June 06, 2007

Kos on Libby

Daily Kos had a very good post today on the cacophony of conservative calls for Bush to pardon the felonious perjurer Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff who just received a sentence of 30 months imprisonment.

Kos was responding to the far-right National Review, Rudolph Giuliani, Sam Brownback, and others who claim that since no one was formerly charged for outing undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, Scooter's lies on the subject under oath are irrelevant. Kos points out,

The reason no one was charged with the leak was because of Libby's obstruction of the investigation. That was the whole point of Fitzgerald's prosecution, no matter how much they try to ignore it. Just like they try to ignore how the administration burned an undercover CIA agent working on issues relating to Iran's nuclear program.  Of course, had Libby cooperated with the investigation, Cheney and/or Rove would've likely ended up indicted. So for them, it was well worth the cost.

Straight up.

(Thanks to ML for drawing the Kos post to my attention.)

By Will Friedman in High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

April 09, 2006

Administation Knew Libby's Leak Was Inaccurate

On April 6, we learned that George W. Bush personally declassified parts of the highly sensitive National Intelligence Estimate so that Scooter Libby could secretly brief administration-friendly reporters in the hope that they would write articles discrediting Joe Wilson. (For more background, see the previous post).

Today we learn that the administration knew the information it was leaking was false at the time that Bush, Cheney, and Libby conspired to leak it.

Read all about it.

By Will Friedman in High Crimes and Misdemeanors | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

April 06, 2006

Will the President Fire Himself?

George_w_bush In light of today’s surprising court filings about George W. Bush’s personal role in the Valerie Wilson affair, it’s worth reviewing how we got here:

  1. In the months after September 11, 2001, Dick Cheney was personally reviewing all unverified intelligence about Saddam Hussein in a process known as stovepiping. He comes across a report that suggests Saddam Hussein had sought to buy uranium from Niger.
  2. February 2002: Joe Wilson, a former African ambassador and deputy chief of mission to Baghdad, goes to Niger on a mission initiated by Dick Cheney’s office, and finds no evidence of the alleged transaction. Wilson reports his findings.
  3. January 2003: Bush, in his State of the Union address, says that “Saddam recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
  4. March 20, 2003: The Bush Administration launches an invasion of Iraq, claiming Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.
  5. July 6, 2003: Wilson writes an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times called “What I Didn’t Find in Africa” refuting the uranium claim and accusing the administration of manipulating intelligence to justify the war.
  6. On July 14, 2003, the temperamental conservative Robert Novak writes a column outing Wilson’s wife, Valerie, as a CIA agent, and implying that Wilson was sent to Africa thanks to his wife’s connections. He identifies his sources as “senior administration officials.” A number of administration sources spread the same story to other reporters, including Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time.
  7. On September 30, 2003, Bush pledges to fire anyone involved in the leak.
  8. Fiercely non-partisan Patrick Fitzgerald is appointed as special counsel to investigate the affair on December 30, 2003.
  9. In the summer of 2005, with the Fitzgerald investigation nearing the indictment stage, Bush withdraws his pledge. Many believe Karl Rove will be charged after it is revealed that he leaked Wilson’s name to Cooper.
  10. October 28, 2005: Fitzgerald issues an indictment, charging that Scooter Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, divulged Wilson’s name and then lied about it under oath. Libby resigns.

Today Fitzgerald’s team revealed that Libby exposed Valerie Wilson as a CIA agent at the behest of the Vice President, after Bush specifically declassified the information which was used to attack her husband.

The astonishing court filing says, in part:

Vice President advised defendant [Libby] that the President specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate]… Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press…regarding the NIE and Wilson... During the conversations that followed on July 12, defendant discussed Ms. Wilson's employment [at the CIA] with both Matthew Cooper [of Time] and Judith Miller [of the New York Times].

The Washington Post reported today that “The White House did not challenge the prosecutor's account of Bush's and Cheney's role in orchestrating the effort to discredit Wilson yesterday.”

And as Senator John Kerry put it, “now we know that the president's search for the leaker needs to go no further than a mirror."

So will the president fire himself? Somehow I doubt it. But at least he could take responsibility, acknowledge his error, and apologize. Just like he did when he fired Rumsfeld. Oh, wait, that was an April Fool’s Day Joke.

By Will Friedman in High Crimes and Misdemeanors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Email this post

March 20, 2006

Spying on Americans Abroad?

