Director James Knodell, Under Intense Questioning, Can't Explain Why There Was Never an Investigation by White House
Victoria Toensing, in Third Panel, Also Subjected to Intense Scrutiny on Previous 'Plame Wasn't Covert' Statements, Seems Shaken, Offers Much Conflicting Info, Explanations...
By Brad Friedman on 3/16/2007, 9:22am PT  

In the second panel in the House Oversight Committee hearings this morning, following the testimony of Valerie Plame-Wilson, the Director of the White House Security Office, James Knodell, has stunned the Congress members by disclosing that no investigation into the leaking of Plame-Wilson's covert identity as a CIA operative was ever conducted by his office!

The members are flabbergasted. The questioning is intense. My live-blogging notes are posted, and updated live, below...

Also, the third panel, featuring Victoria Toensing, apologist for White House leaks, was fascinating, as her previous claims that "Plame was not covert" and that "she didn't serve overseas within five years prior to the leak" had been demolished by Plame-Wilson's earlier testimony. She attempted to mitigate the situation throughout her testimony by claiming that Plame-Wilson was not covert "under the provisions of the statute." Many more details below...

(Live blogging of Valerie Plame-Wilson's testimony is back here...)

UPDATE: Video of complete hearing and related documents now online at House Oversight Committee website right here...

Live blogged notes follow...

SECOND PANEL

Witness:
James Knodell, White House Director of Security Office
Bill Leonard, National Archives Information Security Oversight Office Director

HENRY WAXMAN (D-CA, CHAIRMAN)

Asks whether any officials who disclose classified information has a duty to inform their superiors whether it was done knowingly or not. Is told yes, by both men.

Asks Knodell whether Ari Fleisher exposed classified info when he exposed the identity of Plame-Wilson (now admittedly). Knodell refused to answer because his understanding is that he would not be asked about ongoing investigations. Waxman says the question is not about the Libby trial, it is about the Valerie Plame CIA leak case.

Knodell says Ari's disclosure prior to Knodell's tenure, which began in Aug. of 2004.

Asks Knodell if he was ever aware of a White House investigation into the leak. Knodells stuns! "I have no knowledge of any investigation within my office."

Waxman: Would a report have been filed if there was a leak investigation, intentional or not, of classified information prior to his joining office?

Knodell: "Yes."

Waxman: Is there such a report?

Knodell: "There is no report on file that classified information was disclosed in my office."

Waxman: Was any disciplinary action ever taken against Rove for his disclosure of information?

Knodell: "No."

CUMMINS (D) QUESTIONS

"Shocked" by Knodell's earlier testimony. Confirms that there is no report and no investigation into the leak in the White House Security Office.

Knodell says that there "was already an outside investigation, that's why we took no action."

Waxman interrupts to ask about the specifics again.

Knodell repeats "I have no evidence of an investigation into the matter within my office."

Waxman: Do you have any knowledge of any investigation in the White House?

Knodell: "Not within my office."

DIANE WATSON (D-CA) QUESTIONS

Is also stunned by previous testimony. Confirms that Knodell, in fact, works for the White House.

Repeats that Rove still hasn't disclosed who informed him of W-P's covert identity. Says therefore, Knodell's office should have investigated. Knodell confirms. "There was no investigation from the office of White House Security."

She's amazed. Knodell confirms again. Watson says this is "dereliction of duty" to not have done an investigation even now.

VAN HOLLEN (D-MD) QUESTIONS

"Stunned" that there was no investigation.

Van Hollen: Is that policy?

Knodell: "No." Admits "An investigation should be done."

Van Hollen: But one was not done??

Knodell: "That's correct."

VH asks whether his office is supposed to look into any disclosure, not just intentional disclosure, why his office is not today doing an investigation?

Knodell: "Mr. Congressman I will take that back to my review this with Senior Management."

Asks who his senior management is. About 5 or 6 people before any "reports to the White House" according to Knodell.

Waxman: When this hit, the President was outraged and said that heads would roll...and now it turns out there wasn't even an investigation.

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D-D.C.) QUESTIONS

Shows Scott McLellan clip speaking to press corp saying "I've spoken to those individuals, they've assured me they didn't leak classified information."

She asks why Rove still has his security clearance today.

Knodell: "My understanding is that the criminal investigation didn't find any wrong doing."

She can't understand why others have had their security clearance revoked "pending ongoing investigations" but Rove has not had his clearance revoked given that we know for a fact that he disclosed classified information.

Waxman says he's "sorry that we don't have clips of the President saying he would hold an investigation and that heads would roll...but I guess we'll have to leave that to The Daily Show"

DIANE WATSON (D-CA) QUESTIONS

Asks Knodell "Do you feel you've done your duty as head of the office of White House Security?"

Waxman interrupts to help Knodell. Says he appreciates Knodell coming in, he was just sent at the last minute by the WH, and would prefer to stay away from "personal questions."

TOM DAVIS (R-VA) QUESTIONS

Says "selective investigations go both ways" and that there should also be investigations on disclosures of information from NIE reports, NSA wiretapping, etc.

END OF SECOND PANEL

=============================

THIRD PANEL

Witnesses:
Mark Zaid, attorney (missed where he's from)
Victoria Toensing, Republican attorney, apologist, helped draft the Intelligence Identity Protections Act for Barry Goldwater.

