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September 11, 2006


Btw, it's also worth noting that Corn and Isikoff didn't use the court transcripts for their book. Which means they're working off of what David Addington some anonymous SAO and/or lawyer told them about the NIE leak, rather than what Libby appears to have testified about it.

You also need to connect the dots from the revelation that Plame was working on Iraq WMD prior to the war as well.

You have these ducks in such a nice row, the gaps are beginning to cry out for attention...
I await hopefully your further clarifications re:
July 2 reporter and
anonymous Corn/Isacoff consultant who might have a personal interest in "explaining" events to the authors so they would not bother to go to the transcripts...

I'm glad you are not letting them hurry us on, nothing to see here, nothing to see here- ew sees! ew shares!
thanks again

Stay with it, Emptywheel-I am waiting for your book!
So Cheney won't clarify his authority to declassify? Looks like Russert might have tapped into Cheney's "no answer zone." I did not think Cheney had a "no answer zone" since he is always ready to confuse and obfuscate.
My favorite is his "We have evidence of a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda." Yeah, "we" do have evidence, totally discredited, but we do have it. Wouldja say Dick likes to mislead?

You've now confirmed for me what I've thought was the case since day one, Emptywheel. Your logic is unassailable. Good luck with the book. I can't wait to read it.

a leak to miller might be more problematic than one to woodward because woodward would keep the info close, at least for a while (until his next book, maybe, or his next chat with pincus).

miller was a working reporter hungry for stories and would not necessarily be constrained in the same "gentlemanly" way in her reporting of the info libby was leaking to her.

It was Cheney, almost certainly, but he will get away with it. But we must remember the context. The Wilsons had to be stopped because they knew and Joe wrote that the Bush/Cheney Admin knew the rationales they gave for the Iraq War were lies. They knew they were diverting us from bin Laden and al Qaeda to Iraq on false pretenses and they did it anyway, and it has made us less safe, less well off, and despised in the world.

Watch the video by Taylor Marsh et al. and don't forget the context that makes this all important.

I love how many times you've made the one point that Libby "leaking the NIE" on July 8th was really Libby leaking Plame's status. Like a good bedtime story, I can almost recite it aloud with you step by step. But what's crazy is that I think you may have to keep flailing away at this one in order to make inroads (although the Russert sign is hopeful). It's the big crack in Libby's story, the one that splits it open and leads to Cheney, and I think it's worth sticking with until the mainstream media can't ignore it any longer.


a leak to miller might be more problematic than one to woodward because woodward would keep the info close, at least for a while (until his next book, maybe, or his next chat with pincus).

Yes. One thing I was thinking as I wrote this is that precisely the leak to Woodward makes this whole thing implausible. If you're trying to rebut Wilson immediately, then you leak it to someone who can and will publish the story immediately. If not, you wait the two weeks until you declassifyy. And if you leak it to someone who isn't going to publish it (I think Judy tried, but Woodward clearly wasn't reporting for immediate publication), then it just demonstrates how banal leaking the NIE really is.


Oh, I'm just picking up steam with my flailing!!

Btw, the page number for the Gerson quote is (85). Typepad hates me today.

Emptywheel, good for you for responding so quickly to Isikoff/Corn and for not mincing words in your reaction. I agree, there are possible pitfalls in the collaboration, subtle questions about spin and sourcing (which my own antennae would never pick up), but they certainly managed to unearth some new and useful details. Don't you agree?

I am only on page 70, but (so far) enjoying the book like a box of chocolates. These days I am grateful for every frank discussion of the march to war and every print mention of the White House Iraq Group -- remember, the New York Times has never deigned to write an article about WHIG, and among other things, the revelations about speechwriter Michael Gerson's role and importance are particularly enlightening. Even if Corn/Isikoff don't connect all the Plame dots the way you do, it's definitely a book I recommend to TNH readers. What did you learn, and what surprised you in it, if anything? I'm curious....

