October 25, 2005


Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Lawyers Report (DAVID JOHNSTON, RICHARD W. STEVENSON and DOUGLAS JEHL, 10/25/05, NY Times)

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.

It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government's deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.

What undercover status?

Husband Is Conspicuous in Leak Case (Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, 11/25/05, Washington Post)

[N]obody disputes this: Possessed of a flamboyant style and a love for the camera lens, Wilson helped propel the unmasking of his wife's identity as a CIA operative into a sprawling, two-year legal probe that climaxes this week with the possible indictment of key White House officials.

It seems unfair to blame him when it was she who sent him on a public CIA junket.

It Wasn't Just Miller's Story (Robert Kagan, October 25, 2005, Washington Post)

Many critics outside the Times suggest that Miller's eagerness to publish the Bush administration's line was the primary reason Americans went to war. The Times itself is edging closer to this version of events.

There is a big problem with this simple narrative. It is that the Times, along with The Post and other news organizations, ran many alarming stories about Iraq's weapons programs before the election of George W. Bush. [...]

Times editorials insisted the danger from Iraq was imminent. When the Clinton administration attempted to negotiate, they warned against letting "diplomacy drift into dangerous delay. Even a few more weeks free of inspections might allow Mr. Hussein to revive construction of a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon." They also argued that it was "hard to negotiate with a tyrant who has no intention of honoring his commitments and who sees nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as his country's salvation." "As Washington contemplates an extended war against terrorism," a Times editorial insisted, "it cannot give in to a man who specializes in the unthinkable."

Another Times editorial warned that containment of Hussein was eroding. "The Security Council is wobbly, with Russia and France eager to ease inspections and sanctions." Any approach "that depends on Security Council unity is destined to be weak." "Mr. [Kofi] Annan's resolve seems in doubt." When Hans Blix was appointed to head the U.N. inspectors, the editors criticized him for "a decade-long failure to detect Iraq's secret nuclear weapons program before the gulf war" and for a "tendency to credit official assurances from rulers like Mr. Hussein." His selection was "a disturbing sign that the international community lacks the determination to rebuild an effective arms inspection system." The "further the world gets from the gulf war, the more it seems willing to let Mr. Hussein revive his deadly weapons projects." Even "[m]any Americans question the need to maintain pressure on Baghdad and would oppose the use of force. But the threat is too great to give ground to Mr. Hussein. The cost to the world and to the United States of dealing with a belligerent Iraq armed with biological weapons would be far greater than the cost of preventing Baghdad from rearming."

The Times was not alone, of course. On Jan. 29, 2001, The Post editorialized that "of all the booby traps left behind by the Clinton administration, none is more dangerous -- or more urgent -- than the situation in Iraq. Over the last year, Mr. Clinton and his team quietly avoided dealing with, or calling attention to, the almost complete unraveling of a decade's efforts to isolate the regime of Saddam Hussein and prevent it from rebuilding its weapons of mass destruction. That leaves President Bush to confront a dismaying panorama in the Persian Gulf," including "intelligence photos that show the reconstruction of factories long suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons."

This was the consensus before Bush took office, before Scooter Libby assumed his post and before Judith Miller did most of the reporting for which she is now, uniquely, criticized. It was based on reporting by a large of number of journalists who in turn based their stories on the judgments of international intelligence analysts, Clinton officials and weapons inspectors. As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.

He was doing fine until hje got to the bit about WMD being "the underlying justification" for the war, which was instead justified by the whole series of UN Resolutions ending the first Gulf War that Saddam as not in compliance with, most importantly democratizing Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2005 6:36 AM

Give her a break. She had to do something to get him out of the house.

Posted by: jeff at October 25, 2005 9:56 AM

Will Valerie be making any joint appearances with Hillary Clinton?

Meanwhile, I find it laughable that the left has elevated this woman to Cindy Sheehan status without knowing one single thing about her. Normally, they despise 'covert' agents.

Now, if only Cheney could have started the rumor that she actually killed Allende....

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 25, 2005 10:33 AM

Judith does seem to be in line to become the Times' very own Nikolay Bukharin. She can confess her sins about the WMD stories, but they're still going to line her up against the wall and shoot her for giving aid and comfort to the enemy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Posted by: John at October 25, 2005 1:01 PM

The first article seems bad but then as you read through it states that Cheney and Libby discussing Plame isn't a crime and that Cheney found out about Plame from Tenet (her boss).

I'm falling more into the camp that no crime was committed by the WH group but Fitgerald will indict some for some techical aspect during the investigation which would be ridiculous.

Posted by: AWW at October 25, 2005 7:33 PM

Watching the press eat its own is somewhat disgusting. The list of those besmirched by this story is pretty impressive: David Corn, Andrea Mitchell, Tim Russert, Walter Pincus, Raines and then Bill Keller, Matthew Cooper, and now the lustful screamers like Chris Matthews. Of all the people in the timeline, only Bob Novak is still all together, although the regular press hates him anyway. Had Novak been a liberal, perhaps the media would have shielded him from the beginning, but if the reports about the 'cabal' of Wilson, Plame, and some of the hacks cooking up the whole scheme are true, then it wouldn't have mattered.

Posted by: ratbert at October 25, 2005 7:52 PM