Toensing Statement (she seems shaken from the start, since many of her usual lines were destroyed by Plame-Wilson's previous testimony): If P-W was "really covert under the law" why weren't people informed to keep her name private? Why wasn't Joe Wilson required to sign a non-disclosure agreement?

CIA never sent "top personnel" to Novak to ask him not to print Plame's identity. Instead, they told him "she won't be serving overseas anymore" so it didn't really matter.

Why did CIA tell the Office of Vice President that she worked at CIA but didn't warn them her identity was covert?

If this was really a violation of the covert identities act, why did the CIA send a boiler-plate requestion for an investigation to Dept. of Justice?

TOM DAVIS (R-VA) RANKING MEMBER QUESTIONS

Davis: I didn't go into details with P-W, but there appeared to be no crime committed. Can either of you tell me whether there was a crime committed?

Both avoid question, tap dance.

Toensing: The whole reason we put into the bill that the CIA had knowledge of identity of person, "If nobody was telling anybody, how would you know that a leak was not to be revealed?"

Davis: No evidence that anybody in the White House knew she was covert.

Toensing: Not one person knew she was covert.

Waxman: That's very conclusive, do you have any evidence of that?

Toensing: Well, I think we would have heard if that wasn't the case...

Davis: P-W admitted that her superiors knew about the potential leak before Novak published, but they didn't appear to do anything very seriously about it.

Toensing: To be convicted of a crime under the Intellegince Identity Protections Act (IIPA, which she helped draft), the employee has to know that there are positive efforts being made to keep the covert identity a secret...I have no reason to believe that Ms. Plame was "covert under the statute."

Toensing: Tim Weiner of NYTimes was going to print her name on front page, but was told by the CIA not to. Bob Novak was never given any such directive.

Waxman stunned that Toensing "comes here with absolute conclusion that she was not covert and nobody knew that she was covert. Do you have evidence for that? Do you have evidence that she was not covert?"

Toensing: "She was not covert under the act."

Waxman: CIA Dir. Gen. Hayden confirmed that she was covert. He reviewed my statement.

Toensing says again, she was not covert "under the act" and prevaricates on whether she was covert or not, Waxman not willing to "yield his time to her, asks for direct yes or no questions."

Waxman: Do you have direct information that none of the people at the White House had any evidence that she was covert?

Toensing: There's been no testimony to that fact...Not one person was told.

Waxman asks Zaid if he's surprised there's been no investigation in the White House. Zaid says "Very surprised."

CUMMINS QUESTIONS

"Stunned by what's going on here. We had an American who put her life on the line for her country...in all of this testimony, I hope we don't lose sight of that. There's a reason why we have all these rules and laws. Basically because we have Americans who want to protect us."

W-P Said two things that will be embedded in every sole of my being until the day I die. She said "I expected other countries to want to try to disclose my identity, but never did I expect my oown country to do it" and "as a result of the disclosures, whole networks of agents have been placed in jeopardy."

Toensing: I have no problem with Ms. Plame, I respect the service she contributed to this country. My complaint is two-fold. One to CIA for not taking measure to avoid this disclosure and second, I don't like seeing the law abused by applying it to acts which don't meet the standards.

Cummins asks about Toensing's claims that W-P did not meet statute requirements of serving overseas. Quotes her in WaPo: "She was not covert and had not been stationed abroad within 5 years of Novak's column."

(Ed note: Toensing has many times said she didn't serve outside of country; Plame's earlier testimony destroyed that nonsense.)

Watson quotes Toensing stating that "Plame was not covert at time of leak." Toensing "still maintains that she was not covert under the law" and adds "at that time."

Watson: Did you receive any info from CIA or Ms. Wilson that she was not a covert officer.

Toensing: I didn't talk to Ms. Wilson or the CIA.

Watson: Do you have information that Ms. Wilson or General Hayden don't have?

Toensing: I have no idea what they have. Under a criminal statute which is very specific, all of these criteria have to be met.

Van Hollen: Did you know before today that there was no investigation into this leak?

Toensing: I didn't know that, but if I had I would have concurred and said "don't you dare take an investigation while there's a huge ongoing criminal investigation."

Van Hollen: But there was a long period of time before there was as criminal investigation.

Toensing again uses long discredited nonsense that David Corn was the first to say Plame was covert, not Novak.

Toensing again claims that nobody at the CIA ever warned the White House that she was covert. Waxman asks how she knows that. Toensing says it came out at Libby trial, referring to one CIA witness who said he didn't personally tell WH.

Toensing under intense pressure. Her story is not holding up.

Van Hollen: Don't you think these officials should find out...we're at war...shouldn't they find out if disclosing the identity of someone working on weapons of mass destruction should not be done>

Toensing: Well, not necessarily. If there weren't any red flags given. ... I asked (someone at CIA) "would you ever have a desk job at the CIA if you were covert?" and they both laughed at me.

Waxman: I must tell you, we are pleased to have you at the request of the minority, but as many of the statements youv'e said have not been accurate, we're going to hold the record open so we can correct any of that information.

I have spoken to Hayden (and others) and they all seem to disagree with you concerning Ms. Wilson's covert status, despite the fact that you worked on writing this particular stature 30 years ago.

Toensing: Actually, don't make me older than I am, it was more like 25.

Waxman: We'll check that fact out also (laughter) but if I'm incorrect, I apologize.

HEARING ADJOURNED