October 20, 2005


Cheney, CIA Long at Odds: The vice president's history of tension with the agency may help explain why his office is an area of interest in the blown-cover probe. (Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten, October 20, 2005, LA Times)

Initially, Fitzgerald was investigating whether Plame was unmasked in an effort to undermine her husband's credibility by suggesting that a fact-finding mission he undertook for the CIA was the result of nepotism. However, the inquiry has broadened to questions of perjury, obstruction of justice and possibly conspiracy to violate laws on classified materials.

Fitzgerald has learned about ongoing tensions between Cheney's circle and the CIA. According to a former White House official interviewed by The Times, Libby and others in the White House were incensed by Wilson's public criticism, in part because they saw it as a salvo fired by the CIA at administration officials, including Cheney, who was perhaps the most outspoken advocate of the case against Iraq.

Witnesses have told Fitzgerald about those tensions. New York Times reporter Judith Miller wrote recently that she told the grand jury that Libby had been angry with the CIA in the months after the invasion of Iraq, saying that President Bush might have made inaccurate statements about Iraqi weapons programs because the agency did not discuss its doubts.

Cheney and Libby have worked together for years. As secretary of Defense for President George H.W. Bush, Cheney hired Libby in a senior role. As vice president, Cheney brought Libby on as his top aide and national security advisor. The two are said to be so close personally and ideologically that some refer to Libby as "Cheney's Cheney."

In addition to Cheney and Libby, Fitzgerald has interviewed aides Mary Matalin, John Hannah and Cathie Martin. Jennifer Millerwise, a former media aide now working as CIA communications director, was questioned two years ago.

The fact that Cheney has only been questioned once could suggest that the prosecutor, though interested in Cheney's office, is not focused on the vice president. Fitzgerald has shown strong interest in senior White House advisor Karl Rove, who has testified to the grand jury four times.

Cheney's skepticism of the CIA dates to the late 1980s, when the agency failed to predict the Soviet Union's breakup, according to a source familiar with Cheney's thinking. When then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and the first Bush administration began to ponder its military options, it became clear to Cheney that the intelligence community had a poor understanding of Iraq's arsenal.

Libby, who was working for Cheney, assigned an aide to conduct a secret investigation of Hussein's biological warfare capabilities and his likely reactions to a U.S. invasion.

"Libby's basic view of the world is that the CIA has blown it over and over again," said the source, who declined to be identified because he had spoken with Libby confidentially. "Libby and Cheney were [angry] that we had not been prepared for the potential in the first Gulf War."

In the view of the officials who went on to form George W. Bush's war Cabinet, the CIA continued to blunder through the 1990s. In 1998, for example, the CIA failed to anticipate India's testing of a nuclear weapon.

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that the CIA has been a disaster pretty much from Jump Street. But at the point where it tries undermining the elected government it stops being just a joke.

Rove Told Jury Libby May Have Been His Source In Leak Case: Top Aides Talked Before Plame's Name Was Public (Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, October 20, 2005, Washington Post)

White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account said yesterday.

In a talk that took place in the days before Plame's CIA employment was revealed in 2003, Rove and Libby discussed conversations they had had with reporters in which Plame and her marriage to Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV were raised, the source said. Rove told the grand jury the talk was confined to information the two men heard from reporters, the source said. [...]

But it leaves unanswered the central question of the more than two-year-old case: Did anyone commit a crime in leaking information about Plame to the media?,/blockquote>

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2005 10:57 AM

"But at the point where it tries undermining the elected government it stops being just a joke."

The permanent bureaucracy in this country considers it a point of honor to undermine Republican adminstrations. In fact, they hold frequent conferences (at your expense) where the unstated topic is how to ignore, get around, or otherwise undercut their nominal overseers.

Posted by: curt at October 20, 2005 11:49 AM

What I've never understood is the Presidency's under-utilization of the "bully pulpit."

Whether it was Reagan, Clinton, or Bush2, the gap between the talk of the "Bully Pulpit" and it's actual use is huge.

If I were President, I'd be doing interviews and speeches out the wazoo regarding the entrenched corruption at State & CIA. What is it with all this pussyfooting around? Why do all this behind the scenes, where skirting laws is a danger? Why wait until it comes to an indictment?

Maybe this can only happen when we get an articulate president able to "out wonk" the the wonks.

Reagan's charm with Gingrich's brain & Bush's Fortitude...hmmm.

Now, about that $200 million campaign contribution....

Posted by: Bruno at October 20, 2005 12:02 PM

Bruno, Bush believes strongly that the "Bully Pulpit," if used too much, becomes worthless--see school uniforms, V-chip, midnight basketball, etc. The president's presence is a valuable resource not to be wasted, so he spends it almost entirely on Very Important Things: Iraq, immigration reform, social security reform, tax cuts, etc.

Posted by: Timothy at October 20, 2005 1:39 PM

Timothy is right, but I do think Bush shies away from making his case too often, and I think it has hurt him in the public eye. And that cuts into your power, too.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at October 20, 2005 2:19 PM

I don't advocate holding a dialy press conference. There are things that can be done by proxy.

In this day and age, we may all be too cynical to buy into a 'Fireside Chat.' But that doesn't mean an administration can't find other ways to get it's message out.

Some one snap up "Fireside Blog" before it's too late.

The fact is that the people should know about the mendacity of the apparatchiks in State & the CIA.

How to do it one issue, the fact that it hasn't been done is quite another.

Posted by: Bruno at October 20, 2005 8:53 PM