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July 07, 2007


But I would also suspect (hope?) that he'd consider it gross abuse of power--of the sort that already demands some kind of response from Congress

Don't waste your time hoping.

Nyhan's brand of pox-on-both-houses, split-the-middle, non-partisan anti-politics will keep him from ever calling for Bush's impeachment, unless there's also a sitting Democratic president stashed away somewhere for an equivalent, simultaneous, parallel impeachment.

incredible, e'wheel.

you just keep putting the pieces of this puzzle together.

it wouldn't surprise me if the puzzle you're completing became a map for discovery questions that could drive an impeachment of - cheney at least.

has miller refused to say ("forgotten") what was leaked to her?

can she be interrogated again?

say in some musty smelling congressional cellar with lots of cockroaches.

I hope Jonathan Turley & David Shuster are members of your "sewing circle," or that you get together over "cocktails" [no weenies] to discuss this when you're next in DC.

You coming to plamehouse for judiciary?


Shuster is, with about 4 other people, actually competent to explain this (though he probably wouldn't offer the laundry list of why the NIE is not logically plausible). But heck--it's a good idea anyway; maybe I'll call him for drinks.


Yes ma'am, I am. Though, technically, I've got something else I've got to do on Thursday. But I'm a little distracted now...

Guilty as charged. I think you make a sound case, EW. It explains very neatly why Fitz had to have Judy's testimony. Judy, in my book, is also guilty of obstruction because of her failure to come clean in court on what it was that Libby spilled on . . . I mean TOO her. Too bad she got scooped by Novakula. She might have had a career like his . . .

After watching David Shuster this week on Hardball I have been harboring the hope that they'll give him the Scarborough spot (he's taking over Imus's spot right?) opening up in the evening. It's almost jarring (in a good way) watching Shuster set the record straight with his guests. Hopefully Hardball's ratings went up during Shuster's tenure.

EW, when you call David Shuster, please tell him that he has many admirers and supporters in the U.S. & Canada, and that we are all e-mailing Dan Abrams to give David his own show.

If he or you are ever in Toronto, please let us know via FDL.

On a sober note, I hope that Congress reads your threads ... the depth of knowledge that you display is mind- boggling!

you really are Libby's worst nightmare.

What was Judy's narrative in its several recensions, of the papers Libby brought to the meeting. Sometimes it seemed like she was fabricating parts of that description, as if a recounting with telltale pauses.

That testimony of the meeting between Addington and Libby in that little office at the WH, and Libby's furtive manner (according to Addington, who should have been protecting him, you would think) amused me, greatly, and indicated to me, that he was nervous about something he suspected he had done "wrong."

If the president authorized Libby to diclose the NIE, then why did Bush, in his testimony to investigators, deny doing so? Libby seems unequivocal, in the above quotes, that Bush specifically gave him authorization.


I hope I'm done being Libby's worst nightmare. I hope I've gone on to being a big nightmare for Bush and Cheney.

But if Libby's losing sleep too, so much the better.

EW all of what you have done is fantastic. However, I cannot see this coming to impeachment of Bush and or Cheney. I do not think there is enough guts in Congress without some real smoking guns.
I therefore put the question to you this way. If Bush leaves after the 08 election on his own, will the new (democratic) administration be able to look into "high crimes and misdemeanors" by the Bush admin? Will Bush be able to still claim executive privilege. Will the new AG and new Admin be able to attempt to uncover any crimes?

I'm afraid this story just isn't going to go anywhere until the Broder's of the world get on board, and how likely is that? Shuster and Oberman have certainly been admirable though.

I've printed out this post and folded it in the back of my copy of Anatomy of Deceit by Marcy Wheeler.

The story is complete--all except for the final constitutional showdown. Bush had nothing to lose commuting Libby's sentence (and of course much to gain/maintain). Congress, on the other hand, has a worse ranking than Bush in the polls. Therefore, Congress has even more nothing to lose in impeaching Bush. Start already!

