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February 07, 2006


What would the harm have been in questioning Dickerson? Is there some valid reason Fitzgerald wouldn't have wanted to have a chat with him? Even if there had been conditions attached to the conversation, even if Dickerson had insisted on protecting his sources, Fitzgerald would have learned more about the tone of what was going on. As it is, this just provides another opportunity for someone to say Fitzgerald got something wrong. I have much less sympathy for the sand thrown at Fitzgerald in instances where his eyes aren't open.

"Is there some valid reason Fitzgerald wouldn't have wanted to have a chat with him?"

Dickerson didn't receive the leak on who Plame was. So he doesn't fill in that part of the story. While Dickerson provides proof of conspiracy, he doesn't speak to the very, very narrow indictment Fitz went after. My guess is Fitzgerald is very cautious. He only indicted when he could prove that Libby lied (Libby admitted it for Chrissake.) The right screams about how Fitz is too aggressive. It is the opposite - he is way, way too cautious.


I think Dickerson has very intentionally given Fitz everything he might be able to add. THe Ari and Bartlett finger are already out there. He has provided confirming evidence (such as telling what Bush was doing at a particular time, which I'm sure Fitz could cross reference to who was doing what in Africa) that would help Fitz ascertain for sure that Bartlett was the second SAO. So he doesn't need to ask Dickerson. He can just ask Bartlett if there's anything else he needs to tell him. That is, if Bartlett hasn't already told Fitz precisely how he learned of Plame's identity and whether he was directed to sorta kinda leak it, then he's probably getting a little uncomfortable now.

Wheel, I agree that Fitzgerald has what he needs from Dickerson now. My question is why didn't he talk with him before. Ende, I include in that questiuon why didn't he talk with him before only deciding to go with a perjury charge (for now).

1. Congrats emptywheel on your Steelers. Can't tell you how disappointed I am in Holmgren for his comments on the officiating. I was not strong for either team and I thought the officiating was fine. Those were tough, close calls even in slow motion. The Seahawk's tight end, Stevens can't drop so many, somebody has to tackle Parker on his 75 yard run, and or Hasselback can't throw that late intercpetion, before Holmgren can blame the refs.
2. I don't know if you caught Swopa's comments on ReddHedd's article at FDL. He had a concern about Dickerson that I missed and was not as positive as you and ReddHedd. I guess he had left the thread by the time I asked him to elaborate.
3. IMO Dickinson's article just sizzles with three plot lines, the Africa trip on AF1, excellent sources at ground zero of Rover's "Get Wilson" campaign, and Fitz' investigation of "Get Wilson." I hope the TM will pick up on it.
4. Very interested if you have time to post or comment on the Judiciary Hearings.

Two possible reasons.

First, Ari likely testified to his side of things. So unless Cooper said, "Two people walked Dickerson up to this," then he would be satisfied with one source (as he was satisfied, I've argued, that between Ari to Dickerson and Libby to Cooper he had all the "government sources" Time sourced in its article.)

Arguably, Bartlett was also out there as "walking reporters up to" the leak. And there is the possibility that Bartlett is Mr. X--Woodward's and Pincus' source--who we know is testifying willingly, so it's possible Fitz already has a decent account of THAT discussion. (Although I doubt it, because I suspect Pincus' source would have known of the AF2 session and been in DC.)

The other reason Fitz may not have subpoenaed him is similar to what Ende said. Fitz could only subpoena reporters for stuff that he could show to be central to the case. If he had no reason to doubt Bartlett and plenty of evidence that Bartlett was not one of the primary leakers, it's doubtful Fitz would have gotten approval from the courts to subpoena him. (Consider Fitz didn't subpoena Phelps from Newsday either.)

But I'm arguing that Dickerson thinks there's something that Fitz is missing, and he's basically giving him that testimony now, under guise of responding to the leaks of his role in the blogosphere. Maybe there's something important about the timing (that is, that it might corroborate Cooper's story that he told Rove's receptionist he wanted to speak about Wilson). Or maybe it's just the strong suspicion that Bartlett hasn't come clean. In any case, he's certainly been a good witness for Fitz, giving him all the details, that he'd need to be able to avoid a subpoena if he thought it were important testimony.

John Casper

I'm happy the Steelers won, think Holmgren DOES have a point about the officiating, but think that the difference in reaction between him, in the SB, and all the Steelers, after the Polamalu call in Indy, is instructive. Had the Steelers lost that Indy game, I don't think they would have been strident about the calls (with the obvious exception of Joey Porter, whose job it is). But I do laud Stevens for the way he took responsibility for his play.

I think Swopa may still be trying to resucitate his dying 1 X 2 X 6 thoery, arguing that only someone on AF1 could have been the SAO for the WaPo.

I've only watched the hearings intermittently, sorry to say. Trying to bill some hours, been in meetings.

I'm pretty sure Dickerson screwed up many of the times he mentions in his piece, so that won't be much help to Fitzgerald, though the fact that he specifies that he had his talks with the two SAOs while Bush was involved in business (meeting with Uganda's president; talking at an AIDS center) is probably very helpful, and probably points the finger at Bartlett and Fleischer.

