nation, 3/19/2007]
Republican Attempts to Close Hearing Fail - Tom Davis (R-VA), the committee’s ranking Republican, attempts to close Plame Wilson’s testimony to the public on the grounds that her statements might threaten national security. “It would be with great reluctance, but we have to protect confidential information,” he says. Politico reporter John Bresnahan describes Davis as “clearly unhappy that the hearing is taking place at all, so his threat has to be viewed in that context.” Davis goes on to say: “We are mining something that has been thoroughly looked into. There are so many other areas where [Congressional] oversight needs to be conducted instead of the Plame thing.” The hearing will remain open to the public. [Politico, 3/14/2007]
Pre-Testimony Jitters - In her book Fair Game, Plame Wilson recalls the jitters she experiences in the hours leading up to her appearance before the committee. She had tried, in the days before the hearing, “to think of every possible question the committee could throw at me.… I had to be sharp to avoid giving any information that the CIA would deem sensitive or classified. It was a minefield.” She is relieved to learn that CIA Director Michael Hayden has met with committee staffers and, she will write, “explicitly approved the use of the term ‘covert’ in describing my cover status.” She will write that though she still cannot confirm the length of her service with the CIA, she can “at least counter those who had suggested over the last few years that I was no more than a ‘glorified secretary’” (see Fall 1985, Fall 1989, Fall 1992 - 1996, and April 2001 and After). [Wilson, 2007, pp. 299]
CIA Confirmed Plame Wilson's Covert Status - Before Plame Wilson testifies, committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) reads a statement saying that she had been a “covert” officer” who had “served at various times overseas” and “worked on the prevention of the development and use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States.” Waxman notes that the CIA had cleared this statement. And during subsequent questioning, committee member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) reports that Hayden had told him, “Ms. Wilson was covert.” [Nation, 3/16/2007; Think Progress, 3/16/2007; FireDogLake, 3/16/2007; Christy Hardin Smith, 3/16/2007]
Confirms Her Status in CPD - Plame Wilson testifies that she is still bound by secrecy oaths and cannot reveal many of the specifics of her CIA career. However, she testifies, “I served the United States of America loyally and to the best of my ability as a covert operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.” She says, “In the run-up to the war with Iraq, I worked in the Counterproliferation Division of the CIA, still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified.” She also notes that she helped to “manage and run secret worldwide operations.” Prior to the Iraq war, she testifies, she had “raced to discover intelligence” on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. “While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against this WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence.” Those trips had occurred within the last five years, she says, contradicting arguments that she had not functioned as a covert agent within the last five years and therefore those who revealed her identity could not be held legally accountable (see February 18, 2007). “Covert operations officers, when they rotate back for temporary assignment in Washington, are still covert,” she says. Furthermore, far from her identity as a CIA agent being “common knowledge on the Georgetown cocktail circuit,” as some have alleged (see September 30, 2003, July 12, 2004, and March 16, 2007), she testifies that she can “count on one hand” the number of people outside the agency who knew of her CIA status before her outing by White House officials. “But, all of my efforts on behalf of the national security of the United States, all of my training, and all of the value of my years service were abruptly ended when my name and identity were exposed irresponsibly.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 300-302; Nation, 3/16/2007; Mother Jones, 3/16/2007] During this portion of testimony, Davis repeats an assertion that neither President Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney were aware of Plame Wilson’s covert status during the time of her exposure. [FireDogLake, 3/16/2007]
'They Should Have Been Diligent in Protecting Me and Other CIA Officers' - Plame Wilson testifies that, as the Libby trial progressed, she was “shocked and dismayed by the evidence that emerged. My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA, and having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer.” Many agents in CPD are covert, she says, and thusly, officials such as Cheney and Libby, who knew she worked in that division, should have been careful in spreading information about her.