I have a feeling that the Dems in Congress (many R's too) got an earful during the recess, and expect them to be a little tougher when they return. There's some evidence it is happening already.

on a sort of related matter:

the wapo has a story on one richard barlow,

apparently, a top cia nuclear weapons analyst in the 1980's -

"nuclear weapons analyst"

does that ring a bell?

this guy had the misfortune to

- move over to the pentagon in 1988 - when dick cheney was sec def for bush I

- and to write an analysis critical of a u.s. agreement to sell nuclear weapons capable planes to pakistan*

*selling weapons that could deliver nuclear weapons had been forbidden buy the u.s. congress.

according to the wapo article,

analyst barlow's chain of command contained, at the fourth higher level, one stephen hadley.

barlow's analysis of the inappropriateness of the sale of war planes to pakistan was

re-written by someone above him.

when barlow found this out, he complained.

he was summarily fired.

why does this story interest me?

because it provides a historical record for how a cheney-lead organization, in this case the u.s. dod, responds to intelligence analyses it does not want to hear.

now back to libby's conduct as cheney's chief-of-staff.

whatever it was that isidor leaked to judy miller,

he was engaged in a repeat activity for a cheney team -

destroy the author of the unwelcome analysis.

there are two important points here:

- cheney is summarily vindictive

- cheney does not welcome "opposing" views or analyses.


this guy works inside his own head and strictly from his own views.

to my mind,

this not only explains

why cheney's track record is that of an inflexible, unreflective leader who repeatedly makes VERY bad judgments,

why cheney is the most dangerous man in american politics in generations,

maybe in the nation's history.

i infer that valerie plame's unmasking was not a unique event.

cheney's team had a record of "dealing with" unwelcome analyses and their authors,

a record that sounds like a maffia don.

are there more historical vignettes that might shed light on the "team cheney" attack on plame and the cia?

i'm willing to bet there are.

I'm sure Mr. Maguire is going to show up, so I'll offer this - the trouble with his reliance on what Fitzgerald argued at trial is that it doesn't take into account the constraints of what he could and could not, what he would be wise to and wise not to, argue at trial. Fitzgerald put himself under, and was put under, a variety of constraints both binding and strategic not to argue that Libby was covering up downright violations of the law, or at least of IIPA and/or Espionage Act. He and/or Zeidenberg walked up to suggesting as much nevertheless in their closings. But the fact is he was not going to argue that Libby broke another law and was covering up that fact. Presumably that is part because he would then have to make the case that that other law was broken. And among other things, he had early on limited his potential claims about "other crimes" to Libby's pre-July 8 disclosures of the NIE (although those too ended up getting shut out of the case). And all in all, Fitzgerald evidently made his case within those constraints. But that doesn't mean one can argue that Fitzgerald's real beliefs about Libby's motives for obstructing justice were fully reflected in what he argued at trial or in pretrial motions.


"Oh--and just a note for Mr. Nyhan, who had this to say:

(a) there was an underlying crime and (b) that President Bush 'is a party to' it. To believe this to be true, you have to believe that Richard Armitage innocently leaked Valerie Plame's status to Robert Novak before other Bush officials could unleash a plot that demonstrably violated the relevant statute.

For those of us in the reality-based world, 8:30 AM is actually before 'afternoon.' In other words, Libby's "secret mission"--his meeting with Judy--was over well before Novak sat down with Armitage."

To be fair to Mr. Nyhan (though there's no real reason, outside of rote habity), he probably meant Bob Woodward rather than Novak in the statement above.

Obviously, Armitage learned of Valerie Wilson's CIA affiliation through affirmative actions taken by Libby -- in particular, Libby's request for a memo from State about Wilson. Whether Libby took further action to make sure Armitage saw the memo is unknown.

In any case, Nyhan's point remains moot. I just wanted to make sure the base was covered if Nyhan tries to change his argument by saying he meant Woodward.

Well, I can personally say they aren't worried about you emptywheel, though it is not for a lack effort on your part.

A word to the wise here.
The wilder, the more far fetched, the weirder, and actually the more diverse the comments become on the blog (e.g. the thread before this on Getting out of Probation) then the more noise there is in the system, and for you to be effective you need to keep your signal(say ideas of substance) a good bit higher than the noise. Usually we refer to Signal to Noise Ratio. SNR

This evening the SNR isn't very high at all. Any significant message is being degraded, and therefore missed.

Ok, to put it another way. Wild ideas might excite the excitable, but your foes just laugh and put you down as quacks. The ordinary folk in the middle get "glassy eyed" as I believe you put it one time. Bottom line a waste.

I think this article neatly circumscribes ground zero for answering the question - Why did Bush authorize, and Cheney order, Libby to go on the 'Secret Mission' to reveal something [Valerie's identity and/or the Trip Report] to Judy Miller?