The talking point the SAOs were pushing was circulating, without the crucial specification that a particular employee at CIA was responsible for Wilson's trip, but with increasing specificity over time; it probably started just as a denial that Cheney had sent Wilson and picked up major steam with claims about Plame's involvement. Here's Pincus and Allen's October 2003 account of what the administration was up to in June-July 2003:

On June 12, The Post published a more complete account than Kristof's of Wilson's trip. Wilson has now given permission to The Post to identify him as one source for that article.

By that time, officials in the White House, Cheney's office, the CIA and the State Department were familiar with Wilson and his mission to Niger.

Starting that week, the officials repeatedly played down the importance of Wilson's trip and its findings, saying it had been authorized within the CIA's nonproliferation section at a low level without requiring the approval of senior agency officials. No one brought up Wilson's wife, and her employment at the agency was not known at the time the article was published.

It's unclear whether "that week" is the week before or after Pincus' June 12 column. Also, is that last line meant to indicate that Pincus himself did not know about Plame's employment as of June 12? In any case, by mid-June at the latest, you've got officials seemingly throughout the administration tagging Wilson's trip with low level CIA approval.

Pincus and Leiby got a similar claim from an anti-Wilson SAO on July 5, 2003, for their July 6, 2003 rollout of Wilson:

A senior administration official said yesterday that Wilson's mission originated within the CIA's clandestine service after Cheney aides raised questions during a briefing. "It was not orchestrated by the vice president" and did not need high-level approval, the official said. He added that it was reported in a routine way that he said was "not memorable," did not mention Wilson's name and did not say anything about forgeries.

Now here's Andrea Mitchell on July 8, 2003 Capital Report:

BORGER: Andrea, this being Washington, somebody's going to have to take the fall for this. The president giving faulty information in a State of the Union address is not something that makes the president very happy. So who is going to end up taking the fall?

MITCHELL: Well, people at the CIA say that it's not going to be George Tenet; and, in fact, that high-level people at the CIA did not really know that it was false, never even looked at Joe Wilson's verbal report or notes from that report, didn't even know that it was he who had made this report, because he was sent over by some of the covert operatives in the CIA at a very low level, not, in fact, tasked by the vice president.

So this is probably Tenet's people at CIA defending Tenet - and note the somewhat more specific information pointing a finger at low level covert operatives. Remember that by the afternoon (I think) of this day, July 8, Novak already had the basics of his outing of Plame, as he was able to spill the beans to a stranger on the streets of D.C.

And then by the end of the week, Dickerson's two SAOs are pointing to a particular individual at that low level in the CIA, truly walking him right up to the info about Wilson's wife.

Does someone have to be subpoenaed to be interviewed by Fitzgerald? Could Fitzgerald have asked Dickerson to come in and talk? What if Dickerson had said yes? What if they could have agreed on ground rules? Would there have been some harm in asking?


What do you mean, that Dickerson screwed up the times?

Although I doubt it, because I suspect Pincus' source would have known of the AF2 session and been in DC.

This doesn't add any direct evidence that Bartlett is Pincus' source (and nothing with regard to Woodward), but it is worth noting anyway that there was clearly communication between AF1 in Africa and (those on) AF2 on its way to and from Norfolk on July 12, if the early version of Barton Gellman's dynamite October 30, 2005 WaPo story is accurate (and we have no reason to think it isn't):

On July 12, the day Cheney and Libby flew together from Norfolk, the vice president instructed his aide to alert reporters of an attack launched that morning on Wilson's credibility by Fleischer, according to a well-placed source.

Libby talked to Miller and Cooper. That same day, another administration official who has not been identified publicly returned a call from Walter Pincus of The Post. He "veered off the precise matter we were discussing" and told him that Wilson's trip was a "boondoggle" set up by Plame, Pincus has written in Nieman Reports.

The July 12, 2003 Fleischer gaggle, which happened in the middle of the night D.C. time, is the very one that Fitzgerald subpoenaed the full transcript of, I believe, and it is fascinating: while Fleischer is basically just reading off of Tenet's July 11 statement -- and note that Libby's version, reported in the NYT, was that Cheney just told Libby to refer reporters to Tenet's statement, not Fleischer's variation on it, Fleischer in fact crucially varies the story. Intentionally or not, he basically makes it sound like Wilson himself found himself in the middle of some shady Niger-Iraq uranium business, and had that kind of direct evidence if not involvement. Check it out:

In fact, in one of the least known parts of this story, which is now, for the first time, public -- and you find this in Director Tenet's statement last night -- the official that -- lower-level official sent from the CIA to Niger to look into whether or not Saddam Hussein had sought yellow cake from Niger, Wilson, he -- and Director Tenet's statement last night states the same former official, Wilson, also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official, Wilson, meet an Iraqi delegation to discuss expanding commercial relations between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.

This is in Wilson's report back to the CIA.

Fleischer then reverts back to the claim that Wilson simply reported on this from a former Niger official. Who knows if there's anything to this, but it is weird. It's hard for me not to think of the weird way Libby presented Wilson and some of the Niger intelligence to Miller at their July 8 meeting.

One other side note: at the time it was published then withdrawn from the WaPo, someone speculated that the WaPo took back the passage about Cheney and Libby because it made it sound like Fleischer was Pincus' source. But rereading it now, I'll be damned if it doesn't actually point a finger directly at one of the other passengers on AF2 - which is to say either Cheney or Cathie Martin. I presume this is part of why ew thinks Martin is a good candidate as Pincus' source. Is Pincus too unfriendly for Cheney to call him? Would Martin return the call to Pincus on the OVP's behalf?