I agree, QS. It's a good book, a much better book than I expected. The most interesting contribution, IMO, is in extensive input from Adam Levine, the Rove aide who was right at the center of a lot of the events described in the book.


Excellent work. In reading this, something peripheral to your main point occurred to me. Obviously, Libby testified fairly earlier on about his supposed leaking of the NIE to Woodward. I don't have the source materials at hand, but I believe that the subject came up in the FBI's interview with Libby (before Fitzgerald was appointed). It appears that the FBI didn't attempt to interview Woodward about those conversations. Fitzgerald didn't ask Woodward about them until after the Libby indictment. Fitzgerald went to great lengths to get the testimony of Pincus and Kessler, but didn't seem at all interested in Woodward (until the Armitage conversation came to light). I don't think that Fitzgerald is incurious or incompetent. Surely there is a reason why he chose not to interview Woodward. I wonder what it was.


He wouldn't have been able to subpoena Woodward. DOJ guidelines say you can do so only if it directly pertains to a crime and if you have no other way of getting the information. While Woodward's testimony is helpful in picking apart Libby's NIE lie, the lie itself couldn't be proved or disproved there. And Fitz had do evidence (and still doesn't, as far as I know) to suggest that Woodward got the leak of Plame's identity. That's one of the ironies of the Woodward testimony. I strongly suspect Rove made sure it came forward to undermine Armitage's credibility as a witness, thereby making it impossible to try Rove for perjury. But as a result, Fitz basically got Woodward's testimony for free. Which may end up hurting Libby in the end.

Not terribly on-topic, but Michael Gerson has just been hired as an op-ed columnist by the WashPost.

Would Woodward have some security clearance that made any leaks to him not a crime? (Funny if he outed Armitage in this circumstance I guess.)

FWIW, in 2005, Froomkin reported that fellow staffers considered Gerson "the conscience of the White House." An evangelical Christian, Gerson "gets credit for the injection of Christian themes, imagery and language into the White House communications strategy."

According to Corn/Isikoff, Gerson invented WHIG's mushroom cloud/smoking gun language, introducing that language just three days before Judy Miller's Sept 8th, 2002 article (even then, the aluminum tubes were already widely believed to be unsuitable for nuclear work, as Isikoff/Corn spell out). Although the mushroom cloud/smoking gun image was invented for a future Presidential speech, WHIG members liked it so much it was quoted beforehand. Both Rice and Cheney borrowed Gerson's mushroom cloud formulation for the talk shows that weekend, and Cheney even cited Miller's article, which quoted an anonymous official using those same words. Less than two weeks later, the Senate had voted approval for Bush's open check in Iraq, giving permission to go to war if the U.N. negotiations with Saddam didn't work out....

Amazing how fast it all happened. WHIG was nothing if not efficient.

A small nitpick. The Senate vote for war was on October 11 (just a few days after the Cincinatti speech in which Bush was not allowed to use the Niger claims. So it took a month. But the short time frame was one of the shrewder parts of the strategy. By forcing a vote before the mid-terms (and demanding it take place before everyone went home to campaign) they didn't allow opposition to form.


It has been suspected he has clearance, yeah. Then again, Judy claimed to have had clearance in relation to her Iraq reporting.

"Psuedo-Christian" themes, imagery, and language for purposes of manipulation and false idol worship, that is. Some "conscience" of the White House. Gerson can take his mushroom cloud smoking gun and stuff it. Figures the Washington Post hired him - might as well get the spin out under the name of the actual author, rather than just as anonymous sourcing - what's the difference, anyway, right "free press"? [Thanks for that info, Jim E. and QS.]

ew, one thing I don't grasp here is the ability at this point for Richard Armitage to be a witness against anybody. [Except very remotely at the edges regarding the distribution of the INR Memos, and about what he allegedly told Novak.] Armitage has now flatly stated publicly that he was not part of any conspiracy targeting Mr. and/or Mrs. Wilson, and neither does he know of any such conspiracy having existed. [Of course, in my opinion, that is a lie that has yet to be overcome.] But if Armitage's last grand jury appearance, as he claims, was in December, 2005 (no doubt with regard to Woodward's revelations), Armitage hasn't exactly been in the midst of the evidence about withheld e-mails and whatever went down prior to Rove's April, 2006 fifth grand jury session (contrary to the NY Daily News story about Armitage being sneaked into the courthouse to testify this spring). Armitage's whole cover story rests on being so completely uninvolved in anything to do with the Cheney/Libby/Rove plot that he by his own admission is absolutely worthless as a witness with regard to any of it, as far as I can see.

I think he is probably worthless, or Fitzgerald would have charged Rove (unless Fitz made a deal with Rove we don't know about).

But his primary value is in telling what he said to Novak when (because it solidifies who learned when, whether someone else was the leak source for Novak before he spoke to Wilson's friend, and so on).

Beyond that, he wouldn't know anything about conspiracy.

The authorization to leak the NIE has always been problematic. How could Bush give presidential authorization to disclose the NIE to Cheney, who never actually disclosed the NIE? How could Cheney disclose the NIE to Libby who already knew about the NIE? If the authorization to disclose does not refer to this then how could Cheney, the Vice President, give Libby "presidential authorization" to disclose the classified material. Remember it is always refered to as "presidential authorization" so the EO does not apply. The claim is not that the Libby had vice presidential authorization but that he had presidential authorization. That is why is still think that Bush lied when he testified that he did not give specific authorization to Libby to disclose the NIE.

I guess that what I am asking is that if the president did not give Libby "presidential authorization" to disclose the NIE, then who did? Who beside the president is allowed to give presidential authorization?


You're getting into the weirdness of the "lawyer close to the principals" in Hubris' description. Dick Cheney does have the ability to declassify things, by himself. So if he had declassified the NIE, it would have been technically legal (though unusual). But then there shouldn't have been the worry about Libby sharing it with journalists--with any journalists. And there shouldn't be the worry about getting Bush to approve something since Dick was already legal to approve. The scenario Libby described only makes sense if it was something Dick couldn't have approved.

Your scenario, EW, is certainly more damning, but harder to prove, unless someone cracks. With the facts on hand, one could certainly make the case that Bush did lie.

I knew I goofed that...but the draft was sent to the Senate on Sept 17th, I think that's what Hubris said. (Left my copy in the car.)

Declassifiying the identity of a covert operative--now that would be unique. And almost certainly a criminal act.

criminal, just like any other treasonous act. If you betray your country, treason is generally what we call it.

No, the WH sent the draft resolution to Congress on Sept 19th.

Totally agree. The only thing that makes me hesitate is that Libby's lawyers, who are no dummies, appear completely unaware of what is at stake in the NIE question, if this is right. You really have to watch Cheney during that segment, if you haven't actually seen it. His demeanor is completely weird and, to me, hard to read. It's nice to see that Russert is reading and appreciating Waas. And surely the fact that Libby has gratuitously made Russert's life more difficult and complicated than it otherwise would have been played a role in his attentiveness, even in the wake of the Armitage confirmation, to this dimension of the case. I mean, have we gotten so used to how weird this case is that it's not astonishing that we have Libby's alibi - who failed to back him up and will be a major witness at Libby's trial (even though Fitzgerald designed the charges so that even if Russert confesses to having told Libby about Plame, it won't be decisive for Libby) - grilling Cheney about whether he put Libby up to outing the CIA officer?

Also, did you catch that bit at the end about Russert as a target? I haven't seen the actual footage, only read the transcript, but it sure reads like another one of those moments where the barely sublimated aggression that seems like such a part of DC political culture comes clearly to the surface. Towards the end of the interview, Russert starts asking Cheney all of a sudden about the hunting incident, which is just mean. Then Russert says,

MR. RUSSERT: Should I be relieved you didn’t bring your shotgun in today?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I wouldn’t worry about it. You’re not in season.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Vice President, I hope I never am.


