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June 22, 2007


What if Grenier would have told them, as he supposedly should have, that Plame was covert?
What if Harlow would have told Martin that this was highly classified information?
Wouldn't that have ruined the laundering operation?

Do you speculate that McLaughlin told Cheney that Plame was NOC, classified as top-secret, or otherwise covered by the IIPA?

Nice work.

"... Libby said Cheney had called him to tell him this information--he was pretty certain about that. But why would Cheney call him to tell him that information, if he had a meeting with Libby scheduled directly after his meeting with McLaughlin?"

I can think of three possible answers to this, no doubt there are others. Please shoot down any that are definitely wrong.

1) After getting the information from McLaughlin, Cheney held it to himself for a little while before deciding to pass it on to Libby.

2) Cheny was, as you suggest, laundering his source from Libby by using McLaughlin, but hadn't decided how to present it to Libby yet.

3) Libby, wait for it, this would be a shocker, lied. I know, hard to believe someone like Scooter, what with his affection for children and doing pro bono work - even for those who can afford to pay anyway (in fact, only for those who can afford etc. etc.), would lie.

If so, then it's possible that Shooter told Scooter anytime between right after the meeting with McLaughlin up to the time Scooter claims he learned it from Dick over the phone. Alternately, Scooter knew even before the McLaughlin meeting.

Are any of these useful suggestions?


Here's my wag - Cheney's original source for the Wilson info was Bush - who may very well have loaded the TSP target list with 'Joe Wilson' right after the Kristof article.

Any other 'source' would have been trotted out to the public square long ago and given the scapegoat pinata treatment.

So, Cheney had to cover the tracks of his super secret source with 'punked' info from dupes like Grenier and McLaughlin.

Bush misusing the TSP, just like we always suspected he was capable of doing, gets my Occam's vote.

I'm rereading Cathie Martin's testimony from the liveblog. Did she testify that she spoke to Harlow twice? Seems she was pretty vague about the date of the conversations in pretrial interviews- originally dating it in July.

There were records of a phone number (Harlow's???) twice- once on June 10 and once on June11. But Grenier testified that he pulled Harlow out of the meeting and called Libby and spoke to him and then handed the phone to Harlow who spoke to Cathie Martin.

Martin testified that she told Libby and Cheeney that Harlow told her that Wilson was married to a CIA agent.

My guess is that Libby and Cheney were trying to stovepipe info thru Grenier and Harlow to Cathie Martin who was supposed to take it to various reporters. They definitely wanted the info that state and defense asked about it too to get "out there." And how handy to tag along the piece of info about Wilson's wife.

What is sortof strange is that Grenier was not sure who 2 of the people he had spoken to were- he didn't even think it was somebody he knew- just that they were informed and gave him the info that vp was seeking. That's kindof creepy when you think about it-passing along secret info and not even knowing who you are talking to. But if Cheney and Libby had seeded info so that whoever was Grenier's go-to-guy would spill it to Grenier and Harlow who would unknowingly spew it back to Libby and Cheney who then could claim to hearing it "as it it were new" having forgotten that they seeded it in the first place.

Wow, wow, wow... That is some CIA email...

Great job of digging it out for the world to see, emptywheel & Jeff.

I can't quickly fathom how many other avenues of exploration this opens up. But I do seem to recall that Libby testified to the grand jury that he had actually been trying to reach John McLaughlin that day, and because he couldn't reach him immediately, Libby ended up talking to Grenier instead.

I'd actually not put it past Cheney to have held information back from Libby about his talk with McLaughlin, but Libby's behavior since probably belies that theory. So were they simply trying to get "deniablity" for Cheney on the sourcing, before passing information along to Pincus for his article? Seems as likely as not at this point - Libby acting as the 'plausible deniability buffer' for Cheney even then. It's probably actually Cheney's standard m.o. - with malice aforethought, and all that... Yeah, they really think they're clever all right - using bad faith scheming to 'outfox' all the gullible good faith actors in the government. [I still tend to think that this note by Libby is in fact (contrary to his testimony) the note from Libby's June 11th phone conversation with Grenier, to which Libby appended subsequent Pincus talking points in consultation with Cheney. It just aligns too neatly with Grenier's memory of their call and the details Grenier conveyed to Libby.]

[Monday, June 9 was the day Wilson called Grossman, after seeing Rice on television on Sunday - but presumably the reference, in Cheney's questions for McLaughlin, to a Wilson call is the one Grossman himself initiated, 10 days or so before 6/9, after being queried by Libby, to get Wilson's side of the story; a call which I think the trial made clear probably was quickly summarized by Grossman for Libby, before State's INR report was ready. Recall, too, that the shadowy Marc Grossman (along with some other government witnesses) voluntarily met with Libby's defense counsel for a deposition before he took the stand at trial.]