Good point, that the strategy session would have to reflect a very fresh report of Ari's Presser that day (or at least an awareness of the strategy that went into it). Given the timing, though, I think it goes:

Joint discussion on strategy (OVP to Africa)
AF2 trip during which they strategize (wasn't this a luncheon event?)
Libby calls Cooper, presumably Kessler, and then Judy, Judy calles Libby back
Mr. X (Cathie Martin) calls Pincus

Recall that Libby said the June strategy meetings about Plame were held so he could respond to reporters. Which has always led me to believe that he was Pincus source for his June article (almost would have to be, since it seems to reflect an understanding of Plame's role, and Grossman had not briefed before the article).

But I think Cathie Martin might have been the July 12 source for exactly the reason you say--by this point it was clear Pincus was unfriendly. You wanted to squelch his reporting, rather than encourage it.

Also, Mr. X HAS to be a friendly (to us, I mean) witness, and Martin is the only one we know of so far. It seems likely Hadley has NOT been a friendly witness, or else we'd have more dirt on Libby and Rove and Hadley'd be out of a job, not in a more senior position.

1. Dickerson says "on an early morning flight to Uganda, Condi Rice visited the small press cabin in the back of Air Force One, where I was in the pool of reporters that flies on the president's plane." In fact, according to the transcript he links to, the gaggle took place from 12:15 p.m. local time until 1:07 p.m.

2. Dickerson says, "They'd set up phone lines and I tried to dial out the news. Given the local technology, it took a while. When I finally made it through, I realized it was 5 a.m. in the States. I left a rambling message on my bureau chief's voicemail" Now, unless I'm mistaken, which is totally possible, during the summer (with daylight savings in D.C.), Entebbe is seven hours ahead of D.C. So 5 a.m. in D.C. would only be noon in Entebbe, before AF1 even arrived in Entebbe.

3. Dickerson notes that the conversation with SAO 1 was while Bush was finishing up his meeting with Museveni. Earlier Dickerson quotes the President answering a question about the Niger business before his meeting, but it appears that Bush was answering that question -- at least, he uses the exact words that Dickerson quotes -- between 3 and 3:05 p.m., according to the White House record of it. (To confuse matters further, the WH says this is EDT, but that can't be right, and it's probably local time.) Sanger reported on July 12 that Bush made the statement after his private meeting with Museveni (no link to the NYT article), which fits the timing better, it seems to me.

4. In any case, Dickerson gets it right that the conversation with SAO 2 took place about an hour later, that is, between 4 and 4:30 p.m. local time, since the WH records indicate the event at the AIDS center during which the conversation happened took place between 4:10 and 4:30 p.m. local time.

5. But then Dickerson goes on to say, "At the end of the two conversations I wrote down in my notebook: "look who sent." It was about 10:30 a.m. in Washington as the event ended. I called the Washington bureau but couldn't reach anyone (they were all huddled in the morning meeting)." 10:30 a.m. in D.C. would be 5:30 p.m. in Uganda, which seems about an hour later than the reality (though it's possible the event went on for an hour after Bush spoke).

Just to fill it out: according to Dickerson, they leave Uganda at 11 a.m. D.C. time, which would be 6 p.m. local. Then, from Nigeria, which as far as I can tell in the summer is 5 hours ahead of D.C., Dickerson calls Cooper some time after 1 p.m. D.C. time. How long does it take to jump two time zones from Uganda to Nigeria?


Would you be willing to email those questions to Dickerson? His email is on the stories:

[email protected]

I'd be interested to know the source of the discrepancies...particularly since Dickerson says Fitz has his timing off.

One quick thing EW--

Regarding your third bullet point, you know about another SAO that might have instructed Condi and Bartlett to inform reporters...migntn't Hadley fall under that category? As Condi's deputy he certainly would have had access to her and explain the necessity of the partial leak. It would certainly bring us back to the Rove/Libby/Hadley conspiring that week to leak Plame to the press idea.

Although it is quite a strange idea to be ordering one's boss around.

Pincus has Barlett leading reporters to the CIA origins of the trip as well.

Dan Bartlett, the most senior communications strategist in the White House, has also told investigators that he did not know who Ms. Wilson was, according to a person who has been briefed on the case.

Few if any reporters who traveled with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Bartlett and the White House entourage that week have been called to testify before the grand jury. A background briefing during the trip in which Mr. Bartlett spoke with reporters and urged them to look into the C.I.A.'s role in sending Mr. Wilson to Niger has not drawn substantial interest from prosecutors recently.

One source familiar with the case said Mr. Fitzgerald knew about the briefing but was apparently not pursuing it as a significant lead.


That individual added that Mr. Bartlett did not see the classified State Department memorandum.

WaPo 7/27/05

From the Pincus article Barlett denies reading the memo or knowing about Plame, I don't buy it. Why would he be telling reporters to look into the CIA's role if he didn't think there was something to find there. I believe Bartlett is very likely one of the people described in the story in the LaTimes.

Powell told prosecutors that he circulated the memo among those traveling with him in the front section of Air Force One. It is believed that all officials in that part of the aircraft had high-level security clearance.

