A startling detail emerged from testimony Wednesday in U.S. v. Libby: the CIA briefer for Vice President Richard Cheney and Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, kept each Table of Contents from his briefing binders when he sent the contents of the binders to shredder and burn bag. CIA manager Craig Schmall testified, matter-of-factly, in response to defense attorney questioning about those informative subject headings: “They still exist.”
Schmall’s cross-examination by Libby’s attorneys corroborates that the CIA morning briefing covered dozens of topics each day deemed important to U.S. security. Twenty-seven topics from a single day mentioned by Libby’s lawyer included terrorist strikes and threats, any actions deemed worthy of attention by foreign governments or other entities, and any significant actions by North Korea, Iran, and Iraq.
Schmall, as noted in a previous post, was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby’s morning intelligence briefer six days a week from summer 2002 through fall 2003 and served Vice President Cheney as intelligence briefer to the end of May 2004. In winter 2002-2003, he briefed both Libby and Cheney on Mondays and Tuesdays of each week and briefed Libby on Saturdays at Libby’s home. The briefings began at 7:00 a.m. and lasted about 40 minutes; results and taskings were then typed into a database and pooled with results from briefers of other senior government officials (“principals”).
Presumably CIA briefers raised equally critical topics each morning for the president, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of Defense.
Each topic was clearly titled in the Table of Contents in the daily briefing binder. Investigators should look at those tables of contents in regard to White House efforts to cover up the unraveling of the Iraq WMD fable. When bogus intelligence was floated, for example, or when reports corrected the misinformation, presumably those items were reflected in the briefings.
Schmall testified that the principals spent most of the time in briefings reading their binders, with any questions or requests noted for follow-up by the Intelligence Community.
The fragmentary list below illustrates a few of the critical events that Bush, Cheney, their top aides and their Cabinet members may have known and reacted to. The basic starting question is the same for each item:
Did this appear in a table of contents for a briefing, and if so, on what date?...
- Jan. 2, 2001 – Niger embassy in Rome ransacked; Italian police discover that items stolen include embassy stationery and files. Later the stationery appears to turn up in some forged documents pertaining to Niger uranium and Iraq.
- [late] Jan. 2001 – Italian govt acquires documents, easily determined to be forgeries, purporting to be correspondence re Iraq purchasing Niger uranium.
- Nov. 20, 2001 – French say “no possibility” any yellowcake diverted to Iraq.
- Oct. 9, 2002 – U.S. Embassy in Rome receives copies of forged documents; Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba receives the Niger documents from a security consultant, passes them along to the U.S. embassy hoping to get them vetted.
- May 6, 2003 – NYTimes column refers to Joe Wilson re Niger story as wrong; without naming Wilson, Nicholas Kristof’s column mentions Wilson’s Africa trip.
- June 9, 2003 [about] --- Joe Wilson gets in touch with David Shipley, ed of the NYTimes op-ed page, who offers him “fifteen hundred words to tell my story” (Wilson’s book, 332).
- June 10, 2003 – State Dept memo refers to Mrs. Wilson; a memorandum written for Marc Grossman, then under secretary of state for political affairs, refers explicitly to Valerie Wilson as Mr. Wilson's wife. Memo written by an analyst in the INR (Bureau for Investigation and Research) in State Dept.
- June 13, 2003 --- Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds; article in (London) Observer by Peter Beaumont, Antony Barnett and Gaby Hinsliff.
- June 14, 2003 – at an EPIC conference, Ray McGovern meets Joe Wilson, the former CIA analyst asks Wilson when he plans to go public re Niger; Wilson tells him in about 2 weeks.
- July 5, 2003, at “about 10:30 p.m.,” Wilson’s oped hits the NYtimes web site; at 10:32 he gets a call from a NYPost reporter; at 10:34 he gets a call from Meet the Press inviting him to be on the next day (Wilson’s bk, 333).
- July 14, 2003 – Sen. Bob Graham says publicly that Bush shd be impeached; also Robert Novak’s column appears, mentioning Mrs. Wilson as a CIA operative.
- July 18, 2003 – newspapers report that the Niger docs were obv forgeries, highlight dif statements from CIA and State; e.g. Scottsbluff, Nebraska Star-Herald, Friday July 18, 2003.
- Aug. 2003 – rightwing outlets publish attacks on INR, which demurred at administration representations about Iraq WMD.
- Nov. 7, 2003, a Friday --- John J. Kokal of the INR found dead at bottom of State Dept bldg, acc to Fox News, WashPost; Soc Sec gives date of death as Nov. 8, 2003. (“Fire Department Spokesman Alan Etter said the man, a white male, was wearing a dress shirt, tie and slacks, but was not wearing shoes nor a suit jacket. He was found lying in the bottom of a concrete window well near 23rd and D streets, about eight stories below the top of the building. The well drops about 20 feet from ground level.” – Fox News).
N.b.: Obviously the bogus Niger uranium story, including its aftermath, is but one part of the administration’s push to war. But even this one narrow investigative path has led to the undermining of federal agencies, loss of (further) public trust in government and news media, loss of livelihood and possibly worse.