The Bush Administration has tried many justifications for its surveillance of Americans in contravention of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but its primary excuse is that it only spies on communications “with terrorists” who are in other countries. This assertion has already been shown to be false on two fronts; first of all FBI officials have acknowledged that most intercepted communications are personal and mundane, and phone companies have admitted that advances in telephony have led them to mistakenly believe a target was overseas when it was actually in the States.  But what has not been investigated so far is the extent  to which these wiretaps have ensnared calls between Americans living in the United States and Americans living abroad.

FISA outlaws unauthorized surveillance between two people on American soil; their citizenship is irrelevant. That’s why the Administration initially went out of its way to emphasize the calls were not purely domestic:

''The authorization given to N.S.A. by the president requires that one end of these communications has to be outside the United States,'' General Hayden answered. ''I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States.

However, as the New York Times reported when it broke the news of the program,

A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

When it began to lose this argument in the public eye, the White House successfully transformed the debate into a political one, implying that the law could be broken because FISA was “written in 1978,” and emphasizing again, without providing figures, that the surveillance targets were “terrorists.” Now the Republican-controlled Congress is looking to approve the spying in retrospect.

But like many political issues, the way Americans feel about this program varies depending on how the question is asked. Americans are resolutely against the spying when it is “an unnecessary and unwarranted infringement on civil liberties.” The unanswered question is how would people feel if many of the tapped calls abroad turn out to be innocent, intimate discussions between American family members separated by time-zones, just as many of the domestic calls have been “schoolteacher[s] with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism?”

By Will Friedman in High Crimes and Misdemeanors | Permalink | Comments (0) | Email this post

October 28, 2005

VP Cheney's Chief of Staff Indicted

Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Irving "Scooter" Libby has been indicted on charges of perjury, giving false statements, and obstruction of justice. He has resigned.  Apparently, Libby was involved with other White House officials in attacking the wife of a diplomat who dared to tell the truth about false justifications for the Iraq war.  Libby then lied about his involvement, which led to the present indictments.

Get ready for conservatives to develop sudden amnesia over everything they said about perjury when they attacked President Clinton, who had lied to protect his family from learning about his affair with a White House intern.

By Will Friedman in High Crimes and Misdemeanors | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack | Email this post

October 25, 2005

Conservatives Claim Perjury Doesn't Matter

The Bush Administration has reversed its position and now says that it can’t comment about the CIA leak investigation. But that hasn’t stopped its allies at Blogs for Bush and elsewhere from launching “preventive strikes” against the non-partisan prosecutor's case. This week’s strategy is to say that there is nothing wrong with lying to the grand jury or obstructing justice.

Michael Barone wrote a typical apologia at Town Hall.com. He says that if charges are not brought for the CIA leak, it

leaves the question of whether Rove, Libby or someone else will be indicted for perjury, obstruction of justice or making false statements in the course of the investigation. But why should there be indictments if there was no crime?

The hypocrisy here stinks worse than Corsican cheese. The conservative establishment answered Barone's question each time it attacked Clinton over Lewinsky. Here’s how Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who is also now parroting the “perjury doesn’t matter” defense, put it in 1999, as reported on Think Progress:

[S]omething needs to be said that is a clear message that our rule of law is intact and the standards for perjury and obstruction of justice are not gray. And I think it is most important that we make that statement and that it be on the record for history.

I very much worry that with the evidence that we have seen that grand juries across America are going to start asking questions about what is obstruction of justice, what is perjury. And I don’t want there to be any lessening of the standard. Because our system of criminal justice depends on people telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is the lynch pin of our criminal justice system and I don’t want it to be faded in any way.

And let’s not forgot that the stakes in this case (national security) are much higher than in that case (Clinton’s marriage).

It's not the first example of shameless hypocrisy from this Administration, but this is really a new low.

By Will Friedman in High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Email this post

July 28, 2005

McClellan Stonewalls on Rove While the Post Carries On

Mcclellan_2There was more stonewalling on the Rove CIA leak scandal from White House spokesman Scott McClellan in yesterday's daily press briefing:

Q Has Karl Rove offered to resign, in view of his problems?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you keep asking these questions that are related to an ongoing investigation -- 

Q Does he still have his security clearance?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and those are questions that have already been addressed. 

Q No, they -- I've never heard this before. Have you?

MR. McCLELLAN: The question has been asked before. 

Q We haven't heard an answer.

Q What was your answer? 

Q There hasn't been an answer.

McClellan then called on a reporter who changed the subject.

We can understand why he wouldn't want to dwell on the topic.  The other day the Washington Post reported that Attorney General Gonzales waited 12 hours after being notified about the legal investigation to inform White House staff that they should retain documents.  Was there an all-night shredding marathon reminiscent of the scene in The Devil's Advocate?  We won't find out from McClellan. 

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July 18, 2005

Creating a Climate of Silence

The LA Times has an analysis today of the ongoing scandal surrounding Karl Rove and others in the administration.

Top aides to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were intensely focused on discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV in the days after he wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times suggesting the administration manipulated intelligence to justify going to war in Iraq, federal investigators have been told.


Regardless of Rove's legal liability, the description of his role runs contrary to earlier White House statements that Rove and Libby were not involved in the unmasking of Wilson's wife, and it suggests they were part of a campaign to discredit Wilson.

From elsewhere in the same article:

A source directly familiar with information provided to prosecutors said Rove's interest was so strong that it prompted questions in the White House. When asked at one point why he was pursuing the diplomat so aggressively, Rove reportedly responded: "He's a Democrat."

Rove's efforts to discredit Wilson because he was a Democrat helped lead our country into a war on false pretenses.  That is completely unacceptable.

The claim that Wilson correctly refuted, namely that Iraq "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," was used by Bush in his State of the Union address to justify the imminent invasion of Iraq. The nuclear angle was an important component of the war sales pitch, because it made Saddam sound like a major threat to our country's security.  And until Wilson’s op-ed article, most people believed the President.

Seeing the retribution suffered by Wilson’s innocent wife, we can understand why other public servants who saw that “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” kept their mouths shut. It’s literally a tragedy—if more had spoken up perhaps war could have been avoided.

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July 14, 2005

Scott McClellan Changes Story on Rove

Rove_arrestedThis transcript of the White House Press briefing with Scott McClellan comes from the Huffington Post:


QUESTION: Does the president stand by his pledge to fire anyone involved in a leak of the name of a CIA operative?

(White House Spokesman Scott) MCCLELLAN: I appreciate your question. I think your question is being asked related to some reports that are in reference to an ongoing criminal investigation. The criminal investigation that you reference is something that continues at this point.

And as I've previously stated, while that investigation is ongoing, the White House is not going to comment on it.

The president directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with the investigation, we made a decision that we weren't going to comment on it while it is ongoing.

QUESTION: I actually wasn't talking about any investigation.

But in June of 2004, the president said that he would fire anybody who was involved in this leak to the press about information. I just wanted to know: Is that still his position?

MCCLELLAN: Yes, but this question is coming up in the context of this ongoing investigation, and that's why I said that our policy continues to be that we're not going to get into commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation from this podium.

The prosecutors overseeing the investigation had expressed a preference to us that one way to help the investigation is not to be commenting on it from this podium.

MCCLELLAN: And so that's why we are not going to get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation — or questions related to it.

QUESTION: Scott, if I could point out: Contradictory to that statement, on September 29th of 2003, while the investigation was ongoing, you clearly commented on it. You were the first one to have said that if anybody from the White House was involved, they would be fired.

And then, on June 10th of 2004, at Sea Island Plantation, in the midst of this investigation, when the president made his comments that, yes, he would fire anybody from the White House who was involved, so why have you commented on this during the process of the investigation in the past, but now you've suddenly drawn a curtain around it under the statement of, We're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation?

MCCLELLAN: Again, John, I appreciate the question. I know you want to get to the bottom of this. No one wants to get to the bottom of it more than the president of the United States.

And I think the way to be most helpful is to not get into commenting on it while it is an ongoing investigation. And that's something that the people overseeing the investigation have expressed a preference that we follow.

And that's why we're continuing to follow that approach and that policy.

Now, I remember very well what was previously said. And, at some point, I will be glad to talk about it, but not until after the investigation is complete.

QUESTION: So could I just ask: When did you change your mind to say that it was OK to comment during the course of an investigation before, but now it's not?

Read the rest in the article "You're in a Bad Spot Here, Scott."

Learn more about High Crimes and Misdemeanors on Wikipedia.

Thanks to Latte reader CD for pointing out the transcript.

By Will Friedman in Doublespeak, High Crimes and Misdemeanors | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack | Email this post