Tag Archives: Scooter Libby

News & Comment

Victor Rita Case Makes Libby’s Commutation Look Suspicious

It’s hard to imagine a more apt and revealing counterpoint to Scooter Libby’s criminal case than the case of Victor Rita, a North Carolina vet who was accused by the feds of lying under oath, twice, about buying an illegal machine gun.

Both Rita and Libby were convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in federal cases. Both were sentenced to around 30 months in jail. Both sentences were appealed, and Bush officials at the highest levels were involved in the appeals as they played themselves out this year.

In their appeals, both Rita and Libby sought leniency based on their records of public service and current circumstances. Victor Rita served in the Marine Corps for 25 years, including tours of duty in Vietnam and Gulf War I. He is now advanced in age and in failing health. As a result of his crimes, he has been wiped out financially.

Pres. George Bush described Scooter Libby’s career in public service as “exceptional,” but a review of Libby’s bio reveals him to be a neocon bureaucrat who held a series of political positions in Republican administrations before moving up to the Cheney-Bush White House — where he was either a witness or a participant in skullduggery and shenanigans the half of which we don’t yet know. Otherwise, Libby is in his late 50s, appears to be in excellent health, and was able to pay his $250,000 fine out of his checking account, probably with the help of a defense fund set up by powerful Republicans friends like Fred Thompson and Mary Matalan.

Earlier this year the appeals by Rita and Libby both took dramatic turns, at which point the similarities between the two cases came to an abrupt end.

Rita’s moment came when his appeal was heard before the Supreme Court. Contrary to earlier accounts, the hearing was not in 2006. It was five months ago, on Feb. 20, 2007. And the Bush administration’s participation was not merely as a “friend of the court,” as it has been described. The government was a party, the respondent, in the appeal.

At the Supreme Court, Bush’s solicitor general, Paul Clement, argued for upholding Rita’s sentence, describing it as reasonable — a position very much in line with the administration’s tough stance on sentencing.

On June 21, the court issued its ruling, siding with the administration. Rita’s appeal was denied.

Less than two weeks later, on July 3, Pres. Bush commuted Libby’s 30-month sentence, calling it, without a trace of irony, “excessive.”

What Rita so aptly reveals is that the president’s stated reasons for commuting Libby’s sentence — the harshness of the sentence and Libby’s exceptional public service — were bogus. We can only speculate about his real motives, and it is too soon to know whether the commutation will turn out to be a political blunder of the first order or a criminal act, or both or neither.

But there appears to be blood in the water. The Bushies are out in force trying to change the storyline by slamming the Wilsons and desperately downplaying the seriousness of Libby’s crimes. (On Hardball yesterday, David Rivkin, trotted out the thoroughly debunked claim that Valerie Wilson was not covert.) They are desperate to deflect attention from the particulars of Libby’s crimes — that he was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury and the FBI and obstructing an investigation into a conspiracy at the top of the administration to out a CIA specialist in weapons of mass destruction.

This obfuscation may work as well this time as it has from the beginning. On the other hand, while average Americans found the CIA leak scandal to be boring or confusing or too inside-the-Beltway, they totally get a powerful man buying off a witness who knows where all his bodies are buried.

News & Comment

New, Unbelievable White House Spin: Rove Lied to Bush about Leaking Plame’s Name

They’ve got to be kidding: Last Sunday, George Stephanapolous dropped a bombshell on his ABC show when he said that a source told him that both the President and Vice President were aware of the efforts of their flying monkeys – including Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and others – to smear ambassador Joe Wilson that led to the leaking the secret identity of his CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame. Now we get this malarkey from the spin room at the White House:

Maybe the Unsmart Americans who comprise Bush’s base will buy this load of crap but count us out! What did the president know – and when did he know it?

Senior aide Karl Rove denied to President Bush that he engaged in an effort to disclose the identity of a covert CIA operative to discredit her husband’s criticism of Iraq policy, say people familiar with Rove’s statements in a criminal investigation…

Beginning two years ago, the White House flatly denied that Rove had been involved in unlawfully leaking the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, the wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

The White House denials collapsed in July amid the disclosure of Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper’s conversations in July 2003 about Wilson’s wife with Rove and I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

Bush asked Rove in the fall of 2003 to assure him he was not involved in an effort to divulge Plame’s identity and punish Wilson, and the longtime confidant assured the president so, people familiar with Rove’s account say…

Bush’s discussion with Rove did not get into specifics concerning Rove’s conversations in July 2003 with syndicated columnist Robert Novak and Cooper, who wrote stories identifying Plame, the people familiar with Rove’s account said.