At the moment, it seems the simplest explanation is that in a fit of political pique, Bush saw Joe Wilson as a threat to his primary rationale for pre-emptive war - WMDs - and when he found out that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA in the Counter-Proliferation Division (WMDs) - Bush concluded they were Political Operatives, guilty of nepotism and sloppy work, working a partisan agenda - just like Cheney told him they were.

So, Bush 'declassified' her identity as a political move, most likely not knowing that she was Covert, and in the process of sending Libby to Smear the Wilsons he 'outed' OUR own spy and her network.

Nyhan may think that's simply legal but embarrassing, but it seems much closer to "unfaithfully executing the Office of the President" - classification and declassification is a process, not a whim, which is heavily protocolled to protect the National interest - by design.

In Bush's wild-eyed response to Cheney's "sky is falling" presentation, he negligently, carelessly threw away every reasonable caution to make a political play - Smearing the Wilsons - and in the process he imploded our WMD monitoring capability in the Middle East.

We could go a long way toward filling in the blanks if we could find out definitively what that 'something' was.

If Valerie's identity has since been declassified, why not subpoena Fitz and ask him straight-up - Was that 'something' Valerie Wilson's name, position and employment at the CIA?

We know he knows the answer.

And, if he says Bush is the Leaker - legal and embarrassing, or not - then let's hear Bush explain all his prior statements about 'leakers,' and This Case, and, and - there's not enough popcorn in the World - his story of the 'Secret Mission'.

I'm so glad you're BushCo's worst nightmare, that makes you a dream come true!

Thankfully, we the american public are not too dumb to understand high crimes and misdeamnors.

It blows my mind how the RNC neo cons used the fact that much of the damage to cia operatives remains classified. It is so evil and perfect to pretend that no damage was done just because to know would be a matter of national security. There are those who know. And they are angry and they will demand justice. Someday the whole truth will come out.

How odd that most people acknowledge the crimes of this cabal but there exists no answer to stopping it. It is obvious that gwbushit and chinney commited crimes in this affair, why else would scootbut lie? It's obvious, everyone nods their head, but it just continues on, and on. Our country is being raped by this criminal enterprise; people without means are entirely trampled by this system. The guys running the show meanwhile steal billions and trillions of dollars.....how much money would it take to run a total health system for the country? What stupidity. What evil. That nothing is being done about this sucks the breath of life out of this country, a country approaching life support if this cancer is allowed to continue.

But the fact is he was not going to argue that Libby broke another law and was covering up that fact. Presumably that is part because he would then have to make the case that that other law was broken

geee...ya think?

geee...ya think?

Point being, your master cannot simply argue from the account of Libby's motive that Fitzgerald presented at trial - which, as your master notes, Fitzgerald was not even obligated to present or present fully - to a full account of Libby's motives in the real world. That is a leap that depends on a number of assumptions which are obviously untenable, the main assumptions being 1)that a full account of Libby's motive was not more trouble than it was worth for winning the case; 2)that Fitzgerald was not at a certain point prohibited from making certain arguments relevant to the question of Libby's motive. Both of those assumptions are unfounded.

Both of those assumptions are unfounded.

right...Fitz is not required to provide motive, so when he states in court what motive was in court we should not credit his words, because he disn't really need to, it was more trouble than worth it, and he was constrained....talk about leaps and unfounded assumptions!!

At least McGuire is presenting what's on record, not some BDS "real world" you seem to inhabit

you do better when you stick to facts

here's a fact for you, your book with Waas is Amazon.com Sales Rank: #45,896....nobody is buying dude.

I'm sure Mr. Maguire is going to show up...

Unlike BeetleJuice, two mentions ought to do it.

Jeff and Marcy - focus, please. If Matt Yglesias had requested speculation about possible criminal motives for Libby's conduct, I would have sent him here first. So what? Since he specifically requested plausible non-criminal motives, I figured Fitzgerald's offerings to a judge and jury might be helpful. I mean, Fitzgerald is generally considered to be well-informed and not particularly pro-Libby, and I doubt Fitzgerald offered gibberish in those pubic forums. Feel free to argue otherwise.

But that doesn't mean one can argue that Fitzgerald's real beliefs about Libby's motives for obstructing justice were fully reflected in what he argued at trial or in pretrial motions.

Which is the main reason I did not claim these were an exhaustive catalog of Fitzgerald's beliefs (or was my specific citation of the cloud over the VP too subtle a reference to Fitzgerald's competing theory?).