LaTimes 8/05

I think the Andrea Mitchell quote in bold looks pretty interesting (via Jeff), hadn't known this before - how would she be aware of a "low level covert CIA operative" being behind Wilson's trip at this early date?

polly, take a look at your citation:

Few if any reporters who traveled with Mr. Fleischer, Mr. Bartlett and the White House entourage that week have been called to testify before the grand jury. A background briefing during the trip in which Mr. Bartlett spoke with reporters and urged them to look into the C.I.A.'s role in sending Mr. Wilson to Niger has not drawn substantial interest from prosecutors recently.

One source familiar with the case said Mr. Fitzgerald knew about the briefing but was apparently not pursuing it as a significant lead.

A different person, who has been briefed on the investigation, said, "If Bartlett spoke to the issue, it was to suggest to reporters to inquire at the C.I.A. because it was the C.I.A. that had control of the issue."

That individual added that Mr. Bartlett did not see the classified State Department memorandum.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bartlett repeated that administration officials "are fully cooperating with the investigators in this process, at the direction of the president."

First, a correction, the quote you cite is from the Kornblut article, below the Pincus one.

But it's curious that passage comes from the Kornblut article. I've pointed to it to support my early theories that Ari had flipped, because of the way Rove and Libby's leakers were going after him and the way he says here that he's cooperating. It's a very pro-Ari article.

But it also may be designed to be a very anti-Bartlett article. If I had to guess (based on the longer passage I cite), I'd say the first part of the passage (italicized) is sourced to Ari. And the second (bolded) part of the passage is sourced to Bartlett.

So basically Kornblut had Ari saying, I've testified to Bartlett's involvement, but for some reason Fitz hasn't looked further. But then Bartlet is off the record denying he was involved. The "only suggesting reporters look at the CIA" is probably not far off what Bartlett testified to.

If that's true, it would support my suggestion that Dickerson thinks Fitz has missed something there, too. It could be Dickerson saying, look, Bartlett told you he only told reporters to go to the CIA. Well, I'm here to tell you, he said to go to the CIA to find out which low-level person authorized the trip.

One more point, polly.

I still think the memo on AF1 is a red herring. I think that, if Bartlett is involved, that Libby likely had a conversation with him directly (or perhaps Rove), just like he did with Ari. It was unusual for Libby to seed leaks with Ari, he has told us. It was probably less unusual for him to seed them with Bartlett, bc Bartlett was regarded as more trustworthy. So if he seeded this with Ari, then he likely did so more explicitly with Bartlett. Even mentioning the INR memo on the plane is a feint, away from the fact he almost certainly knew anyway, as a member of WHIG. That he tried that feint suggests there's more there.


To read more on the Andrea Mitchell question, go to Tom Maguire's place; he's the expert on Andrea Mitchell speculations.

You are absolutely right it is not the Pincus article. Truthout stored both articles at the same link.

Your analysis on that article sounds right to me.

Cici in the comments at Firedoglake noted something I missed. I think she has a point this may be a clue from Dickerson.

All administrations discredit their critics through whispers to reporters, but we hadn't seen high-level Bush people do anything like this in the past. It suggested desperation and unsteadiness in a national security team that had often been heralded for its smooth competency.


Dickerson seems to imply here that someone high-level from the National Security Team (Condi?) was whispering to reporters.

It seems pretty clear to me that the outing of Plame was part and parcel of a larger attempt to make the CIA look bad. The administration was desperately searching for someone to blame for their inability to find the WMDs. The administration completely miscalculated in that regard. If they had left Valerie Plame out of it, this all would have blown over. Once again, here's what happened (all this is pure speculation):

By May 2003, it was starting to be obvious that there were no substantial biological or chemical weapons in Iraq and not even a whiff of a nuclear program. The administration's most important casus belli is a lie. Joe Wilson is gradually turning up the pressure on the administration for ignoring his trip and all the other information available before the war that pointed to the truth. The White House believes that Joe Wilson is a merely a front man for their old enemies, the professionals at the CIA and State.

The White House comes up with a tried and true strategy. They'll make sure that the very people that tried to slow down the rush to war take the blame for the very policies they opposed. The WHIG (White House Iraq Group) comes up with a two-pronged approach. Rice and Hadley will work over Tenet and make him fall on his sword. Rove and Libby will come up with a smear to neutralize Wilson. At some point in June, Cheney and Bush sign off on the plan. When they make the Plame-Wilson connection, Cheney and Libby immediately recognize the opportunity and danger it represents. Working with Rove, they hatch a plan that allows them to out a covert agent without running afoul of the IIPA or the Espionage Act. They orchestrate a serious of casual leaks to their pet reporters (Woodward and Miller) about Wilson's wife working for the CIA, carefully leaving the impression that she is an analyst. They don't expect either reporter to publish anything. They want to seed the Washington rumor mill and provide cover for their later leaks.

After the July 6 editorial, Phase II of the Wilson smear campaign takes off. Rove, Libby, and others put on a full court press, leaking to everybody in sight, always claiming they heard it from other reporters. Some folks only get bits and pieces (Dickerson, et al in Africa, Mitchell gets the covert part, but not the bit about Plame). Only Novak is unhinged enough to actually out a covert agent. At the exact same time, Tenet caves in and falls on his sword. Rove must have really thought he had won a big one.