Breaking news: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-cheney23jun23,0,863839.story?coll=la-home-center

LA times: Print E-mail story Most e-mailed Change text size

Bush claims exemption from his oversight order
By Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writer
7:44 PM PDT, June 22, 2007

Overseeing the overseers?
click to enlarge
WASHINGTON -- The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is exempt from a presidential order requiring government agencies that handle classified national security information to submit to oversight by an independent federal watchdog.

The executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 covers all government agencies that are part of the executive branch and, although it doesn't specifically say so, was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

The issue flared up Thursday when Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., criticized Cheney for refusing to file annual reports with the National Archives and Records Administration, spelling out how his office handles classified documents, or to submit to an inspection by the archives' Information Security Oversight Office.

The archives, a federal agency, has been pressing the vice president's office to cooperate with its oversight efforts for the past several years, contending that by not doing so, Cheney and his staff have created a potential national security risk.

Bush issued the directive in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a way of ensuring that the nation's secrets would not be mishandled, made public, or improperly declassified.

The order aimed to create a uniform, government-wide security system for classifying, declassifying and safeguarding national security information. It gave the archives' oversight unit responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of each agency's security classification programs. It applied only to the executive branch of government, mostly agencies led by Bush administration appointees, as opposed to legislative offices such as Congress and judicial offices, including the courts.

In the executive order, Bush stressed the importance of the public's right to know what its government was doing, particularly in the global campaign against terrorism. "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," the executive order said.

But from the start, Bush considered his office and Cheney's exempt from the reporting requirements, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in an interview Friday. Cheney's office filed the reports in 2001 and 2002 -- as did his predecessor, Al Gore -- but stopped in 2003.

As a result, the National Archives has been unable to review how much information the president's and vice president's offices are classifying and declassifying. And the security oversight office cannot conduct inspections of the executive offices of the president and vice president to see if they have safeguards in place to protect the classified information they handle and to properly declassify information when required.

Those two offices have access to the most highly classified information in all of government, including intelligence gathered against terrorists and unfriendly foreign countries.

Waxman and J. William Leonard, director of the archives' oversight office, have argued that the order clearly applies to all executive branch agencies, including the offices of the vice president and the president.

Fratto said that the White House disagrees.

"We don't dispute that the ISOO has a different opinion. But let's be very clear; this executive order was issued by the president, and he knows what his intentions were," Fratto said. "He is in compliance with his executive order."

Fratto conceded that the lengthy directive, technically an amendment to an existing executive order, does not specifically exempt the president's office or the vice president's office from the requirements. Instead, it refers to "agencies" as being subject to the requirements, which Fratto said did not include the two executive offices. "It does take a little bit of inference," Fratto said.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy project, disputed the White House explanation of the executive order. He noted that the order defines "agency" as any executive agency, military department and "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information" -- which he said includes Bush's and Cheney's offices.

"Yeah, they really think they're clever all right - using bad faith scheming to 'outfox' all the gullible good faith actors in the government." (pow-wow @ 01:35, above).

An excellent point, this one.

Contempt for the people they work against is surely the undoing of these folks. While Libby is certainly clever, and Cheney, if not so clever, is at least a grandiose schemer, they always over-value their cleverness. A common failing, this, and something to think about.

Perched at the top of a pyramid (or something they take as a pyramid) they "scorn the base degrees by which they did ascend". They confuse their mental talents with their altitude, which is hardly a prudent way to proceed, if only because so many of the folks occupying those base degrees were, and are, far more clever than Libby or Cheney could ever hope to be.

I think, for what it's worth, that Cheney and Libbly began to sense the problems posed by this weakness (never so recognized, of course) when Kristoff and Wilson did the unthinkable thing of blindsiding them in the public press. We could call it an "emperor's clothes" kind of moment. Cheney, whose peripheral vision is probably non-existent (witness the shooting of his hunting partner), has always tried to compensate for this weakness by pursuing the hapless fetish of "secrecy" (hapless because, in the end, things of consequence are always out there to be seen). Whence the tortuous operations we've been following all these years.

Where Rumsfeld and Bush are consistently open in their contempt, Cheney apparently tries, in various ways, to mask it from time to time (remember those "debates" with Lieberman?), and Libby almost succeeds in doing so with his specious, if urgently exercised (and even "heart-felt") pose of politeness and humility. But contempt is an open book and a total waste of time--of theirs, of ours, of the world's.

Is there a potential candidate for the Presidency who has no need, and indeed no time, for this fruitless sort of behavior? Michael Bloomberg, perhaps--a truly gifted man who, by all report, has a moderating attitude of modesty with regard to those very gifts. A man who doesn't tend to get blindsided, or to let the mistakes he makes gather moss (his loyalty to Doctoroff in the Olympics adventure was an "enfant perdu" from the start, and Bloomberg surely knew this--not that it wasn't useful for the building of networks!).

I should add that Bill Clinton to my mind, and notwithstanding his taste for risk, is also gifted in this way: how else to survive an assassination that ran for a good ten years (and yes, I always get an argument on this one)?


Yes, it would ruin the laundering operation--to a point. The big piece of info they seem to be laundering (per Libby's note) is that State and DOD had been interested in the info as well--and that's a source issue, not an IIPA issue. But it may be Cheney just wanted people to find out via multiple sources.


Those are all possible, I agree. Though the weird thing is that Libby and Cheney and Martin were not just meeting, they were meeting about this allegation (otherwise, why would they call Grenier right in the middle of their own meeting?). And according to the most plausible story, Libby had also just found out that news, from Grossman. And it was probably about 2 hours later when Martin came back to Cheney and Libby and told them AGAIN that PLame was covert (based on her email to Jenny Mayfield). So on at least one occasion, Cheney and Libby pretended not to know about Plame when they did.


If you look at Cathie's notes from Harlow, it looks possible (if not likely) that the notes were taken at two times. So the first time she talked to Harlow, he didn't know much. But he kept digging, and then called her about Plame. And then the Grenier call set up one more conversation, though it's not clear whether CIA ever okayed the "State/DOD" comment.

Also, the liveblog may be unclear, but Grenier clearly did know the guy he was TRYING to call at JTFI, but he used an acceptably vague name to refer to him. He didn't know the second guy though--I've always imagined that guy might be the Reports Officer or something like that.

filling in the chronology above:

May 6: first Kristoff article in NYTimes (the times doesn't even include this article in their own timeline- go figure) link to times "Timeline of Leak:"

June 8, 2003: Meet the Press, Condi interview

June 13, 2003: "White House In Denial" By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, NYTimes
link: http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F0061EFB345D0C708DDDAF0894DB404482

July 6, 2003 Wilson wrote: "In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report."

July 14, 2003: Novak's column outing Plame,

So, what I am assuming is the "telephone" note above is referring to the first Kristoff article(May 6, 2003), since the second one didn't get published until the next day, June 13th, see link I include here above?

My other question is, if it was OVP that asked CIA to send Wilson on his Niger mission in the first place(Feb 2002), why is OVP a year and a half later in June 2003 asking the Deputy director of CIA (DDCI) about the trip as though they where out-of-the-loop?

Who from OVP asked CIA in the Feb 2002 request, to whom was it asked at CIA?

What does the Iraq Mission Manager do, and when did he start his post, why would he even know about uranium being sold to Niger back in Feb 2002?

Why didn't they contact IAEA instead of sending Wilson to Niger?

Why didn't IAEA also denounce publicly the Niger claim, and if they did, when?

Cheney should be called on to answer questions or resign.

correction: "uranium being sold by Niger..."

Here is the May 6, 2003 op-ed by Kristoff, I was not able to find it on the NYTimes archive, here it is from CNN:


it is aptly titled, "Why Truth Matters."

enough said

Great post, emptywheel.

pow wow's comment about Grossman above has me wondering. Does Joe Wilson still consider Grossman a friend? Unlike Grenier or the others in the government, Grossman does not come across as a gullible but good faith government employee at State in this affair.

Since OVP is trying so hard to add DoD and State to the group seeking info about the Iraq Niger sale, the truth that OVP was behind the request is obviously (to OVP) a conclusion akin to an electrified third rail-- something to be avoided. I know I am missing something because I do not yet appreciate why this is critical for OVP since I would have assumed they could have blurred the issue by claiming 'fog of war' or 'fuzziness of intelligence data' if their inquiries ever came to light.

PDaly--I'll take a wild guess. I think it was more than just not wanting to be seen as having asked the question that led to Wilson being sent. I think the OVP was trying to deflect attention from their involvement in asking about the info after the CIA briefing because OVP knew a great deal about the Niger info and how it got to the Italians in the first place, and needed people not to go down that particular alley. In other words, they had known of or even helped in the seeding of the info in the first place to gin up support for the war, but couldn't have that become known. In this they have largely succeeded.

On Wilson anas a "friend" to CIA, one assumes that someone from the CIA debriefed him after his standoff with Saddeam duing the first Gulf War. After all, wasn't he the last US official to have spoken with Saddam for many years? He had also been on the NSC staff and had been Ambassador in a part of Africa where the CIA couldn't have afforded to station many (if any) spies, but the DI may have from time to time have needed info.

Finally, did Grenier mention that Valerie was covert? Occam's answer--in 2003 he probably never imagined that the OVP would be trying to gather info so that they could smear Wilson and his wife. In other words, he never foresaw he was stepping into what would become a potential IIPA violation in talking to OVP. But Cheney undoubtedly knew if he knew anything about Valerie and what she did, and he knew about that from multiple sources.