And that's pretty much the end of the interview.

I am going to read the hearing transcript for the thousandth time to try to see about July 2. Obviously, if it's Miller, it's worse for Libby than if it's, say, Sanger, who had an interview with Libby on that date, if I'm not mistaken.


I don't think Russert suckered Cheney into saying anything more than a truthful fact. In fact Cheney saw where Russert was heading with his next "did you stop beating your wife" type questions, and showing great foresight declined to answer.

Otherwise though, I am beginning to understand the faith, the fervor and the effort you have and are putting into the Plame case. I can respect that and will refrain from mentioning horses again.


Yup, right before the British White Paper (which was based largely on US intell, but was unclassified--yet another laundering scheme) came out to make everyone all the more fearful.


Good point. I laughed at the hunting question, but just took it as a remarkably snide comment (coming from Russert). But given the context...

I don't know whether Libby's lawyers have begun to see this or not (they haven't yet started addressing the July 2 conversation, which is interesting--under what circumstances would Fitz NOT have to release it?). But whoever Corn and Isikoff got to lead them through this morass certainly seems to understand the problem. It's a combination of Wells' argument (which is no doubt what they're going to rely on, hot and cold running NIE leak), but it also tries to resolve the problems with the classified/leak issue.

For what it's worth, that key quote from the lawyer about what Bush said - the get it out quote - first appeared in Isikoff and Thomas's April 9, 2006 article in Newsweek, which was one of a spate of articles with that information obviously designed to blunt the force of Fitzgerald's revelations that week in the big April 5 filing. Isikoff is, as far as I can tell, the only reporter who has reported that Bush's authorization happened specifically in June (both in Newsweek and in the book); and I'm skeptical of that, since Fitzgerald himself says he can't nail down the authorization as to June or July, and it became convenient for the administration, or for Libby, to say it happened in June to cover the late-revealed Woodward leak of the NIE.

Also, Waas' July 3 article makes the Bush-Cheney conversation more directly related to countering Wilson. It also reports specifically on Bush's testimony. Among other things, Waas reports a specific denial from Bush that he ever directed anyone to disclose the identity of Plame. Not a surprise, of course, but still interesting.

One of the interesting things to consider is that you have to figure that any story these guys told was not told to protect Libby; or at least that goes for Bush. My suspicion is that both Bush and Cheney were as vague as possible about their interaction, talking about responding to critics of the administration, talking about the NIE and then having Bush just say, "Get it out; I want this done," and so on, the pronouns crucially vague. But again, there's no way the whole NIE story was concocted just to cover for Libby. In fact, I suspect it wasn't concocted, it was a real part of the story. But it was made out to be the whole story. I wonder whether Cheney told Bush about Plame.

When did Bush first learn about "Plame?" It seems there's been a lot of emphasis on who told Cheney, due to Libby I guess.

While there may be little fact to back it up, I believe this went all the way to bush. I believe that the whole WHIG group was involved and all are lying to avoid culpability in one of the biggest frauds against the united states. These lies have made the investigation difficult to follow and facts hard to find. They knew they were in trouble as soon as there was backlash for the 16 words. From that moment on, every one in this administration was defending themselves from a charge of "treason". It's not legal to lie to people about the reasons for war. Plain and simple. And these folks did it and many facilitated the process. No one wants to be culpable. And I think that because people were sheepishly following bush, much like people followed hitler or the way mafia leaders are built, once they had engaged in propagating the lie...how do you tell the truth without indicting yourself?? You can't just look at Bush and blame him because there were clearly things that Tenet, Powell and others could have done. They didn't. This is a rough chapter for american history.