Unfortunately, Ashcroft wasn't fully in control of the Justice Department and Rove underestimated how badly he had pissed off the pros in the CIA and State. On top of that, Woodward and Miller didn't blab to enough people.

ew - Done. Don't expect much, didn't get any reply last time.

Cool. Since he gave FDL such a nice tip maybe this time he'll respond.

I'm blushing (or picturing my tombstone - "He Tabbed Andrea").

Well. As a supplement, Reuters got substantially the same leak as Andrea Mitchell, on the same day (from Josh Marshall):

A U.S. intelligence official said [Joseph] Wilson was sent to investigate the Niger reports by mid-level CIA officers, not by top-level Bush administration officials. There is no record of his report being flagged to top level officials, the intelligence official said.

"He is placing far greater significance on his visit than anyone in the U.S. government at the time it was made," the official said, referring to Wilson's New York Times article.

Andrea has "CIA", Reuters has "intelligence officials". And Reuters promoted them to "mid-level"; they were back to "low-level" when Novak got to this a week later.

Pushback everywhere.

Dickerson makes clear - there was a whole lot of coordination among WH officials in smearing Wilson. How could Bush plausibly not know about this?

Although I have some quibbles around the margins, I believe Rev. Ockham is on the right track,

Are you familiar with this post of mine, good sir? If not, I think you'll find it interesting.

Ditto what Swopa said, William.

Smooth competency, hard for me to ascribe that laudatory description to it to those people. Maybe this Dickerson is Eric fullback Dickerson's journalistic license.
Forget DirecTV. Such football yen.
There is an important issue on all sides regarding the compartmentalization which safeguarded Tenet from having to know of AmbW's factfinding travels, easing thereby the need to have to make the formal obligate report afterward to Cheney. A way to garner facts in the bureaucratic netherworld between politicians controlling new areas and old time experienced intelligence gatherers still trying to stay in touch, their best skill.
It is with some wistfulness I read last week of the CIA drone now equipped with missles; Tenet explicitly mentioned that in one congressional hearing as a dangerous effort some politicians would push to see realized but which in his civilian concept of integrity of the intelligence services, was anathema.


Yes, I'm familiar with that post. I particularly remember the part about how mentioning Valerie Plame's name makes everyone forget about the conversation. For those who are skeptical of my scenario, I would ask you to explain two things. First, as Swopa points out, there's a fascinating difference between the June leaks (to Miller and Woodward) and the July leaks (to everybody in Washington, except Glenn Kessler, who covers State). Second, what was Fitzgerald's visit to the President's personal lawyer all about, anyway? Here's a guy who's run the absolutely tightest, leakproof grand jury investigation in Washington history. He goes out of his way to be seen visiting Bush's lawyer and nobody seems to care. Are the members of the Washington press corps really that dense? Or, are they covering for Bush?

Spin me a scenario that explains those two bits of this soap opera and I'll give up on my idea that the President who thinks he can: "capture" American citizens on U.S. soil and hold them incomunicado indefinitely; torture those same citizens and anyone else who's deemed an enemy of the state; break the law whenever he feels like it; and tap any conversation anytime, without a warrant; might have ordered the outing of a covert agent as way to pressure the CIA into taking the blame for his being fooled by Iranian agents into fighting a senseless war.

Maguire - It's important to note the substantial difference between what Mitchell, Reuters, Pincus earlier and perhaps others, on the one hand, were getting and what Dickerson got, on the other. Dickerson's two SAOs, and particularly the second one, were specifically pointing the finger at one individual within the CIA, a low-level employee, and encouraging him to look into that angle. And Dickerson notes that SAO 2 pointed it out not once but a few times. So it was emphatic, and it was emphatically about a person. Dickerson didn't get the point in the moment, though he got enough of it to make a note to himself to look into who sent Wilson, but sensibly enough he figured out what the SAOs were pushing him toward when he talked to the post-Rove Cooper shortly afterward. And though the -- how shall I characterize them? more literal-minded among your comments over at JOM -- may wishfully deny this, there can be little question that at least SAO 2 really was pushing Dickerson as close as s/he could toward the discovery of Wilson's wife. And that's not the same thing that Tenet's folks seemed to be doing when they said, it was lowlevel people in CIA, not George.

How could SAO 2 coherently be setting Dickerson on the path of Plame, you might ask, since it wasn't true that Plame had sent Wilson? One possibility is -- and there has been some reporting to suggest as much -- they genuinely believed that Plame had sent him, having confused Wilson's 1999 trip with his 2002 trip. Another is just that Dickerson's interest would be piqued, he'd look into it and discover Plame somewhere along the way, perhaps with the help of someone leaking from a different angle.

In any case, Dickerson's SAOs weren't doing the same thing as the others talking about lowlevels of the CIA.

Oh, and one more thing. I'm sure some folks are wondering why Dickerson was told to go ask the CIA who sent Wilson. Surely the CIA wouldn't have said, "Oh, that was his wife, one of our NOCs". I don't think the person who told Dickerson that expected Dickerson to get an answer from the CIA. That SAO was using Dickerson to deliver a message to the CIA: We know about Plame and we're willing to out her if you don't back off. I doubt the SAO knew that Libby and Rove were already spilling the beans to Novak and Cooper.

It's kind of amazing: this frantic, many-party conspiracy - that the people involved in are covering up and/or lying about their involvement in - over something that "isn't a crime"?

