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Cross-posted at The Next Hurrah

A couple of months ago, I summarized the Plame Affair best as I could speculate. A lot of new information has come to light, so I decided to update that narrative. Here goes--everything you wanted to know about the Plame Affair, but were afraid to ask.

The Background--Niger Claims and Power Struggles

I'll start with some background. There are two reasons why members of the Bush Administration were reckless enough to out a NOC out of petty revenge. First, Wilson's criticisms risked exposing their elaborate plot to plant Niger forgeries. There is now a lot of circumstantial evidence that Iran-Contra operative Michael Ledeen and Harold Rhode planted the Niger forgeries with SISMI, Italian intelligence. I think the original plan was just to plant the forgeries so friendly members of SISMI could funnel the intelligence--but never the documents--to the US. But as people within the US Intelligence Community continued to question the Niger claims, the plotters finally had to produce actual documents. Which is why, in October of 2002, Elisabetta Burba, an employee of the Berlusconi-owned Panorama, received the documents.

Even here, though, they thought they had an out. Rather than sending the documents to the US through the CIA, the documents were sent via the US embassy directly to John Bolton's office (SSCI 58). An INR analyst--who recognized the documents as bogus as soon as he saw them--attempted to distribute and discredit the documents right away. But then he was unexpectedly on leave the day when he had planned to distribute the documents. Perhaps as a result, WINPAC, which was responsible for leading the vetting of the documents, either didn't receive or didn't do anything with the documents until early 2003. So, the vetting process didn't happen until March, after the time when BushCo had intended to start the war. When the IAEA discredited the documents in early March 2003, the Bush Administration claimed ignorance, "Well, gosh, we got taken in by those forgeries, can you believe it? Well, let's just have our war anyway." So long as they could claim ignorance, they could hide the way they had manipulated events to bring us into war. But as soon as Wilson started saying that BushCo had know all along that the Niger claims were false, it threatened to undermine BushCo's ignorance ploy.

But that's not the only reason BushCo were reckless enough to out a NOC. Up to and during the war, Cheney and Rummy's DOD were in an epic fight with State and some factions within the CIA over control of the Iraq reconstruction. This was no mere bureaucratic struggle. In fact, the Pentagon was making tactical decisions to support Rummy's attempt to outflank or pre-empt State's efforts to establish a wide-ranging Iraqi interim government. They did this most notably when they flew Chalabi and his forces into Iraq to undercut a State Department conference on Iraqi governance, and did it again when they flew Chalabi into Baghdad so he would be the first exile leader in the capital. The struggle between Defense and State may have extended so far that Judy--by repeating an accusation made by an anonymous INC member--may have exposed Chalabi rival Saad Janabi as a CIA asset.

The Smear: March to July 2003

So when a long-term State Department employee with ties to CIA's reality-based faction started publicly attacking the Bush Administration's Niger claims, they struck out. As Wilson describes:

After my appearance on CNN in early March 2003, when I first asserted that the U.S. government knew more about the Niger uranium matter than it was letting on, I am told by a source close to the House Judiciary Committee that the Office of the Vice President -- either the vice president himself or, more likely, his chief of staff, Lewis ("Scooter") Libby -- chaired a meeting at which a decision was made to do a "workup" on me. As I understand it, this meant they were going to take a close look at who I was and what my agenda might be.

The meeting did not include discussion of how the president or his senior staff might address the indisputable, if inconvenient, fact that the allegation I had made was true. In other words, from the very beginning, the strategy of the White House was to confront the issue as a "Wilson" problem rather than as an issue of the lie that was in the State of the Union address. That time frame, from my CNN appearance in early March, after the administration claimed they "fell for" the forged documents, to the first week in July, makes sense, as it allows time for all the necessary sleuthing to have been done on us, including the discovery of Valerie's name and employment.

At this point, this is in no way remarkable for this Administration. Nor, as Howard Fineman described, did they probably think consciously about breaking the law.

It's unlikely that any White House officials considered that they were doing anything illegal in going after Joe Wilson. Indeed, the line between national security and politics had long since been all but erased by the Bush administration.

They just did what they always do. Find the dirt (or, if need be, invent it) and run with it.

Here's my speculation of how they learned about Plame. After Libby chaired the meeting in Cheney's office, they likely asked for input on this "work-up" from people that included John Bolton and Stephen Hadley. So when John Bolton received a copy of the famous INR memo around June 10, he made note that Wilson's wife (not named as Plame at this point) was a CIA employee. Bolton may have asked his Chief of Staff, Fred Fleitz, for more information. Or, he may have circulated the news (and possibly the memo) to the other people doing a "work-up" on Wilson, including Stephen Hadley. Both Fleitz and David Shedd, a Hadley aide, were dually asigned CIA analysts, either of whom may have known Ms. Wilson as Valerie Plame, either of whom may have known of her NOC cover with Brewster and Jennings.

I strongly suspect that Hadley put together a talking points memo that consolidated this "work-up." I believe that because the INR memo cannot be the sole source of the information Novak used for his column. And because when Bolton and his allies tried to discredit another critic of their flimsy  intelligence (this time on Cuba), they did issue and distribute a talking points document. Further, there are several pieces of information the NSC buried by lying about them to the SSCI (notably, the early versions of the SOTU that mentioned Niger). So they probably thought anything they issued out of NSC would fall under executive privilege and would therefore be easy to hide.

I have also speculated that, in addition to circulating the Plame-Wilson news back to Cheney and Hadley, Bolton leaked it to Judy. Then, when Judy tried to write an article about Wilson in late June, op-ed editor David Shipley learned about it and requested the NYT hold the story if he could get Wilson to write the op-ed he had promised. The NYT, feeling a little exposed by Judy's crummy Iraq reporting, told Shipley to go ahead. Which is, according to my speculation, the impetus that finally convinced Wilson to go public.

It's also the reason that Rove and Libby would later claim they learned this news from a journalist, "they're not sure which one." I don't think they planned to use Judy as a cut-out (remember, they didn't really think that they were breaking the law). But it was a convenient detail they could use to try to hide their own crime.

In reality, though, I think that when Wilson went public, people in DC and on Air Force One were using the tools at hand to strike back at Wilson. I suspect the NSC talking points were in Condi's book on Air Force One and in Rove's grubby little paws. The folks in Air Force One no doubt debated how they would respond, their message, while Rove and Libby spoke with six journalists: Judy, Cooper, Russert, Pincus, Kessler, one unknown journalist (probably either Phelps, Royce, or one of writers who shared Cooper's byline on his article), and Novak, to shop varying versions of the story.

Playing Dumb: July to September 2003

Novak published his column on July 14. Within two days, David Corn recognized what had happened and wondered whether it was a violation of the law. Novak's first instinct was to defend his own actions. From Corn,

Novak tells me that he was indeed tipped off by government officials about Wilson's wife and had no reluctance about naming her. "I figured if they gave it to me," he says. "They'd give it to others....I'm a reporter. Somebody gives me information and it's accurate. I generally use it." And Wilson says Novak told him that his sources were administration officials.

And from Phelps and Royce of Newsday, who published a story pretty much confirming the outing,

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

The WH didn't seem to take this seriously yet. When asked, they issued blanket denials that a crime took place, ridiculing the idea. Otherwise, they kept silent, hunkering down in the hopes that by ignoring the issue, calls for an investigation wouldn't gather enough momentum to actually take hold.

Behind the scenes, though, the CIA started the process of asking for an investigation into this leak.

The Fix Is In October to December 2003

The WH's hunker down period ends on September 28, with the publication of a WaPo article  reporting that DOJ would conduct an investigation. The article also quotes a Senior Administration Official damning the smear operation:

a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife.


"Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.


It is rare for one Bush administration official to turn on another. Asked about the motive for describing the leaks, the senior official said the leaks were "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

The same source reiterated his statement the following week, in response to a Novak article refuting this story.

The source elaborated on the conversations last week,saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson.

"It was unsolicited," the source said. "They were pushing back. They used everything they had."

The anonymous official is widely believed to be either Tenet or Powell. Either would qualify as a "Senior Administration Official." Tenet might have made such a statement to cap the pre-investigation stage, to reassure CIA personnel he took this seriously (also, the Dana Priest byline would support a Tenet quote). Powell might have been genuinely disgusted by the smear--as Fineman characterized Powell's involvement,

who should carry the freight on the following Sunday's talk shows? The message: protect Cheney by explaining that he had had nothing to do with sending Wilson to Niger, and dismiss the yellowcake issue. Powell was ruled out. He wasn't a team player, as he had proved by his dismissive comments about the "sixteen words."

Further, either Tenet or Powell might be willing to speak out against this outing as one more volley in the struggle between Defense and State.

The WH response--publicly, at least, was to switch from a general denial to a technical denial. Now, they no longer mocked the idea that an operative had been outed was ridiculous. Now, they claimed that Rove, Libby, and Abrams had not been involved in the leaking of classified information.

Q: Earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?