Keep your eye on the ball. The NIE leak story was concocted to cover the fact that Libby's notes show that he was specifically instructed by Cheney (with what Cheney said was Bush's approval) to leak {something unspecified} on July 2. There are at least a dozen reasons why it is, prima facie, ridiculous to think that the "something" was the NIE. As ew points out, leaking the NIE was par for the course for this (and most other administrations). All we're missing from the NIE leak story is Captain Renault from Casablanca (which, of course, means White House) to say that he's shocked to find leaking going on here. Oh wait, that's Bush's role. I guess that makes Cheney Captain Strasser...

The NIE leak story is to cover the culpability of Bush and Cheney for the decision to out Plame, nothing more or less.

In both Bush-II (2003) administration and Clinton administration (1995) there was an executive order providing an exception for 'individuals...who are engaged in historical research projects' to receive classified information. It would be too inside the beltway to have an exemption for reporters. But I think that would explain Libby's unconcern about divulgation to Woodward before the Ted Olson official hotwater date, and, I think that is why Libby worried about the deep end of the pool leaking National Intelligence Estimate data to Judy Miller, a reporter who definitely is not a historian as a primary occupation. Link courtesy of post by redshift in Armitage Doubly Patsy thread two days ago for the link to the EOs. See section 4.4(1) Bush-II; identical article in 4.5(1) Clinton. Interestingly, for some reason the Bush-II executive order adds a new exemption for former President and Vice President, as if intending to give, say, Cheney, permanent access to all classified information for his entire lifetime even after he leaves office, though I defer to the experts in house for the fine points of reading this passage in a fuller context. I would imagine some future executive could alter that policy as easily as Bush-II put it in place in March 2003, but having it on the books these three years might add weight to a future claim by Cheney to be privy to whatever is secret at some future date. There is routine language nearby in the same section also allowing ex officials to have the right to read documents they classified and signed when they were in office.

The declassification review exemption for Cheney is added at sec 3.5(b)(1) and for Libby or whatever VP's staff means at 3.5(b)(2). Bush-II EO March 25, 2003.

Comparing declassification review exemptions from the Clinton administration refer to 3.6(b)(1) for President and 3.6(b)(2) for president's 'staff'; Clinton EO April 17, 2995.

why aren't any of you guys mentioning Hadley.

Remember the WaPo story from last last year when Hadley said, according to the Post, that he told people he thought he was being indicted? I still think Hadley was a source for some of these reporters.


Keep your eye on the ball.

Are you encouraging me or reminding me? For me, the ball is what happened, not the already-asserted Cheney-Bush plan and conspiracy.

Remember the WaPo story from last last year when Hadley said, according to the Post, that he told people he thought he was being indicted?

No. The story about Hadley originated, I believe, with Larry Johnson, who is especially unreliable when it comes to Hadley. Hadley is an unsung anti-hero in this case. But I put zero confidence in that Johnson tale about Hadley. He was probably just talking smack about someone he didn't like.

The Post story was about John Hannah. And at the Plame panel at Yearlykos, Waas seemed to imply that there was reason to doubt that story too.

thanks for clarifying that! I didn't hear Waas say anything about Hannah at Yearlykos and I watched it on c-span. what did he infer?

Remember this story? Who do you think the unnamed state departmetn person is? This seems to be similar to the September 1x2x6 story. What do you think? i think people forgot about this story

Memo Gets Attention in Probe of CIA Leak

By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

In this photograph taken in June 2003, Karl Rove, senior advisor to President Bush and Robert Novak are pictured together at a party marking the 40th anniversary of Novak's newspaper column at the Army Navy Club in Washington DC. At the event a number of people wore buttons reading, 'I'm a source, not a target.' Rove is at the center of a controversy about the leaking of a CIA operative's identity which originally appeared in Novak's newspaper column. (AP Photo/Lauren Shay)
WASHINGTON - A State Department memo that has caught the attention of prosecutors describes a CIA officer's role in sending her husband to Africa and disputes administration claims that Iraq was shopping for uranium, a retired department official said Tuesday.

