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October 30, 2005


Look at the odd way that the July 11 press briefing on AF1 begins. This is where Condi addresses the Tenet statement, and there seems to be some confusion about whether it's on background or on the record.

Now look at the July 12 press briefing, Ari's statement from Nigeria that you're focusing on. The last paragraph:

MR. FLEISCHER: Dr. Rice was always scheduled to brief yesterday, just as Secretary Powell was scheduled to brief at the filing center the night before. So we actually, literally the day before the trip or the week before the trip -- sit down. She was scheduled to brief on the flight to Nigeria. It was moved up to the morning flight. It was easier to do it that way, frankly, and to disseminate whatever she said.

That "whatever she said" seems mighty weird to me, considering Ari was there. Maybe, for example, she said something on background -- and then something on the record?

Combine that with the new report about what's going on AF2. I think we've got Condi and Ari on the phone on AF1 making phone calls to six journalists, while Libby makes the rounds in Washington.

Sigh... as I said in the previous thread, there's a simpler explanation -- and it's even stronger proof of a conspiracy.

I agree, Swopa, if you're right, then Dick is toast, clearly.

But, for someone who takes things as literally as you do wrt the 6 reporters, you're really loosey goosey here. Dick didn't say, "go tell Ari to call 6 reporters" (which would invalidate your whole 1X2X6 theory, because it would mean Martin could be a witness to the plot). He said, "go point the reporters to what Ari said."

You might be right. (And I agree that this makes it highly likely that Ari is Pincus' source.) But this reading sounds closer to Libby's story, which is that Dick told him to go tell people about Tenet's statement. It also provides a bit of an explanation for why they removed the gaggle transcript from the website.

And, finally, Ari really wasn't in either faction at the WH. But he was certainly closer to Rove than to Dick. Why would Ari leak at Dick's/Libby's direction?

Why would Ari leak at Dick's/Libby's direction?

Because Rove was smart enough to keep his hands off this as much as he could?

Personally, that was one of the biggest surprises I had in reading the indictment -- that Libby told Ari directly about Wilson's wife. I had assumed that Rove would have been the intermediary there.

Maybe we'll find out eventually that Rove was part of the conversation, too, but it seems like Karl did everything he could to maintain a low profile on this until Novak's article came out ... except for leaking to Matt Cooper. Does that explain why he said to Cooper, "I've said too much already"?

One more question about your theory, Swopa.

If Dick said, "go tell Ari to leak" and we have VERY good reason to believe that Cathie Martin is cooperating fully. And we have VERY good reason to believe that Ari is cooperating fully. Then why isn't Dick already in jail? And why did Karl lie (I'd understand why Libby would have)? No need to subpoena Judy, Cooper, or anyone else (although I realize it has been asserted that the Judy Cooper subpoenas were a side-interest).

Then why isn't Dick already in jail?

Because the case is much stronger if he can flip Libby. So the first order of business is to assemble the strongest possible case against Libby and see if he cracks.

I presume that both Karl and Libby lied from the start because they had already planned out the "heard it from journalists" cover story, and they thought Ashcroft would cover for them.

Maybe I'm not understanding then. You say Ari is one of the two main leakers, along with someone else on Air Force One.

If so, then why are Karl and Libby in trouble at all? Why did they have to lie at all? Why has the main hold up on this case been subpoenaing Judy and Cooper, who weren't leaked to by Ari or the other main leaker, as far as we know?

A couple of minor points:

1. Ari misunderstands the sequence of events in his press conference. As I read it, he is saying that Wilson himself was approached. He's mistaking the "former official" of Niger for the former official of the US (i.e., the former ambassador).

2. Here are a couple of minor steps in the Tenet mea culpa: 7/9 BBC reports CIA leak that blames SOTU on WH. 7/10 FT quotes Rockefeller "The very public role of Ms Rice in putting the blame on Mr Tenet was 'dishonourable', he said in the Los Angeles Times, adding that he guessed she 'had a lot more to do with this mistake than Tenet did.'" (7/11 is the Tenet mea culpa and 7/12 is the disappeared gaggle. Neither here nor there: it seems that by 7/16 the CIA story was changed to absolve Tenet and put the blame on Alan Foley. Then 7/22 the mea culpa shifts to Hadley.)

3. The NYT (Sanger and Miller) story of 7/23 characterized the pressure on Tenet this way: "Ten days ago the White House fingered the director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, who accepted partial blame the next day in a statement that said he had never read the draft of the speech that was sent to him."

That last one makes it sound like Tenet didn't know he was going to take the fall until Rice told him he was.

Mark C

Very astute observations; thanks for those.

Are you suggesting Tenet didn't know he was going to issue a statement when Condi said he was culpable on the 10th? That would certainly explain the questions from the reporters.

And yes, you're right, Ari misstates what the report (and Tenet) says. But I suspect he doesn't "misunderstand" it. He has read the CIA report at this point. (He says several times in a previous presser things like, "That's not what he said in his report," which suggests he's got a pretty clear idea (or thinks he does) what was said. In other words, I think the idea was to shift what Tenet said, from something approaching the truth, into a really amazing lie, insinuating that Wilson was a go-between between Niger and Iraq. Sounds kind of like what they insinuate about Joseph Galloway.

If Dick said, "go tell Ari to leak"...

Incidentally, I don't think that's exactly what happened. Absent any other evidence, I'm assuming that the WaPo's line is word-for-word what Libby was told ("alert them to...," etc.).

Just to put this in fresh terms, let's pretend that instead instead of leaking about Plame, Ari fed the journalists poisoned meat loaf.

What Cathie Martin overheard in Air Force Two wasn't "Tell Ari to poison those #)%#(!~ reporters"; it may only have been "Tell them Ari's has really good food." Because Libby had already gone to Ari a few days earlier and given him a little "something extra" to put in the meat loaf.

The unresolved question is, when did Ari specifically get told to put the meat loaf on special?

You say Ari is one of the two main leakers...

Whoa there ... to quote Joe Wilson:

"I have read in the Post that two leakers called six reporters. But the leakers were probably not the decision-makers. They just carried out the decisions of their superiors."

Just because they got Ari and someone else to make the actual calls doesn't get Libby and Rove off the hook at all. (It might get Rove somewhat off the hook if all the instructions came from Libby.)

Right, but Swopa, the attack Ari launched has nothing to do with Plame. As Mark C suggests, it's a suggestion that Wilson is a go-between between Niger and Iraq. The 1X2X6 theory explains a leak about Plame, not a leak about Wilson being in bed with Iraq.

Now I'm stewing over this "Joe Wilson as go-between" thing. It would explain some things. First, where did Ari get that claim from? It's got all the hallmarks of a Rove ratfuck--resembling something that is true, but utterly shamelessly false. Kind of like McCain's "black baby."

Is it possible Rove and Libby and Hadley were brainstorming this ratfuck in their emails? And that Tenet wouldn't let them put that into his speech? And that his insistence that he wrote his statement by himself is just a statement that he didn't include the ratfuck, because he knew it wasn't true.

And is it possible that Libby really didn't have the stomach for the Rove ratfuck? That he told Judy, "yeah, Dick says I should go with Rove's ratfuck, which Ari launched yesterday, but it's not true. It's pretty clear Wilson isn't the go-between?

Well, it would make sense--but I'm still getting my brain around this...

... the attack Ari launched has nothing to do with Plame. As Mark C suggests, it's a suggestion that Wilson is a go-between between Niger and Iraq.

To believe that was a conscious attack rather than Ari being terminally confused, I think I'd have to see some evidence of someone else making the same accusation.

Regardless of whether the go-between thing is conscious, at the very least we know Ari was working the "Joe Wilson corroborates us rather than refuting us."

Again, still not Plame. And an accusation other people used. And utterly consistent with Libby's statement (that Dick told him to refer to Tenet's statement), since Ari was working off of that statement.

I think you've lost sight of the point here. Yes, reporters who got in contact with Ari probably got a reiteration of his morning statement. But they also got the poisoned meat loaf something else -- remember what Pincus wrote:

He "veered off the precise matter we were discussing" and told him that Wilson's trip was a "boondoggle" set up by Plame...

Now compare this with a quote from the SAO in an Oct. 12, 2003 WaPo article:

"It was unsolicited," the source said. "They were pushing back. They used everything they had."

See any dots that connect there?

Also, as I said the day of that article that WaPo quote sounds like the comments of someone who was there when the calls were made.

In fact, the context of why that SAO spoke to the WaPo again backs up even further the notion that he was there.