'Grave' Damage to National Security - Plame Wilson says she cannot be specific about what kind of damage was done by her identity being revealed (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); the CIA did perform a damage assessment, but did not share the results with her, and that assessment is classified (see Before September 16, 2003). “But the concept is obvious,” she says. “Not only have breaches of national security endangered CIA officers, it has jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents who in turn risked their own lives and those of their families—to provide the United States with needed intelligence. Lives are literally at stake. Every single one of my former CIA colleagues, from my fellow covert officers, to analysts, to technical operations officers, to even the secretaries, understands the vulnerability of our officers and recognizes that the travesty of what happened to me, could happen to them. We in the CIA always know that we might be exposed and threatened by foreign enemies. It was a terrible irony that administration officials were the ones who destroyed my cover… for purely political motives.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 300-302; Nation, 3/16/2007] She refuses to speculate as to the intentions of White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove in exposing her identity (see July 10, 2005). [FireDogLake, 3/16/2007]
Politicization of Intelligence Dangerous, Counterproductive - Plame Wilson decries the increasingly partisan politicization of intelligence gathering and presentation under the Bush regime, saying: “The tradecraft of intelligence is not a product of speculation. I feel passionately as an intelligence professional about the creeping, insidious politicizing of our intelligence process. All intelligence professionals are dedicated to the ideal that they would rather be fired on the spot than distort the facts to fit a political view—any political view—or any ideology.… [I]njecting partisanship or ideology into the equation makes effective and accurate intelligence that much more difficult to develop. Politics and ideology must be stripped completely from our intelligence services, or the consequences will be even more severe than they have been and our country placed in even greater danger. It is imperative for any president to be able to make decisions based on intelligence that is unbiased.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 300-302; Nation, 3/16/2007]
No Role in Deciding to Send Husband to Niger - Plame Wilson discusses the persistent rumors that she dispatched her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from that country (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Such rumors imply that Wilson was unqualified for the mission, and was sent by his wife for reasons having to do with partisan politics and nepotism (see July 9, 2004). Plame Wilson testifies that she had no authority to send her husband anywhere under CIA auspices, that it was a co-worker’s suggestion, not hers, to send her husband (see February 19, 2002, July 22, 2003, October 17, 2003, and July 20, 2005), and that her participation was limited to writing a note outlining her husband’s qualifications for such a fact-finding mission (see Fall 1999 and February 13, 2002). She testifies that a colleague had been misquoted in an earlier Senate Intelligence Committee report in saying that she proposed her husband for the trip, and that this colleague was not permitted to correct the record. [FireDogLake, 3/16/2007; Nation, 3/16/2007; Nation, 3/19/2007]
Further Investigation Warranted - After Plame Wilson concludes her testimony, Waxman declares: “We need an investigation. This is not about Scooter Libby and not just about Valerie Plame Wilson.” Journalist David Corn concurs: “Waxman was right in that the Libby trial did not answer all the questions about the leak affair, especially those about the roles of Bush administration officials other than Libby. How did Cheney learn of Valerie Wilson’s employment at the Counterproliferation Division and what did he do with that information? How did Karl Rove learn of her CIA connection? How did Rove manage to keep his job after the White House declared anyone involved in the leak would be fired?… What did Bush know about Cheney’s and Rove’s actions? What did Bush do in response to the disclosure that Rove had leaked and had falsely claimed to White House press secretary Scott McClellan that he wasn’t involved in the leak?” Republican committee members are less sanguine about the prospect of such an investigation, with Davis noting that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had already conducted an investigation of the leak. Corn writes: “Not all wrongdoing in Washington is criminal. Valerie Wilson’s presence at the hearing was a reminder that White House officials (beyond Libby) engaged in improper conduct (which possibly threatened national security) and lied about it—while their comrades in the commentariat spinned away to distort the public debate.” [Nation, 3/16/2007; Nation, 3/19/2007]
Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Joint Task Force on Iraq, David Corn, George W. Bush, Henry A. Waxman, Elijah Cummings, Valerie Plame Wilson, Counterproliferation Division, Scott McClellan, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Karl C. Rove, Tom Davis, Michael Hayden, Joseph C. Wilson, John Bresnahan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Michael Isikoff, Patrick J. Fitzgerald
