Geez, here I was, getting ready for the Super Bowl, having a great conversation about football, scratching my crotch, and drinking a beer. But obsessed and Sebastian Dangerfield say I've got to get back on the Plame beat and talk about the 8 pages of Judge Tatel's opinion that the court has unredacted (go to pages 31 through 39.
Ah well. Can't wait for Sunday. Go Steelers!
The Eight Pages include a lot of things we already know from Libby's indictment. They lay out the case for perjury, including details of Cheney telling Libby of Plame's employ, Libby mentioning Valerie Wilson to his CIA briefer, the conversation with Russert, and the conversation with Ari.
Conversation with Ari
I gotta say, far and away the most interesting part of this newly unredacted information is the passage on Ari's conversation with Libby:
For example, then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer recalls that over lunch on July 7, the day before Libby’s meeting with Miller, Libby told him, “[T]he Vice-President did not send Ambassador Wilson to Niger . . . the CIA sent Ambassador Wilson to Niger. . . . [H]e was sent by his wife. . . . [S]he works in . . . the Counterproliferation area of the CIA.” (II-545-47.) Describing the lunch as “kind of weird” (II-590-91), and noting that Libby typically “operated in a very closed-lip fashion” (II-592), Fleischer recalled that Libby “added something along the lines of, you know, this is hush-hush, nobody knows about this. This is on the q.t.” (II-546-47.) Though Libby remembers the lunch meeting, and even says he thanked Fleischer for making a statement about the Niger issue, he denies discussing Wilson’s wife. (I-108-09, 156, 226-27.)
The passage resolves any notion that Libby explicitly told Ari to leak this information (Swopa, I hope you're reading this too). But the "weirdness" about it suggests that Libby may have hoped that Ari would leak it, or at least given some hints, which may be all that John Dickerson got. Note, too, that Libby didn't just tell Ari that Plame was CIA (as the indictment states), but that she was in Counterproliferation, which would have made it clear that Plame was covert. And the whole conversation attests to the fact that Libby was blabbing about classified information, something he didn't usually do. Ari will say, that is, that Libby's sharing of this information was not typical behavior.
Libby, of course, denies he ever mentioned Plame. Guess that explains why he spent last summer trying to impugn Ari as a witness.
Conversation with Russert
WRT the Russert information, we learn something the blogosphere had already figured out: Libby called Russert to complain about Tweety's coverage (recall that Tweety had said Libby was responsible for the uranium claims).
Nevertheless, Libby maintains that he believed he was learning about Wilson’s wife’s identity for the first time when he spoke with NBC Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert on July 10 or 11 regarding coverage of the Niger issue by MSNBC correspondent Chris Matthews. (I-162-69; 8/27/04 Aff. at 9-10.)
And, finally, we get an account of Russert's side of the conversation. Reading through the Russert, we might get a sense of why he hasn't been more forthcoming himself.
Russert recalls this conversation very differently. In his deposition, describing Plame’s employment as a fact that would have been “[v]ery” significant to him—one he would have discussed with NBC management and potentially sought to broadcast—Russert stated, “I have no recollection of knowing that [Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA], so it was impossible for me to have [told Libby] that.” (I-43, 32.) Asked to describe his
“reaction” to Novak’s July 14 column, Russert said, “Wow. When I read that—it was the first time I knew who Joe Wilson’s wife was and that she was a CIA operative. . . . [I]t was news to me.” (I-433.) [my emphasis]
First, look at those two brackets. They may very well be innocuous. The first bracket may just be an explanation. and the second may have just explained the reference behind an unclear word. So it may have read like this in Russert's statement:
“I have no recollection of knowing that, so it was impossible for me to have said that.”
This is probably the most likely. But look at the next passage I've bolded:
Wow. When I read that—it was the first time I knew who Joe Wilson’s wife was and that she was a CIA operative.
Again, this could be innocuous, something along the lines of "I knew who Joe Wilson was, but never knew he had a wife." But it could also mean, "I knew Joe Wilson and but I never knew Valerie Plame, noted energy analyst, was Wilson's wife." No way of telling, but if the second is true, it might explain what Andrea Mitchell has been babbling about all these months. It also might explain why Russert would have responded with the lame, "wow." Is it possible that the security reporters all knew Valerie Plame? In any case, if this second possibility is true, it also suggests the brackets may obscure information, such as:
“I have no recollection of knowing Plame was married to Wilson, so it was impossible for me to have said that.”
Like I said, we have no way of knowing one way or another. Let's hope someone thinks of asking Russert some questions for a change. I nominate Barack Obama.
Now we get into what the newly unredacted materials tell us about Judy. First we know (well, we already knew this) that Fitzgerald was not yet after the June 23 conversation. And that the sole things he needed to answer about Judy's conversation were:
- Had Libby mentioned Plame at the July 8 meeting? (Libby says no, Judy says yes)
- Did Libby explain that Plame was covert in either the July 8 or the July 12 conversations? (Libby says no, Judy is, um, probably lying)
Now, it's worth returning to the lying Judy (painful, I know) just to clarify this point. The opinion basically says Fitzgerald's IIPA case (which he appears to have been considering) rested largely on Judy's testimony:
What’s more, if Libby mentioned Plame’s covert status in either conversation, charges under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, 50 U.S.C. § 421, currently off the table for lack of evidence (see 8/27/04 Aff. at 28 & n.15), might become viable.
This is pretty stark. If Judy admits that Libby told her Plame was covert, Libby gets hit with an IIPA violation. If not, he gets off.