A: I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.

Q: So none of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?

A: They assured me that they were not involved in this.

Q: They were not involved in what?

A: The leaking of classified information.

I'm fairly certain this is the point where the WH coordinates this technical defense strategy with Novak (and, less interestingly, with Clifford May)  Novak writes the column I mentioned above, mirroring the WH's new technical denial strategy perfectly [note, Townhall seems to have fairly recently redirected  the link directly to Novak's article--I'll look for another copy of it].

First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.


During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: "Oh, you know about it." The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.


A big question is her duties at Langley. I regret that I referred to her in my column as an "operative," a word I have lavished on hack politicians for more than 40 years. While the CIA refuses to publicly define her status, the official contact says she is "covered" -- working under the guise of another agency. However, an unofficial source at the Agency says she has been an analyst, not in covert operations.

Note some important features of this story: they didn't call Novak, he called them. And he asked the same question that--remarkably--Libby says Judy asked, "why did Wilson get sent"?

One more detail that may become important. Novak seemed to be responding directly to the WaPo article I cited above, mocking the idea that six reporters had been called. He doesn't refute it, mind you. He just mocks it. Then he goes on to claim his first source wasn't a "partisan gunslinger"--a comment which many people have (unfortunately) taken as truthful, in spite of the fact the rest of the article is so clearly misdirection.

Novak was trying to suggest his source wasn't Rove or Libby, both of whom would clearly be considered a partisan gunslinger. Given the leaks that occurred in July (which I'll describe below), I think this was an attempt to implicate precisely the person who was willing to testify that the smear was planned and deliberate. This was an attempt to cast blame on the person who will, I'm confident, end up being one of Fitzgerald's key witnesses.

Murray Waas provides us with more evidence that Novak's story was the result of deliberate coordination.

Federal investigators have been skeptical of Novak's assertions that he referred to Plame as a CIA "operative" due to his own error, instead of having been explicitly told that was the case by his sources, according to attorneys familiar with the criminal probe.

Really? You think? Waas continues:

Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame's identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations.

At this stage, it seems likely that the WH was coordinating with Novak and other conservative columnists to spread the technical exoneration story.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the White House seems have been working to ensure the investigation would amount to no more than a whitewash. They did this in several ways.

First, Alberto Gonzales and DOJ several times stalled the flow of evidence. It took four days between the time the investigation started and the time Gonzales announces it officially to the WH. Then, Gonzales waited 11 hours between the time he sent a general email alerting WH personnel of the investigation and the time he sent an email detailing the specific kinds of evidence that should be saved.

Interestingly, it took 4 days after that ``official'' launch for the Justice Department to call White House Counsel Gonzales and notify him of the official investigation. Gonzalez then asked for an extra day before the Justice Department gave the White House the official notice, which means all documents and records must be preserved.

Then, Gonzales held the evidence for two weeks to "review it for relevancy." In other words, after the WH seems to have "fixed" its story with Bob Novak, it bought time before it turned over evidence to the FBI.

The WH (or DOJ) also made sure that Bush or Rove supporters will control all aspects of the investigation. As a Democratic House Judiciary Committee dissent details (PDF),

[Karl Rove] worked on Attorney General Ashcroft's campaigns throughout the 1980's and 90's raking in nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in fees. While at first blush, it might appear that the Attorney General wouldn't be involved with the investigation on a regular basis, Associate Deputy Attorney General Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he regularly briefs the AG on the investigation. These conflicts existed not only between the Attorney General and likely targets of the investigation, but between lower level investigators and the President. Robert McCallum, the Assistant Attorney General who initially oversaw the investigation is an old friend of the President's from Yale.

Throughout this early phase of the investigation, then, the WH had one of Bush's old Skull and Bones buddies (McCallum) and John Ashcroft monitoring the course of the investigation.

The WH did two more things during this period. Perhaps to push back against the CIA for pushing this investigation (or perhaps to punish Tenet for speaking to the WaPo reporters?) they made damn sure not only Plame, but her front company Brewster Jennings, was outed. First, Administration officials admitted that Brewster Jennings was Plame's front company.

The leak of a CIA operative's name has also exposed the identity of a CIA front company, potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure, Bush administration officials said yesterday.


After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.

Then, Novak wrote another article, inventing a reason (Plame's political donations) to publish the name of the company.

The WH also started to leak the INR memo that (it is now clear) is a central piece of evidence in the case. The WSJ first mentioned the memo on October 17. Jeff Gannon and a few real news outlets mentioned it later that month. In a later Gannon piece, he said of the memo,

A memo written by an INR (Intelligence and Research) analyst who made notes of the meeting at which Wilson was asked to go to Niger sensed that something fishy was going on. That report made it to the outside world courtesy of some patriotic whistleblower that realized that a bag job was underway.


The classified document that slipped out sometime after the meeting put her name before the public, albeit a small group of inside-the-beltway types, but effectively ended the notion that she was still covert.

As the WaPo described in December, the memo was an ongoing point of aggravation to the CIA.

But sources said the CIA believes that people in the administration continue to release classified information to damage the figures at the center of the controversy, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his wife, Valerie Plame,


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

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

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

Note the comment: "people in the administration continue to release classified information." I've said I don't think the INR memo is critical to the leak in July. But just as anyone sharing the contents of a paragraph marked (S) in July would be in violation of their security clearance agreement, so would they be guilty in October or November.

The Real Investigation Begins January to June 2004

The WH whitewash attempts foundered on December 30, when Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation and just after Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed prosecutor for the case. Right away, WH personnel were asked to sign waivers of confidentiality agreements, a move Bush had been resisting thus far (this is the waiver, btw, that was the subject of the dispute between Libby's lawyer Tate and Judy's lawyer Abrams just last week). Fitzgerald also started to go after some WH personnel with grants of immunity to get people to talk. And the Grand Jury interviewed a number of Bush officials in sometimes combative interview.

Officials interviewed by the FBI include Karl Rove, Bush's senior adviser; McClellan; Matalin; Levine; White House communications director Dan Bartlett; former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff; and Cathie Martin, a Cheney aide, according to the sources.

I suspect, btw, that at least some of these people have talked. The day Matalin testified, for example, an article announced she would do ongoing work with the Bush Administration during the election, work I've found no evidence she did. Instead, she went on to write a children's book. Oh, and her husband seems to keep getting some great leaks about the case from somewhere.

By the end of January, Fitzgerald subpoenaed records including Air Force One phone logs.

Of note, Fitzgerald asked interviewees to keep information confidential. Partly as a result (and, just as likely, because it became clear that obstruction charges were a possibility), the WH switched back into silence mode at this point. "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation."

The Real Investigation Expands into Obstruction and Conspiracy Charges June to October 2004

Things started to really heat up in June, when Bush and Cheney lawyered up and are interviewed (not under oath). Alberto Gonzales testified. In July Powell testified, reportedly without the counsel of a lawyer.

One person close to Mr. Powell said he did not have a lawyer when he testified to the grand jury investigating the leak and does not have one now.

Call me crazy, but the only way I'd take on a Fitzgerald grand jury without a lawyer is if I were absolutely certain I was not going to be charged.

By the end of June, Fitzgerald began to interview journalists who talked with Scooter Libby, after the journalists received limited waivers from Libby to speak. These included Glen Kessler, Tim Russert, and Walter Pincus and Matt Cooper. Note, Fitzgerald specifically reminds (PDF) Libby he gave these specific wavers in his recent letter to Libby's lawyer.

In fact, I would welcome such a communication reaffirming Mr. Libby's waiver as it might assist the investigation and lead to Ms. Miller's release. (Indeed, Mr. Libby's similar communication with Mr. Cooper and his counsel, as well as with the Washington Post and NBC, were not viewed as obstruction and those communications avoided the prospect of several other reporters being jailed for contempt.)

Then, Fitzgerald starts going after the testimony of Cooper (related to conversations we now know were with Rove) and Judy Miller. Cooper and Time Magazine are cited in contempt on August (after which he testified about his conversation with Libby), then in October (when Cooper wouldn't testify about Rove). Miller is found to be in contempt in October.

Take a look at Fitzgerald's comment above. Judy may be guilty of a lot of things. But she was right when she said she had not gotten a specific waiver. Indeed, she had not gotten the waiver that Libby had given happily to several other journalists. Which is pretty good indication that Libby did not want Judy to talk.

The Administration remains largely silent during this period. At least about Plame. They're pretty busy slamming John Kerry by claiming he is a coward and liar. (Note--why didn't Kerry hammer BushCO on their involvement with Plame during the election?)

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part October 2004 to July 2005

And then, just after Rove testified again, the Grand Jury ground to a halt while the world waited to see whether Cooper and Miller would win their appeal of the contempt charge.

On the surface at least, the Plame investigation went dead and the White House is silent.

There were, however, three events which might be related. First, on October 18 Karl Rove pulled a silly stunt on the campaign trail, laying down under the wheels of Air Force One. He had testified a few days earlier (October 15) in front of the Grand Jury. According to Murray Waas, Rove told the Grand Jury information that we now know to be false.