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Lawyer Victoria Toensing, who, as journalist David Corn will write, has served as “a point-person for the Libby Lobby, denouncing special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the Plame leak, and deriding his indictment of… Libby” (see February 18, 2007), testifies to the House Oversight Committee about the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak. Toensing is following testimony from Plame Wilson herself (see March 16, 2007). Contradicting the former CIA agent, Toensing argues that the entire investigation was specious, that—despite all evidence to the contrary (see Fall 1985, Fall 1989, Fall 1992 - 1996, April 2001 and After, and February 18, 2007)—Plame Wilson was never a covert agent and therefore no one could have violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) in revealing her identity to the press. Toensing even testifies that conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first printed Plame Wilson’s name in his column, didn’t identify her as a covert agent, but that identification was made by Corn in his own column (see July 16, 2003). Corn will call the allegation “a canard that some Republican spinners have been peddling for years, in an attempt to get Novak off the hook while muddying the waters.” Corn will note that once Novak published Plame Wilson’s name, her “cover was destroyed; her career was ruined; her operations and contacts were imperiled to whatever degree they were imperiled.” Corn wrote two days later that her outing was “a potential violation of the law” and that Novak may have violated the IIPA. Corn noted in the article that Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson, refused to confirm or deny his wife’s CIA status. Corn’s article raised the possibility that Plame Wilson had been a covert agent, but presented it as mere speculation. He will write, “In the column, I even raised the possibility that Novak had botched the story and that ‘the White House has wrongly branded’ Valerie Wilson ‘as a CIA officer.’ Bottom line: I did not identify her as a ‘covert’ officer or any other kind of CIA official. I merely speculated she was a NOC. That speculation was based on Novak’s column. And given that Novak had already IDed her as a CIA ‘operative on weapons of mass destruction’ (which happened to be a ‘covert’ position within the agency), her cover—whether nonofficial or official—was blown to smithereens by the time I posted my article.” Corn calls Toensing’s allegation “a desperation-driven and misleading act of hairsplitting” designed to deflect responsibility away from Novak and the White House. Therefore, Corn will write, Toensing has lied to Congress. [Christy Hardin Smith, 3/16/2007; Nation, 3/19/2007]
Toensing Lies about IIPA - Corn will note that Toensing is also lying when she insists that no one ever violated “her” law, the IIPA (which Toensing helped write). In her testimony, she says that to be a covert agent under the IIPA, an agent would have to live outside the US. Corn will note that the law makes no such distinction. The two criteria for an agent to be “covert” under the IIPA are: that person’s “identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information” and that the officer has to be “serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States.” Because Plame Wilson testified earlier in the day that she indeed served overseas as a covert agent within five years of her outing by Novak, she is indeed covered by the IIPA. Corn will write: “Toensing is free to maintain that the law ought to cover only those officers residing overseas as part of a long-term foreign assignment. But that is not what the act says. By stating that the act defines a ‘covert agent’ as an officer residing abroad (as opposed to an officer who had ‘served’ overseas), Toensing misrepresented the law to members of the committee.”
Lying to Congress Is a Crime - Corn will write, “As a lawyer, Toensing is probably aware that knowingly making a false statement to a Congressional committee conducting an investigation or review is a federal crime. (See Title 18, Section 1001 of the US Code.) The punishment is a fine and/or imprisonment of up to five years. To say that I identified Valerie Wilson as a ‘covert’ officer is to make a false statement.” Committee chairman Henry Waxman is apparently unconvinced of Toensing’s honesty; when he concludes Toensing’s session, he says, “Some of the statements you’ve made without any doubt and with great authority I understand may not be accurate, so we’re going to check the information and we’re going to hold the record open to put in other things that might contradict some of what you had to say.” [Nation, 3/19/2007]
Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Henry A. Waxman, David Corn, Bush administration (43), House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Joseph C. Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Victoria Toensing, Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh tells his audience why he believes Democrats support affirmative action, the set of legal guidelines that mandate equitable hiring practives on the basis of race. “I made this point in the early eighties, mid-eighties when this all started,” he says. “Affirmative action is about making sure that the race wars never end.” Authors Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, in their book Echo Chamber, will note that Limbaugh’s audience, like those of most conservative pundits and talk shows, is overwhelmingly white. [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 102]
Rear Admiral Frank Thorp, who falsely told reporters that captured Private Jessica Lynch “fired her weapon” at her captors “until she had no more ammunition” in initial military press briefings (see April 3, 2003), discusses his misleading statements with staffers of the House Oversight Committee, which is investigating the possibility that the US military used the Lynch story as propaganda (see April 24, 2007). Thorp, who was later promoted and became the chief public relations officer for then-Joint Chief Chairman Richard Myers, writes: “As I recall, this was a short interview and media desperately wanted me to confirm the story that was running in the States.… I never said that I had seen any intel or even intimated the same.… I may have said I am familiar with ‘the reports’ meaning the press reports, but as you can see I did not confirm them.… We did have reports of a battle and that a firefight had occurred.… That is what I stated.” Thorp says he does not recall ever seeing any classified battlefield intelligence reports concerning Lynch, and says he does not now remember if his remarks were based on such reports. When asked if he knew at the time that Lynch had, in fact, not gotten off a shot at her attackers, Thorp replies, “I would absolutely never, ever, ever, ever say anything that I knew to not be true.” At the time of the Lynch rescue, the chief public affairs official for CENTCOM briefings was Jim Wilkinson, the director of strategic communications for CENTCOM commander, General Tommy Franks. Wilkinson tells the committee that he was not a source for the media reporting concerning Lynch, and that he didn’t know any details of her capture and rescue: “I still, to this day, don’t know if those details are right or wrong. I just don’t know. I don’t remember seeing any operational report.” Thorp and Wilkinson claim not to know who provided such misleading information to reporters. And neither can explain why initial reports were relatively accurate (see March 23, 2003) but subsequent reports were so suddenly, and so luridly, inaccurate. [Editor & Publisher, 7/14/2008]
Conservative radio host Glenn Beck tells his listeners that because he is American, white, Christian, and conservative, he “can’t win.” “Conservatives get no respect,” he says, and adds: “[I]f you are a white human that loves America and happens to be a Christian, forget about it, Jack. You are the only one that doesn’t have a political action committee for you.… I mean, I was talking about it with my family yesterday. I said, ‘I’m tired of being the least popular person in the world.‘… We’re Americans. Nobody likes Americans. We’re Americans, so the world hates us. But then inside of America, we love America—and that’s becoming more and more unpopular.” Being a Christian “is not popular anymore,” he claims, and says: “I’ve got to find one thing that I agree with the rest of the world on, I guess. I’m tired of being in that group.” For all of Beck’s claims of being unpopular because of his heritage, his faith, and his race, he hosts a daily radio show, an evening program on CNN Headline News, and serves as a commentator on ABC’s Good Morning America. [Media Matters, 4/2/2007]
Jack Kemp. [Source: Los Angeles Times]Former representative and Republican vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp (R-NY) recommends that President Bush pardon convicted felon Lewis Libby (see March 6, 2007). Kemp’s column, printed in the conservative Web publication Town Hall, is not as vociferous in its condemnation of the Libby perjury trial and special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald as some published by his conservative colleagues (see March 6, 2007, March 6, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 7, 2007, March 8-9, 2007, March 9, 2007, and March 11, 2007). Kemp begins his column by telling his readers that two jurors in the trial, Ann Redington and Denis Collins, have “endors[ed] a pardon,” quoting Redington from her interview on MSNBC’s Hardball (see March 8, 2007) and Collins from a column by the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd (Collins’s “endorsement” was a tepid “I would really not care” when asked if he would support a pardon for Libby—see March 8, 2007). Kemp writes of a pardon, “It’s the right thing to do and it’s the right thing to do now—anything less makes a travesty of our system of justice.” Kemp echoes his colleagues’ arguments that Fitzgerald prosecuted Libby for political reasons, particularly in an attempt to target Vice President Dick Cheney. He then notes that two previous presidents, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have pardoned government officials who were targeted by special prosecutors—Bush in his pardon of convicted Iran-Contra conspirator Caspar Weinberger (see December 25, 1992) and Clinton’s pre-emptive pardon of then-CIA Director John Deutch, who was under investigation for mishandling classified information on his home computer. Weinberger was facing the possibility of years of jail time; Deutch was negotiating with prosecutors for a guilty plea to a single misdemeanor charge. Kemp repeats debunked charges that the CIA did not treat Valerie Plame Wilson’s status as either classified or particularly sensitive (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, September 6, 2006, and March 16, 2007) and also repeats his colleagues’ charges that the government’s witnesses had no better memories of key events than did Libby. Kemp concludes: “Most prosecutors would walk away from such a case—a case based on a faulty premise and focused on faulty memories months after the fact. President Bush would be well within presidential authority and past presidential practice if he were to rectify this travesty in the near future. My hope is he pardons Libby now!” [Town Hall (.com), 4/3/2007]
Entity Tags: John Deutch, Caspar Weinberger, Ann Redington, Denis Collins, Jack Kemp, Maureen Dowd, George W. Bush, Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Don Imus. [Source: New York Post]CBS fires radio host Don Imus over Imus’s racially inflammatory characterization of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as a group of “nappy-headed hos” (whores). On April 4, 2007, Imus called the Rutgers team, which has eight African-American and two white players, “nappy-headed hos” immediately after the show’s executive producer, Bernard McGuirk, called the team “hard-core hos.” McGuirk also said the NCAA championship game between Rutgers and Tennessee was a “Spike Lee thing” between “the Jigaboos [and] the Wannabees,” referencing the 1988 Lee film School Daze, which depicted a rivalry on an all-black college campus between the darker-skinned “Jigaboos” and the lighter-skinned “Wannabees.” CBS president Leslie Moonves says in a statement, “There has been much discussion of the effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society.” Civil rights and women’s rights groups around the country have called on CBS to fire Imus from its radio programming for almost two years. Marc Morial of the National Urban League recently said, “It’s important that we stand with the women of Rutgers who are deeply hurt by the highly insensitive comments of Don Imus.” Imus is a prominent, conservative-libertarian radio host who was recently named one of the 25 Most Influential People in America, and is a member of the National Broadcaster Hall of Fame. Last week, MSNBC dropped its simulcast of Imus’s program after Imus insulted the Rutgers athletes. Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, who along with the Reverend Al Sharpton met with Moonves over the controversy, says Imus’s firing is “a victory for public decency. No one should use the public airwaves to transmit racial or sexual degradation.” Sharpton adds: “He says he wants to be forgiven. I hope he continues in that process. But we cannot afford a precedent established that the airways can commercialize and mainstream sexism and racism.… It’s not about taking Imus down. It’s about lifting decency up.” Imus has apologized for his words and called his comments “really stupid.” Imus asked for the opportunity to apologize to the Rutgers athletes in person; though the meeting took place on April 12 with the blessing of coach C. Vivien Stringer, it was not enough to save Imus’s position. [Media Matters, 4/4/2007; New York Daily News, 4/13/2007; CBS News, 2/11/2009]
Jessica Lynch testifies before the House Oversight Committee. [Source: Shawn Thew / epa / Corbis]The House Oversight Committee holds a hearing focusing on misleading and false information provided to the press following the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, and the capture and rescue of Army Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq (see March 23, 2003, April 1, 2003, and June 17, 2003).The committee focuses on how and why misinformation on the two incidents was disseminated, by whom, and if anyone in the Bush administration has been, or will be, held accountable. Lynch testifies that she is there to address “misinformation from the battlefield,” and notes, “Quite frankly, it is something that I have been doing since I returned from Iraq.” Lynch says that while she was being transported out of Iraq to a hospital in Germany: “tales of great heroism were being told. My parent’s home in Wirt County was under siege of the media all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting. It was not true. I have repeatedly said, when asked, that if the stories about me helped inspire our troops and rally a nation, then perhaps there was some good. However, I am still confused as to why they chose to lie and tried to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary. People like Lori Piestewa and First Sergeant Dowdy who picked up fellow soldiers in harms way. Or people like Patrick Miller and Sergeant Donald Walters who actually fought until the very end. The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals for heroes and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales.” She concludes: “I had the good fortune and opportunity to come home and I told the truth. Many other soldiers, like Pat Tillman, do not have the opportunity. The truth of war is not always easy to hear but it is always more heroic than the hype.” [House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 4/27/2007; House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 4/27/2007 ]
Tim Russert. [Source: Huffington Post]NBC political analyst and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert is interviewed by PBS’s Bill Moyers about the apparent self-censorship and cooperation of the news media with the Bush administration after 9/11 (see February 25, 2003, September 10, 2003, April 25, 2007, and April 25, 2007). Russert says that he realizes top-level government officials are usually not the best sources of objective information (see April 25, 2007). “Look, I’m a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work ‘em very hard. It’s the mid-level people that tell you the truth.… [T]hey’re working on the problem. And they understand the detail much better than a lotta the so-called policy makers and political officials.” Moyers responds, “But they don’t get on the Sunday talk shows” (such as Russert’s “Meet the Press”). Russert answers, “No. I mean, they don’t want to be, trust me. I mean, they can lose their jobs, and they know it. But they can provide information which can help in me challenging or trying to draw out sometimes their bosses and other public officials.” Moyers asks, “What do you make of the fact that of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news, from September 2002 until February 2003, almost all the stories could be traced back to sources from the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department?” Russert’s answer is much less direct: “It’s important that you have an opposition party. That’s our system of government.” Moyers presses, “So, it’s not news unless there’s somebody…” and Russert interjects, “No, no, no. I didn’t say that. But it’s important to have an opposition party, your opposing views.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Phil Donahue. [Source: Museum of Broadcast History]Former MSNBC talk show host Phil Donahue, whose show was cancelled less than a month before the Iraq invasion because network executives feared he was “too liberal” for its viewers (see February 25, 2003), reflects on his show’s cancellation in an interview with PBS’s Bill Moyers. “[I] just felt, you know, what would be wrong with having one show a night, you know, say, ‘Hold it. Wait a minute. Can we afford this? Do we have enough troops? And what about General Shinseki (see February 25, 2003)? And where are all—you know, what is Guantanamo?’ I mean, ‘What’s wrong with this?’ I thought people who didn’t like my message would watch me. Because no one else was doing it. That’s why, I couldn’t get over the unanimity of opinion on cable. The drum was beating. Everybody wanted to bomb somebody. And I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute.’ So here I go, I mean fool that I am, I rushed in.” Donahue recalls the strict ground rules that he worked under: “You could have the supporters of the president alone. And they would say why this war is important. You couldn’t have a dissenter alone. Our producers were instructed to feature two conservatives for every liberal.” Moyers says, “You’re kidding.” Donahue replies: “No, this is absolutely true… I was counted as two liberals.… I had to have two… there’s just a terrible fear. And I think that’s the right word.” Moyers recalls the words of Erik Sorenson, then the president of MSNBC, who said, “Any misstep and you can get into trouble with these guys and have the patriotism police hunt you down.” Donahue agrees: “He’s the management guy. So his phone would ring. Nobody’s going to call Donahue and tell him to shut up and support the war. Nobody’s that foolish. It’s a lot more subtle than that.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Peter Beinert. [Source: ViewImages.com]New Republic editor Peter Beinert, described by PBS host Bill Moyers as a “liberal hawk,” recalls his experience as one of the television news shows’ “hottest young pundits” in the months before the war. Beinert accused opponents of the war of being “intellectually incoherent,” and echoed administration talking points about Iraqi nuclear weapons. In an interview, Moyers asks Beinert, “Had you been to Iraq?” Beinert answers, “No,” and Moyers asks, “So what made you present yourself, if you did, as a Middle East expert?” Beinert responds: “I don’t think that I presented myself as a Middle East expert per se. I was a political journalist. I was a columnist writing about all kinds of things. Someone in my position is not a Middle East expert in the way that somebody who studies this at a university is, or even at a think tank. But I consumed that stuff. I was relying on people who did that kind of reporting and people who had been in the government who had access to classified material for their assessment.” Beinert confirms that most of his information came from government and government-associated sources, and from other reporters and columnists, and almost by necessity, his commentary was much more reflective of government and pro-war viewpoints than it should have been: “Where I think I was tragically wrong was not to see in February, March 2003 after we got the inspectors back in on the ground and we began to learn much more about what had been going on in Iraq than we had known in 2002 when we had no one on the ground that that assumption was being proven wrong.… I think the war has been a tragic disaster. I mean, the Americans killed, the Iraqis killed. It’s true, life under Saddam was hell. But can one really say that life for Iraqis is better today?” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
In a PBS interview conducted by Bill Moyers, former CBS news anchor Dan Rather discusses how he and other journalists had difficulty separating their emotion and patriotism from their news coverage after the 9/11 attacks. Moyers plays some clips of Rather in the days after the attacks, including the now-famous declaration, “George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions and you know, as just one American wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where” (see September 17-22, 2001 and April 14, 2003), and then says, “What I was wrestling with that night listening to you is: once we let our emotions out as journalists on the air, once we say, ‘We’ll line up with the president,’ can we ever really say to the country, ‘The president’s out of line’?” Rather replies: “Of course you can. No journalist should try to be a robot and say, ‘They’ve attacked my country, they’ve killed thousands of people but I don’t feel it.’ But what you can do and what should have been done in the wake of that is suck it up and say, okay, that’s the way I feel. That’s the way I feel as a citizen, and I can serve my country best by being the best journalist I can be. That’s the way I can be patriotic. By the way, Bill, this is not an excuse. I don’t think there is any excuse for, you know, my performance and the performance of the press in general in the roll up to the war. There were exceptions. There were some people, who, I think, did a better job than others. But overall and in the main, there’s no question that we didn’t do a good job.… We weren’t smart enough, we weren’t alert enough, we didn’t dig enough, and, we shouldn’t have been fooled in this way.”
'Lazy' Networks Relied on Analysts Rather than Investigations - Rather adds that his and every other network became lazy in just calling on so-called “experts” as pundits and commentators, without caring that their experts made up a cadre of pro-war, pro-administration shills. Moyers plays a quote from former CNN news chief Walter Isaacson, who said: “One of the great pressures we’re facing in journalism now is it’s a lot cheaper to hire thumb suckers and pundits and have talk shows on the air than actually have bureaus and reporters. And in the age of the Internet when everybody’s a pundit, we’re still gonna need somebody there to go talk to the colonels, to be on the ground in Baghdad and stuff and that’s very expensive.” Rather says: “Reporting is hard. The substitute for reporting far too often has become let’s just ring up an expert. Let’s see. These are experts on international armaments. And I’ll just go down the list here and check [neoconservative administration adviser] Richard Perle.… This is journalism on the cheap if it’s journalism at all. Just pick up the phone, call an expert, bring an expert into the studio. Easy. Not time consuming. Doesn’t take resources. And if you’re lucky and good with your list of people, you get an articulate person who will kind of spark up the broadcast.”
Rather, Others 'Just Blew with the Wind,' Says Author - Author and media commentator Norman Solomon says: “I think these [network] executives were terrified of being called soft on terrorism. They absolutely knew that the winds were blowing at hurricane force politically and socially in the United States. And rather than stand up for journalism, they just blew with the wind. And Dan Rather and others who say, yeah, you know. I was carried away back then. Well, sure. That’s when it matters. When it matters most is when you can make a difference as a journalist.” Rather seems to agree. “Fear is in every newsroom in the country,” he says. “And fear of what? Well, it’s the fear it’s a combination of: if you don’t go along to get along, you’re going to get the reputation of being a troublemaker. There’s also the fear that, you know, particularly in networks, they’ve become huge, international conglomerates. They have big needs, legislative needs, repertory needs in Washington. Nobody has to send you a memo to tell you that that’s the case. You know. And that puts a seed in your mind; of well, if you stick your neck out, if you take the risk of going against the grain with your reporting, is anybody going to back you up?” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Bob Simon. [Source: CBS News]Veteran CBS war correspondent Bob Simon discusses the media’s enthusiasm for a war with Iraq before the March 2003 invasion, and its credulity, with PBS host Bill Moyers. [PBS, 4/25/2007] CBS News describes Simon as “the most honored journalist in international reporting.” A regular contributor to CBS’s flagship news program 60 Minutes, Simon has won 18 Emmy awards and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy in September 2003. [CBS News, 6/8/2007] He did one of the first broadcast news examinations of the Bush administration’s propaganda efforts to sell the war with Iraq to the American public. [CBS News, 12/6/2002] Simon says that foreign journalists had a perspective that Washington-based journalists did not. “From overseas we had a clearer view,” he explains. “I mean we knew things or suspected things that perhaps the Washington press corps could not suspect. For example, the absurdity of putting up a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.” Moyers asks: “Absurdity. The Washington press corps cannot question an absurdity?” Simon replies: “Well, maybe the Washington press corps based inside the belt wasn’t as aware as those of us who are based in the Middle East and who spend a lot of time in Iraq. I mean when the Washington press corps travels, it travels with the president or with the secretary of state… [i]n a bubble. Where as we who’ve spent weeks just walking the streets of Baghdad and in other situations in Baghdad just were scratching our heads. In ways that perhaps that the Washington press corps could not.” Simon and his camera crew had been captured and brutalized by Hussein’s forces for 40 days during the 1991 Gulf War, and, Moyers notes, Simon “was under no illusions about Saddam Hussein.… It didn’t make sense to Simon that the dictator would trust Islamic terrorists.” Simon explains his reasoning: “Saddam as most tyrants, was a total control freak. He wanted total control of his regime. Total control of the country. And to introduce a wild card like al-Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do. So I just didn’t believe it for an instant.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
CNN’s Walter Isaacson recalls the mindset in much of the media during the months preceding the Iraq invasion. In an interview with PBS’s Bill Moyers, Isaacson notes that there was a great deal of censorship in the media, both self-imposed and from corporate executives reaching down into the newsrooms. Stories critical of the Bush administration or the war were not well tolerated, Isaacson recalls. “[T]here was even almost a patriotism police… sort of picking anything a [CNN international reporter] Christiane Amanpour (see September 10, 2003) or somebody else would say as if it were disloyal. There was a real sense that you don’t get that critical of a government that’s leading us in wartime… big people in corporations were calling us saying, ‘You’re being anti-American here.’” The compliant Isaacson sent his staff a memo reminding them not to focus on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, saying it seemed “perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan.” He also ordered his reporters to “balance” stories on civilian casualties with reminders of the 9/11 attacks. Isaacson recalls, “I felt if we put into context, we could alleviate the pressure of people saying, ‘Don’t even show what’s happening in Afghanistan.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 254; PBS, 4/25/2007]
Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel. [Source: PBS]John Walcott, the bureau chief of Knight Ridder Newspapers (now McClatchy), recalls that he and his colleagues did not believe the Bush administration’s assertions of the connections between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. “It was not clear to us why anyone was asking questions about Iraq in the wake of an attack that had al-Qaeda written all over it,” he recalls. He assigned his two top foreign affairs and national security reporters, Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay, veterans with more than 40 years’ experience between them, to investigate the claims. Strobel recalls, “We were basically, I think, hearing two different messages from—there’s a message, the public message the administration was giving out about Iraq—it’s WMD, the fact there was an immediate threat, grave threat, gathering threat—but that was so different from what we were hearing from people on the inside, people we had known in many cases for years and trusted.” Strobel and Landay learned from reliable sources inside the US intelligence community that few outside the White House believed the assertions of an Iraq-9/11 connection. “When you’re talking to the working grunts, you know, uniform military officers, intelligence professionals, professional diplomats, those people are more likely than not—not always, of course, but more likely than not—to tell you some version of the truth, and to be knowledgeable about what they’re talking about when it comes to terrorism or the Middle East, things like that,” says Strobel. He and Landay wrote numerous articles detailing the skepticism about the administration’s claims, but, in many cases, editors chose not to use their work. “There was a lot of skepticism among our editors because what we were writing was so at odds with what most of the rest of the Washington press corps was reporting and some of our papers frankly, just didn’t run the stories,” Strobel says. “They had access to the New York Times wire and the Washington Post wire and they chose those stories instead.” Walcott explains his own rationale: “A decision to go to war, even against an eighth-rate power such as Iraq, is the most serious decision that a government can ever make. And it deserves the most serious kind of scrutiny that we in the media can give it. Is this really necessary? Is it necessary to send our young men and women to go kill somebody else’s young men and women?”
Outside the Beltway - Knight Ridder did not have newspapers in either Washington or New York City, and therefore was viewed by many insiders as “out of the loop.” Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus says: “The administration can withstand the Knight Ridder critique because it wasn’t reverberating inside Washington. And therefore people weren’t picking it up.” Walcott describes Knight Ridder as “under the radar most of the time.… We were not a company that, I think, Karl Rove and others cared deeply about, even though in terms of readers, we’re much bigger than the New York Times and the Washington Post. We’re less influential. There’s no way around that.” Strobel half-humorously asks: “How many times did I get invited on the talk show? How many times did you [Landay] get invited on a talk show?” Landay replies: “You know what? I’ll tell you who invited me on a talk show. C-SPAN.”
Self-Doubts - Strobel says of that time period: “But there was a period when we were sittin’ out there and I had a lot of late night gut checks where I was just like, ‘Are we totally off on some loop here?‘… ‘Are we wrong? Are we gonna be embarrassed?’” Landay adds, “Everyday we would look at each other and say—literally one of us would find something out—and I’d look at him and say, ‘What’s going on here?’” Media analyst Eric Boehlert says: “But I think it’s telling that they didn’t really operate by that beltway game the way the networks, the cable channels, Newsweek, Time, New York Times, Washington Post. They seem to sort of operate outside that bubble. And look at what the benefits were when they operated outside that bubble. They actually got the story right. What’s important is it’s proof positive that that story was there. And it could have been gotten. And some people did get it. But the vast majority chose to ignore or not even try.” Former CNN news chief Walter Isaacson confirms the solid reporting of Strobel and Landay: “The people at Knight Ridder were calling the colonels and the lieutenants and the people in the CIA and finding out, ya know, that intelligence is not very good. We should’ve all been doing that.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Entity Tags: Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Walter Isaacson, Warren Strobel, Newsweek, Eric Boehlert, John Walcott, C-SPAN, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), Jonathan Landay, Karl C. Rove, New York Times, Time magazine, Knight Ridder Newspapers
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
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