Libby Claimed Bush Authorization To Leak Classified Information To Reporters
Image courtesy of MSNBC.com
“The fact that the president was willing to reveal classified information for political gain and put interests of his political party ahead of Americas security shows that he can no longer be trusted to keep America safe.”
Eriposte and other bloggers have been covering the revelations overnight contained in a New York Sun story, wherein it has been reported that Patrick Fitzgerald filed papers with the court yesterday confirming that Scooter testified he was authorized by Bush himself to leak the contents of the October 2002 NIE to Judy Miller in July 2003, at a time when the NIE was still classified. Previously, we knew that Scooter had claimed that Shooter had authorized him to do this, but this story draws Bush directly into the Plame case.
Well, the story has now hit the AP wires, and focuses on the revelation that both Bush and Shooter used Libby as a conveyor of classified information to reporters about prewar intelligence. It may help Libby make the case that he was just following orders and was nothing more than a foot soldier for Bush and Shooter, but it creates major problems for Bush, who has claimed for over two years that he knows little about what happened.
Libby’s participation in a critical conversation with Miller on July 8, 2003 “occurred only after the vice president advised defendant that the president specifically had authorized defendant to disclose certain information in the National Intelligence Estimate,” the papers by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald stated. The filing did not specify the “certain information.”
“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,” the papers added.
And in the court filing (page 9), Fitzgerald notes that he does not plan on calling Stephen Hadley, George Tenet, or Karl Rove as witnesses at this time, and therefore he is challenging Libby’s demands for discovery for these three, especially since Libby's attorneys have told the court that they plan to call Rove and Hadley as defense witnesses. Yet these three had an integral role in pre-war intelligence and some of these three were alleged to be integral to the effort to discredit Joe Wilson. So does that mean Fitzgerald will now make them targets, or does this reflect the possibility that these three are cooperating with Fitzgerald, and he wants to shield them as long as he can?
Apparently, the White House press corps couldn't care less today.
Murray Waas today in the National Journal has more:
Although not reflected in the court papers, two senior government officials said in interviews with National Journal in recent days that Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.
In yet another instance, Libby had claimed that President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.
One former senior government official said that both the president and Cheney, in directing Libby to disclose classified information to defend the administration's case to go to war with Iraq and in formally declassifying portions of the NIE later, were misusing the classification process for political reasons.
The official said that while the administration declassified portions of the NIE that would appear exculpatory to the White House, it insisted that a one-page summary of the NIE which would have suggested that the President mischaracterized other intelligence information to go to war remain classified.
The former senior official said in an interview that he believed that the attempt to conceal the contents of the one-page summary were intertwined with the efforts to declassify portions of the NIE and to leak information to the media regarding Plame: "It was part and parcel of the same effort, but people don't see it in that context yet."
Although the court papers filed Wednesday revealed that Libby had testified that Bush and Cheney had authorized him to disclose details of the NIE, two other senior government officials said in interviews that Libby had asserted that Cheney had more broadly authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq as part of an administration effort to make the case to go to war.
In another instance, Libby had claimed that Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack."
Other former senior government officials said that Bush directed people to assist Woodward in the book's preparation: "There were people on the Seventh Floor [of the CIA] who were told by Tenet to cooperate because the President wanted it done. There were calls to people to by [White House communication director] Dan Bartlett that the President wanted it done, if you were not co-operating. And sometimes the President himself told people that they should co-operate," said one former government official.
In a Feb. 17, 2006 letter to John D. Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote that he believed that disclosures in Woodward's book damaged national security. "According to [Woodward's} account, he was provided information related to sources and methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison services."
Woodward's book contains, for example, a detailed account of a January 25, 2003 briefing that Libby provided to senior White House staff to make the case that Saddam Hussein had aggressive programs underway to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.
Two former government officials said in interviews that the account provided sensitive intelligence information that had not been cleared for release. The book referred to intercepts by the National Security Agency of Iraqi officials that purportedly showed that Iraq was engaging in weapons of mass destruction program.
So will Libby's defense be that he was only a small part of a much bigger effort to use classified information for political purposes, a variation of the Oliver North defense? And if so, in that effort to direct heat up the chain, what will Fitzgerald do about the two at the top of this effort as we get closer to trial?