In any case, who the heck knows what Fitzgerald actually believes, and how might they have such knowledge? If someone told me Fitzgerald believed that Libby acted as a result of demonic possession or as a result of the Imperius Curse (cast, presumably, by Lord Cheneymort) I would be a bit taken aback but I don't know how I would prove that to be wrong. Or Wells might believe Libby is guilty as sin - who can tell?

But for purposes of addressing Matt Yglesias' failure of imagination, it seems to me that if Fitzgerald could present that theory with a straight face to a judge and jury, it ought to have enough plausibility to satisfy Yglesias' request for a competing non-criminal theory of motive.

Well. In my world, there are normally competing theories and I just put probabilities on them - for example, I score at 35% my theory that Russert deliberately perjured himself on the stand to protect other sources, with 65% that he is more or less telling the truth. How would I know "the truth" - am I the Human Truth Detector?

As to non-criminal motives for Libby, I give that a high score. My guess is that there is a positive but pretty small probability that Cheney or Libby knew Plame's status was classified. But how could anyone prove that probability is zero? Beats me.

Folks who can't sustain competing theories in the face of uncertainty strike me as True Believers, but I doubt anyone here fits that mold.

From the post

In an oft-promised post, which looks to be morphing into a series of posts, I'll show that the two inquiries might be connected, and if so, would prove definitively that Libby and Cheney knew Plame was covert.

Then let me offer a never-promised pre-rebuttal. Maybe I can work it into my screenplay:

Bush: Scooter, I order you to tell the press about Valerie Plame. And that NIE thingy, too.

Scooter: Yes, sir. Exits.

Scooter, alone (I picture a Big Soliloquy here): To leak or not to leak, that is the question - gee, is Plame's status even classified? Have any of these bright lights even checked, 'cause I sure don't know? I want a lawyer! (Departs)

Scooter, with Addington: Dave, the President could declassify Plame's status if he wanted to, right?

Addington: Scooter, the President can declassify anything. You're good. Whether she was previously classified or not, she is declassified now. Let him do his job, and you do yours. Not to wonder why, etc, etc.

Scooter. You're the man, I'm off to a TS breakfast.

Doesn't square precisely with Addington's trial testimony, but I can't be vexed with details here.

To me there are two possibilities which need to be considered: was the Bush admin. learning from Iran-Contra days and executing it's foreign policy in the Middle East through the Veep's office to give Bush plausible deniability(?) or was Bush running the show and Cheney was an interloper who screwed things up by having Plame outed (and thereby opening up a can of worms which just reeks)?

I tend to believe the latter fits the 'most believable' label, but we also know how these people just 'learned' from Watergate and Iran-Contra to get their tricks done more secretively and that makes me think the former is the truth and that Cheney's outing of Plame wasn't accidental or just a way of getting Joe Wilson.

I think it's a very elaborate cover and my sole bit of real 'proof' is when Armitage told Woodward "It's perfect!". I think what he was implying was that the attack on Wilson was a perfect way to disguise their true attack on Plame and Brewster-Jennings. Call me a conspiracist, but that's the way I read between the lines.

So, what's next? Fitz needs to get back to work and go after Armitage, Rove, Fleischer and Libby for divulging classified information (at least).

Still, you ask a fascinating question (what was the secret mission about, what did Libby leak to Miller) and Fitz needs to get to that right away. It would probably help unravel the entire sequence of events and clarify that it wasn't Armitage, but Libby who leaked first.

Regarding debate whether Libby's probation order should remain in effect, President Bush says in his statement commuting the prison term, "He will remain on probation". To simplify matters for Judge Walton and others, I'd like to suggest that Bush consider amending the commutation to include one day of house arrest.

Probation allows the 5th amendment protection to continue, doesn't it?


Fair enough. Somehow I thought you were speaking to the actual gist of Yglesias' post, not that narrower question. You're right, that is a plausible account of Libby's motive to obstruct justice in order to cover up non-criminal conduct by himself and the White House (broadly construed).

Are we agreed, then, that the probability is quite high that Cheney directed Libby shortly before his meeting with Miller on July 8 to disclose Plame's CIA identity to the reporter, and the only issue is whether that was a crime or not? And for you whether it was or not turns on whether Cheney and/or Libby knew Plame's status was classified, and/or that Plame was covert, either in the real-world CIA sense or in the peculiar sense of IIPA?

