Category ►►► Plame Blame Game
May 29, 2008
McClellan's Losing Campaign - Part II
Scott McClellan's pathetic campaign against George W. Bush -- hence for the election of Barack Obama -- continues apace; he keeps talking about more snippets from the book in interviews.
Today, McClellan bores deep into the Plame name blame game, which he sees as a "turning point" in his relationship with the president. But here is an oddity: It was clear to everyone from at least October 28th, 2005 -- the day that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicted "Scooter" Libby -- that it was not true that Libby was uninvolved in the inadvertent leak of Valerie Plame's CIA affiliation; and it was also well known by then that Karl Rove had testified five times to Fitzgerald's grand jury, correcting some of his testimony. As I recall, we already knew at that time that the correction involved a conversation Rove had with Matt Cooper of Time Magazine... which clearly implied that Rove, too, had inadvertently revealed Plame's employment.
So by late October, 2005, Scott McClellan already knew that what he told reporters in 2003 was wrong. This was the moral "turning point," he now says.
Yet he continued in his White House employment, after Libby's indictment, for six more months; he did not resign until late April, 2006 -- when he was ousted by new White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten. Some "turning point!"
And once again, not a single charge of McClellan's is backed up by any evidence so far released... and much of it is in fact contradicted by strong, available documentation. (And this complete lack of evidence does indeed make McClellan, as Rove put it, sound like a "liberal blogger!")
Not only that, but McClellan and his new allies in the elite media (didn't they used to despise him?) now stoop to deliberate obscurantism to hide the absurdity of what they're claiming. Viz:
[McClellan] was ordered to say from the press room podium that White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were not involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press. Later a criminal investigation revealed that they were.
Revealed that they were "involved," yes; revealed that they were criminally culpable? No.
In fact, neither I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, then Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, nor Karl Rove, then Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Policy, was ever indicted for leaking Plame's name or CIA affiliation: Libby was indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice, and Rove was never indicted for anything at all.
("Involved" -- what a weasel word! For that matter, Robert Novak, Matt Cooper, and Tim Russert were also "involved," weren't they?)
During the investigation, Richard Armitage, then Deputy Secretary of State to Secretary of State Colin Powell, admitted that he was the first to inadvertently leak to reporter Robert Novak the fact that Lyin' Joe Wilson's wife was in the CIA; Armitage was also never indicted on any charge. Had the leak been intentional, the leaker would almost certainly have been indicted; thus it's a pretty fair conclusion that the Special Counsel believed the leaks were unintentional and inadvertent. (Particularly so since Armitage, like his boss Colin Powell, opposed the Iraq war... so why would be try to "discredit" the guy who was trying to prevent it?)
So yes, Libby and Rove were "involved in leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the press;" but AP (and McClellan, so far as they report) fail to mention that they were both exonerated of the accusation that they did so deliberately in order to discredit Wilson.
You would think that would be an important part of the story.
Here's another wonderful bit of half-truth misdirection from AP, which they save to the end as the supposed killer-anecdote that demonstrates, to everyone who already suffers from BDS, what a liar and hypocrite is George W. Bush:
And [McClellan] recalled a day in April 2006, when the unfolding perjury case against Libby had revealed that Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war. High-profile criticism was coming from Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, in those days before the war. [Take note that AP doesn't reveal what this "declassified" intelligence report was; but I'll let the beans out of the bag in a moment.]
The president was leaving an event in North Carolina, McClellan recalled, and as they walked to Air Force One a reporter shouted a question: Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?
McClellan took the question to the president, telling Bush: "He's saying you yourself were the one that authorized the leaking of this information."
"And he said, 'Yeah, I did.' And I was kind of taken aback," McClellan said.
"For me I came to the decision that at that point I needed to look for a way to move on, because it had undermined, I think, a lot of what we had said."
Really? Let's stick a few particulars into that vague and smelly indictment...
First, anytime an administrative official speaks to a news source off the record -- even if fully authorized -- that could be called "leaking." As McClellan himself has done this many times (along with every other White House Press Secretary), he should not feign such horror.
Second, let's clarify what "intelligence report" Bush "declassified" in 2003 or 2004 (not 2006). There are only two possibilities that McClellan could be referencing, and the first is easily dismissed:
- The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate;
- Or the 2002 intelligence report on the debriefing of a certain former ambassador who was recommended by his CIA wife to be sent to a certain African country.
The October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate
President Bush relied upon this estimate, compiled by the CIA, in his decision to ask Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Military Force; an AUMF is the legal equivalent of a declaration of war.
By mid-2003, with the war in full swing, the elite media was abuzz with claims that the 2002 NIE had said that Iraq had no WMD and was not even trying to develop any. In particular, these many stories claimed that the idea that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain Uranium had been "debunked" by the CIA before the war -- and that the war was therefore entirely predicated on a lie.
It turns out that all these stories had a single source: Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, who had been sent to Niger by the CIA in response to his CIA wife's nagging of the Agency.
It was absurd that the CIA accepted Plame's suggestion of her husband for the trip. Its purpose was ostensibly to determine whether Saddam Hussein was trying to buy Uranium yellowcake, yet Wilson had no expertise whatsoever in nuclear or WMD investigations. He did, however, have one indispensible qualification: He already believed the story was a fairy tale, even before he left for Africa.
When he returned, and after he was debriefed by his CIA handlers (see below), he covertly went to numerous elite-media sources and told them that he had found that the idea that Hussein was trying to acquire Uranium yellowcake was bunk. Later, he published an op-ed in the New York Times (July 6th, 2003) titled "What I Didn't Find in Africa," in which he peddled the same claim.
As more and more people came to believe, because of this disinformation campaign, that the administration had "lied us into war" (a cherished Democratic mantra), the president decided to declassify parts of the NIE on which he had relied. Not the whole thing, as that would reveal sources and methods; just the "key judgments" that the CIA presented the White House. He did so with great fanfare on July 18th, 2003... the day after Scott McClellan was named White House Press Secretary. This is an important point: McClellan was already the presidential spokesman when Bush announced the declassification of parts of the NIE and distributed it to reporters; and even prior to his promotion, he was the Deputy Press Secretary to Ari Fleischer.
Therefore, I suggest that the NIE cannot be the "2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities" that Bush "declassified," which McClellan now says he first found out about in April of 2006. Obviously, McClellan knew about the declassification of portions of the 2002 NIE way back in 2003... when the rest of the civilized world found out about it.
So this cannot possibly be what AP means above, unless Scott McCellan is dumber than a box of Barbara's boxers. That leaves only one other reasonable possibility:
The 2002 intelligence report on Joe Wilson's debriefing by the CIA
On July 7th, 2004, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a document titled Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq. In the section titled "Niger," there is a chapter tantalizingly called "the Former Ambassador." It includes the following summary of the previously classified CIA debriefing of "the former ambassador" -- that is, of Lyin' Joe Wilson -- when he returned from the trip to the African nation of Niger that his CIA wife, Valerlie Plame, wangled for him. The briefing was included in an intelligence report disseminated within intelligence-community circles on March 8, 2002.
When the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to publish their report, they asked the president to declassify any intelligence in the report that was still classified. Bush complied; we don't know whether Wilson's debriefing was declassified at that point or before, but I don't recall anybody writing about it until after the report came out.
I strongly believe that this is what AP means when they write "Bush secretly declassified portions of a 2002 intelligence report about Iraq's weapons capabilities to help deflect criticism of his case for war." I can think of no other 2002 intelligence report that has made its way into the unclass information world besides these two... and it cannot possibly be the NIE for reasons elucidated above.
But why did this declassification so enrage the Left -- and so horrify Scott McClellan, becoming one of his "turning points?" Let's see what, exactly, former Ambassador Joe Wilson did tell his CIA handlers when he returned. In this case, speculation is unnecessary, because we know exactly what information Wilson gave them from his little Nigerien adventure. From that same chapter linked above:
The intelligence report based on the former ambassador's trip was disseminated on March 8, 2002. The report did not identify the former ambassador by name or as a former ambassador, but described him as "a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record." The report also indicted that the "subsources of the following information knew their remarks could reach the U.S. government and may have intended to influence as well as inform." DO officials told Committee staff that this type of description was routine and was done in order to protect the former ambassador as the source of the information, which they had told him they would do. DO officials also said they alerted WINPAC analysts when the report was being disseminated because they knew the "high priority of the issue." The report was widely distributed in routine channels.
(Redacted) The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999, (Redacted) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales. The intelligence report also said that "although the meeting took place, Mayaki let the matter drop due to the UN sanctions on Iraq."