With regard to Miller's report of her July 12 conversation with Libby, not only is Miller just reporting a small portion of what the (37 minute) conversation consisted in, and putting two sentences together that don't actually connect, I suspect, more importantly, that that second sentence has to do with something Libby had told her earlier, in line with what Fleischer had been pushing at his July 9, 2003 gaggle, which strangely seems not to be on the White House website along with the other gaggles. (I got it from here) An initial line of attack from Fleischer and, I suspect, from Libby was that Wilson talked to Niger officials who denied any trade with Iraq, but of course that's what the government officials would say, so it has no credibility. Apparently, according to Wilson's book p. 336, he corrected Fleischer on this point publicly in some print article, in response to reporters, though I have yet to track down where he did so. As Wilsons says, "He [Fleischer] thus obliged me to point out to reporters that I had not spoken to the current Nigeien government, so there must be another report in U.S. hands. Of course, there were in fact two other reports . . ."

So my suspicion is that the point (perhaps understood by Miller, perhaps not) of this particular line from Miller's account of her July 12 conversation with Libby is that Libby is backing off from his previous pushing on Miller of one of the Bushie talking points on Wilson's trip. The significance of that would be to confirm both that Libby was engaged in an effort to discredit WIlson, and that this was in ongoing coordination on message with Fleischer, among others.

Quite an exchange between EW and Swopa :) Enjoyed it.

Emptywheel, you know I have a lot of respect for your work on Traitorgate, but I don't quite follow your logic on this one.

Why would Iraqis use an-ex U.S. ambassador as a go between for uranium purchases from Niger? IMO, that question would have to be answered satisfactorily FIRST before I'd believe any accusation that Wilson was a go-between in Iraq's alleged attepmts to purchase yellowcake from Niger.

That's why I don't think Ari or anyone else was accusing Wilson of being the go-between on Nigerian yellowcak. It's such an unbelievable accusation that it would only damage the accuser.

I think Ari Fleischer was trying to say, "Even if Iraq didn't buy yellowcake from Niger, they were trying to, as evidenced by conversations Wilson had with Niger officials."

It just came out a little funny.


I'm not sure I understand you. Are you saying that Libby HAD said Wilson had only talked to current officials, but he had learned since that he had spoken only with former officials? But why would he say that? The report (which Libby had had for a month) may not be clear about a number of things, but it's clear that Wilson spoke to former officials. Or are you saying the Libby was correcting Ari's statement?


Thank you! Swopa and I aspire to replace Laurel and Hardy.

I do think that's quite possible (after all, I've puzzled over this passage several times and always assumed it was a mistake). But why would Dick have Libby direct reporters to Ari's statement then, rather than Tenet's, which would be more credible to journalists? And why would Fitz subpoena this gaggle and not the 9 October gaggle, which had also been removed, and which contained evidence that Ari was getting close to declassifying info from the CIA report? There's something in this gaggle that Fitz was after; there'd be no reason to subpoena it if it said basically what Tenet said.

Someting for you, then a question.

Isikoff is another former WaPo man, just like Mike Allen.
From the Isikoff piece:

One lawyer involved in the case who declined to be identified because of the matter's confidentiality said Novak decided "early on" to cooperate with Fitzgerald's probe and ID his source—whom Fitzgerald never charged, apparently because the mystery leaker told the truth to the grand jury.

Paragraph 21 of the indictment:

21. On or about July 10 or July 11, 2003, LIBBY spoke to a senior official in the White House ("Official A" ) who advised LIBBY of a conversation Official A had earlier that week with columnist Robert Novak in which Wilson's wife was discussed as a CIA employee involved in Wilson's trip. LIBBY was advised by Official A that Novak would be writing a story about Wilson's wife.

Seems pretty damned clear to me that Official A is Novak's original source. Seems pretty damned clear to me that Official A is the focus of Fitzgerald's inquiry.

Now my question. I've seen it written that "We know that Libby is not Novak's source". Is that true? How do we know that?

Swopa and I aspire to replace Laurel and Hardy.

This is true. For some strange reason, though, Leno and Letterman aren't returning our calls.

At this point, I have two questions:

There is a moment hidden here when things suddenly change, and a decision is made to move from pushing Narrative 1 (Wilson actually found an official who had been approached about uranium) to Narrative 2 (Wilson had been sent by his wife). They had been pushing Narrative 1, even talking about declassifying the CIA report (Ari and Rove to Cooper Novak on 7/14 both mention this) and then suddenly things shift on from the plane they have moved to Narrative 2. Why?

Then there is the declassification wish. "A secret report will be declassified" is definitely part of Narrative 1. We know Rove used it to Cooper on 7/11 when he said “material was going to be declassified in the coming days that would cast doubt on Wilson’s mission and his findings”, and Novak mentions it in his column on 7/14.

There is another mention of declassification. The only record I can find of declassifying actually happening is the NIE on 7/18, although some of the NIE had been included in a letter to Bob Graham earlier. Rice had said that: "The only thing that was there in the NIE was a kind of a standard INR footnote, which is kind of 59 pages away from the bulk of the NIE" in the July 11 gaggle. She also said: "You know, we don't want to try to get into kind of selective declassification, but we're looking at what can be made available." Of course, the Boston Globe reported on the 19th, after the NIE was released: "Previously, the White House has said there was a 'footnote' reflecting concerns raised by the State Department. The document includes a sentence in the first paragraph of the Iraq section highlighting the State Department's alternate view, or dissent, in what was called an 'annex' to the report."

But the point is that the earliest mention of declassification I can find, on the same day that Rove mentions it to Cooper (and perhaps the same day Official A mentions it to Novak) is Condi in the gaggle.

Not definitive, of course, but it raises the question: were there other people in on Narrative 1 pushing the declassification story?

A couple of other notes:

I think Laurel and Hardy are actually converging on this one. Swopa's point that Pincus actually says that he called to talk about Narrative 1 when his source switched to Narrative 2 is a great point. And it matches with what the Washington Post's source says about the "unsolicited" hit. Note that Pincus uses the name "Plame" rather than Wilson, which might indicate this was the same moment that Novak was informed.

Also, Saugatak seems to think emptywheel is saying Wilson was a middleman. I don't think emptywheel is saying that at all. I think the only thing at issue is what Ari and the WH were trying to say that Wilson reported about an alleged "new" Iraq/Niger connection that came from Wilson's trip. Myself, I'm still not sure Ari is prevaricating. How about this reading: that Ari doesn't seem to have too firm a grip on the story. I noted above he is clearly confusing the "former officials" but then several sentences later he straightens out: "[Wilson] reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales". That's consistent with Tenet. So he's got a text that keeps saying "former offical" and he ad libs an explanation of the term -- incorrectly at first and then rights himself.


Isn't the reason for the assumption that it is not Libby that Novak says he is "no partisan gunslinger"? I myself think there are two ways to parse that phrase (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/10/20/264/24229).

Mark C

Again, good comments. I'm still trying to piece together when their narratives changed and when. I actually think at least as likely that they had two different narratives, depending on how trustworthy the journalist was perceived to be. So Cooper, Pincus, and a few others get the CIA employ but not the NOC. Novak (and probably Judy, even if she doesn't tell us about it) get the NOC. Which might also suggest that Ari was told to leak one thing, and more trustworthy leakers (Rove and Libby and ?) were told to leak another. Reviewing Cooper's first story on this, it does appear that he got the "emphasize Tenet" line, rather than the Ari line (if it is different, which I agree it may not be):

A source close to the matter says that Wilson was dispatched to Niger because Vice President Dick Cheney had questions about an intelligence report about Iraq seeking uranium and that he asked that the CIA get back to him with answers. Cheney's staff has adamantly denied and Tenet has reinforced the claim that the Vice President had anything to do with initiating the Wilson mission. They say the Vice President merely asked routine questions at an intelligence briefing and that mid-level CIA officials, on their own, chose to dispatch Wilson.

Wilson tells the story differently and in a crucial respect. He says the official in question was contacted by an Algerian-Nigerien intermediary who inquired if the official would meet with an Iraqi about "commercial" sales — an offer he declined. Wilson dismisses CIA Director George Tenet's suggestion in his own mea culpa last week that the meeting validates the President's State of the Union claim: "That then translates into an Iraqi effort to import a significant quantity of uranium as the president alleged? These guys really need to get serious."

Thank you for the reply.
I thought it mught be that. That's nothing at all, is it?
So it probably was Libby.

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