Friday :: Apr 14, 2006

Are Bush/Rove Ready To Throw Cheney Under The Bus On Plame?

by Steve

You’ll recall that Scooter’s recent defense to Patrick Fitzgerald’s claim that Scooter testified he was authorized to leak classified information was that he wasn’t directed to leak Valerie Plame’s identity.

So much for that defense. Murray Waas reports today that not only was Scooter authorized by the president through Shooter to leak classified information from the 2002 NIE, but was also authorized by Cheney to leak a still-classified CIA summary report on Joe Wilson’s Niger trip. This shreds any claim by Scooter or Shooter that there is no connection between the leaking of the NIE and the outing of Valerie Plame.

But when you read Waas’s piece, note what a “senior administration official” now say about the Vice President, and the environment he created, and then you may conclude as I did that someone close to the Oval Office is throwing Dick under the bus to firewall W.

Vice President Dick Cheney directed his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on July 12, 2003 to leak to the media portions of a then-highly classified CIA report that Cheney hoped would undermine the credibility of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to Libby's grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case and sources who have read the classified report.
The March 2002 intelligence report was a debriefing of Wilson by the CIA's Directorate of Operations after Wilson returned from a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger to investigate claims, later proved to be unfounded, that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation, according to government records.
The debriefing report made no mention of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, then a covert CIA officer, or any role she may have played in her husband's selection by the CIA to go to Niger, according to two people who have read the report.
The previously unreported grand jury testimony is significant because only hours after Cheney reportedly instructed Libby to disclose information from the CIA report, Libby divulged to then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper that Plame was a CIA officer, and that she been involved in selecting her husband for the Niger mission.
Both Libby and Cheney have repeatedly insisted that the vice president never encouraged, directed, or authorized Libby to disclose Plame's identity. In a court filing on April 12, Libby's attorneys reiterated: "Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson [Plame] by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else."
But the disclosure that Cheney instructed Libby to leak portions of a classified CIA report on Joseph Wilson adds to a growing body of information showing that at the time Plame was outed as a covert CIA officer the vice president was deeply involved in the White House effort to undermine her husband.
And now you see clues that the branch may be sawed off behind Cheney.
The new disclosure also raises the question whether President Bush or his aides knew that Cheney may have been deciding on his own to authorize the leaking of classified information. Senior government officials said that top Bush aides -- including then-deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett -- were not aware that Cheney had authorized the disclosure of the CIA report on Wilson's Niger mission. These officials raised the possibility that Bush himself was unaware at the time of Cheney's action.
Regarding the release of Plame's name and CIA employment, a senior administration official said that even if Cheney did not directly authorize Libby to leak the information to the press, the vice president might have set a climate in which his aides viewed it as routine to release classified information whenever it served their purposes.
In reportedly directing Libby to disclose portions of the March 2002 CIA report on Wilson's mission, Cheney apparently kept in the dark a number of administration officials who were working to declassify that very same document.
According to Fitzgerald's recent filing, Libby "testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in the place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson. [Libby] was instructed... to [also] provide information contained in a document [he] understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson. During the conversations that followed on July 12 [Libby] discussed Ms. Wilson's [CIA] employment with both Matthew Cooper (for the first time) and Judith Miller (for the third time)."
The purported Wilson cable refers to the classified CIA debriefing of Wilson, according to sources who have read the document. Wilson never himself authored a cable on his Niger mission. Rather, the CIA Directorate of Operations, which sent Wilson to Niger in February 2002, produced a March 8, 2002 report based on Wilson's debriefing by intelligence officers. The report did not name Wilson, or even describe him as a former ambassador, but rather as a "contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record" to protect the-then covert nature of the trip.
And yet a month earlier, Cheney told Scooter about Plame’s CIA employment in the Directorate of Operations.
It has long been known that Cheney was among the first people in the government to tell Libby that Plame worked for the CIA. The federal indictment of Libby -- who has been charged with five counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, and making false statements to federal investigators in the CIA leak case -- states: "On or about June 12, 2003, 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. Libby understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA."
The federal indictment of Libby states: "On or about June 9, 2003, a number of classified documents were faxed to the Office of the Vice President to the personal attention of Libby and another person in the Office of the Vice President. The faxed documents, which were marked as classified, discussed, among other things, Wilson and his trip to Niger, but did not mention Wilson by name. After receiving these documents, Libby and one or more persons in the Office of the Vice President handwrote the names 'Wilson' and 'Joe Wilson' on the documents."
It is unclear if one of the documents in question, or the one with Wilson's name handwritten on it by someone in the Vice President's office, was the March 2002 CIA report, but the fact that it did not mention Wilson by name suggests that it possibly was indeed the one with the handwriting.
Cheney, Libby, and others wanted to leak and declassify portions of the report because they believed that it would undercut the perception that Wilson's mission had disproved the allegations definitively that Iraq had attempted to procure uranium from Niger, two senior government officials said in interviews.

Any claim by Scooter or Shooter that there is no connection between Scooter’s leaking of the NIE and his disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity is suspect at best, given that we now know Shooter directed him to talk with reporters about both the NIE and Wilson’s trip at the same time. This ties the Plame identity breach into the Wilson pushback campaign, and drags both into the White House directly.

Steve :: 1:32 PM :: Comments (13) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!