When Bush and his top officials come out swaggering to announce they have committed crimes, and what'r'yagonnadoaboutit, huh?

You don't suppose it's because the Plame Outing is the one crime that someone's actually investigating as a crime, and issuing indictments for?

To me the leak to Pincus is the most interesting.

and told me that the White House had not paid attention to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s CIA-sponsored February 2002 trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction. Nieman Watchdog

The source says the WH didn't pay attention to the Wilson trip because it was set up by Plame. In order for this to be true, the WH must have known about the Wilson trip in order to decide to discount it.

This version of the leak is substantialy different in that the Pincus source is acknowledging that the WH was aware of the Wilson trip and dicounted Wilson's findings. The line being fed to the press at that time was that the WH hadn't known about Wilson or his trip.

It is also quite possible that the WH was not aware of the Wilson trip and the Pincus source is lying about the WH knowing about Wilson's trip.

So either the WH was lying after the fact when they were saying, Wilson who?..or the Pincus source was lying to Pincus impling that the WH knew about Wilson and his trip.

I'm inclined to think the Pincus source was lying and the WH was not specifically aware of Wilson or Plame when they decided to push the Niger story.

I hope this makes sense.


I read that July gaggle a while back and thought the same as you...Ari is really confused.

ew - Ultimately trivial modification to the Dickerson story up on Slate.

Polly - My guess has been that Pincus' source was an incompetent political hitman who totally botched the hit on Wilson in exactly the way you describe, not a liar. But as for Ari on July 12, my question is: confused, or devious?


GREAT catch.

On July 6, we have Pincus telling the world that Wilson's trip "originated within the CIA's clandestine service". On July 8, we have Mitchell telling the world that "he was sent over by some of the covert operatives in the CIA".

Now remember, Woodward and Miller have already been told of Plame's involvement in the trip by this point.

Is there any question at this point that SAOs knew that Plame was "covert" and part of the "clandestine services" when she was outed?

...more literal-minded

Jeff, your future is in the diplomatic corps.

My big takeawy from the Dickerson piece - if Fitzgerald had any thought at all of indicting Ari, he would have talked to Dickerson at some point (at a minimum, Dickerson might be a surprise witness for the defense; at a maximum, Dickerson might have, well, misled Cooper about what Ari said, and (for the same reasons Fitzgerald put into the attempt to subpoena Miller for Libby), Fitzgerald might have had a hope that Ari revealed a criminal state of mind in talking to Dickerson.

Well, he didn't subpoena Dickerson.

So that convinces me Ari is clear. It also makes me very much doubt that Ari leaked to Pincus or Novak - if he had, pinning down his Dickerson chat should have been a priority, one would think.

And a wild bonus thought for anyone who dislikes Ari even more than they dislike Libby (are there such people?) - maybe it is Ari lying about the "weird" lunch with Libby, in order to cover the AF 1 memo from INR. Throw Libby under the bus!

Oh, I can't speak to Jeff's source, but Jim E first pitched the Andrea quote to me.

One caveat....

we all seem to be assuming that "CIA sources" were covering for Tenet.

Lets not forget that Fleitz (Bolton's Chief of Staff) was also considered a "CIA official", and that there were numerous neo-con friendly types in the CIA (like the Aluminum Tubes guys) who would have no problem smearing Wilson....


Glad you guys are still (apparently) here.

Here's something we haven't been discussing about the Pincus source.

They had to deal with Pincus differently because they knew he had an established relationship with Wilson.

So, one reason they probably didn't have Libby speak to Wilson on the 12th is because Libby already had, hostilely, and they were hoping, finally, to shut Pincus up so they could spin their own story. Also, they probably wanted to misdirect from Libby so that, when the story leaked, Libby wouldn't be the most logical source.

They already knew the Novak story was coming out--had probably already seen it by July 12--so the July 12 strategy session almost certainly involved setting up that Novak column.

Also, this may explain the Kessler discrepancy. Did they say something to Kessler to try to sway Pincus one way or another?

Also, just as a reminder, here's my take on that Ari briefing. Obviously, I'm arguing it was intentional, and that part of the plot was to frame Wilson as an Iraq-Niger go-between, based on his 1999 meeting in Niger.

Speaking of which, does anyone have their Politics of Truth handy (mine seems to have disappeared). There's a line in there the week of the leaker where Wilson says, basically, that a journalist called him to tell him "they're coming after you hard." I don't think he names the journalist. I'm curious what day that was.

The Pincus leak wasn't an attempt to get him to shut up. It was a deliberate warning to Wilson. An attempt to get Wilson to shut up. And Pincus probably knows that.

And that's probably why they give Pincus the leak they did. Not an IIPA violation, but as close as they could come to telling Wilson they were going after Plame.

In paragraph 27, part (7), of the Fitz affy, Ari Fleischer is brought up. Right after his name, there is a redacted phrase.

My question: would Fitz's affy include information about witnesses who have already stuck a plea agreement, or information about witnesses who received immunity?

The reason I ask is that Fleischer seems to have been pushing the envelope. He knew Wilson's wife was "hush hush," yet he was taking the time to walk reporters like Dickerson right up to her without actually mentioning her.

Above TM thinks Ari is in the clear, but I wonder about that redacted phrase.

At the risk of becoming a Johnny One-Note, can somebody provide an alternate explanation for Fitzgerald's public visit to Bush's lawyer? It seems to me the only logical reason for his visit is that Bush is a person of interest in the investigation and Fitzgerald wanted the media to know that. If that's the case, why is the media so unwilling to follow that lead?

EW - here is a Politics of Truth excerpt:

A couple of days before Novak’s article was published, but after my friend’s strange encounter with him, I had received a call from Post reporter Walter Pincus, who alerted me that “they are coming after you.”

Fine. "A couple of days" is vague, but July 12 fits like a glove. One presumes it follows Pincus' receipt of a leak on July 12 (but can that presumption be documented, or does Pincus have ESP? Beats me.)

At the risk of becoming a Johnny One-Note, can somebody provide an alternate explanation for Fitzgerald's public visit to Bush's lawyer?

Well. First, why is the most close-mouthed prosecutor in the history of prosecutions flaunting his targetting of the most dramatic possible criminal? Seems out of character.

As an alternative - Fitzgerald was putting on a show and trying to scare others.

Bonus on the Mr. Ockham's first point about leaks from State - let me tax EW's patience and everyone's memory by invoking the classic three-way gunfight from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".

Yes, State hated the Admin. But they also had it in for the CIA:

(a) Powell's debacle at the UN, with Tenet in attendance;

(b) the misplaced INR nuclear dissent, hidden in the wrong part of the National Intelligence Estimate;

(c) the Wilson trip itself, taken after State's own ambassador has said there is nothing to find, and over INR objections that it would likely be a waste of time (from the SSCI).

SO - State gets the INR memo about the genesis of the Wilson trip in early June, and delights in pummeling the CIA to some friendly reporters. The wife's involvement isn't even particularly sinister - it is just a nice detail highlighting how slipshod the CIA staffing was. (Phrases like "scraping under the bottom of the barrel" and "clown show" may have come to the mind of the good people at State - I appreciate that Wilson had a fine resume, but one might have thought that the possible conflicts were a bit daunting. Or not.)

Oh Tom, there you go again taxing my patience. ;-p

Your description is inaccurate, sloppy even.

State had a conflict with WINPAC, not with DO. It had shared interests, particularly in June and July 2003 when they were partners in rebuilding Iraq according to realpolitik, with the CIA more generally. And Wilson was one of them, a lifetime State employee.

Further, your suggestion he was not the most appropriate person to send is nothing short of ridiculous. Wilson had negotiated the handover of power to the precise people who we needed to question about the Niger allegations. He had already conducted a trip for CIA to Niger in 1999. Between his experience in Niger and in Gabon, he had as much knowledge of the uranium business in Europe as anyone. And he also happened to have a better understanding of Saddam then, well, anyone, having faced him down in 2000. So how is he "the bottom of the barrel"?

You're really straining to put Armitage in this, when you frankly don't have to. It is entirely plausible that, when asked about the Wilson animosity at OVP, Armitage would have debunked the reasons given and in so doing, reveal how they were trying to smear him. Any other reasons you've invented have been ridiculous, not worthy of your usual attention to details. Sorry.

State had a conflict with WINPAC, not with DO. It had shared interests, particularly in June and July 2003 when they were partners in rebuilding Iraq according to realpolitik, with the CIA more generally. And Wilson was one of them, a lifetime State employee.

Good point EW. Just like with the CIA, talking about State as if it were a monolithic entity is decidedly unhelpful in understanding this scandal. "State" was comprised of at least three separate interest groups --- career diplomatic corps/civil service types, Powell loyalists, and neo-cons like Bolton who were imposed on Powell.

we need a different taxonomy here...something along the lines of

A) Bush loyalists (Rove, Fleischer, Bartlett, Rice etc.)

B) Cheney loyalists/neo-cons (Hadley, Libby, Bolton, etc...)

C) Other politicos and their loyalists (Powell's faction, Tenet's faction, etc...)

D) Government careerists
. D1) CIA
. D2) State
. D3) Other (NSA, Energy, etc)

So that convinces me Ari is clear. It also makes me very much doubt that Ari leaked to Pincus or Novak - if he had, pinning down his Dickerson chat should have been a priority, one would think.

Agreed. More interesting is whether the same can be said for Bartlett, assuming he is Dickerson's other source? Especially if it means he's not Pincus' source; Bartlett has been a leading candidate for me, so it would be interesting to eliminate him.

That said, I still think you've missed some of the big takeaway from Dickerson's story.

Oh, I can't speak to Jeff's source, but Jim E first pitched the Andrea quote to me.

Jim E was my source too, but if that's a suggestion that I've committed some blogospheric impropriety, buddy, it's not gonna fly. Jim E (and I believe someone else) took my scoop about the implications of Fitzgerald's letter for Cliff May and ran with it un- or miscredited: Jim E sent the idea to atrios who posted it. And much as I hate to say, I suspect atrios has a somewhat larger audience than TNH and JOM combined; so I still owe Jim E.

p luk

Excellent point, because while I'm sure Wilson is one of "State's," I'm not sure if that means Powell and Armitage consider him one of theirs (although I strongly suspect they do, given his ties to Scowcroft on this matter).

They already knew the Novak story was coming out--had probably already seen it by July 12--so the July 12 strategy session almost certainly involved setting up that Novak column.

A lot can be fit around the idea that Novak's column went on the wires on July 11, including, now, the way Dickerson's SAOs talked to him: they walked him right up to Plame's identity, but didn't identify her, perhaps because they could not know whether the Novak column had hit the wires, whereas Rove back in D.C. shortly thereafter knew - or at the very least by the next day the cat is out of the bag, so several leaks can take place.

Here's the thing, though: as far as I can tell, the original and only source for the claim that Novak's column went officially public on July 11 is Susan Schmidt's November 26, 2004 WaPo article. That column appears to be largely sourced to administration-friendly folks, and contains a demonstrable and significant falsehood:

Time reporter Matthew Cooper has told prosecutors that he talked to Libby on July 12 and mentioned that he had heard that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, a source knowledgeable about his testimony said. Cooper testified that Libby said he had heard the same thing from the media.

We now know that in fact this version of Cooper's testimony is Libby's version, and not Cooper's. In fact, the difference is a main item in Libby's indictment. So it's doubtful this came from Cooper's camp (and in fact Cooper has explicitly rebuked published reports like this one in his own account), or even from someone knowledgeable about Cooper's testimony. It probably came from Libby's people (though misdirection from the investigation is possible).

This makes me wonder how reliable Schmidt's article is in other regards as well, including the info about Novak's column. Note too that it is simply stated and not sourced to the wire syndicate or anyone:

While Novak's column did not run until Monday, July 14, it could have been seen by people in the White House or the media as early as Friday, July 11, when the Creators Syndicate distributed it over the Associated Press wire.

Also, if this was the case, and if it was known by the White House, why wouldn't it have been part of Libby's story? Libby apparently testified that information from Novak reached him via Rove. So why nothing on the appearance of the column? It would be a better bet than Russert, or a good supplement.

Has the info about Novak's column hitting the wires on July 11 ever been verified or reported independently of Schmidt's original column?

...but if that's a suggestion that I've committed some blogospheric impropriety, buddy, it's not gonna fly.

Not at all; my own conscience was bothering me.

But it is a helpful reminder to quit crediting folks, or my near-total absence of original effort will be apparent to all.

You're really straining to put Armitage in this

Like a child wants a puppy...


I think you make the case very well we shouldn't believe that Steno Sue article, great point. After all, if the story were on the AP wire, wouldn't Time have it by that point?


I can offer you any number of ponies for the times Bush's approval ratings fall below 40%. We've got a surplus of ponies. But puppies? Sorry, I'm keeping my one puppy.

Like a child wants a puppy...

I like this version of TM far better than the raving lunatic who posts over at JOM... :)

On Bush

I have never heard an explaination on the Fitz visit to Bush's lawyer that I buy either.

The only new information that relates to Bush is the President's Daily Brief obtained by Fitz. In the Fitzgerald letter, Fitz mentions that he recieved a PDB.

We have never requested copies of any PDBs. However, we did ask for relevant documents relating to Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his wife; Valerie Plame Wilson... and the trip undertaken by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger in 2002... from the Executive Branch of the President and the Office of the Vice President.


In response to our requests, we have received a very discrete amount of material relating to PDBs. We have provided to Mr. Libby and his counsel (or are in the process of providing such documents consistent with the process of a declassification review) copies of any pages in our possession reflecting discussions of Joseph Wilson, Valerie Wilson and/or Wilson's trip to Niger contained in (or written on) copies of the President's Daily Brief (PDB) in the redacted form in which we received them
Fitzgerald Letter

It looks like Fitz has a PDB that mentions Wilson's trip or Plame. If this PDB was delivered back in 2002, (which I doubt) that means the WH knew of Wilson's trip long before they claim.

I think it more likely this PDB was delivered after June 17, 2003 when Tenet recieved the memo that Waas reported on earlier this week.

It would be nice if we knew who was in attendance for the PDB that day (in addition to Bush), the date of the PDB, and the content of the PDB.

I doubt the PDB relates to Fitz's visit to Sharp's office. I think the Fitz visit must have something to do with Rove. That was indictment week and supposedly Luskin had some information that caused Fitz to rethink his indictment of Rove.

Here is what I have from the press accounts on the matter. I think it's worth noting that the report of the Fitz visit to Bush's lawyer did not come from lawyers in the Plame case. The Isikoff version, in the second quote, makes no sense to me.

Mr. Fitzgerald was spotted Friday morning outside the office of James Sharp, Mr. Bush's personal lawyer. Mr. Bush was interviewed about the case by Mr. Fitzgerald last year. It is not known what discussions, if any, were taking place between the prosecutor and Mr. Sharp. Mr. Sharp did not return a phone call, and Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment. NYT 10/29/05
Fitzgerald made another visit early Friday morning—shortly before the grand jury voted to indict Dick Cheney's top aide, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby—to the office of James Sharp, President George W. Bush's own lawyer in the case, to tell him the president's closest aide would not be charged Newsweek 11/7/05

Thanks, Pollyusa. I cannot imagine any reason that Fitzgerald would need to visit Sharp's office in person. Ergo, it was a message to somebody. A message that he needed to deliver without violating the rules. I have assumed it was his way of saying to the press, "Hey, look over here." On the other hand, maybe it was a message to a principal in the case. Any lawyers here who want to tell us who he couldn't talk to directly? Or, maybe it was a bold way of telling the conspirators that the indictment was just step one.

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