A short post today that encapsules, at least in part what we know about Bush, Cheney, Wilson and the leaks from the Whitehouse.
First, as John Dean writes, The President and Vice President Are Not In the Clear Yet
This revelation has been accompanied by a number of public misstatements, which call for correction. The most blatant of these is the claim that Fitzgerald's filing indicates that the President authorized the release of Valerie Plame's covert status at the CIA. In fact, the document is conspicuously silent on this fact. The filing does indicate that the President authorized the release of classified information, but it was different information – a National Intelligence Estimate that had been classified pursuant to an executive order.
In addition, conventional wisdom – if that label fits the consensus information that is surfacing on radio and television news shows – has it that this information does not reveal that the President or Vice President did anything illegal. But that claim, too, is not necessarily accurate.
At a minimum, the filing indicates that the President and Vice President departed radically, and disturbingly, from long-set procedures with respect to classified documents – and that the Vice President, in particular, exceeded his declassification authority. And it may indicate that they, too, ought to be targets of the grand jury.
The NIE in question is in fact still classified. The portion that was leaked was very selective about the uranium-Niger claims, which had already been proven untrue and Bush used them in his SOTU anyway. Bush, as Dean alludes, may have violated his own executive order about the NIE. Cheney had no authority on his own to declassify the NIE, so any classified material flowing from him was either authorized by Bush, putting him in the disinformation loop, or Cheney acted alone, thus illegally.
next, its ironic or almost comical that the information that Libby leaked to Judith Miller of the New York Times was from the classified NIE, but it was erroneous information about Saddam's attempt to purchase uranium ore from Niger. My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room
I recall that Mr. Libby was angry about reports suggesting that senior administration officials, including Mr. Cheney, had embraced skimpy intelligence about Iraq's alleged efforts to buy uranium in Africa while ignoring evidence to the contrary. Such reports, he said, according to my notes, were "highly distorted.
As it turned out ti was Cheney and Libby's information that was distorted, not the CIA's.
But according to Libby's grand jury testimony, described for the first time in legal papers filed this week, Cheney "specifically directed" Libby in late June or early July 2003 to pass information to reporters from two classified CIA documents: an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and a March 2002 summary of Wilson's visit to Niger.
One striking feature of that decision — unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it — is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.
The disclosure that Mr. Bush had spoken with Mr. Cheney about the release of material from the intelligence report on Iraq was made in a legal brief filed last Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the C.I.A. leak case.
Mr. Fitzgerald's brief indicates that Mr. Cheney spoke twice with Mr. Libby about the leak of information from the intelligence estimate. Their first conversation took place sometime at the end of June, according to lawyers with clients in the case. The Washington Post reported Saturday that Mr. Libby provided information from the estimate to Mr. Woodward on June, 27, 2003.
There is something strange about this article, which seems to be a fairly honest account of the facts so far,
The explanation offered Sunday left open several questions, including when Mr. Bush acted and whether he did so on the advice or at the request of Mr. Cheney. Still unclear is the nature of the communication between Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. Also unknown is whether Mr. Bush fully realized what information Mr. Cheney planned to disclose through Mr. Libby or was aware of the precise use that Mr. Cheney intended to make of the material.
Imagine if you will, Bush tells Cheney that selected pieces of the NIE which Bush knew at the time were not true were authorized to be leaked. From that point on Bush sees nothing, knows nothing, hears nothing; Bush has no idea what Cheney or Cheney's staff will do with that information. A scenario that strains credulity at best. Specter Says Bush, Cheney Should Explain Leak
"I think that there has to be a detailed explanation precisely as to what Vice President Cheney did, what the president said to him, and an explanation from the president as to what he said so that it can be evaluated," Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) said. He was referring to last week's revelation in a court document that Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, testified that Cheney told him Bush approved leaking parts of a classified document about intelligence estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Let's also add the question, why did Libby or Cheney find it necessaary to leak the name of a CIA agent and what authority did they think they had in doing so.
The different accidents of life are not so changeable as the feelings of human nature. I had worked hard for nearly two years, for the sole purpose of infusing life into an inanimate body. For this I had deprived myself of rest and health. I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart. Unable to endure the aspect of the being I had created, I rushed out of the room and continued a long time traversing my bed-chamber, unable to compose my mind to sleep.
from Frankenstein Chapter 5 by Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley