Saturday, October 29

Deflecting the Pushback on Plame

The Right-Wing Media appears to have found it's strategy to Pushback on the Plame Matter. The strategy appears to be as follows:

1) "Scooter" is to be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
This point is self-evident I think. However, the multiple witnesses and even documentation that counters Libby's claim that he discovered the identity of Joe Wilson's wife tends to indicate that the likelyhood of guilt is rather high. Usually perjury cases are difficult if you only have two persons who simply disagree with each other, often a third person is required to break the tie -- but in this case there isn't anything even remotely resembling a tie. This is not a photo-finish, but a complete blow-out.

2) Since the indictment didn't include espionage charges, there was no crime until the investigation of a crime occured.

Despite the fact the Special Prosecutor specifically pointed out that "his vision was blocked" by Libby's lies from determining who exactly did what, many of those on the right (Hannity, Gingrich) have already linked hands with Senator Hutchinson and began chanting this mantra in unison. "There was no crime...there was no crime.."

Yes, there was a crime. A CIA Agents cover was blown, not only that the entire cover operation that had been put in place to help find and stop the proliferation of WMD's, Brewters-Jengings, was completely outed and dismantled. Some CIA sources and pundits have theorized that their was indeed an "after action post-mortem" on the Plame outing, and that as many as 60-70 foreign asset were lost and at least one American CIA operative lost their lives.

3) Joe Wilson lied about the yellowcake, and the Senate Intelligence Report says so.

The Senate Report actually says the following:
Regarding Uranium from Africa, the language of the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] stated

Iraq [already] had about 550 metric tons of yellowcake and low-enriched uranium at Tuwaitha, which is inspected annually by the IAEA. Iraq began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; aquiring either would shorten the time Bagdad needs to produce nuclear weapons.
  • A foreign service [Britain] reported that as of early 2001, Niger planned to send several tons of "pure uranium" (probably yellowcake) to Iraq. As of early 2001, Niger and Iraq were reportedly still working out arrangements for this deal, which could be up to 500 tons of yellowcake. We do not know the status of this arrangement.

  • Reports indicate that Iraq has also sought uranium ore from Somalia and possibly the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
We can not confirm whether Iraq succeeded in aquiring uranium ore and/or yellowcake from these sources.

At the NIE Coordination meeting, the only analyst who voiced disagreement with the uranium section was the INR [State Department] analyst. Several analysts told Committee staff that they did not recall even discussing the uranium report at the meeting. All of the analyst said that the bulk of the time was spent debating other issues such as aluminum tubes, time lines for weapons designs, procurement of magnets and other dual use items. CIA, DIA and DOE all said that at the time the NIE was written [Sept 2002], they agreed with the NIE assessment that Iraq was trying to procure uranium from Africa.

Because the INR disagreed with much of the nuclear section of the NIE, it decided to display it's alternative view in text boxes, rather than object to every point througout the NIE. INR prepared two seperate boxes, one for the key judgements section, and a two page box for the body fo the nuclear section, which included a sentence that stated that "the claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are, in INR's assessment, highly dubious"

On October 9, 2002, an Italian journalist from the magazine Panorama provided U.S. Embassy Rome with copies of documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium transaction. (Footnote: The documents from the Italian journalist are those that were passed to the IAEA and discovered to have been forged. In March 2003, the Vice Chairman of the Commitee, Senator Rockefeller requested that the FBI Investigate the source of the documents, the motivation of those responsible for the forgeries, and the extent to which the forgeries were part of a disinformation campaign.

On January 13, 2003, the INR Iraq nuclear analsyt sent an email to several IC analysts outlining his reasoning why, "the uranium purchase agreement is probably a hoax". He indicated that one of the documents that proported to be an agreement for a joint military campaign, including both Iraq and Iran, was so ridiculous it was "clearly a forgery". Because this document had the same alleged stamps as the Nigerian Embassy in Rome as the uranium documents, the analyst concluded "that the uranium purchase agreement is probably a forgery"
Besides the fact the Iraq already had 550 tons of yellowcake in it's possession prior to 2002, the Senate Report seems to indicate that before the 2003 SOTU speech by President Bush - there were strong indications that the Iraq-Niger documents were forgeries and that there was never any conclusive evidence that Iraq attempted to procure additional yellowcake from Africa. The certainly does not disprove Wilson's own allegations that the Iraq-Niger uranium connection was a hoax.

In addition the Senate Report, there is also the Dulfer Report on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction:

ISG has not found evidence to show that Iraq sought uranium from abroad after 1991 or renewed indigenous production of such material—activities that we believe would have constituted an Iraqi effort to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

...

So far, ISG has found only one offer of uranium to Baghdad since 1991—an approach Iraq appears to have turned down.

Lastly, then-Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet publicly stated in July 2003 that "[t]hese 16 words should never have been included in the text written for the President."

So in the case of Joe Wilson being a liar, it appears we do have at least three others sources to consider - taking this far beyond He Said/He Said -- and all of those sources, the Senate Intelligence Report, the Dulfer Report and George Tenet ultimately agree with Wilson's conclusion that there was no there there.. in Niger.

4) Wilson's Wife wasn't a covert Agent.

Josh Marshall has done an excellent job of addressing this point:

Simply go to page 5 of the indictment [PDF]. Top of the page, item #9.

On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Divison. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.

This is a crucial piece of information. the Counterproliferation Division (CPD) is part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, i.e., not Directorate of Intelligence, the branch of the CIA where 'analysts' come from, but where the spies come from.

Libby's a long time national security hand. He knows exactly what CPD is and where it is. So does Cheney. They both knew. It's right there in the indictment.

Even more to the point than Marshall is the first paragraph on Page 10 of the Indictment:
A major focus of the Grand Jury Investigation was to determine which government officials had disclosed to the media prior to July 14, 2003 information concerning the affiliation of Valerie Wilson with the CIA, and the nature, timing, extent, and purpose of such disclosures, as well as whether any official making such a disclosure did so knowing that the employment of Valerie Wilson by the CIA was classified information.
Over and above the technicalities of the Intellence Agents Identities Act, and the Espionage Act - there is the “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement" that Libby signed, a form that I myself have signed and actually did bother to read. From my own experience of 12 years working in a secure environment for a defense contractor, I can personally attest that persons with a security clearance are required to be fully aware of the level of sensitivity of that information and whether any person they are talking to has proper clearance for that information. If the classification level is unclear or the clearance level of the person you're talking to isn't known and displayed - you don't share it.

There has been some talk that Judith Miller actually had a security clearance at some point - but clearance are not carte blanche. Far from it, the DOD specifically compartmentalizes everything into unique "special access" projects. Just because you have a "Top Secret" clearance - which i've had - doesn't mean you automatically get to learn everything - only what you have a "need to know", period.

Where exactly was Judith Miller's, Matt Cooper's and Robert Novak's "need to know" classifed information about Valerie Plame?

My impression is that Fitzgerald hasn't yet indicted on the underlying charge of espionage and revealing classified information because he hasn't yet determined Libby's intent.

Under USC Title 18 Section 793 seems to relate to imporoperly releasing "information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation", and on the surface that would tend to exlude releasing that information for other reasons - such as political payback, but the idea that you can technically release classified information for political reasons - from my own experience and also in relation to the no-nonesense terms of the "Classified Nondisclosure Agreement" - I find highly dubious. There is little rational doubt that Libby wasn't aware that the information was classifed - it would have been the duty of anyone providing him that information to make him aware of it's level of classification - and little doubt that he was fully aware of his own liability in releasing that information. This testimony by Libby is illustrative:

    So then he said – I said – he said, sorry – he, Mr. Russert said to me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife, works at the CIA? And I said, no, I don't know that. And then he said, yeah – yes, all the reporters know it. And I said, again, I don't know that. I just wanted to be clear that I wasn't confirming anything for him on this. And you know, I was struck by what he was saying in that he thought it was an important fact, but I didn't ask him anymore about it because I didn't want to be digging in on him,

Russert disputes that this conversation ever took place - also at this point in time Libby had already heard from the State Dept, CIA and Vice President that Wilson's Wife did work for the CIA, and he had also already told Judith Miller this was true. The only reason for him to invent this conversation was to deflect his own involvement in the leak, but in the process his attempt not to confirm anything, is exactly what you would do if you had classified data and you knew it - you wouldn't confirm or deny, you'd play dumb and try to change the subject.

Simply put, he was acting guilty even when making up phony conversations.

It seem far more likely to me, that Fitzgerald is using his most solid information against his most crucial subject - Libby - as an effort to force his cooperation in exactly the same way that Judge Starr used his indictments against Susan McDougal to get her to provide an incriminating "proffer" against President Clinton.

There'a a reason why Libby lied about Russert, Cooper and Miller - and IMO Fitzgerald wants to know what that reason is more than he wants to send Libby to prison. In short, he's looking for bigger fish and keeping his powder dry until they're clearly in sight. Libby is nothing more than bait.

5) Wilson's wife sent him to Africa, not the Vice President.
The original source for this claim seems to be a document produced by the INR which was attached to Wilson's report to the CIA, but the claim made by that document was disputed by the CIA nearly two years ago by Mike Allen and Dana Milbank at the Washington Post.