The classified memo was sent to Air Force One just after former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson went public with his assertions that the Bush administration overstated the evidence that Iraq was interested in obtaining uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.

The memo has become a key piece of evidence in the CIA leak investigation because it could have been the way someone in the White House learned — and then leaked — the information that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and played a role in sending him on the mission.

robbie c:

I edited down the article for copyright reasons, but added a link. I haven't forgotten that story, not at all.

My instinct, now, is that Wilkinson told that story. It might be Ford--he has gone on the record on these stories. But there was another, similar article that said Ford was out of the country.

Thanks EW
Sorry about posting the whole story. Yes, I forgot all about Wilkerson. I suppose that means he saw the memo from the INR. Some people say it's Marc Grossman. there are so many people who are involved in this. Before I forget, I like your analysis on the Armitage twice a patsy post

sorry. I put jason leopold's email address in the email line. I have been emailing him about the story. He said that there is a lawsuit that is sealed in the cia case that no one hsa been paying attention to. is that true?

question: what do you think would have happened if David Corn reported all of that stuff in the nation instead of waiting for the book? would it have changed anything?

robbie, iirc there was a big dust-up in May of this year about (i hate to link to this, but here it is anyhow) Leopold writing a story for truthout.org where he stated that Rove would be indicted within days. Since Rove is still walking around with the keys to the presidential crapper, it's clear that Leopold somehow got the story wrong.

Reasonable people disagree about how that might have happened. A lot of electrons were cramming the tubes for the next few weeks as people tried to sort it all out.

Whatever the cause, the episode had two results. The first was the dead-tree political writers on the right used this episode to flog the meme that blogs are full of pathological communist fascist rabid lambs liars who just want the terrorists to win. The second result was that many bloggers started to discount heavily anything that Leopold writes (well, to be fair, some bloggers already doubted Leopold's integrity... so I guess the ones who already doubted had their doubts confirmed, and those of us so unfortunate to believe because we wanted so badly to hear the news he reported... we began to have doubts). Fair? Not for me to say. Wise? How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...

and of course, who can forget the unrelated, but always-amusing, flamewar that erupted on these very pages between Leopold and DHinMi after ew deconstructed one of Leopold's earlier articles.

aaaah, good times.

Now, I might be totally crazy, but I think that Jason's claims in that article have since been vindicated. ew was correctthen- his article didn't provide the facts to support its central claim. He may have had the facts right, but he didn't give his readers the evidence to reach the same conclusion.

thanks smiley (your screen name reminds me of Brian Wilson's Smile album from 2004, which is AMAZING. But I digress).

Oh yes, I am very familiar with the Leopold story about Rove. I didnt pay attention to the dustup but I kept hearing/reading about it here and there. I totally thought the guy was bonkers when there was no announcement. But I will admit that my feeling about that changed a lot since the whole armitage thingy. Now I think that something must've happened with Rove cause none of this makes sense.

I think there's something to his story about Rove. maybe not everything, but something. I dunno. Now I wanna listen to Smile by Brian Wilson. So thanks Smiley for making me Smile!

Hey everyone: just read that the Wilson's are adding Armitage to their lawsuit. It's on MSNBC.

oh, one little thing to add Smiley. I think Howard Kurtz and that Joseph Luria stories in the Washington Post really tried to attack leopold personally. I've never been a fan of that kind of journalism. after i read their article i was like OK Leopold has a past, great, so what's the deal with Rove?

R Novak says Armitage is a liar. THis makes the Wilson's decision to sue Armitage way more understandable. Novak says it was not idle chit chat, but that Armitage pushed Wilson's wife onto him and flatly said she sent Joe.

Of course, at this point, we're relying on R Novak's account. But I see no reason to take Armitage's word on this, either.

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