Friday :: Oct 21, 2005

As Fitzgerald Sets Up His Own Website, Wall Street Journal Says Conspiracy Case Seems To Be His Emphasis

by Steve

He is a shrewd dude, this Fitzgerald. He sees the right wing talking points about his authority, sees how pathetic and lazy the media is in reporting whatever crap the RNC and GOP slime machine put out there, so what does he do?

He sets up his own website to put the critical documents on the web, undercutting the GOP talking points (in addition to what has already put out). This site, of course, can be used to post the actual indictments and supporting information (subject to secrecy requirements pursuant to national security) as well, thereby getting around the media.

If only Mary Beth Cahill had thought of the same thing at the start of the Swifties smears...

As for the Wall Street Journal, they say what others have said recently: Fitzgerald is assembling a case that would demonstrate a conspiracy by White House staff to leak classified information of various types to reporters, information that goes beyond the Plame case.

The range of questions that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has asked witnesses in the CIA leak case suggests he may be exploring whether to charge White House officials with leaking garden-variety classified information.
But lawyers and others close to the case say he may be piecing together a case that White House officials conspired to leak various types of classified material in conversations with reporters -- including Ms. Plame's identity but also other secrets related to national security.
A charge of leaking classified information might seem a stretch in Washington, where many believe that too much information is deemed classified -- and where, in any case, such information routinely passes among White House officials, congressional staffers and the media.
But there are some relevant earlier cases. A current investigation into the leaking of classified Pentagon information to the Israeli lobbying group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has resulted in three indictments.
For Mr. Fitzgerald, there may be advantages to such an approach. Building a case on leaking classified intelligence likely would require a lower burden of proof than proving the 1982 law was violated.
Moreover, concern about national-security leaks has grown in the intelligence community and Congress in recent years. In 2002, the Bush administration promised to make more use of civil sanctions to punish leaking.
More-general charges of leaking classified information would fall under the 1917 Espionage Act, which prohibits disclosure of "information relating to the national defense." That statute is broader, and would set a lower legal burden for proving a defendant's intent, legal experts said.

The WSJ goes on to speculate that such a prosecution’s success would rest on whether or not the intelligence community suffered as a result of the alleged leaks.

In part, the weight of an indictment on leaking classified information could depend on whether the exposure of Ms. Plame caused damage. That isn't clear. Damage-assessment reports commonly are done when such leaks occur, but congressional staffers say they haven't seen any such document related to this investigation.
The CIA did produce an initial report to see if assets were in danger or needed to be moved, a government official said. But that didn't take the form of a formal report to Congress, as has occurred in bigger espionage matters.

Just because we have yet to see publicly any damage assessment from the CIA doesn’t mean they haven’t documented such a case already to Fitzgerald. For instance, what do you think was in those redacted pages of the ruling the three judge panel issued granting Fitzgerald’s request to pursue Judy Miller? And remember, the CIA referred this case to the Department of Justice based on their concerns that national security and intelligence assets may have been affected as a result of this leak. The WSJ story seems to confirm that the more rocks Fitzgerald looked under, the more he found.

Going back to the website, in their talking points, conservatives and Bush defenders complain that Fitzgerald may have expanded this case beyond his original mandate, but these claims are hypocritical coming from partisans who rooted on Ken Starr while he expanded his case beyond Whitewater into Bill Clinton’s sex life. Besides, James Comey’s delegation of authority to Fitzgerald was very broad, enabling Fitzgerald to act with the full authority of the Attorney General, and again, there was something in those classified, redacted pages of Fitzgerald’s argument that prompted the panel of judges of the DC Court of Appeals, a panel that included a conservative judge like David Sentelle, to allow Fitzgerald to go forward.

(SusanHu at Booman Tribune is already on this earlier today. Also, GernBlanzten at DailyKos is onto the website angle as well.)

Steve :: 10:58 AM :: Comments (20) :: TrackBack (1) :: Digg It!