Sources said the CIA is angry about the circulation of a still-classified document to conservative news outlets suggesting Plame had a role in arranging her husband's trip to Africa for the CIA. The document, written by a State Department official who works for its Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), describes a meeting at the CIA where the Niger trip by Wilson was discussed, said a senior administration official who has seen it.

CIA officials have challenged the accuracy of the INR document, the official said, because the agency officer identified as talking about Plame's alleged role in arranging Wilson's trip could not have attended the meeting.

"It has been circulated around," one official said. CIA and State Department officials have refused to discuss the document.

The Senate Intelligence report has also been referenced on this point, but it appears that their claims that Valerie Plame-Wilson was at least perpherally involved in suggesting her husband be dispatched to Niger really almost entirely on the exact same INR analyst who the CIA claims "wasn't at the meeting" in question.

CNN National Security Correspondant David Ensor has weighed in on this issue:
ENSOR: Secondly, the suggestion that's been out there quite a bit -- and there's even some discussion of it in the Senate Intelligence Committee report -- that Valerie Plame suggested her husband be sent to Niger. I have talked to very high intelligence officials who say that just isn't true. That it was senior officers above her who had the idea of sending Ambassador Wilson, knowing that he'd been in Niger before and was an experienced hand in Africa, a former ambassador on that continent. And they thought he'd be good. They then went to her and said, "Well, what do you think?" She responded with an email that said, "Yes, he'd be good for the following reasons." That was in response to higher-ups at the CIA who suggested that Joe Wilson be sent.
Wilson responding to the Senate Report's suggestion that his "Wife sent him" to Niger:
First conclusion: "The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador's wife, a CIA employee."

That is not true. The conclusion is apparently based on one anodyne quote from a memo Valerie Plame, my wife sent to her superiors that says "my husband has good relations with the PM (prime minister) and the former Minister of Mines, (not to mention lots of French contacts) both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity." There is no suggestion or recommendation in that statement that I be sent on the trip. Indeed it is little more than a recitation of my contacts and bona fides. The conclusion is reinforced by comments in the body of the report that a CPD reports officer stated the "the former ambassador's wife `offered up his name'" (page 39) and a State Department Intelligence and Research officer that the "meeting was `apparently convened by wife who had the idea to dispatch him to use his contacts to sort out the Iraq-Niger uranium issue."

In fact, Valerie was not in the meeting at which the subject of my trip was raised. Neither was the CPD Reports officer. After having escorted me into the room, she departed the meeting to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest. It was at that meeting where the question of my traveling to Niger was broached with me for the first time and came only after a thorough discussion of what the participants did and did not know about the subject. My bona fides justifying the invitation to the meeting were the trip I had previously taken to Niger to look at other uranium related questions as well as 20 years living and working in Africa, and personal contacts throughout the Niger government. Neither the CPD reports officer nor the State analyst were in the chain of command to know who, or how, the decision was made. The interpretations attributed to them are not the full story. In fact, it is my understanding that the Reports Officer has a different conclusion about Valerie's role than the one offered in the "additional comments". I urge the committee to reinterview the officer and publicly publish his statement.
Further, Wilson never claimed that the Vice President sent him to Niger, only that he was sent by "agency officials" in response to a request that apparently came "out of the Vice President's office" to the CiA. He has repeatedly stated that the Vice President knew nothing about the trip.
From CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, August 2003:

WILSON: Well, look, it's absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. Rice nor even George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger.

What they did, what the office of the vice president did, and, in fact, I believe now from Mr. Libby's statement, it was probably the vice president himself...

BLITZER: Scooter Libby is the chief of staff for the vice president.

WILSON: Scooter Libby. They asked essentially that we follow up on this report -- that the agency follow up on the report. So it was a question that went to the CIA briefer from the Office of the Vice President. The CIA, at the operational level, made a determination that the best way to answer this serious question was to send somebody out there who knew something about both the uranium business and those Niger officials that were in office at the time these reported documents were executed
It is interesting that it appears that it was Scooter Libby himself who asked his CIA briefer for the follow-up investigation into the Iraq-Niger rumors and it was from his CIA briefer, as well as the "Under Secretary of State" that he later learned that Joe Wilson had been the one to go to Niger, as well as the (CIA Disputed) rumor of his Wife's involvement in sending him on the trip. I've often wondered if that exact same source in the state department, the person who made the notes in the INR memo - but wasn't at the meeting - is the person who also briefed Libby. Might that person be -- David Wurmser, who at the time was working for John Bolton? (Who is in fact mentioned in the Senate Report in the section regarding Pressure on Intelligence Community Analysts Regarding Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Capabilities

At this point, we don't know the answer to that question -- but I suspect that during Scooter Libby's trial, we'll all find out.

Vyan

3 comments:

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