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In today’s Washington Post ombudsman column, “Covert Question, Open Controversy,” Deborah Howell says, “Wilson's New York Times op-ed piece, critical of the Bush administration's use of intelligence, set off a chain of events that led to the disclosure of Plame's job.”
But information and testimony revealed during the course of the Libby Trial indicates that it wasn't Wilson's op-ed piece that set the off the chain of events leading to their disclosure of the CIA WMD analyst and her covert network. The Bush administration began its campaign to discredit Valerie Plame/Wilson at least a month prior to the release of her husband's article.
I can’t criticize Howell for her focus on the op-ed as the ball that got the campaign rolling. I, and most of the media, having been basically taking the same line in previous postings on this topic. Most of the writers on the CIA leak have been doing the same. Joseph Wilson’s book, The Politics of Truth: A Diplomat's Memoir: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity, takes the same tack: that the outing of CIA analyst Valerie Plame, Wilson’s wife, was retaliation for Wilson’s July 6, 2003, op-ed column, “What I Didn’t Find in Africa.”
But when Wilson wrote his book, he did not have access to behind-the-scenes discussions about his wife now revealed through the perjury and obstruction trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff. Retaliation there was, in spades, but testimony and documents in the Libby trial demonstrate, unrefuted, that administration discussion of Mrs. Wilson began several weeks before Wilson’s column appeared.
The reasons why are still unclear, and the prosecution was not permitted to delve into ramifications of the leak. But that the administration was already targeting both Wilson and his wife, Valerie --- overseeing a crucial intelligence network monitoring WMD activity in the middle east --- is now beyond question.
So why, beyond Wilson's op-ed, was the Bush Administration previously so intent on discrediting one of its own CIA assets?...
Conventional wisdom is that when a jury spends much time deliberating, it will find a defendant not guilty. After two and a half days deliberating, the jury in the Libby trial went home today for the weekend.
So the rightwing noise machine thinks it smells blood and is starting some early gloating. Here, for example, is Rush Limbaugh --- premature but already tasteless: “So Fitzpatrick is sweating it out. Fitzrussert sweating it out. Fitzmatthews is sweating it out. Nobody knows what it means that the jury has yet to come back. Fitzsulzberger at the New York Times is probably sweating this out just a little bit.”
I don’t have time to rebut the kind of dishonesty that would connect the excellent and dedicated Special Prosecutor in the Libby trial, Patrick Fitzgerald, with NBC and the New York Times. I heard closing arguments in the trial last Tuesday and have not changed my own opinion that the prosecution rebuttal by Fitzgerald was awesome. Phenomenal. ...
At this writing, the jury is out in the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of I. Lewis Libby, former chief of staff for Vice President Cheney. When I left the courthouse this afternoon, Judge Reggie Walton was attending a memorial service, with the jury still deliberating for the second day.
I can make no prediction as to the trial outcome. However, in the interim some media outlets are pushing or falling into an insidious line that the Libby case is either too difficult and obscure to understand, or too trivial to bother with. Setting aside the allegations against Libby individually, this line is dangerous, partly because it is so blatantly the reverse of accurate. The CIA leak matter itself is actually very simple.
What the Libby case is about...
One of the pettiest distortions connected with the CIA leak matter is simple: the flat-footed, bogus claim that Ambassador Joseph Wilson said he was ‘sent’ to Africa by Vice President Cheney.
Wilson did not make the assertion, but White House operatives and their media/think-tank allies continue, even today, to forward the fiction that he did.
This claim – that Wilson went around saying Cheney sent him to Niger – has been recycled by the rightwing echo chamber every time the radar screens registered some political fallout from the CIA leak case (many examples shown below). It has also arisen during testimony in the Libby trial.
However, the MSM (except Fox) have not parroted the same claim – with the interesting exception of NBC, mainly Chris Matthews.
Regrettably, this bogus claim is again given space in Sunday's Washington Post, in an article by the hard Bush partisan and former Reagan Justice Department attorney, Victoria Toensing, called “Trial in Error.”
Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer
Stereograms are 3D, optical illusions contained within two-dimensional images that were popularized in the '90s by the Magic Eye book and poster phenomenon. Here and here are two examples. Stereograms are very frustrating not only because of the difficulty involved in finding hidden 3D images, but also for how simple and obvious images appear once discovered.
"The Long War (PDF)" by Kenneth Anderson in the just released March/April The Humanist is similar to a stereogram in that after reading it, the seemingly complicated reasons for invading Iraq appear simple and obvious. For instance, once you suppose that the real reason for the Iraq invasion was OIL as Anderson does, you are free to view the White House justifications for war in their totality, which is revealing:
So why was the administration hell bent on immediate military action? "The oil law," which most media outlets have avoided much as they have avoided the 14 permanent American military bases built near Iraqi oil fields, might have something to do with it:
PER DAY! Why that's almost enough money to justify "the surge":
Are you starting to get the picture? To get the complete picture you'll have to stare at the stereogram for a few minutes by reading "The Long War (PDF)" .
Oh, the indescribable irony continues.
Former-hooker-turned-fake-journalist James "Jeff Gannon" Guckert responded (sort of) to a recent BRAD BLOG article referencing his White House "correspondent" fakery, as filed by our special Libby/CIA Leak Trial correspondent Margie Burns.
We failed to notice the response/obfuscation on his little blog when it was originally published since, frankly, the traffic from "Gannon's" site didn't trigger high enough numbers for us to take note of it in our "incoming traffic" hit-counter.
While we hate to draw any more attention to the silly, disgraced GOP operative, his presence in the White House briefing room --- dropping phony Administration talking points (or perhaps more precisely, Office of the Vice-President) during the early days of the CIA Leak revelations --- deserves notice and further investigation, in our opinion.
Also of note is the subsequent scrubbing of White House website documents referring to "Gannon's" questions at the time. That matter was also recently reported by Burns, and seems to be in apparent violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978.
Anyway, we'll make "Jeff's" day and send him a bit of traffic today by quoting the lead of his blog item, in which he knocks the irony meter off the chart by calling Joe Wilson a "proven liar," and even goes so far as to write (apparently with a straight face): "The search for truth is not a smear campaign, it is the essence of journalism."
Fifteen more minutes, then, for silly "Jeff":
The Old Media is breathlessly reporting on the tapes of Scooter Libby's Grand Jury testimony in the Valerie Plame Affair. The reporters/DNC operatives are certain that Libby lied, probably to protect Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, George Bush, et al. The question I still ask is: Lied about what? That loudmouth Joe Wilson's third-rate, desk-jockey analyst wife worked at the CIA? Why lie about that and so what if he did? The only proven liar in the entire saga thus far is JOE WILSON.
A Hard Left blogger is claiming that I led the "White House attacks on Joe Wilson." That accusation is UNEQUIVOCALLY FALSE.
You'll have to read the rest of his piece to see how Republi-journaloid "Gannon" doesn't actually bother to offer any actual "proof" for his case that Wilson is a "proven liar." But in "Jeff's" imaginary Fox "News"-based world, we suspect that simply saying something out loud --- like "we know for a fact that Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons" or "the insurgency is in its last throes" --- is "proof" enough for him and the other Bush dead-enders still left out there.
Two major items from the trial on perjury and obstruction charges of I. Lewis Libby, former Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney, yesterday, as I heard in the courtroom: one was that Libby would not be taking the stand in his own defense, and Cheney would not testify on his behalf, “after all.” The other was that one defense attorney used a substantial chunk of testimony to plug war with Iran.
Predictably, the first item got more media attention. But the second one is more dangerous.
Sitting in on the trial every other day, I have never thought Libby likely to testify in his own defense...
As the congressional report released in 2004 (referenced in previous blog) makes clear, if U.S. intelligence agencies were unable to connect Iraq to weapons of mass destruction before the war, it was not for lack of trying.
From May 2002 to September 2002, five documents were produced by the intelligence community pertaining to Iraq WMDs. A CIA briefing book prepared on May 10, a Department of Energy (DOE) intelligence report on July 22, and a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) intelligence assessment in September all mentioned the Niger uranium issue, although the DOE report included caveats. The US embassy in Niger cabled on June 24, 2002, about an IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) agreement safeguarding Niger uranium. A CIA paper was published on August 1, 2002, titled ‘Iraq’s Reemerging Nuclear Program,’ but did not mention Niger uranium. (48)
As noted in the previous blog on this topic, investigation had ruled out any threat from Niger uranium in regard to Iraq. Evidently these efforts were not good enough. In September and October 2002, according to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report, the White House contacted the intelligence community at least five times to clear language regarding alleged Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium. On September 11, 2002 – the first anniversary of 9/11 --- the NSC asked the CIA to clear uranium language for inclusion in a possible statement by Bush...
When the full history of bogus WMD propaganda is written, a few individuals and agencies in our government will stand out for having tried to be rational voices during the administration’s juggernaut PR campaign to invade Iraq. Among these is the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) in the State Department.
The whole Niger story, that Iraq tried to buy tons of unenriched uranium, called yellowcake, from the African nation of Niger, displays the chasm between genuine analysts on one side and weird administration war boosters on the other. This story, which birthed the famous 16 words in a State of the Union speech, led to former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger, his subsequent criticisms of the administration, pundit Robert Novak’s outing Wilson’s wife as a CIA operative, at least two investigations into the leak --- with Novak and George W. Bush among those hiring attorneys – and the current trial of Lewis Libby, Vice President’s former Chief of Staff.
The Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq is 521 pages online (http://intelligence.senate.gov/iraqreport2.pdf; link down). Part II, on Niger, is pages 36-83. Numbers in parentheses, below, are the pages cited.
“Reporting on a possible yellowcake sales agreement between Niger and Iraq first came to the attention of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) on October 15, 2001,” when the CIA Directorate of Operations (DO) passed along a report from a “foreign government service indicating that Niger planned to ship several tons of uranium to Iraq.” At the time, all IC analysts regarded this forwarded cable to be limited and lacking in detail. The CIA, DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and Department of Energy (DOE) called it “possible.” The State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) regarded it as “highly suspect.” (36) The INR turned out to be right...
Just prior to the 2004 elections, The BRAD BLOG revealed a number of embarrassing White House moments that had been scrubbed --- in violation of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 --- from their website. Eventually, in the weeks just prior to the election, and after WaPo, AFP and other wire services picked up the story which broke here, they were forced to restore all of that information to the website. (Highlights from that series of reports here.)
Now it looks like they may be at it again.
Two years ago, I posted a piece at another web site on “Go ahead, Jeff,” i.e. Jeff Gannon, actually named James Guckert, at White House press briefings. The White House web site has a search function of sorts, usable given the exact name or phrase as a keyword. My search term in February 2005 was Scott McClellan’s phrase “go ahead, Jeff,” meaning – as Jeff’s sympathetic questions made amply clear – that McClellan was calling on mysterious White-House-press-pass person Guckert/Gannon, whose exact activities in the White House have yet to be clarified. I have tried to phone Mr. Guckert but probably have not gotten through.
The precise dates of those press briefings at which Mr. Gannon/Guckert had been explicitly called on, found at that time, were November 17, 2004; December 10, 13, 17 and 21, 2004; and January 10 and 25, 2005.
Now, belatedly running the same search this morning, I found further briefings with equally revealing questions posed by Mr. Gannon. However, the previous references to Gannon/Guckert appear to have been scrubbed...
What did we learn from Tim Russert today, children?
Well, for one thing, we learned that Mr. Russert was interviewed – apparently willingly --- by the FBI about the CIA leak matter back in November, 2003. Under cross-examination by Libby defense attorney Theodore Wells, Russert disclosed that he had been questioned by FBI Special Agent Eckenrode, formerly the case agent for the Plame matter. Russert said that Eckenrode was the one who informed Russert that Libby had said he (Russert) was his (Libby’s) source on the item that Mrs. Wilson, wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson, worked in the CIA. “Mr. Eckenrode shared with me what Mr. Libby had said.”
Russert is on record as testifying firmly and clearly that he did not tell Libby about Mrs. Wilson; he was not Libby’s source. Though he would do well to be equally clear and direct about everything concerning his involvement in the matter...
Guest Blogged by Alan Breslauer
Edited down Fox News special, "Radical Islam: Terror In Its Own Words", to show only the comments of host, and mother of eight, E.D. Hill.
Blogged by Brad Friedman from Phoenix, AZ...
In a conference call with several bloggers concluded moments ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) had a number of harsh words concerning today's procedural bickering and fillibustering by Republicans in the Senate, which stifled both votes on his own legislation to end the Iraq War as well as amendments offered by other lawmakers to several non-binding resolutions that also failed to come to the floor for a full vote.
Feingold's remarks were highly critical not just of the Republicans, but even moreso of his own Democratic caucus colleagues, "Washington insider consultants," and even former Senatorial colleague-turned-presidential candidate John Edwards, for failing to take a tough stand to end the war in Iraq.
In a passionate, thirty-minute call, Feingold stressed, "This is an important moment to see if we're gonna try and end this war. Frankly, I'm disappointed that Democrats are playing it safe on this one."
"We need to play hardball on this. We're gonna have to take the lead on this issue and we're gonna need to tie this place up as long as it takes," he said in describing what he sees as a fear and timidity in his colleagues who now hold a slight majority in the Senate...
Yesterday, we looked at faux-journalist "Jeff Gannon's" assiduous work at planting administration propaganda during White House press briefings. His "questioning" of then-Press Secretary Scott McClellan seems to have been focused quite specifically on the story line --- which we now know to be wholly false --- as being propagated by Office of the Vice President. In retrospect, it leads one to wonder just what Gannon's relationship to the OVP might have been.
On the other side of the coin, the real journalist, Helen Thomas, seemed to be cutting quite close to the bone when she opened the White House press briefing with questions about the CIA leak on Monday, September 29, 2003. An unnamed "senior administration offical" in the WashPost the day before had said that two administration officials had mentioned Mrs. Wilson’s CIA link with at least six Washington journalists, and shouldn’t have done so.
After – or during – this press briefing, things started happening even faster; the DOJ requested the FBI to investigate the leak, Bob Novak made a defensive television appearance on Crossfire, and DOJ notified the CIA that its Counterespionage division had also requested an investigation.
The briefing itself shows White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan aggressively trying to evade even a direct denial that the White House was involved, though he opened with the now-quite-dubious "The President expects everyone in his administration to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. No one would be authorized to do such a thing."
Here's how Thomas's line of inquiry began and continued that morning...
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