Maybe the Unsmart Americans who comprise Bush’s base will buy this load of crap but count us out! What did the president know – and when did he know it?

News & Comment

If It Wasn’t Cheney or Valerie Plame, Who Sent Joe Wilson to Niger?

Rove, Scooter Libby, Ari Fleisher and others had an irresistable impulse to smear Joe Wilson simply because he dared to challenge them in public, and even though they and their Dear Leader were, in fact, wrong.

After President Bush was caught lying in his 2003 State of the Union speech about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities – the infamous “16 words” about Niger and yellow cake uranium – a Rovian blame game was contrived that successfully confused and blurred the responsibility for the falsehood in the minds of the media and the rest of us.

(Ultimately, the Administration laid the blame on Stephen Hadley, an assistant to Condi Rice, who was National Security Adviser at the time. In classic Bush fashion, rather than being punished, Hadley was promoted. He was given Rice’s job when she moved over to State.)

However, a secondary blame game also ensued that has still not been resolved – and that has now become a central issue in the investigation into the Bush CIA Leak scandal, according to the Washington Post:

The origin of Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV’s trip to Niger in 2002 to check out intelligence reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium has become a contentious side issue to the inquiry by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald…

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News & Comment

Scooter Libby Said He Met with Judith Miller about Plame

The new disclosure that Miller and Libby met on July 8, 2003, raises questions regarding claims by President Bush that he and everyone in his administration have done everything possible to assist Fitzgerald’s grand-jury probe.

American Prospect has a new leak in the Bush CIA Leak investigation – this time not from Karl Rove’s attorney but from “legal sources familiar with” the testimony of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.

[Libby] has told federal investigators that he met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, and discussed CIA operative Valerie Plame, according to legal sources familiar with Libby’s account.

The meeting between Libby and Miller has been a central focus of the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald as to whether any Bush administration official broke the law by unmasking Plame’s identity or relied on classified information to discredit former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, according to sources close to the case as well as documents filed in federal court by Fitzgerald.

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News & Comment

Novak Became Fair Game After He Broke His Silence on Plame

Jay Rosen at PressThink has a good analysis of the imbroglio that led to the on-air meltdown of rightwing propagandist Bob Novak earlier this week.

Rosen points out that in the two years since he published the name of CIA spy Valerie Plame, Novak had maintained a strict policy of not commenting on the case – until last Monday when Novak broke his silence – in his own column – to deny assertions by Bob Harlow, a former CIA official, who said he warned Novak not to publish Plame’s name in his July 2003 column. Novak complained in his column on Monday that the CIA official had not warned him enough. (He should have said, “Bob, Plame’s identity is extra-super-secret,” we suppose.)

Here’s Rosen’s reasoning:

Novak, in order to counter the suggestion that he had been properly warned but went ahead anyway — which he said would be “inexcusable for any journalist and particularly a veteran of 48 years in Washington” — decided to take up his pen. Ladies and gentlemen, he said, people have got to know whether their columnist is a crook. Or a jerk. Or a tool. Did I go ahead with the name of a CIA covert operative despite being warned? No, I did not.

Old Novak rules: sorry fellas, can’t talk. New rules: Novak chooses when. When to take the Fifth on advice of counsel, when to ignore counsel and respond to the news with his own explanations of what happened to reveal Plame’s name.

This, I believe, is the real cause of Thursday’s break down of professional discipline on air. The legitimacy of Novak’s exemption from questioning had collapsed earlier in the week. Ed Henry knew it and was ready with that news. Novak was not ready to receive it. So he invented an out.

News & Comment

Plame Leak: Why Time Inc. Caved

In a long, comprehensive (and free on-line) page one article in the Wall Street Journal the reporters explore “the legal differences between defending an individual and defending a corporation.”

Time Inc. technically owned an electronic file that contained Mr. Cooper’s notes, he says. As a result, the parent company could potentially be held in contempt of court and forced to pay large fines if its magazine and reporter didn’t cooperate.

Ms. Miller, by contrast, apparently kept personal possession of her notes, and the Times’s view is that it never had them.

Here’s the legal difference in a nutshell: corporations don’t go to jail, people do.

News & Comment

Finally, A Plame Game Explanation We All Can Understand

From yesterday’s Chicago Tribune comes A Layman’s Guide to the Valerie Plame Affair by Garrison Keillor, an author and the host of the radio program, “A Prairie Home Companion”:

I feel it’s time for me to step forward and tell what I know about Karl Rove’s conversation with columnist Robert Novak in which Mr. Novak reportedly told Mr. Rove that CIA operative Valerie Plame had been responsible for her husband, Joseph Wilson, going to Niger to debunk the White House’s claim that Saddam Hussein was shopping for uranium in Africa to make nuclear weapons and that’s why we invaded Iraq, and Mr. Rove said, “Yes, I’ve heard that too.” Mr. Rove has been accused of revealing the identity of a covert intelligence officer. This simply isn’t true.

I happened to be in Mr. Rove’s office when the phone rang. I was there on behalf of my publisher, to see if Mr. Rove knows enough to make him worth a $6 million advance on his memoirs. (Answer: Not really.) He picked up the phone and the voice at the other end sounded like a rat trapped in a coffee can. “Novak,” whispered Mr. Rove and he pretended to stick a finger down his throat. He listened for several minutes. “Yes, I’ve heard that too,” he said.

As he spoke to Novak, Mr. Rove wrote on a notepad, “Rosebud knows”–“Rosebud” being Vice President Dick Cheney’s code name–and winked at me.

This raised a question in my mind: Did Rove know Ms. Plame had taken the identity of Mr. Cheney during an arrhythmia episode at Walter Reed and that a heavily sedated vice president had been flown by the CIA to Riyadh as Ms. Plame donned a latex-padded suit and took his place? She quickly discovered that the uranium was stored at the Whitewater property once owned by the Clintons and then deeded to Kofi Annan and used as a supply depot for black helicopters. She tried to warn Mr. Clinton and the next day he had that mysterious “bypass” operation after which he suddenly got chummy with ex-CIA chief George H.W. Bush and the two flew off to Southeast Asia like in an old Crosby-Hope “Road” picture.

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News & Comment

CIA Told Novak Plame Did Not Authorize Niger Trip

The CIA spokesman said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson’s wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

According to the Washington Post Robert Novak, the rightwing propagandist, was warned by a CIA spokesman in 2003 not to publish White House spin that Bush critic Joe Wilson was sent to Niger by his wife, CIA secret agent Valerie Plame:

[Bill] Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson’s wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak’s call, he checked Plame’s status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame’s name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified.

In a column published Oct. 1, 2003, Novak wrote that the CIA official he spoke to “asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause ‘difficulties’ if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson’s wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name.”

So Novak’s excuse is, “I did it because I’m idiot who can’t read between the lines when a CIA spokesman is telling me an operative is covert.”

News & Comment

A Plame Name Game Timeline

Thanks to FactCheck.org for this cool timeline of events leading up to the current mess.

The Timeline

1988-1991 – Joseph Wilson serves as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad, Iraq. In July 1990, he takes over as acting ambassador to Iraq. (Joseph Wilson, The Politics of Truth 451, 2004).

1992-1995 – Nominated by President George H.W. Bush, Wilson serves as Ambassador to the African nations of Gabon, as well as the smaller island country of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe. (Wilson, Politics 451).

1995-1997 – Joseph Wilson serves as political adviser to the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe, stationed in Germany. On a trip to Washington DC, Wilson meets Valerie Plame who at the time says she is an “energy executive living in Brussels.” (Wilson, Politics 239-242).

June 1997 – Joseph Wilson returns to Washington DC as Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council. At about the same time, Plame also moves back to the United States (Wilson, Politics 240), in part because the CIA suspects her name was leaked to the Russians in 1994. (Vanity Fair, Jan. ‘04).

April 3, 1998 – Wilson and Plame marry. (Wilson, Politics 276).

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