Thursday, April 6, 2006

Bush Authorized Libby to Leak Classified Intel to Bolster Case for War


Smoking gun right here.

My grandmother taught me to live in such a way that at the end of my life, I would have no regrets. Sadnesses, maybe, but not regrets, as in, "I wish I had done the brave thing instead of the easy one."

I hope the majority of Senate Democrats have huge regrets today, because this news, while good, will not have the effect of toppling the imperial Presidency, and the Senate Democrats' regrettable cowardice is the cause.

If the Senate Democrats had been vigorously attacking Bush on the NSA issue, and Bush was responding (as he has in the past) by claiming that secrecy is vital to protecting the national security and that that's why he resisted oversight, then this news could have been his undoing; when a President who claims immunity from oversight is, himself, leaking classified information to reporters for political gain, talk of impeachment would be unavoidable.

James Carville is attributed as saying, "When your enemy is drowning, throw him an anvil." But if your enemy isn't drowning, throwing him an anvil won't be fatal. If the Senate Democrats had been pushing hard on censure, then Bush might have been drowning, and this revelation could have been the anvil that sunk him for good. But the Senate Dems have been coasting on the NSA issue, and Bush isn't drowning yet, and he may well survive this revelation, which should be his undoing.

I said, early on, that the greatest benefit of censure is that while it is a relatively mild rebuke, it is also a rock-solid foundation for commencing impeachment proceedings if the President continues to do wrong, or new wrongdoing comes to light. We gave him one strike, we could say; we bent over backward; but he cannot be taught, he will not accept correction, and so now, with great regret, we must see him removed. It would be a nice argument.

Or, to use a baseball analogy: Bush's low poll numbers, coupled with vigorous censure proceedings, could be strikes one and two, with this newest outrage being the third strike -- batter out, side retired. Instead, due to the Cowardly Donkeys, there's only one strike against Bush (low poll numbers), and this revelation -- which should have made the out -- will merely be Strike Two.

It may not be too late, if the Senate Democrats get the censure bandwagon rolling in a hurry. The Senate Judiciary Committee meets again tomorrow (Friday) on censure. Call the Democratic senators on that committee (they're in the right-hand column) and demand that they throw Bush the anvil he so sorely deserves. The Senate switchboard's toll-free number is 888-355-3588.

(1) Check out the first comment for a link to the legal filing that explains who told what to whom, and excerpts. Keep in mind that this was disclosed as part of legal wrangling over what classified docs Libby's lawyers are entitled to receive in discovery; Libby says the National Intelligence Estimate was "declassified" by dint of the President OKing a leak, and the prosecutors disagree.
(2) Good analysis of the legal documents and issues here.
(3) Bush quotes, promising that anyone who leaked classified info would not remain in administration, and claiming that he personally sets high standards he expects everyone else to adhere to, here. I'm waiting for his resignation...
(4) More good analysis and discussion here and here.



link link link link link link link


Anonymous said...

Entire legal document here (.pdf). Relevant excerpt follows:

Defendant’s participation in a critical conversation with Judith Miller on July 8 (discussed further below) occurred only after the Vice President advised defendant that the President specifically had uthorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE. Defendant testified that the circumstances of his conversation with reporter Miller – getting approval from the President through the Vice President to discuss material that would be classified but for that approval – were unique in his recollection. Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson. Defendant was instructed to provide what was for him an extremely rare “on the record” statement, and to provide “background” and “deep background” statements, and to provide information contained in a document defendant understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson. During the conversations that followed on July 12, defendant discussed Ms. Wilson’s
employment with both Matthew Cooper (for the first time) and Judith Miller (for the third time). Even if someone else in some other agency thought that the controversy about Mr. Wilson and/or his wife was a trifle, that person’s state of mind would be irrelevant to the importance and focus defendant placed on the matter and the importance he attached to the surrounding conversations he was directed to engage in by the Vice President.

Likewise, documents from other agencies that defendant never saw will not provide context for defendant’s grand jury testimony regarding these events. Defendant testified that he did not discuss the CIA employment of Ambassador Wilson’s wife with reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003 and that he could not have done so because he had forgotten by that time that he had learned about Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment a month earlier from the Vice President. Nor could such documents explain defendant’s testimony disclaiming having discussed Ms. Wilson’s employment with various other government officials prior to July 10, 2003, or his testimony that he was “taken aback” when journalist Tim Russert asked about Ms. Wilson’s employment with the CIA on July 12, 2003. Accordingly, none of the documents requested by defendant could possibly support the defense that the specific perjury specifications are mere “snippets” of conversation he “may have misremembered.”

C. Defendant is Not Entitled to the Requested Documents Related to the NIE.
Defendant further contends that he is entitled to additional discovery because the government “informed [the defense] that it seeks to make an issue at trial of [defendant’s] alleged disclosures of a portion of the content of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, known as the NIE.” Memo. at 10-11 (emphasis added). Specifically, defendant claims that, in order to place this issue in “context,” he is entitled to discovery of:

1. All documents relating to the possible declassification of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (“NIE”)(in whole or in part); and

2. All documents relating to or reflecting public comments by government officials about the NIE or its contents prior to July 18, 2003.

The government has produced to defendant all documents received from the OVP, which would include any documents responsive to these requests, and is in the process of locating and producing a limited number of additional responsive documents in the possession of the Special Counsel although such documents were not authored or reviewed by defendant. The government has declined to seek or produce additional responsive documents from other agencies unless such documents reflect conversations and meetings in which defendant participated, on the ground that such documents would be irrelevant to the defense. The government has also declined to produce publicly available comments by government officials regarding this issue on the ground that they are equally accessible to defendant.

As an initial matter, it is defendant’s conduct and testimony, rather than any whim of the
government, that makes defendant’s disclosure of the NIE an issue in this case. However, contrary to defendant’s contention, he is not entitled to rummage through other agencies’ documents concerning the NIE where defendant himself has testified that he understood that no one at those agencies was aware of, or involved in, the declassification made known to him by the Vice President or the disclosures he made to reporters Cooper and Miller.

The Relevance of the NIE to This Case

One of the key conversations that will be proved at trial took place between defendant and reporter Judith Miller at the St. Regis Hotel on the morning of July 8, 2003. Defendant testified in the grand jury that he and Miller did not discuss the CIA employment of Ambassador Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, on that occasion, and that he could not have done so because he had forgotten by that time that he had learned about Ms. Wilson’s employment a month earlier from the Vice President.

Defendant further testified that when he spoke with reporter Tim Russert the following day, Russert informed him that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA, and defendant was “taken aback.” Defendant testified that he thought that the information was new to him, and that he made sure not to confirm the information to Russert. Defendant thereafter testified that he repeated what he learned from Russert to other reporters (including Cooper and Miller) on July 12, taking care to caution those reporters that he did not know if the information were true or even if Ambassador Wilson even had a wife.

As to the meeting on July 8, defendant testified that he was specifically authorized in advance of the meeting to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller on that occasion because it was thought that the NIE was “pretty definitive” against what Ambassador Wilson had said and that the Vice President thought that it was “very important” for the key judgments of the NIE to come out. Defendant further testified that he at first advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE. Defendant testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. Defendant testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom defendant considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document.

Defendant testified that he thought he brought a brief abstract of the NIE’s key judgments to the meeting with Miller on July 8. Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was “vigorously trying to procure” uranium.

Defendant testified that this July 8th meeting was the only time he recalled in his government experience when he disclosed a document to a reporter that was effectively declassified by virtue of the President’s authorization that it be disclosed. Defendant testified that one of the reasons why he met with Miller at a hotel was the fact that he was sharing this information with Miller exclusively.

In fact, on July 8, defendant spoke with Miller about Mr. Wilson after requesting that attribution of his remarks be changed to “former Hill staffer.” Defendant discussed with Miller the contents of a then classified CIA report which defendant characterized to Miller as having been written by Wilson. Defendant advised Miller that Wilson had reported that he had learned that in 1999 an Iraqi delegation visited Niger and sought to expand commercial relations, which was understood to be a reference to a desire to obtain uranium. Later during the discussion about Wilson and the NIE, defendant advised Miller of his belief that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. Indict., Count One, ¶ 17. Defendant understood that the Vice President specifically selected him to talk to the press about the NIE and Mr. Wilson on July 12, 2003, in place of then-Assistant to the President for Public Affairs, Cathie Martin, the usual press contact person from OVP. This is relevant to show the importance that defendant and his boss placed on the conversation concerning which he later testified. During his conversations with the press that day, defendant discussed Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment with both Matthew Cooper (for the first time) and Judith Miller (for the third time).

Thus, there is no way to present the relevant events concerning defendant’s discussions with
reporters about Ms. Wilson without discussing defendant’s role in disseminating the key judgments of the NIE in those same conversations.

There is no basis for extending disclosure of documents related to the declassification and
disclosure of the NIE to documents from the NSC, State Department, CIA, or any other agency.

According to defendant, at the time of his conversations with Miller and Cooper, he understood that only three people – the President, the Vice President and defendant – knew that the key judgments of the NIE had been declassified. Defendant testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials – including Cabinet level officials – were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson’s trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003. Given that, there is no reasonable possibility that the requested documents from agencies outside the Office of Vice President will shed any light on, or provide any “context” for, what defendant knew, thought and did at the time of his critical conversations.8


fn 8: As part of his effort to justify in essence “open file” discovery concerning the NIE, defendant notes that “Mr. Hadley was active in discussions about the need to declassify and disseminate the NIE . . . .” Defendant fails to mention, however, that he consciously decided not to make Mr. Hadley aware of the fact that defendant himself had already been disseminating the NIE by leaking it to reporters while Mr. Hadley sought to get it formally declassified. There is no reason to root around in the files of the NSC or CIA or State Department given that no one at any of those three agencies was aware of any declassification of the NIE prior to July 18, 2003. Since Mr. Hadley was involved in efforts to declassify what Mr. Libby testified had already been declassified, Mr. Hadley’s files will create confusion rather than providing context. The government is producing to defendant Mr. Hadley’s notes of meetings and conversations in which both defendant and Mr. Hadley participated, and in which the potential declassification of the NIE was discussed.

Anonymous said...

Great post thersites. I was looking around for an intelligent early analysis of this new Bush leak news and I found it here! Thanks.