So let's quickly review Judy's version. In their first meeting, Judy describes learning the following:
Soon afterward Mr. Libby raised the subject of Mr. Wilson's wife for the first time. I wrote in my notes, inside parentheses, "Wife works in bureau?" I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I believed this was the first time I had been told that Mr. Wilson's wife might work for the C.I.A. The prosecutor asked me whether the word "bureau" might not mean the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, I told him, normally. But Mr. Libby had been discussing the C.I.A., and therefore my impression was that he had been speaking about a particular bureau within the agency that dealt with the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Very vague, huh. Then, during the July 8 conversation, Judy describes:
At that breakfast meeting, our conversation also turned to Mr. Wilson's wife. My notes contain a phrase inside parentheses: "Wife works at Winpac." Mr. Fitzgerald asked what that meant. Winpac stood for Weapons Intelligence, Non-Proliferation, and Arms Control, the name of a unit within the C.I.A. that, among other things, analyzes the spread of unconventional weapons.
I said I couldn't be certain whether I had known Ms. Plame's identity before this meeting, and I had no clear memory of the context of our conversation that resulted in this notation. But I told the grand jury that I believed that this was the first time I had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for Winpac. In fact, I told the grand jury that when Mr. Libby indicated that Ms. Plame worked for Winpac, I assumed that she worked as an analyst, not as an undercover operative.
Finally, Judy mentions nothing about Plame's status regarding the July 12 conversation (although she does talk about that Victoria Wilson crap).
Now, I have no idea whether Judy knew that the IIPA violation rested entirely on her testimony. She could probably guess. But looking back at it, I find it rather convenient that Judy describes the "bureau" as the one that "that dealt with the spread of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons." Sounds a lot like Counterproliferation to me. Plus, I'm not sure whether in espionage lingo one would refer to something as the WINPAC bureau (I've never seen it). But Counterproliferation bureau?
For now, anyway, that one line about WINPAC saved Libby's ass. We know he learned that Plame was in Counterproliferation on June 12. And the day before he had the WINPAC conversation with Judy, Libby had told Ari that Plame was in Counterproliferation. Now, particularly given the fact that Libby trusts Judy more than he trusts Ari (and, according to Judy anyway, shares classified information with her), why do you suppose he would tell Judy Plame was WINPAC? Why indeed.
Which may explain why Fitzgerald went after the June 23 conversation. Honestly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Judy had first learned of Plame's identity even earlier, and that the remaining meeting were all fine-tuning about what she should and shouldn't say, if NYT would ever let Judy write pure tripe again.
Judy, thus far you have managed to save your best-entanglement-friend's ass. But don't count Fitzgerald out yet.
Now, let's look at the remaining redactions, to see if we can't speculate what Fitzgerald is still hiding from us, the tricky guy.
The first redaction appears on page 32. It clearly pertains to Libby's July 12 conversations, per the lead in. Just after the redaction, the opinion describes LIbby calling "several journalists." Who, Tatel, who?? This redaction almost certainly refers to the strategy session Libby, Cathie Martin, and Dick had on Air Force 2, regarding how they were going to respond to journalists (which probably explains why the remaining calls didn't include Judy leaks). If I'm right, it means there's still something about that July 12 session that we don't know yet. What did the Vice President say and when did he say it?
The redaction that most confounds me is the one that appears on page 33. The lead-in refers to Cooper's conversation with Libby (and seems to be part of the same paragraph). The following paragraph summarizes the case for perjury. So there appears to be something more going on with the Cooper-Libby conversation. Did Libby tell Cooper of Plame's status? Did he say something to make Cooper disbelieve he was just confirming her status? Did he tell another lie? There's nothing in Cooper's account of the conversation that would logically fill in this blank. Perhaps it's just further evidence that Libby was following whatever orders Dick gave him on Air Force 2?
There's a huge chunk still redacted on Cooper's testimony, pages 34 through 37. This almost certainly includes evidence about Cooper's Karl conversation, plus some evidence from Novak. Poor Karl, he doesn't know much more about his case now than he did before.
There's a redaction on page 38 with the lead-in,
In addition, Libby said that Plame worked in the CIA’s counterproliferation division (I-53-55, 245-46),
This one I'm fairly certain on too. I'd bet the remainder of the sentence (and probably one more, given the space), makes the case that someone in Libby's position would know, beyond any doubt, that someone who worked for Counterproliferation at the CIA was covert. This accords with the following sentence, which describes Bill Harlow's efforts to keep Plame's name secret (and, incidentally, I think the Harlow testimony is the one "new" witness Fitzgerald said we'd get). So it seems likely that Tatel was establishing the case that Fitzgerald had proven Libby knew of Plame's status.
The redaction on page 39 starts about four characters from the margin. The opinion is fully justified, so we know there are probably 3 letters there. And then on line remains blank below. So I'd bet some money that the unredacted passage reads:
Thus, given the compelling showing of need and exhaustion, plus the sharply tilted balance between harm and news value, the special counsel may overcome the reporters’ qualified privilege, even if his only purpose—at least at this stage of his investigation—is to shore up perjury charges against leading suspects such as Libby and Rove.
There's not space to name Libby, Rove, and Hadley. And the rest of the redacted evidence (relating to Cooper) relates to Rove. So at least early last year, Fitzgerald had a fairly well-supported case for indicting Rove on perjury.
Well, that's it. I'm going to go open a beer and head downtown for some Superbowl fun. Anyone want to spring for the $3000 tickets for me?