October 29, 2005


Prosecutor, White House at Odds Over Libby: White House Portrays Libby, Accused of Lying in Leak Probe, As Dedicated Worker With Bad Memory (LARRY MARGASAK, 10/29/05, The Associated Press)

Fitzgerald's probe initially sought to determine whether anyone in the administration violated the law by knowingly disclosing the identity of a covert CIA employee.

"You didn't have that, so why did you charge him?" Schertler suggested Libby's defense would assert.

Fitzgerald spent 22 months on the investigation at a cost of more than $1 million. In the end, Libby was charged with five felonies alleging obstruction of justice, perjury to a grand jury and making false statements to FBI agents. If convicted, he could face a maximum of 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. [...]

The indictment alleges Libby had information from at least seven government officials, including the vice president, about Plame and her CIA status. Libby said he heard it first from reporters. The indictment said Libby spread the information to the media.

Fitzgerald summed up the charges:

"At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterward, under oath and repeatedly."

Mr. Fitzgerald is well within his rights to prosecute a guy who lied so frequently during the investigation, but from the defensive tone of that press conference yesterday you have to figure that in a case of lesser profile he'd not have charged anyone and the charges here seem calculated to get a quick and minimal plea so the whole matter just goes away along with Mr. Libby.

It May Be Wrong, but Is It Perjury?: For Prosecutors, That Is Often the Challenge (ADAM LIPTAK, 10/30/05, NY Times)

[T]he special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has amassed a wealth of details about what Mr. Libby knew and when he knew it. Mr. Fitzgerald described those details in the indictment at a news conference on Friday, and he clearly believes they are sufficient to overcome the busy-executive defense.

"The way perjury is usually proven - unless you have a tape on which the defendant says, 'Ha, ha, ha, I lied' - is by circumstance," Mr. Hoffinger said. The details Mr. Fitzgerald has alleged, Mr. Hoffinger said, "are the circumstances from which you can infer that Libby was lying and knew that he was lying."

According to the indictment, Mr. Libby learned about Valerie Wilson, whose employment at the Central Intelligence Agency was classified information, from several government officials and classified documents in May and June 2003. He also discussed her identity with other officials in that same period, the indictment says. Yet he told a grand jury investigating the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity that he learned about her from Tim Russert of NBC News in July 2003.

Mr. Fitzgerald's mandate, according to the letter appointing him special counsel in the case in December 2003, was to investigate "the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a C.I.A employee's identity." But the indictment does not charge that Mr. Libby violated any law concerning classified information in discussing Ms. Wilson with three reporters in June and July 2003.

Fall Of A Vulcan:
How a very smart and very loyal aide to Dick Cheney got indicted for allegedly lying about his role in defending the war (MICHAEL DUFFY, 10/30/05, TIME)
For anyone who has been trying to follow the bewildering saga of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Joseph Wilson and his wife CIA officer Valerie Plame, Fitzgerald's indictment is a helpful road map. [...]

Fitzgerald's theory of the case can be broken into three parts: The hunt for the whistle-blower The story begins with a mystery man who was dissing the Bush team from somewhere within the government. In May 2003, shortly after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof first wrote about a secret CIA mission to Africa by an unnamed U.S. ambassador to assess suggestions by Cheney's office that Iraq had tried to buy uranium yellowcake from Niger, Libby asked Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman to go digging for more information on the mission. It was not an idle inquiry: the 2002 trip, taken by a former U.S. ambassador to Gabon, Joseph Wilson, had turned up no evidence that Iraq sought the uranium ore for its nuclear weapons program, as Cheney's office had suggested. And although Wilson reported his findings to the CIA, the claim about the African yellowcake kept popping up in Administration speeches in the weeks leading up to the war in Iraq. At Libby's behest, Grossman ordered the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (inr) to look into the CIA mission to Africa.

Over the next few weeks, Libby got progress reports from the inr, and Grossman eventually informed Libby that it was Wilson who took the trip, that his wife worked at the CIA and that she may have played a role in sending Wilson on the trip. Fitzgerald's indictment alleges that Libby heard similar reports about Wilson and his wife from a senior CIA official and, on June 12, from Cheney, who by then knew that Wilson's wife worked in the CIA's Counterproliferation Division.

To hard-liners like Libby, who believed that the CIA opposed the war in Iraq and had been quietly undercutting the President for months, it appeared that the CIA was turning on Cheney too. "Scooter thought the CIA was trying to screw us," says a former colleague of Libby's.

And almost on cue, the hard-liners' dark fears were realized: within a week, a June 19 online article by the New Republic quoted an unnamed U.S. envoy, who was clearly Wilson, alleging that the Administration knew the yellowcake story "was a flat-out lie" but had used it in the prewar claims anyway. Not long after, Fitzgerald alleges, Libby spoke with his deputy about the article, and the two aides discussed whether information about Wilson's trip might be shared with the press. Libby demurred, saying such a move would cause "complications at the CIA," but added that he "could not discuss the matter on a nonsecure phone."

Just a few days later, on June 23, Libby met at the Old Executive Office Building with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who wrote a series of highly controversial, and now largely discredited, stories about Iraq's prewar arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

It was in that session that Libby groused about "selective leaking" at the CIA and first disclosed that Wilson's wife might work at a bureau of the CIA.

Two weeks later, on July 6, Wilson went public, writing an Op-Ed column in the New York Times, retelling the story of his fruitless trip to Niger and hinting that the Bush team didn't really want to know if the prewar intelligence was accurate or not. It was a serious charge and, to the Bush team, an open declaration of war. The next day, Libby told then White House press secretary Ari Fleischer that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and added that that was a fact not widely known—dropping, perhaps, an invitation to Fleischer to leak it to a friendly reporter. The next day, Libby met again with Judith Miller, and they talked again of Wilson and his wife. Libby strengthened his earlier hunch about Plame's employment at the CIA, and this time, the two discussed how their conversations would be attributed in print. Libby, who once worked for the Congress, wanted to be identified as a "former Hill staffer" to mask the source of the information. (Miller, as things turned out, wrote nothing about Wilson or Plame.) Two days later, Libby heard from Rove (identified in the indictment only as "Official A") that syndicated columnist Robert Novak was planning to write about Wilson and his wife.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 29, 2005 9:15 PM

He's hoping for a John Dean denouncemnet ala Nixon so he can go out a big winner. He's going to be disappointed.

Posted by: jd watson [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2005 3:50 AM