And there you have it: In setting straight the record of prewar intelligence on Iraq, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee had to note that former Ambassador Joe Wilson (husband of former CIA employee Valerie Plame) told his CIA handlers that the former prime minister of Niger revealed that an Iraqi delegation tried to meet with him to discuss "expanding commercial relations," which the former prime minister believed was an attempt to purchase Uranium.
Wilson then went to the elite media and lied through his teeth... covertly, at first; but when that failed to bring down the Bush regime, overtly in an op-ed in the NYT. Thus, the Senate Intelligence Committee's report exposed Lyin' Joe Wilson as exactly what he was; and for that, the Left will never forgive either the president who declassified the debriefing or the committee that revealed Joe Wilson to the world.
For reference, here is what President Bush said in his January, 2003 State of the Union address... the very "sixteen words" that Wilson flatly claimed in his op-ed "was not borne out by the facts as I understood them."
The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
Sounds like an excellent summary of what former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki told former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson.
Selective declassification vs. selective leaking
The elite media and its new sock puppet Scott McClellan make much to-do out of this final point, as if it were the synecdoche that encapsulates McClellan's entire charge:
Had the president, who had repeatedly condemned the selective release of secret intelligence, enabled Libby to leak classified information to The New York Times back then to bolster the administration's arguments for war?
Once again, vagueness to the rescue! There are two ways to "selective[ly] release" classified information; one is completely legal, the other criminal, despicable, and a gross and offensive betrayal of the United States of America:
- The president or some Congressional committees can legally declassify specific information, in consultation with the agency that classified it, and release it to the general public, including the news media;
- A disgruntled government employee, fighting against the express policy of the elected government, can criminally "leak" the classified information to individual elite reporters he believes are friendly to his cause, in an effort to destroy whatever legal intelligence program he dislikes.
AP is correct: The president has on many occasions decried a "selective release of secret intelligence" of Type 2, such as the leak of details about the Terrorist Surveillance Program (the NSA al-Qaeda telephone intercepts) or our perfectly legal -- nobody even denies this -- voluntary surveillance of the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system, part of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program to find and interdict terrorists' money transfers.
This sort of "selective release" does incalculable damage to our intelligence-gathering capabilities, puts human sources at risk, and alerts death-cult terrorists that they should change their modus operandi to avoid detection by intelligence and law-enforcement agents. Such leaks kill good people and aid and abet al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other evildoers.
But that's not what McClellan is whining about. He was so shocked and horrified that he "came to the decision that at that point [he] needed to look for a way to move on" because the president made no attempt to conceal the fact that he had engaged in a perfectly legal Type 1 "selective release of secret information": He formally declassified part of a CIA debriefing, after consultation with the CIA, possibly even at the request of the United States Senate Intelligence Committee.
Are you able to detect the subtle, miniscule difference between some low-level toady in the NSA leaking details of the Terrorist Surveillance Program, thus shutting off the flow of information about potential al-Qaeda cells in the United States -- and the president declassifying a summary of a debriefing that the Senate Intelligence Committee wanted to release as part of a report on pre-war intelligence, more than a year after the debriefing was conducted?
If so, then you're one up on both the former White House Press Secretary and the elite media!
What McClellan didn't prove in his book
I'm sorry that so many folks are shocked to learn that former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson is a liar; but it's hardly the president's job to keep old intelligence documents classified -- even when the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to publish parts of them -- just to preserve Wilson's reputation... so he can continue to accuse President Bush of lying, when in fact the evidence indicates that all along, the liar was Wilson himself.
And I note, once again, that all of this was printed not only in the Senate report on July 7th, 2004; it was also discussed extensively -- and put into the context of debunking Joe Wilson's lies -- in a July 12th, 2004 column in the National Review by Clifford May. I myself was late to the game; I didn't start blogging (on Patterico's Pontifications) until May of 2005. But by October of that year, I was already posting about this on Big Lizards.
Where the hell was Scott McClellan that he wasn't already aware of this until sometime in April of 2006? The rest of us knew it eight months earlier.
More and more, the evidence indicates that McClellan's faux horror and his "turning points" are entirely fabricated after the fact... and the only two reasons I can imagine are (1) to sell more copies of his book, and (2) to set himself up for a position in the fantasized administration of President Barack Obama.
The saddest part is that even if Obama were elected, then just as with David Brock (anyone remember him?), he would no more give a job to a betrayer like Scott McClellan than he would pluck somebody else's used Kleenex out of the rubbish and blow his own nose into it.
McClellan is burning all his former friends and colleagues for nothing.
May 28, 2008
McClellan's Losing Campaign - Part I
I believe that McClellan's campaign will turn out to be a disaster, not for the president but for McClellan himself.
(And I assume you all realize I mean the campaign by Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary until he was ousted by incoming Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten -- and not a minute too soon! -- to damage the GOP enough that Barack Obama wins the presidency in 2008... not the failed presidential campaign of ousted -- and not a minute too soon! -- Civil War Gen. George McClellan in 1864.)
Alas, I was scooped on the following observation by John Hinderaker at my favorite blogsite, Power Line; but I shall persevere, secure behind the lizardly firewall of "Never first, always final."
What has struck me is "the Case of the Missing Evidence": McClellan is quoted as leveling numerous charges against President Bush and members of his administration, from "misleading" us into the Iraq war by spreading "propaganda," to McClellan's accusation that Karl Rove and "Scooter" Libby conspired together to out Valerie Plame and then lie about it to the grand jury, to -- this is truly bizarre -- McClellan's psychic claim that Bush lied about never having tried cocaine. Yet in not a single accusation in a single article I have read (I've read six) is there even a shred of evidence offered for the claim, other than the rather dubious word of a man hawking his new "tell-all" book.
Nothing. Nada. Bagel.
Here is a typical example from our ancient enemy, the Times:
Mr. McClellan writes that top White House officials deceived him about the administration’s involvement in the leaking of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. He says he did not know for almost two years that his statements from the press room that Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr. were not involved in the leak were a lie.
“Neither, I believe, did President Bush,” Mr. McClellan writes. “He too had been deceived, and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth -- including Rove, Libby, and possibly Vice President Cheney -- allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie.”
Of course, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald extensively investigated Karl Rove in that case, calling him back numerous times for more testimony. Rove even corrected some of his testimony, which almost certainly led to even more intense investigation by Fitzgerald. Yet after all that, Fitzgerald -- who was highly motivated to find some legal victim higher up the food chain than the chief of staff to the Vice President -- couldn't even gain an indictment from a grand jury... which hears only the prosecution's case.
But I'm sure McClellan knows better. I wonder whether he shared whatever evidence he has with Fitzgerald, who obviously considered it pretty unconvincing (or he would have used it) -- or whether McClellan only discovered this "evidence" of perjury and obstruction of justice after Fitzgerald failed to indict Rove.
Here's another good one:
[McClellan] is harsh about the administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina, saying it “spent most of the first week in a state of denial” and “allowed our institutional response to go on autopilot.”
Does anyone else detect a pattern here? Systematically, McClellan is working his way, one by one, through every anti-Bush fairy tale promulgated by the "reality-based community," the nutroots of Daily Kos. (I fully expect that somewhere in the book, which I will not waste time reading, McClellan will express his doubts that 9/11 was really carried out by al-Qaeda -- maybe it was Mossad! -- and will suggest that the Pentagon was hit by a U.S. missile and that the World Trade Centers were taken down by controlled demolition...)
Anent Katrina, I was going to make some scathing response about how effective President Bush really was, in contrast to the Demo-lib caricature; but then I remembered I already did -- two years ago. I'll stack my evidence up against McClellan's any day... or I would, if McClellan could find any.
Maybe McClellan should start reading Big Lizards before writing future books.
Although I did independently come up with this observation, I must confess that John beat me into
JOHN adds: McClellan was a lousy press secretary. A much better spokesman, Tony Snow, once told me that the best thing about his job was the opportunity to follow President Bush around and observe his conduct of the Presidency. Tony said that he came away with a deep appreciation of President Bush's character, judgment and knowledge of the issues. Unless McClellan can come up with some facts to back up his claims--facts have been notably absent from the press accounts I've seen of his book--I think Tony's assessment is considerably more reliable.
I could not agree with John more... especially the part about McClellan's squirmy "talents" as a presidential press secretary; he always came across to me a lot less like Ari Fleischer, or even Clinton's Mike McCurry, and a lot more like Jon Lovitz's pathological liar character from Saturday Night Live in the late 1980s ("Yeah, yeah, the Queen of England... that's the ticket!")
But I also agree with Paul: McClellan's tabloid trash is going to get a full-court press of reviews, news articles, and free PR by the Democratic Party (both political and journalistic wings)... making the contrast all the more stark with the brilliant insider tome War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism, by former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.
Feith's book received no reviews by any major elite-media source except for Bret Stephens' review at the Wall Street Journal... despite the fact that War and Decision was written by the man who actually made (in consultation with his direct boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) the important decisions he discusses; while What Happened -- say, if this is about McClellan's career, then didn't the printers accidentally leave off the question mark that should have been at the end of that title? -- is nothing but the ramblings of a man whose only function was to explain other people's decisions to the press.
Say, has anybody else ever noticed that life isn't fair? (Darn... I think I was scooped on that observation, too.)
April 11, 2007
Capping the Cooper Caper - What Does Beldar Say?
I was reading the statement by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, dropping all remaining charges against the three Duke lacrosse team members, and I noticed the following passage:
The result of our review and investigation shows clearly that there is insufficient evidence to proceed on any of the charges. Today we are filing notices of dismissal for all charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.
The result is that these cases are over, and no more criminal proceedings will occur.
Had Cooper stopped right there, he would have been just about as informative -- and just about as fair -- as Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was in concluding his lengthy, costly investigation into the Plame name blame game.
But Cooper did not stop there; he went on at some length to this effect:
We believe that these cases were the result of a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations. Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges.
We approached this case with the understanding that rape and sexual assault victims often have some inconsistencies in their accounts of a traumatic event. However, in this case, the inconsistencies were so significant and so contrary to the evidence that we have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night.
Note what Cooper said: that he believes the three former defendants are actually innocent. This goes a long way towards making them whole again after their warrentless persecution over the past thirteen months by election-driven DA Mike Nifong (who now faces his own day in court -- rather, before the bar association -- on various ethics charges).
By contrast, Fitzgerald's refusal even to say whether a crime was committed by revealing Valerie Plame Wilson's name, coupled with his tightlipped silence about the alleged violations by Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and other high-ranking members of the administration, leaves a sword of Damocles hanging over the president's head... deliberately so, in my uninformed gut feeling.
I don't know whether Fitzgerald's animus against President Bush predates his appointment as special counsel or whether it developed during the investigation; but I honestly believe, without a shred of evidence to support it, that one reason he won't answer any questions is that he wants the administration to suffer... even though he could not find a single substantive charge to lodge against any one of them -- other than Scooter Libby's foolish perjury.
But even if I am incorrect that Fitzgerald wants a cloud of suspicion to hover over Bush's head for the next 1.75 years, few on either side would deny that that is the effect of Fitzgerald's refusal to speak. The vice president, the president's top advisors, and the president himself have all been smeared by inuendo for years, while the real liars who started everything -- "Ambassador" Joe Wilson himself, along with his duplicitous wife -- have been lionized; and the man who could lift that cloud smiles and says nothing.
A while back, you may recall that I had a lengthy go-round with brilliant lawblogger Beldar (Bill Dyer):
- Beldar: Did Fitzgerald abuse his prosecutorial discretion?
- Dafydd: Begging the Biggie
- Beldar: Fitzgerald, Libby, and the roles of, and viewing windows for, big lizards (be they mere prosecutors, Special Counsel, or Independent Counsel Godzillas) in the legal-political jungle
- Dafydd: Beldar vs. Dafydd Under the Big Top
- ...And the discussion continues in the comments section of my second post.
My position was that Fitzgerald owes the country a duty to resolve the controversy we set him to investigate. I call upon the special counsil to answer a series of general questions about the case.
Beldar's position was that prosecutors should speak only through indictments (or their lack), and that allowing them to answer such questions was too dangerous to those they may implicate without trial.
I'm curious whether Beldar will now denounce North Carolina's attorney general for his clear and unambiguous statement exonerating three young men falsely accused of a crime... thus, by definition, equally clearly implying that the false-accuser, 28 year old Crystal Gail Mangum, committed a bitter and vengeful felony against three innocent men.
Beldar may land on Cooper with both feet, for consistency's sake; or else he may be able to make a good case that Cooper is not just a prosecutor, he is an elected official, thus has a different duty. But I must confess, the circumstances seem pretty similar to me... though the decisions taken by the two principals, Fitzgerald and Cooper, are polar opposites.
Beldar, care to weigh in on this point? (Alas, he has closed comments and trackbacks on the two linked posts above, so he may never hear about this post at all. I think I'll e-mail him to let him know... I'm sure he'll be wildly appreciative!)
March 12, 2007
Beldar vs. Dafydd Under the Big Top
Beldar has kindly responded to my post, Begging the Biggie, with his own -- which is even longer than mine!
Even the title has a lot of heft: Fitzgerald, Libby, and the roles of, and viewing windows for, big lizards (be they mere prosecutors, Special Counsel, or Independent Counsel Godzillas) in the legal-political jungle -- whew! But it's definitely worth reading, as it frames the debate nicely.
Simply put, it boils down to this: Which is more important -- that all the privacy rights and defendant's rights of those examined in the course of the Fitzgerald investigation be protected... or that the integrity and honor of the United States government (USG) and the country itself be defended and questions resolved?
Being only moderately concerned about privacy rights under any circumstances, and especially where government officials are involved, I opt for the latter. Let me explain, please...
The Plame Name Blame Game began as a two-pronged assault upon the integrity of the USG and the honor of the country itself:
- Lyin' Joe Wilson claimed that Bush defrauded us into war in his 2003 State of the Union address and other speeches by making a false claim about Iraq, Niger, and Uranium ore, or "yellowcake."
- Wilson and the elite media claimed that the administration subsequently used the power of the USG to silence Wilson by "outing" his CIA-employed wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, though a series of orchestrated leaks to the media.
In December of 2003, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, then the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, was named Special Counsel to investigate whether there was any crime in the revelation that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. (Fitzgerald was fresh off a corruption investigation of Republican Gov. George Ryan that netted 40 indictments, including that of Ryan himself, who was convicted of 18 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, extortion, bribery, and suchlike.)
There were two reasons for the appointment of a Special Counsel, one micro and the other macro:
- Micro: Fitzgerald was obviously appointed to uphold the law, to investigate crimes, to prosecute plaintiffs if necessary and prudent, and to gain convictions where they were guilty. Call this the legal quest.
- Macro: But, like all cases where a Special or Independent Counsel is brought in, there was a political side as well. As the integrity and honor of the United States and the USG had been questioned (by Democrats, for the most part), both Democrats and Republicans wanted those questions answered, either to restore the good name of the country (for the former), or to demonstrate that it had never been besmirched in the first place (for the latter). This is the quest for cosmic justice.
(The terms micro and macro relate to the focus: Micro is focused upon the particulars of this investigation; macro looks at the integrity of the government as a whole.)
Both of these purposes (or principles) are vital; but they can sometimes clash. And under the cosmic view of justice, whenever two principles clash, we must resolve that dichotomy by deciding which is more important.
While I'm certain that both Beldar and Patterico see both principles as important, I believe, based upon their writings, that they see (1) as more so -- perhaps because it's more tangible. Too, as lawyers, they have devoted their lives to upholding the law, and it would not be hard to see each case as a synecdoche of Law itself. This is what I meant by "thinking like a lawyer."
(To be fair, if they didn't think as lawyers, they wouldn't be anywhere near as good at their jobs as they clearly are!)
I, however, see the opposite: While both micro and macro are very important, I see (2) as more so... precisely because it's less tangible; that is, less "concrete-bound," as Ayn Rand might say, if she were still among us the living, I mean... less tied to the specific facts of one specific instance. The United States as a country and America as a culture can more easily survive injustices in individual cases than they can the cosmic injustice of losing national honor and governmental integrity, so that Americans cease to believe in America.
The proof is that we've all seen injustice in the courtroom many times: the O.J. case, the retrials of the police who were acquitted of beating Rodney King, the McMartin and other "pre-school molestation" cases, the Red-Light Bandit trial and execution, the "Lindbergh baby kidnapping" trial of Bruno Hauptman, the repeated prosecutions of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle based upon nothing, and the trial of Dr. Samuel Mudd for treating the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth... these all popped into my head with two minutes thought.
Yet none of these egregious examples of injustice has shaken the widespread belief among the mainstream within the United States that if the cops arrest you, you'll get a fair trial. Everyone knows that sometimes it doesn't work right; but we also know it usually does, and it works better than any other system.
Injustice anent the macro principle, however, is a different story.
At any moment, government -- every government -- hangs by a thread. Sometimes the thread is like a hair, even gossamer; other times, in other places, it's more like a steel cable. But government in general always depends upon people choosing to obey the orders of those empowered (de jure or de facto) to issue orders... what Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci calls hegemony, or as I put it, "perceived fitness to rule."
Congress passes a law and the president signs it. A court issues a decision sending a man to prison or making one person pay "compensation" to another. The IRS audits a taxpayer and orders him to pay $2000 in back taxes. A state agency declares some geographic area a historic site, with heavy restrictions on building. A city council sets zoning laws the prohibit commercial businesses in some neighborhood.
Each of these is an order; each is backed by the threat of force, but it rarely comes to that. Instead, people generally obey the order simply because they perceive the entity that made it is "fit to rule," legitimate and authoritative -- even when the obeyer disagrees with the decision.
But even the phrase "backed by the threat of force" requires sufficient hegemony that the police or the Army will obey the orders of the government official: If Geoge W. Bush were to order the U.S. Marines to arrest Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama, I guarantee you they would not obey that order. (In fact, the Marines who received it would testify against Bush at the impeachment trial in the Senate.)
Similarly, if Bush ordered the Marines to shift from one city in Iraq to another, they would obey; but if Hillary gave the same order, they would not. These refusals occur because Bush has hegemony as president (Commander in Chief) over the Marines; while Hillary, a mere senator, does not. But even Bush's hegemony is limited; there are legal and illegal orders, and the troops generally will not obey an obviously illegal order -- such as arresting the Democratic candidates for president.
There is, however, another way that hegemony can be lost: when those required to obey cease to recognize the moral authority and legitimacy of the people authorized to issue orders. This occurred, e.g., in the Soviet Union in August of 1991, when large portions of the Mighty Red Army refused to obey orders issuing from the Kremlin... because they knew that Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Soviet Union and General Secretary of the Communist Party, had been seized by several generals and hardline Party members in a coup d'état.
Instead, most of the command structure within Russia itself shifted allegiance to Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia: The army, the police, even the people themselves lost faith in the larger government of the USSR... so they simply ceased to pay attention to their agents and orders.
A bad leader, a corrupt leader, or even too weak of a leader will cause far more damage, of a far more permanent nature, to the country than even the most bizarre and unjust courtroom outcome... because in a very tangible sense, the vast majority of the country identifies far more with the Executive and even the Legislative branches of government than the Judicial -- which is seen as an afterthought. To paraphrase the old bank commercial, the Judiciary is the branch you don't have to think about. It doesn't "represent the country" the way the president does, or to a lesser extent Congress.
There you have it. I know Patterico and Beldar -- and every other lawyer -- won't like it; but I think few would argue the point. They may opine that it should represent America more than any other branch of the USG, or at least just as much. But it simply doesn't, and nothing at all to be done about that.
So back to my dissent from Beldar's post. Beldar is focused almost entirely upon the integrity of the judicial process itself, from the very beginning of the investigation (the FBI interviews) right up through the grand jury testimony, the indictment, and the trial. And he is assuredly correct that, were Fitzgerald forced to answer the questions I posed in the previous post, some elements of judicial integrity would be compromised.
At the very least, workproduct that cops and prosecutors had every reason to expect would remain private would suddenly become public... at least to members of Congress, but probably even to the American people. At worst, the rights of the accused (Lewis Libby) and even those investigated but not accused (Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Bob Novak, etc.) would be infringed.
Libby might have a harder time getting a fair hearing in the appellate courts or the Supreme Court. Those not charged might still have somewhat damning facts come out that they would prefer remain hidden.
But no right is absolute, and no decision is taken in a vacuum. There are other rights here, not the least of which is freedom of speech. Properly understood, this right has two parts: the least important is the right to speak; far more important is the right to hear.
The American people have the right to hear whether or not their government is corrupt; if it is corrupt, but they are never told because the Special Counsel will not spill what he found out, how are the people ever to correct it and restore integrity, honor, and hegemony?
Too, anyone who enters into government service necessarily forfeits some of his rights. Not perhaps in a legal sense, but certainly in a de facto sense: notice that virtually every president (and presidential nominee) makes his income-tax return public, for example; when was the last time anybody reading this post did the same?
Public servants also de facto give up much of their First Amendment rights... there are certain things you simply cannot say when you're a senator, or even the Junior Assistant Deputy Secretary of State for International Curling Competitions. Not if you want to keep your job. As Superchicken used to say to his assistant Fred, "you knew the job was dangerous when you took it."
And another of those infringements is the loss of much of one's right to privacy -- and Libby, Rove, Cheney, and everyone else in the administration knew the job entailed this when they took it. (Cluck!)
Libby, et al, simply have less of an expectation of privacy than does Dafydd or Beldar. In fact, even Patterico has a less robust set of rights than we, because the need for integrity and perceived integrity of the public sector is so much greater than among private citizens.
(The importance of hegemony also explains why killing a cop or the governor is so much greater an offense than killing a banker or a bus driver: To allow a banger to kill a cop is to allow him to tear up the Constitution and stamp on the pieces. It is and should be "special circumstances" all by itself.)
Not only does the silence of the Counsels infringe a very important national right, it's also very dangerous: The United States of America is fundamentally built upon a foundation of transparency and speech. It's always best to know the worst, no matter how bad, because at least that will tell you what didn't happen.
When all the people hear are the dire accusations, the hysterical claims, the alarums and excursions offstage, they envision a problem tremendously worse than it actually is... and, as with the similar case of the Iraq War, they can lose all faith in the USG based upon inuendo and overreaction. And that would be a calamity, for without faith, any government is nothing but a collection of loudmouthed head-butters and buttheads.
Each baseless accusation and fabricated outrage is a lit match thrown into a gasoline-soaked house; the truth about what Patrick J. Fitzgerald found -- and what he didn't find -- is a firehose of water: It may itself cause damage, but it will be dramatically less than the damage caused by withholding it.
Finally, Beldar may be correct that that the law prevents Fitzgerald from answering any of the questions I pose. He's a lawyer, I'm not (though I do play a "sea-lawyer" in the blogosphere). But if that is true, then the law stands in the way of justice and must be changed.
We used to have such a law, the Independent Counsel statute. Beldar disliked it and is glad that it's gone; but I think what we have now is actually worse... we have unresolved accusation and eroding integrity. If letting the Independent Counsel statute expire and setting up a Special Counsel "in but not of" the Justice Department was supposed to de-politicize the process, it has failed spectacularly.
We are much better off, and it's more in keeping with America's national character, to turn on the firehose of information let it spray where it will. A biased Counsel can write a biased report; but on the other hand, we've also seen what a biased D.A. can do in Austin, Texas or Durham, North Carolina with just a pocketful of subpoenas.
Corrupt people can corrupt any process; so the fact that a process might be corrupted is not a valid argument for dropping it. Everything is a trade-off; we must weigh the bad versus the good... and as a general rule, except under extraordinary circumstances, I favor greater disclosure over greater secrecy.
I think the United States should -- and does -- agree with me. Change the law, if necessary -- but turn on that blasted hose!
March 11, 2007
Begging the Biggie
Beldar has put up a post, extensively excerpted by Patterico (who calls it "brilliant"), that does an excellent job of defending Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald from charges of legal incompetence: Beldar argues that Fitzgerald:
- Had sound legal reason to haul Lewis Libby before the grand jury and give him the opportunity to repeat and expand upon his lies to the FBI in that setting;
- Had sound legal reason to indict him for perjury and obstruction when he did so;
- And exercised reasonable prosecutorial discretion in pursuing that indictment, in spite of the fact that he filed no other criminal charges related to the Plamegate probe.
But both miss the larger point, it seems to me: A Special Counsel does not exist in a vacuum; he is not an ordinary district attorney, as Patterico himself is. When Patterico investigates a charge of, say, assault, he is doing so as a normal part of his day-to-day job: He and his colleagues are always the people who investigate charges of assault in the normal course of events.
But naming a Special Counsel is primarily a political, not a legal action -- for two reasons:
- Because he is invariably appointed in order to investigate a political scandal: Plamegate, Whitewater, the Iran-Contra scandal. This makes it a highly-charged political event whenever a Special Counsel is named, riveting the nation's attention on the legal implications of a political donnybrook. No Special Counsel would have been named to investigate a charge that Libby cheated on his income taxes or was using illicit drugs in the White House; there is nothing political about that claim.
- And most particularly, because naming a Special Counsel announces to the entire country -- indeed the entire world -- that the Justice Department itself is implicated in this scandal, hence cannot be trusted to undertake the investigation itself. That also makes it a higly political event.
Both Patterico and Beldar are "thinking like lawyers," to quote the Paper Chase... which makes perfect sense, as they are both lawyers, of course: an assistant district attorney and a crusty, old trial lawyer. But I think they're allowing their legal brains to seize control from their ordinary citizens' brains, and that's an occupational hazard they should recognize.
There is a sense in which Patrick Fitzgerald may have been woefully inadequate to this task: Not only has he failed to fully explain what did happen in the Plame name blame game, he also made a comment during the final arguments that politically implicated the Vice President Cheney... without actually presenting evidence that he did anything wrong.
Let's take the first charge first...
Where is the final report?
Fitzgerald conducted a lengthy inquiry into the critical question of whether there was an organized conspiracy among senior administration officials to "out Valerie Plame," as many have put it; but he finally decided to file no charges on this point. I say Patrick Fitzgerald has a duty to the nation to explain exactly why and why not.
His job is not the same as a regular DA, who is under no obligation to explain why he doesn't file charges against a private citizen suspected of assault or robbery. Fitzgerald was a Special Counsel, and special rules should apply... not as a legal matter but as a political matter, in keeping with the essentially political act of the appointment of a Special Counsel.
Now, there is one caveat: He clearly cannot reveal grand-jury testimony; Rule 6(e)(2)(B) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibit it, and a special counsel has no countervailing legal authority to do so -- unlike the old Independent Counsel, who I believe was granted statutory authority under the IC law, unless I'm misremembering, to issue a final report, in which he could include such grand-jury testimony as he saw fit.
I don't know just how broad a shield this is. Presumably it wouldn't cover anything that Fitzgerald uncovered in his investigation that he never presented to the grand jury in the first place, as that would not be "a matter occurring before the grand jury." But does it prohibit disclosure of the results of his independent investigation that he later brought before the grand jury, assuming he doesn't specifically quote from any grand-jury testimony?
Suppose, in the course of that investigation, he discovered that Plame was not covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA); I presume that if he never brought this fact up to the grand jury, he could publish it later. But suppose he did bring it up -- just to say that she wasn't covered, so he wasn't going to talk about it. Is that enough to prevent him from ever telling us that she wasn't covered by the IIPA?
Fitzgerald himself has shown a great willingness in the past to discuss what he knows and does not know due to his investigation, as he did repeatedly in his press conference of October 28th, 2005. But everything he said there was also mentioned in the indictment, which of course must be public.
But some things in the indictment were odd, to say the least: Both in the indictment and in the presser linked above, Fitzgerald makes a big point about her employment being "classified" when Libby revealed it (he does not mention what level of classification).
Yet he never charged Libby (or anyone) with intentionally revealing classified information. Thus, we are left simply with the logical conclusion that he did not believe he could prove in court that Libby knew it was classified... but if so, what is the point of even mentioning it, and of mention it so prominently?
Having come this far and cast this much inuendo, he should at least, then, answer the following questions... excepting those that would be prohibited by grand-jury secrecy rules:
- Was Valerie Plame a covered person under the IIPA? This is a simple matter of record-keeping that shouldn't require violating the seal.
- Did anyone acquire knowledge of Plame's CIA employment via the legal channels required for a prosecution under that act? He doesn't have to reveal testimony here, he can simply answer yes or no.
- Was Plame's affiliation with the CIA actually classified, as Fitzgerald claimed in the 2005 press conference linked above? Did anyone who revealed it actually know it was classified? Was there evidence that anyone intentionally revealed classified information? Was there any other way to discover her employment other than through authorized, classified channels -- for example, was it discussed at Washington cocktail parties? Did any official first find out about her CIA employment from reporters?
Since Fitzgerald such a point of mentioning that her employment was classified, but then failed to charge anyone with revealing classified information, the American people are right to be suspicious.
- Did Fitzgerald choose not even to attempt to get an indictment from the grand jury related to the revelation of Plame's employment? And if so, did he do so because he believed no violation of the Act and no deliberate revelation of classified material occurred -- or just because he did not believe he had sufficient evidence against anyone to secure a conviction?
- Was there any evidence that members of the Bush administration were trying to destroy Joe Wilson through his wife -- the main allegation -- or did it appear they were only trying to rebut charges that Wilson himself made? For example, was there any memo or other document urging retaliation that went beyond rebutting Wilson's allegations?
- Was Ms. Plame's career damaged? Is there evidence that she suffered any harm or was put into danger -- both of which were alleged by members of Congress, among others?
- Did anyone in the administration say anything about Wilson or Plame other than that the latter worked for the CIA and initiated the Niger trip of the former?
I believe that as a Special Counsel, not just an ordinary DA or Justice-Department investigator, he has the duty not merely to decide not to indict, but also to exonerate those who were actually cleared by his investigation: The charge itself is so politically and institutionally damaging that mere failure to indict is insufficient.
The philosopher Alexander Meiklejohn famously remarked, "Some crimes are so heinous that not even innocence is a defense." In this case, some accusations are so damaging that a lack of legal charges is not a just compensation. Having smeared the reputations of Karl Rove ("Official A"), Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and numerous others with his high-profile investigation, Fitzgerald owes a duty to the American people to drop the other glove.
At the very least, Fitzgerald should issue a short final report of his findings, clearing up whatever he can without revealing any specific grand-jury testimony. But if he does not, then he should be summoned as a witness in any Congressional investigation of this affair... for example, in the one Rep. Henry Waxman is about to conduct before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. I want these questions asked under oath; and if he claims grand-jury secrecy, I want a judge to rule whether the specific questions he refuses to answer are covered.
Especially so, since Fitzgerald himself has not been particularly shy about spreading inuendo. Not only the heavy emphasis on the classified nature of Plame's employment -- which casts a cloud of suspicion upon everyone else who mentioned her name, besides Libby -- but also a more explicit attack on the vice president.
Consider this statement, which he made during closing arguments in the Libby trial -- a trial in which Cheney was neither called, nor named an unindicted co-conspirator, nor even accused in testimony of having masterminded any attack on Wilson or Plame:
"There is a cloud over what the vice president did," Fitzgerald told jurors in the prosecution's closing arguments. "That's not something we put there. That cloud is not something you can pretend is not there."
Fitzgerald should have known beforehand (and certainly knows now) that this quotation would be pulled out and used to tar the vice president of the United States with the unrebuttable taint of corruption. "Unrebuttable" because, since he was not indicted, he has no opportunity even to be acquitted.
This is the most outrageous part of Fitzgerald's handling of this case. While holding himself up as an impartial observer, he has in fact leveled accusations by inuendo against others besides Libby, but given them no venue to respond. And when pressed for what he means exactly, he always falls back on the grand-jury secrecy rules.
Neither Patterico nor Beldar really addresses either of these points -- the lack of some kind of final report containing whatever Fitzgerald concluded that isn't shielded by the secrecy rule, and some explanation or consequences for Fitzgerald's own attacks on the administration in ways that appear unrelated to the trial of Scooter Libby.
(Beldar comes closest: Dramatic foreshadowing from 2005 on Congress' 2007 probe of L'Affair Plame. He says that Congress probably cannot obtain grand-jury testimony; but he doesn't address whether they can obtain other workproduct of the Special Counsel, such as documentary evidence related to Plame's covert status or an explanation of exactly what "cloud" he meant.)
I would really like to hear from Patterico and Beldar on these points. What exactly is Fitzgerald prohibited from saying? Do they think he should file a final report, saying what he can ethically and legally say, to close as many quesions as possible? Do they believe he was right or wrong to make the allegation against Dick Cheney if he were not going to indict him for whatever is under that "cloud?"
We, the American people, have the right to know what Patrick Fitzgerald found... and also, to quote a memorable phrase, what he didn't find.
March 8, 2007
Despite Libby's Guilt, Prosecution Was Outrageous
I believe I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was rightly found guilty by the jury a couple of days ago. But that doesn't mean the entire lengthy investigation, grand-jury antics, and eventual criminal charges filed by Special Persecutor Patrick Fitzgerald had even the slightest bit of merit. In fact, I agree with Ann Coulter's assessment of what actually happened:
It was not a crime to reveal Valerie Plame's name because she was not a covert agent. If it had been a crime, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could have wrapped up his investigation with an indictment of the State Department's Richard Armitage on the first day of his investigation since it was Armitage who revealed her name and Fitzgerald knew it.
With no crime to investigate, Fitzgerald pursued a pointless investigation into nothing, getting a lot of White House officials to make statements under oath and hoping some of their recollections would end up conflicting with other witness recollections, so he could charge some Republican with "perjury" and enjoy the fawning media attention.
In this case, despite the actual guilt of Libby (that's my belief; Coulter believes he was actually innocent), justice was definitely not served: the crime would not even have occurred had Fitzgerald done his job properly... which in this case means he should have done the following:
- Investigated the leak;
- Discovered that Plame was not a covered person under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act;
- Discovered that the leaker was State Department aide Richard Armitage, an outspoken opponent of the war;
- Determined that Armitage leaked the information as a juicy tidbit of gossip, not by any political calculation or at the behest of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, or George W. Bush;
- Realized that it was the political fabrications and lies of Ambassador Joseph Wilson that forced the White House to go into overtime trying to rebut his libelous claims.
All of the foregoing Fitzgerald did; but based upon those results -- which he had very early in the investigation -- he had one more responsibility:
- He should then have simply closed the investigation and dismissed the grand jury (or not even convene one in the first place), with a single curt statement: "Our office has found that no crime was committed, there was no conspiracy to out Mrs. Wilson, and there is no point to further interviews, subpoenas, or testimony.
Alas, like every other special prosecutor before him, after spending a few million dollars ramping up the prosecution in the first place, Fitzgerald found he simply could not stop gnawing on that hatchet. He couldn't just walk away, because people might think he was covering up for the president... or worse, they might think he was an incompetent prosecutor.
Most people tend to see the law as a bludgeon to achieve "cosmic justice." A very large percentage of people who believe Bush "lied us into war" likely saw Fitzgerald as the crusading lawyer who was going to "bring down this criminal regime" by indicting all the top people for... well, for something or other. Had he failed to indict anyone for anything, the hysteria would have probably exceeded the furor surrounding the 2000 vote.
Therefore, Fitzgerald went hell-bent for leather to get at least one notch on his belt: somebody had to be sent up the river. To paraphrase Pontius Pilate, Fitzgerald needed a crime.
Stupidly, and despite clear instructions from the president to cooperate and tell the truth, Libby gave the special prosecutor what he desperately wanted. It would have been easy enough not to; every other person Fitzgerald questioned managed to avoid lying. Libby could simply have invoked the Fifth Amendment; or for that matter, he could simply have told the truth, as his boss, Dick Cheney, and as Karl Rove did.
Nobody told him to lie; his lawyers did not present any evidence that anyone ordered him to lie, or even suggested that he lie: Although his attorneys promised to the jury that they would present such evidence, they broke that promise; the claim that he was a "sacrificial lamb" appeared only in their opening statement (and were I the judge, when they rested their case, I would seriously have considered a contempt of court citation -- or at least required them to explain why the hell they made such a serious charge in their opening statement if they had no evidence to back it up at trial).
Therefore, the following two statements are simultaneously true:
- Lewis Libby was properly convicted of perjury and obstruction because he did, in fact, say two wildly different and contradictory things under oath, and the jury simply did not believe he had a brain seizure;
- Lewis Libby would never have been put in the position where he panicked and lied if Patrick Fitzgerald had acted as a D.A., not as a "special persecutor."
What do I mean "acting like a D.A.?" Take Patterico, as an example (he's the only assistant D.A. I know personally). When evidence of a possible crime is forwarded to him by the police or by some other means, he does not go into the case determined to find somebody, anybody, to put in prison. Instead, he goes into the case with the first intent to see whether, in his expert opinion, any crime was even committed.
Just because the cops arrest someone doesn't automatically mean a crime was committed; and it certainly doesn't mean the detainee is guilty.
If Patterico determines that no crime was committed, then I would presume that marks the end of his investigation. He writes some sort of report to his boss, and he moves on to the next case. God knows, I'm sure he (and every other prosecutor) has enough cases on his plate that he's overjoyed when he can legitimately and in good conscience drop one!
He certainly does not begin interviewing hundreds of people only peripherally connected to the case (after he has determined no crime was committed), threatening dire consequences and hoping to frighten one of the interviewees enough that he perjures himself.
But that is exactly what a special prosecutor does routinely. And that is why I completely oppose the very existence of special prosecutors -- except in cases where it is the Justice Department itself that is being investigated for corruption... for example, if the Attorney General of the United States is suspected of accepting bribes. (Obviously, no one can be trusted to investigate himself.)
In this case, there was no reason why Alberto Gonzales could not have taken charge of this investigation; nobody had accused him of leaking Valerie Plame's name.
Fitzgerald came perilously close to having manufacturing the crime he later prosecuted. He didn't quite cross that line, because nobody forced Libby to lie; it wasn't legal entrapment. But Fitzgerald certainly realized early on that there was no underlying criminal conspiracy; yet he kept the process going, knowing there was a better than even chance that, if he interviewed enough people, one of them would do something stupid, retroactively "justifying" the original investigation.
It is that, rather than Libby's little black lie, that is the true "obstruction of justice," in a moral not a legal sense. Yet even so, I don't see any grounds for the president to pardon Libby: The purpose of the pardon is not to rescue idiots from themselves.
The president advised Libby to tell the truth; and the president, like every other boss, is, to quote Larry Niven, "not responsible for advice not taken."
September 1, 2006
The First Step of Recovery From BDS...
...Is to admit you have a problem. And danged if the Washington Post hasn't done just exactly that and even begun to grope towards mental health.
The article, End of an Affair -- I can't find out exactly what section it's in, though it appears to be just a regular article, not an opinion piece -- takes note that the original leaker of Valerie Plame's not-so-covert name turns out to have been Richard Armitage, not Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, or Karl Rove.
[Commenter Dan Kauffman notes that it appears to be an editorial. That's fine; I only meant it wasn't an outside opinion piece by somebody other than the Washington Post!]
Mr. Armitage was one of the Bush administration officials who supported the invasion of Iraq only reluctantly. He was a political rival of the White House and Pentagon officials who championed the war and whom Mr. Wilson accused of twisting intelligence about Iraq and then plotting to destroy him.
Like his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Armitage is firmly in the anti-Bush camp of the State Department and would be more likely to leak to attack Bush over the Iraq war than do anything to further it.
So noting, the nation's premier political newspaper, which is notoriously left-leaning (though not as discreditably so as the New York Times, which has become a sick joke), now admits that the entire Joe-Wilson fantasy was just a fever dream:
It follows that one of the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue. The partisan clamor that followed the raising of that allegation by Mr. Wilson in the summer of 2003 led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly and prolonged investigation, and the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on charges of perjury. All of that might have been avoided had Mr. Armitage's identity been known three years ago.
While noting that Cheney and Libby are "not blameless," the worst the WaPo can find to charge them with is essentially mopery with intent to gawk: they sought to discredit Wilson's lying claims.
But isn't that yet another staggering admission? This just keeps getting better and better:
Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials.... He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.
Including, of course, the Washington Post, though they fail to mention that part. But as a first step, this one has been magnificent.
Will it "take?" Will others in the elite media take their cue and admit that their own anti-Bush sickness, their Bush Derangement Syndrome, left them with a weakened idiocy-immune system and all too willing to believe any charge of evil leveled at the president and his White House?
Will the New York Times admit its own contagion? How about the TV networks, including cable weaklings CNN and MSNBC? Will Keith Olbermann go on a rant against Lyin' Joe Wilson and his nepotistic wife? Will some failed Democratic hack, who was forced to withdraw from a Senate race for being too nutty even for Howard Dean, ever refer to "Unterführer of Propaganda" Joseph Wilson?
Somehow I doubt it. But with this first crack in the dry ice of liberal confabulation, who knows? Maybe someday, in his dotage, Howard Dean will even admit that maybe he was wrong... for once.
June 13, 2006
Rove Walks; Dean Balks
As expected, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told the attorney to White House political aide Karl Rove that he had no intention of indicting or charging Rove with any crime. Shocked Democrats, eying congressional elections in a scant five months, worried that the loss of their critical election theme might adversely affect the outcome:
Attorney Robert Luskin said that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald informed him of the decision on Monday, ending months of speculation about the fate of Rove, the architect of Bush's 2004 re-election now focused on stopping Democrats from capturing the House or Senate in this November's elections.
The blow was doubly hard, as President Bush would certainly have fired Rove had the aide been charged in the probe. Sadly, Rove will continue in his role as chief Democrat tormentor, which will also affect election results.
In a related but wholly unexpected development, Democratic National Committee Chairman and failed presidential candidate Howard Dean made a complete ass of himself:
If Karl Rove had been indicted it would have been for perjury. That does not excuse his real sin which is leaking the name of an intelligence operative during the time of war. He doesn't belong in the White House. If the President valued America more than he valued his connection to Karl Rove then Karl Rove would have been fired a long time ago. So I think this is probably good news for the White House, but its not very good news for America.
So saying, Dean shuffled off the set of NBC's "Today" show and returned to his sterile and largely ceremonial post.
April 13, 2006
Dashed, Slashed, Trashed, and Crashed
The last hope of Democrats has just been smashed that the trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was going to produce some smoking gun implicating President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or Evil Overlord Karl Rove in l'affaire Plame.
In the latest filings from Libby's lawyers, they explicitly say that nobody told Libby to release or discuss the Plame name:
Libby's lawyers underscored that point in their response last night. "Consistent with his grand jury testimony, Mr. Libby does not contend that he was instructed to make any disclosures concerning Ms. Wilson by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or anyone else,'' they said.
Look for Democrats simply to drop the argument without regret, explanation, admission, or apology and just change the subject -- their usual response to refutation -- to the new smear du jour. This case is closed.
April 9, 2006
President Bush was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling.
So sayeth... the Wall Street Journal? The Washington Times? George Krauthammer? Charles Will?
None of the above: so sayeth the Washington Post, in an editorial [free registration required] -- not an opinion piece, not a column, but an official, unsigned editorial -- in today's paper.
[Say... when was the last time an editorial in the Post began with the four words, "President Bush was right?"]
That is the opening paragraph, and it just keeps getting better and better:
There was nothing illegal or even particularly unusual about that; nor is this presidentially authorized leak necessarily comparable to other, unauthorized disclosures that the president believes, rightly or wrongly, compromise national security....
Each time the [Joe Wilson] case surfaces, opponents of the war in Iraq use it to raise a different set of charges, so it's worth recalling the previous iterations. Mr. Wilson originally claimed in a 2003 New York Times op-ed and in conversations with numerous reporters that he had debunked a report that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Niger and that Mr. Bush's subsequent inclusion of that allegation in his State of the Union address showed that he had deliberately "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraq threat." The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium.
The editorial goes on to note that, contrary to the wild (should I say "hyperbolic?") claims by Wilson that Bush leaked the Plame Name to take revenge on Sneaky Joe -- for speaking truth to power, no doubt -- Special Council Patrick J. Fitzgerald "has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's charge," despite years of investigations.
This is about as close as a newspaper concerned about liability can come to saying what I will say openly: Joe Wilson is a liar; his wife is a liar; they lied about every particular of this case; and everybody who supported them was either a liar or a fool (more accurately, a tool -- a tool of the Left's obsession with "getting" George W. Bush).
If the epicenter of Bush Derangement Syndrom is the 2000 presidential election in Florida, then l'Affaire Plame is at least the center of the biggest aftershock. It is truly momentous for the Washington Post, of all papers, to finally come out and admit that the charges were nothing but lies wrapped in falsehoods surrounded by mendacity.
Is the liberal left beginning the slow path to recovery? Alcoholics are urged, first of all, to admit they have a problem; without taking that first step, you cannot be cured. Think of Cynthia McKinney (D-Pluto), who has still not even admitted yet that she personally did something wrong. (Her tearful "apology" was almost entirely in the passive voice, as if the "misunderstanding" simply sprang from the ether around her, emanations from her rather wide penumbra.)
In this editorial, the Post at long last begins to diagnose the sickness that permeates the Left, the miasmic fever that by now afflicts most of the Democratic Party with delusional ravings and conspiracy mongering that would embarass even Louis Farrakhan.
Let us hope this is the first step on their road to recovery; that they will find their wits about the great issues of the day -- in particular, the war against jihadi terrorism. I want to hear the Democrats acknowledge, as do those on the Left who are actually honest (such as Chris Hitchens), that the Taliban were psychotic theocrats and Saddam Hussein a fascist dictator... and that overthrowing both was just and necessary. I would feel far less apprehensive about the Democrats in Congress if they admitted that we were right to dethrone Hussein, and they complained only about the particular strategic decisions -- which can be discussed rationally and by presenting evidence on both sides.
Then I wouldn't worry that one bad election could doom America to decades of horrific terrorist attacks.
April 8, 2006
Democrats' Hopes Dashed. Again.
In a stunning setback, Democrats have had to come to grips with the terrible news that court documents in the I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial do not, in fact, show that Bush authorized the release of Valerie Plame's name, identity, or body weight:
Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor in Libby's case, wrote that Libby "undertook vigorous efforts to rebut" the ambassador's attack on Bush's argument for war.
Fitzgerald wrote that Libby told a grand jury that Vice President Dick Cheney told him that Bush had authorized the release of portions of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq.
The court documents do not suggest that Bush approved the release of Plame's identity, and the NIE did not contain references to Plame.
Scrambling for a scandal, crestfallen Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) latched onto the best he could get: sure, the president had the authority to declassify intelligence from the NIE; and yes, Reid agrees that Bush indeed set that ball in motion. But the background briefings began a few days before the declassification was formally completed -- and that makes President Bush a criminal:
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, speaking on the Senate floor Friday, called it "shocking news" that Libby "may have acted on direct orders from President Bush when he leaked classified intelligence information to reporters."
"It is an understatement to say that this is a serious allegation with national security consequences," he said. "It directly contradicts previous statements made by the president. It continues, in my opinion, a pattern of misleading America by this Bush White House. It raises somber and troubling questions about the Bush administration's candor with Congress and the American people."
I'm not precisely sure what the "national security consequences" are of telling reporters that Lyin' Joe Wilson had fabricated the story he was retailing around the talk-show circuit. But the interesting point is that Reid seizes upon the idea that, since the background briefings started (according to Libby) on July 8th, 2003; and since the formal declassification procedure wasn't complete until July 18th; that therefore Bush was "leak[ing] classified intelligence information."
I mean, isn't that like saying that if you mail in your tax return on April 17th (this year's deadline), but the Post Awful doesn't deliver the mail until April 20th -- that you're therefore a tax evader?
This is a tempest in a mole hole. The president clearly decided to declassify portions of the National Intelligence Estimate, and he so ordered. He told Vice President Dick Cheney to get the process started. It's as irrelevant as irrelevant can be how long the dang CIA took to shop the order around for all the relevant department heads to sign, because it's the president who has the authority.
By the way... has Sen. Harry Reid ever condemned those in the NSA who leaked information about an ongoing intelligence operation -- the NSA al-Qaeda intercepts -- with much more chilling "national security consequences" than the NIE? Did he ever rail against anyone at CIA who leaked information about our alleged secret terrorist prisons in Europe? His outrage seems just a tad selective....
So why would Sen. Reid make such a big to-do out of this? Well, two reasons:
- First, the Democrats had already reacted to the initial CNN report that falsely claimed the documents showed that Bush approved the leak of Plame's name -- so now they were committed to being outraged about the issue. They had to say something!
- Second, I reckon it's one more day that the Democrats don't have to come up with an election agenda.
Never underestimate the power of positive stupidity: it's one of the few things we have going for us in this election. The congressional GOP may be lazy, off-course, even suicidal; but it's never beyond the Democrats' reach to snatch defeat from the jaws of apathy.
October 29, 2005
The Dog That Didn't Bark
In the 1892 Sherlock Holmes story "Silver Blaze," the following exchange occurs as Colonel Ross queries Holmes, the conversation being related by the ever helpful Watson:
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
In fact, this turned out to be the key to the mystery: that the dog did not bark when the horse Silver Blaze was led out of the barn. In the Plame Name Blame Game, what is the curious incident, the dog that didn't bark? It is the fact that Patrick Fitzgerald did not charge Lewis "Scooter" Libby with conspiracy. I saw this mentioned a couple of times, but I was a little slow on the uptake (and also not a lawyer), so the significance of this point escaped me. But at last the penny dropped today.
Here is what I finally realized: I believe a prosecutor can charge conspiracy against one party to the criminal agreement even if he doesn't charge it against anyone else -- hence the phrase "unindicted co-conspirator." That is, you can charge Fred Flintstone with entering into a conspiracy with Barney Rubble to commit mopery with intent to gawk... even if you don't have enough evidence against Barney to charge him as well.
The point is this: even if Patrick Fitzgerald didn't have quite enough evidence to charge Karl Rove or Dick Cheney, but he believed they had all conspired with Libby to leak Plame's name -- or else to orchestrate a series of denials to obstruct his probe afterwards -- Fitzgerald could still have charged Libby himself with conspiracy. Frequently such charges, carrying very significant prison time, induce the charged person to sing, implicating his co-conspirators in an effort to reduce his own punishment... especially if he knows the prosecutor would rather have the scalp of the capo who ordered the hit than the button-man who carried it out.
The fact that Fitzgerald did not charge conspiracy is an even stronger exoneration than the fact that he didn't indict Rove or Cheney: the latter might simply mean he thinks they lied but can't prove it; but since he actually has a case against Libby for lying (as clearly he does), then that supplies the overt act -- and all he would need besides is mere agreement to turn it into a heavy conspiracy charge.
Evidently, Fitzgerald just doesn't have evidence that they all got together either to out Valerie Plame or else to lie about it afterward. In other words, despite ominous words about the investigation still being "open," I suspect that's it: it's over as far as any other big names are concerned. If anyone had been named but not indicted, we might think that Fitzgerald had some evidence, and if he squeezed Libby hard enough, more indictments might forthcome. But with even that possibility gone, "Fitzmas," as Captain Ed puts it, seems to have left the Left only a lump of coal in its collective sock.
My guess is that Libby won't go to trial. I think he'll push on for a few months, trying to raise some doubt; then he'll take the best bargain he can get. Even if he loses his law license, he can still make money writing a book and going on the lecture circuit.
It will end with a whimper.
October 28, 2005
What I Don't Get...
And maybe somebody can help me, is why bother mentioning Wilson's wife at all?
Here is the problem: Joe Wilson was sent to Africa by the CIA (by whatever means) to investigate the claim that Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake from Niger. When he returned, he said during his debriefing several things that made the charge seem more likely (the speculation from the prime minister of Niger, for example).
But then he turned around and began leaking lies to the press, and eventually went public in an op-ed lie in the New York Times (find it here to avoid those annoying ads), to the effect that he had found the precise opposite: Wilson pretended that he had found no evidence of Iraq trying to buy Uranium in Africa, that he told the CIA this, that it was passed up the chain, and that Bush had deliberately told a falsehood in his State of the Union address.
All right, so there was a problem: the public was being spoonfed the Joe-Wilson confabulation that he had debunked the claim that later made its way into the president's speech. And I agree, that needed to be countered.
But how the hell does it counter that point to say that Wilson was suggested for the job by his CIA wife, Valerie Plame? Who cares?
Suppose Wilson's false leaks were instead true: suppose he had actually disproven the claim, and suppose Bush had deliberately used a false claim to take us to war. Would the fact that Joe had been suggested by Mrs. Joe have made such a presidential lie all right?
Of course not. As juicy a tidbit of gossip as that was, it was a complete non-sequitur to the most urgent point, which was to refute Joseph Wilson's lies. Am I wrong?
The correct line of attack -- why didn't they listen to me? -- would have been for the president to immediately declassify and openly release to the press Wilson's CIA defbriefing. That would have been perfectly legal, and unlike what they did, it would have been devastating to Wilson's slander and libel of the Bush administration.
I guess my conclusion is that Republicans in general and the Bush administration in particular are terrible dirty fighters. I mean that literally: at the skill of being a dirty fighter, they're wretchedly incompetent! The real problem is that they have so little practice. Their hearts just aren't in it. Unlike the Leftist fantasy, Bush just hasn't slimed, smeared, or destroyed enough people, the way the Clintons did every day and twice on Rosh Hashonah.
Republicans need to watch a marathon of Mission: Impossible.
October 24, 2005
MPM From the MSM
Misinformation per minute from the mainstream media, that is. AP has an incredible story up -- with the word "incredible" meant literally: it's hard to count the number of misstatements, malicious manglings, myopic maunderings, and just plain mental missteps. If the author's name were not "Nancy Benac," I would assume Paul Krugman wrote it. (Maybe he has a secret identity.)
Let me just run through a few; but you really should read the original, lest I spoil the best parts.
NOTE: Bulleted points are quotations from the Benac story.
- CIA officials asked [Joe Wilson] to travel to Africa in February 2002 to check out a report that Niger sold uranium to Iraq in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson quickly concluded the report was bogus. (Documents related to the purported sale later were exposed as a forgery.)
Actually, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wilson quietly concluded the opposite... at least, that is what he told his CIA handlers. I'm sure that was just an honest mistake from Ms. Benac, who is an honorable woman. They are all honorable men (and women) at the Associated Press.
Clifford May is the man-on-the-spot at the National Review to debunk this first set of -- misunderstandings (for Nancy Benac is an honorable woman). (And a tip of the hat to Power Line for the link.) From July 12th, 2004:
Ironically, Senate investigators found that at least some of what Wilson told his CIA briefer not only failed to persuade the agency that there was nothing to reports of Niger-Iraq link — his information actually created additional suspicion.
A former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, told Wilson that in June 1999, a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations." Mayaki, knowing how few commodities for export are produced by impoverished Niger [basically just yellowcake and animal hides --DaH], interpreted that to mean that Saddam was seeking uranium.
Yes, there were fake documents relating to Niger-Iraq sales. But no, those forgeries were not the evidence that convinced British intelligence that Saddam may have been shopping for "yellowcake" uranium. On the contrary, according to some intelligence sources, the forgery was planted in order to be discovered — as a ruse to discredit the story of a Niger-Iraq link, to persuade people there were no grounds for the charge. If that was the plan, it worked like a charm.
But that's not all. The Butler report, yet another British government inquiry, also is expected to conclude this week that British intelligence was correct to say that Saddam sought uranium from Niger. [And so it did. --DaH]
- The Times' Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days before sharing with the grand jury what she knew. After [I. Lewis "Scooter"] Libby personally assured her that he had waived her pledge of confidentiality, Miller told the grand jury about three conversations with him.
In fact, Libby had "waived her pledge of confidentiality" a year before she reported to la calabooza. If she were in any doubt about his seriousness, she had only to pick up the phone and call him or have her attorney do so. Whatever is the reason for her curious decision to don prison gray, like Joan of Arc, and suffer for the cause -- and speculation is delicious -- it was not uncertainty whether Libby had really, truly, actually waived confidentiality when he signed a document waiving confidentiality.
I'm sure that Nancy Benac knew all this and simply thought it too tedious to bring up, for they are all honorable men. Women. Whatever.
- One important question is what Bush and Cheney might do if top aides like Rove or Libby are found to have been the leakers. Bush initially pledged to fire any leakers but later gave himself more wiggle room by promising to fire anyone who is found to have committed a crime.
This is pure invention from the MSM, though certes, they are all honorable. Nobody has found any quotation from Bush where he said he would "fire any leakers," or fire anyone who spoke to reporters about Mrs. Wilson, or any other such prejudicial nonsense.
This all stems from a reporter who started asking a question of the president at a press conference. I don't recall the exact wording, but he said as preamble that Bush had promised to fire any leakers, and did he still stand by that pledge.
President Bush tried to answer, but the reporter kept talking, forcing the president to repeat his answer. In a move eerily presaging what was done later to Laura Bush to falsely make it appear as though she were calling Miers critics "sexists," the reporter seized upon the word "yes" that began Bush's answer -- and clearly referred to another point of the question -- to claim that Bush had therefore agreed with the reporter's premise that Bush earlier said he would fire any leakers... notwithstanding the fact that Bush had said no such thing.
Note how this asinine claim has progressed: nobody can find an original quotation of Bush saying he would "fire any leakers;" so the reporter's premise, at least as publicly provable, was factually wrong. But by tacking it onto a question that would certainly draw a "Yes" response (Bush responding that no one convicted of a crime in this affair would have a place in his administration), the reporter could later claim that Bush had retroactively made the reporter's false premise true!
And after that bit of legerdemain, all the news media may take it as read that "Bush initially pledged to fire any leakers." See how easy that was? Though we must absolve Ms. Benac of blame, for she is an honorable woman.
- In a way, the whole Wilson saga can be traced back to Cheney and Bush. It was Cheney's interest in the alleged Iraq-Niger deal that led the CIA to dispatch Wilson to Africa.
Well, so sayeth Mr. Wilson. He claims that:
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.
But Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Advisor and now Secretary of State, and a hot tomato in both positions, begs to demur. From a CNN transcript of an interview with Wolf Blitzer, posted by JustOneMinute a couple of years ago:
BLITZER: Who sent [Wilson]?
RICE: Well, it was certainly not a level that had anything to do with the White House, and I do not believe at a level that had anything to do with the leadership of the CIA.
BLITZER: Supposedly, it came at the request of the vice president.
RICE: No, this is simply not true, and this is something that's been perpetuated that we simply have to straighten out.
The vice president did not ask that Joe Wilson go to Niger. The vice president did not know. I don't think he knew who Joe Wilson was, and he certainly didn't know that he was going.
It's still possible that the CIA simply misled poor Joe Wilson into thinking the VP really wanted to know; but if so, why would they send a retired ambassador with no expertise in either Iraq or WMD, no experience as an investigator, and who did not even work for the Company? Heck, they could at least have sent the man's wife instead. In any event, official denials of the administration should disallow AP -- for they are all honorable, all honorable persons -- from stating as fact what is still in dispute.
- And it [was] Bush's use of the debunked claim in his State of the Union address that led Wilson to publish his doubts.
Just in case you missed it the first time; for being honorable men, they could not do otherwise than to remind you. And women... honorable women.
I'm afraid I have spoilt it for you after all, those intrepid few who read to the end of this post. But don't fret: I'm sure these honorable persons, variously male and female, will give us another incredible story to digest tomorrow!
© 2005-2013 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved