Tune in to my appearance on the FDL Book Salon Sunday, January 7 at 5PM ET
For more news on FDL/emptywheel/Huffington Post coverage of the trial see this
One of the things I'm most looking forward to at the Scooter Libby trial is the way each side will dance through friendly and unfriendly witnesses. Libby's team disputes some of the testimony of David Addington, Cheney's replacement Cheney after he lost Libby--maybe if we're lucky they'll be forced to discredit the architect of the Unitary Cheney. Cheney's old Public Affairs Assistant, Cathie Martin, will also be a key witness against Libby. But most of all, there's Judy.
As part of the discovery process, Libby won the right to get materials that will impeach Judy Miller, Administration mouthpiece extraordinaire. And in Judge Walton's estimation, there is at least one detail in drafts of Judy's work that will make her look less than credible on the witness stand. So Libby, a guy who depended on Judy's credibility (and access to the NYT's front page) during the lead-up to war, will now make a concerted effort to destroy any credibility she has.
But there's one detail that--in my ongoing obsession with the role of the NIE leak in this story--I'm particularly fascinated by.
You see, to explain away the odd problem about why Libby would get Presidential authorization to leak the NIE to Judy, but not even clarify whether he was authorized to leak the NIE to Woodward, Libby's team is going to have to argue that Judy got a big bonus leak. Here's how Hubris, relying on "a lawyer close to the principals" describes it.
In late June, Cheney discussed with Bush the steady stream of negative stories about the administration's prewar use of the Iraq intelligence according to a lawyer close to the principals. Cheney and Bush agreed that to refute the criticism they ought to divulge portions of the classified National Intelligence Estimate on weapons of mass destruction that had hastily been prepared prior to the congressional vote on the Iraq War resolution. "The president declassified the information and authorized and directed the vice president to get it out," the lawyer said. How that would be done--who should leak the information and to which reporters--was left entirely up to Cheney, the lawyer noted.
This was an extraordinary move. Before the war, it could have been a firing offense--if not a federal crime--for a government official to disclose any of the contents of the NIE. But now, with the administration under fierce attack for having manipulated intelligence, Bush was directing the vice president to leak parts of the NIE to protect the White House. Bush aides would later say that Bush possessed the authority to engage in such an act of automatic declassification. But the information would be used selectively--not to inform the public but to buttress a political argument. (250)
Note: Isikoff and Corn's source is fluffing the story on at least two counts here. First, the trial documents all describe the presidential authorization as happening later--in July. Effectively, Hubris' source pretends that the NIE was definitely declassified in time for the June 27 leak to Woodward, even though all the court documents--and Scooter Libby's own testimony--say it's unclear whether the NIE was declassified by that point (in other words--even Libby doesn't assert this conversation happened in June). And Isikoff and Corn don't bother to refer to the court documents to correct their source's misrepresentations.
This passage also totally ignores that, in August 2002, when someone leaked to Judy and Michael Gordon the contents of the same intelligence on aluminum tubes that would form the core of the NIE discussion on the subject, no one lost their job. Rather, the Vice President got on national teevee and gleefully used that opportunity to drum up his case for war.
Ah well, what do you expect from "a lawyer close to the principals"? The fine-tuned art of the limited admission.
Presumably, Isikoff and Corn rely on the same disingenuous source when the cover the NIE leak to Judy (they don't note the July 2 leak to Sanger at all). The source seems to be stretching to imply that Judy got something more--without, however, actually detailing the nature of that something more.
Once again, Cheney had given his chief of staff the green light to disclose information from the classified National Intelligence Estimate. The idea was to strike back--at Wilson, at the critics--with the CIA's own words. Libby had also consulted David Addington, Cheney's longtime chief counsel and perhaps the White House's most notorious proponent of unbridled presidential power. Addington, according to Libby's later testimony, had reassured Libby that if Bush had authorized the disclosure of this classified information, that amounted to declassification of the material. This was the first time Libby had sen secret information declassified only on the say-so of a president. And now he was going to go further with Miller than he had with Woodward in revealing the contents of the NIE. He would be feeding sensitive information to a reporter whose stories had bolstered the WMD case for war--and who had an interest in defending the prewar claims. It was, one senior administration official later said, "Scooter's black op." (260, my emphasis)
You see how contrived that is? Libby's going further with Judy. But the only reasonable explanation the source can give is that Judy was implicated in the WMD intelligence. Which, as I've pointed out before, doesn't pass the sniff test, given all the prior leaking to Judy. They had already leaked such information to her--that's how she pimped the case for war!! So how would leaking the NIE to Judy be a black op? Geez--more like standard fare, if that's all it involved.
But that's the problem. Libby's team is stuck arguing the Judy got something more, all the while denying that that something more related to one of the few things Judy hadn't been leaked before, such as (say) the identity of a CIA NOC.
And what I'm amused by is that Judy doesn't help matters--not at all. Here's what Judy had to say about Libby's NIE leak.
During my testimony on Sept. 30 and Oct. 12, the special counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, asked me whether Mr. Libby had shared classified information with me during our several encounters before Mr. Novak's article.
As I told Mr. Fitzgerald, Mr. Libby also cited a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, produced by American intelligence agencies in October 2002, which he said had firmly concluded that Iraq was seeking uranium.
An unclassified version of that estimate had been made public before my interviews with Mr. Libby. I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I had pressed Mr. Libby to discuss additional information that was in the more detailed, classified version of the estimate. I said I had told Mr. Libby that if The Times was going to do an article, the newspaper needed more than a recap of the administration's weapons arguments. According to my interview notes, though, it appears that Mr. Libby said little more than that the assessments of the classified estimate were even stronger than those in the unclassified version. [my emphasis]
So here Scooter Libby is, having spun a ridiculous story about getting presidential authorization to leak WMD intelligence to a journalist that the Administration had been leaking WMD intelligence to for years, claiming that Judy got "something more." And Judy, when she has an opportunity to describe that something more (not having been told, however, that she should play up the NIE leak rather than play it down), basically said Libby "said little more" than what had been said in the declassified NIE.
There are a lot of reasons why Libby's team is going to attack Judy, hard--not least the fact that she will testify that he was leaking Plame's identity two days before he learned it again "as if it were new." But this is my new favorite instance of an issue on which Libby will want to discredit Judy. Because if this aspect of Judy's story retains any credibility (it is, admittedly, a very big if), then Libby's whole NIE story crumbles. Which quickly gets us to Dick authorizing the leak of a CIA NOC's identity.