I was wondering when Murray would drop another big scoop in our laps. This one appears to make the case that Libby was protecting both Bush and Cheney with his lies.
President Bush told the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case that he directed Vice President Dick Cheney to personally lead an effort to counter allegations made by former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV that his administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make the case to go to war with Iraq, according to people familiar with the president's statement.
But I actually think it makes the case for something else.
Much of the parts of Waas' article that would be news to regular readers of this blog detail Bush's testimony--and compares that to the actions of others in the White House. Waas describes that Bush authorized regular declassification of the NIE to rebut Wilson.
Bush also told federal prosecutors during his June 24, 2004, interview in the Oval Office that he had directed Cheney, as part of that broader effort, to disclose highly classified intelligence information that would not only defend his administration but also discredit Wilson, the sources said.
But it suggests that Bush didn't authorize what Libby in fact did--with the full support of Dick, if we can believe Libby. Bush didn't authorize insta-declassification of the NIE. He didn't authorize selective leaking of the NIE.
But Bush told investigators that he was unaware that Cheney had directed I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, to covertly leak the classified information to the media instead of releasing it to the public after undergoing the formal governmental declassification processes.
Or so he says.
Waas describes how, at the same time as Libby was leaking his insta-declassified NIE, the rest of the White House was proceeding as if they were first going to declassify it normally, and then leak it widely. This has come up in Fitzgerald's filings particularly with regard to Hadley, but Waas names those who were declassifying the NIE and presumably didn't know about Libby's leaking.
During the same time that Cheney and Libby's effort to leak classified information to discredit Wilson was under way, other White House officials were working through a formal interagency declassification process to make public portions of one or both of the same documents. It is unclear why Cheney and Libby were apparently acting without the knowledge of other senior government officials who were working with Cheney and Libby to formally declassify much of the very same information.
Leading the effort to formally declassify some of the same information, according to legal and government sources, were presidential counselor Dan Bartlett, then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley, and then-CIA Director George Tenet.
This suggests that Bartlett, Hadley, and Tenet weren't in on the insta-declassification, and adds heft to Bush's claim that he only authorized regular declassification, not the insta-declassification type. After all, if Bush had authorized insta-declassification, why would Bartlett and Hadley and Tenet be working to really declassify this?
Finally, there is a quote from a "senior government official" clarifying the point that all the other details suggest: that Bush did authorize push-back against Wilson, but he didn't authorize insta-declassification.
A senior government official who has spoken to the president about the matter said that although Bush encouraged Cheney to get information out to rebut Wilson's charges, Bush was unaware that Cheney had directed Libby to leak classified information. The White House has pointed out that the president and vice president have broad executive powers to declassify whatever information they believe to be in the public interest.
All of which suggests that the underlying story of this Waas pieces is that Libby has claimed Bush was involved in authorizing his activities from that week. And Bush has denied part of Libby's claim.
Which all of a sudden puts some distance between OVP and WH on the Plame Affair. Dick, Addington, and Libby carried out their little insta-declassification. While WH carried out a smear the old-fashioned way, by really declassifying something first, then leaking it. (It's unclear whether the distance is real, or whether it's a nice fiction invented by all involved to protect the President.)
Now, as I suggested above, I'm not sure I buy it, mostly because I find it hard to believe that WH didn't know that Libby and Dick (and Bolton and Feith and so on and so on) had long insta-declassified things and laundered it through Judy or some other credulous reporter. That is, leaking something classified to journalists was a regular habit of the Neocon cabal's, and I really doubt that Bush knew nothing about it.
Nevertheless, Waas' story does suggest the WH and OVP aren't telling the same story, not entirely, anyway.
Which is why I find this bit so interesting.
Bush also said during his interview with prosecutors that he had never directed anyone to disclose the identity of then-covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, Wilson's wife. Bush said he had no information that Cheney had disclosed Plame's identity or directed anyone else to do so.
Now, I have spent a lot of time recently explaining why Libby's whole story about leaking the NIE doesn't make any sense. He has basically argued that he went out of his way to get Addington to excuse leaking he did in anticipation of leaking to Judy, even though he had already leaked it to Woodward without that specific authorization. Which says that the instruction in Libby's notes to leak something to Judy probably pertains to Plame's identity, not the NIE.
That's my own pet theory, of course. But extrapolating backwards from Waas' depiction of Bush's testimony, Bush was asked something like:
Did you direct anyone to disclose the identity of Valerie Plame?
Do you know anything about Cheney disclosing Plame's identity, or directing anyone else to do so?
If Bush was asked these kinds of questions (and I'm admittedly extrapolating from a report of a report of Bush's testimony), then it suggests Fitzgerald is working on the same pet theory I am--that Dick Cheney ordered Libby to leak Plame's identity. And Bush apparently dissociated himself from that leaking.