One point. Yes--Wilson likely worked with CIA for some time. But the comment is particularly interesting since both James Pavitt and Tyler Drumheller spent their early career in Africa. (All three may have been in S Africa at the same time, but I'd have to go back and review the dates).

I only emphasized his, though, because it goes to teh question of Wilson's qualifications for the Niger trip, which NOvak questioned so thoroughly.

I have reread your post :

regarding "Cheney's Black Hole." Because it seems to me that if Cheney ask for an "assessment" of the "report" he was asking the CIA to review it's own conclusion(s), and as you remark, not an "investigation."
What the CIA chose to do(?) on it's own(?) was send someone to really check it out, but I guess they never told Cheney that they were sending someone until Cheney read Krisoff's article on May 6, 2002?

But was it SOS (01-05) Powell who directed the CIA to do an actual "investigation," to send someone?

It seems it was the Kristoff May 6th article that started the storm, yet the NYTimes, as I said above, doesn't find this article important enough to even include in its own timeline of the Plame affair. If you reread Kristoff's article, he is the one that atributes the Niger trip to OVP. Kristoff also mixes it up with an acusation that the State department was not "bamboozled" because "that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged."

If you can believe Kristoff, the "report" was indeed the forged Niger/Iraq Uranium deal (which has been proven I believe to have come from Italian sources, yet another story), and that the meeting between "the envoy" was not just with the CIA, but also with the State Dept., Powell (or someone who reported directly to him). This is a year before the SOTU address (Jan 2003) and the subsequent Kristoff May 2003 article.

Cheney, was not at the meeting with Wilson in Feb 02. Did Cheney learn of Wilson and the trip not until May 6th, 2003 after reading Kristoff's article? This is indeed the "Black Hole" that only OVP can answer. Why did the NSA (01-05)Rice end up on air to repute it's claim a month later on June 8th?

If Cheney did not order an "investigation," was it his "husseinesque" image of having more power than he actually had, the reason he did not deny his real role? that he was on the back-burner in getting info? that Powell was really in command here? A real Catch 22 for old Dick, I'd say. Better to go on the attack than reveal how out of the loop you really are.


No on several counts. First, we know that Cheney was informed CIA sent sources (plural) to investigate this, because it's right there in his 2/14 briefing. So the question is, did Cheney know what was reported back? I think OVP, rather than finding out about the report in 2003, was trying to find out if there was evidence that they had read the report (totally different things, of course). And I'd submit that since CIA has evidence Rummy knew of the report, OVP's claim not to have known of it is suspicious. Furthermore, over the course of leak week, OVP keeps caveating its claim that it didn't know of the report more and more narrowly, suggesting they were struggling to find a way to claim they didn't know that was actually true.

Second, Powell would not have been the one from State interested in the report. We know that it was, at least ostensibly, INR that was "interested" in the report. Though it either wasn't in the way OVP wants you think it was, or it was INR at someone else's bidding; I've always suspected it was Bolton directing INR to do an investigation.

And finally, one of the issues was whether Joe did a briefing for State before he left, which he did, which is part of the underlying tensions here. That is, since more than just CIA knew of the trip, it exposes OVP further for claiming it knew nothing about it.

Hmmmmmm, now I have even more questions, but will look through some of your old posts because I am sure you have already looked into them. thanks.

A question about a line in the chronology:

June 10, 2003, late afternoon: The email below sent, along with a response

Do we, in fact, know that someone responded to the email? (You mention the email as "one of three documents" you and Jeff found; is the response on of the other two??)


Actually, I think it may be forwarded. One of the other two documents is an email from Valerie repeating what Joe said to Grossman. And the third may just be someone forwarding the email with a note to the effect that "CIA needs to speak with one voice on this."

The importance of a known response is that, if for some reason no one gave McLaughlin the info Cheney wanted, that would heighten the urgency of Libby badgering Grenier.

And Fitzgerald asked Libby during his GJ testimony whether the top half of the note above might have been what Scooter (based on his conversation with Grenier) told Cheney, rather than the other way around.

It's possible--but two other things are possible. First, that McLaughlin actually did repeat a lot of this. I would imagine he would have had to say SOMETHING.

Another possibility--particularly given the content of the note, which we can explain in one limited way (I'll do this in a later post), Cheney already knew based on seeing some documents, and he called Libby early in the week.

Does the email really say "Niger to Chad"?

mimikatz, thanks for the reply.

I just returned home after being away all afternoon. I see EW has been very busy in the interim, so I do not konw whether you and others are still reading this far down.
Did you mistake my question about Grossman? I'm not sure if your sentence about Grenier is an answer to my question about Wison and Grossman.

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