And in that regard, I'm curious. If you believe that Libby disclosed PLame's CIA affiliation to Miller, and did so at Cheney's direction, does the way they treated that information at all look to you like the way someone might treat information they knew was sensitive, classified, what have you? or is the probability of that being the explanation for how they treated the information - for instance, keeping Libby's contacts with Miller secret from Cheney's press person, seemingly alone among the many press contacts Libby had during the period -- still quite low?

Turtlens - No, the continued existence of the 5th Amendment privilege for Libby that Bush intentionally maintained as an obstruction to further investigation of his, Cheney's, and their Administration's malfeasance emanates from the continued pendency of Libby's appeal of his conviction on the merits that remains ongoing in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and one would assume, to the Supreme Court after that. The existence of, or parameters of, probation does not impinge on that consideration.

Tom Maguire - While not necessarily agreeing with you, I find your participation above at 16:07 to be in good faith and fairly much intellectually honest. I have been derogatory when I felt the opposite in the past, so I felt compelled to say so here. I think the questions Jeff raised immediately above are also good questions and actually kind of look forward to your response.

Tom - Glad you're back, you're a good guy!

Let's set-aside Bush and Cheney for a moment here.

It's reasonable to assume Libby leaked Valerie's identity, but whatever that something was - it had been formally classified Top Secret until only a few hours before he leaked it to Miller, and he knew it.

Libby's Secret Mission was so secret that Libby conducted it outside all formal security protocols, leaving no 'within the system' records of his handling of that something.

At first, Libby didn't admit to Leaking Valerie's identity, he told the FBI that he heard her name 'as if new' a couple of days later from Timmeh - a total fabrication.

Then he did remember that he talked with Miller, but that was to disclose the the still formally-classified NIE, not Valerie's still formally-classified identity.

Finally, Valerie's information shows up in Miller's July 8th notes - that she 'found' under her desk in a bag at her house, when she suddenly recalled that, yes, she had met Libby on the 8th - 'wife works at WINPAC'.

Keeping Bush and Cheney aside for the moment - How are Libby's actions distinguishable to Law Enforcement from Espionage?

The Judy Code
Columbia Journalism Review

In July of 2001, Steve Engelberg, then an editor at The New York Times, looked up to see Judy Miller standing at his desk. As Engelberg recalls, Miller had just learned from a source about an intercepted communication between two Al Qaeda members who were discussing how disappointed they were that the United States had never attempted to retaliate for the bombing of the USS Cole. Not to worry, one of them said, soon they were going to do something so big that the U.S. would have to retaliate.

Miller was naturally excited about the scoop and wanted the Times to go with the story. Engelberg, himself a veteran intelligence reporter, wasn’t so sure. There had been a lot of chatter about potential attacks; how did they know this was anything other than big talk? Who were these guys? What country were they in? How had we gotten the intercept? Miller didn’t have any answers and Engelberg didn’t think they could publish without more context. Miller agreed to try and find out more, but in the end the story never ran.

Today, more than four years after 9/11, Engelberg, now managing editor of The Oregonian in Portland, still thinks about that story. “More than once I’ve wondered what would have happened if we’d run the piece?” he says. “A case can be made that it would  have been alarmist and I just couldn’t justify it, but you can’t help but think maybe I made the wrong call.”

I'm not sure if this is a useful comment or even a live thread (I'm just catching up on my reading) but here goes:

If Bush de-classified Plame's identity, he never told the CIA, ever, because they maintain her identity was classified until Novak was published. Fitzgerald also represented Plame's identity as classified at the time it was leaked, so nobody ever told him that the president de-classified her employment. Somebody should get Fitzgerald in front of Congress to get a feel for the questions he actually asked. Even if they did do the insta-declassify can they lie about it to a US Attorney? If they answered ambiguously can that US Attorney then present her status as "classified" in his subsequent court filings?

I think everybody really knew she was classified. If the whole Cheney told Scooter the President okayed it and follow up Addington conversation was about Plame's identity, it represents Cheney,Libby,Bush trying to establish Plausible Deniability. Cheney and Bush could say they misled Libby. Libby could say he thought she wasn't classified. But, the whole thing really is a conspiracy. And, I am very confident that Cheney and Libby, at least, knew everything about Plame including that her identity was classified before the leaks started. The way the Administration abandoned those 16 words rather than trying to parse them, like they do with every other lie, indicates, to me at least, that they were very frightend about how such a parsing could be undermined, by somebody. Outing Plame represented a naked threat to anybody else in the CIA that could hurt the administration's case for war.

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