Thursday :: Feb 9, 2006

Libby Was Authorized By "Superiors" To Leak Classified Information

by Steve

Bush trots out another “we stopped Al Qaeda” story today, when he claimed that a 2002 plot was foiled whereby shoe bombers were stopped from blowing their way into the cockpit of airliners aiming for a Los Angeles skyscraper. The administration could not say how this relates at all to the NSA spying program. All we do know is that if this is such a stellar example of the Bush Administration working to stop a threat in Los Angeles, how come the city of Los Angeles was never told anything about this threat?

This information suddenly comes out on the same day that Murray Waas breaks this bombshell, which has now also been picked up by David Shuster over at MSNBC:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.
Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
The public correspondence does not mention the identities of the "superiors" who authorized the leaking of the classified information, but people with firsthand knowledge of the matter identified one of them as Cheney. Libby also testified that he worked closely with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove in deciding what information to leak to the press to build public support for the war, and later, postwar, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence.

Keep in mind this revelation comes days after Libby's "faulty memory" defense was neutered when it was revealed that Cheney and Libby were aware in mid-June 2003 that the CIA had discredited the Niger claim, weeks before Libby began talking to reporters. Both of these taken together indicate what we have suspected all along: Cheney and Libby, as well as others in the White House, engaged in a payback campaign to destroy Joe Wilson and his wife in July 2003, even after they knew weeks before that the Niger story was about to unravel, and Congress had been told of such.

The new disclosure that Libby has claimed that the vice president and others in the White House had authorized him to release information to make the case to go to war, and later to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence, is significant for several reasons. First, it significantly adds to a mounting body of information that Cheney played a central and personal role in directing efforts to counter claims by Wilson and other administration critics that the Bush administration had misused intelligence information to go to war with Iraq.
Second, it raises additional questions about Libby's motives in concealing his role in leaking Plame's name to the press, if he was in fact more broadly authorized by Cheney and others to rebut former Ambassador Wilson's charges. The federal grand jury indictment of Libby alleges that he had lied to the FBI and the federal grand jury by claiming that when he provided information to reporters about Plame's CIA employment, he was only passing along what he understood to be unverified gossip that he had heard from other journalists.
Instead, the indictment charges that Libby had in fact learned of Plame's CIA status from at least four government officials, Cheney among them, and from classified documents. Indeed, much of Libby's earliest and most detailed information regarding Plame's CIA employment came directly from the vice president, according to information in Libby's grand jury indictment. "On or about June 12, 2003," the indictment stated, "Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division."
Finally, the new information indicates that Libby is likely to pursue a defense during his trial that he was broadly "authorized" by Cheney and other "superiors" to defend the Bush administration in making the case to go to war. Libby does not, however, appear to be claiming that he was acting specifically on Cheney's behalf in disclosing information about Plame to the press.
Libby's legal strategy in asserting that Cheney and other Bush administration officials authorized activities related to the underlying allegations of criminal conduct leveled against him, without approving of or encouraging him to engage in the specific misconduct, is reminiscent of the defense strategy used by Oliver North, who was a National Security Council official in the Reagan administration.
That’s no surprise; Libby will follow a page from North’s playbook because he is using one of North’s attorneys. But the defense won’t work, because unlike North, who claimed he was just a pawn in a game played by higher-ups, Libby is at the top of the government.

So is it a coincidence that Bush trots out the “we stopped Al Qaeda” claim today? You be the judge.

Steve :: 3:18 PM :: Comments (79) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!