But Rove also adamantly insisted to the FBI that he was not the administration official who leaked the information that Plame was a covert CIA operative to conservative columnist Robert Novak last July. Rather, Rove insisted, he had only circulated information about Plame after it had appeared in Novak's column. He also told the FBI, the same sources said, that circulating the information was a legitimate means to counter what he claimed was politically motivated criticism of the Bush administration by Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Then, in a move that largely stupefied observers, Karl Rove got a promotion to Deputy Chief of Staff in February. It wasn't clear why he was getting a promotion. As Dan Froomkin observed, the promotion doesn't earn Karl any extra money. It got him a new office, but Karl has always seemed like a man whose office says little about his stature anyway. I have wondered--but so far have had no one answer my question--whether this move might provide Karl more Executive Privilege once he gets his indictments.

Then, in the week before SCOTUS recessed (and therefore, it was fairly clear by this point, in the week before SCOTUS would refuse to take Miller and Cooper's appeal), Karl made comments that--even for him--are beyond the pale.

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

Democrats (and liberals more generally) reacted furiously. But Republicans and the WH, perhaps predictably, jumped to the defense of Karl Rove.

(Incidentally, at about the same time, Dick Cheney made a comment which was also remarkable even for him, insisting the insurgents in Iraq were in their "last throes.")

It seems like, throughout this waiting period, the WH knew what was coming. Karl probably lied to the Grand Jury in October (taking one for Bush, as it were?). In the interim, the Bush Administration seemed to have made concrete moves to shore up support for Rove. And as I speculated at the time, Rove may have been preparing the ground for what happened after SCOTUS refused Cooper's and Miller's case.

July to September 2005: Spinning their Wheels

I asked in this post who was giving more advice: Rove's lawyer telling Rove how to avoid jail, or Rove telling Luskin how to spin things in the public. I'm pretty confident we know the answer to that question was the latter. Once it became clear Cooper would testify, the WH (or certainly Karl Rove) went in full spin mode, simultaneously trying to smear critics (Cooper, Wilson, probably soon Fitzgerald?) while trying to resuscitate the now discredited narrow technicality defense they had planned in October.

There were actually conflicting signals, though, what the WH spin strategy is. If Luskin is to be believed when he told Murray Waas that he hadn't yet decided how much to leak, it suggests the WH was making it up on the fly.

On Tuesday night, as I was completing a blogging post that disclosed that Novak had been cooperating with federal authorities, I spoke to Luskin and told him that I was preparing a lengthier story detailing Rove's contacts with Novak and others. Luskin asked me to delay publication for a day or two, before deciding on what he wanted to say for the article. He said he would comment for the record regarding what he understood transpired between Rove and Novak.

I think there were indications that WH unity may may have  started unraveling. As soon as it became clear that Rove and Libby might face consequences for this ratfuck, Rove turned on Libby.

Apparently, according to two journalist sources of mine, when Rove learned that he might have violated the law, he turned on Cheney and Libby and made it clear that he held them responsible for the problem they had created for the administration. The protracted silence on this topic from the White House masks considerable tension between the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President.

And it appears that Libby and Rove might have started poaching each others' plausible deniability defenses. Both, for example, apparently lay claim to the line, "Oh I heard that too." (Cooper said Libby used it.)

Just after Cooper testified,Michael Isikoff revealed that the White House is worried about prosecutor interest in Rove.

But one of the two lawyers representing a witness sympathetic to the White House told NEWSWEEK that there was growing "concern" in the White House that the prosecutor is interested in Rove.

Why would they admit this, if they really were worried about Rove? It only served to cement the notion that Rove might be guilty. Was a lawyer representing someone else at the WH--someone sympathetic to the WH but also under suspicion himself, someone like Libby--emphasizing Rove's guilt to steer attention away from his client?

At about the same time, a bunch of leaks appeared to implicate Powell...

Powell was seen walking around Air Force One during the trip with the memo in hand, said a person involved in the case who also requested anonymity because of the prosecutor's admonitions about talking about the investigation.

...and Ari Fleischer...

On the same day the memo was prepared, White House phone logs show Novak placed a call to White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, according to lawyers familiar with the case and a witness who has testified before the grand jury. Those people say it is not clear whether Fleischer returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment.


On the flight to Africa, Fleischer was seen perusing the State Department memo on Wilson and his wife, according to a former administration official who was also on the trip.

Particularly given Novak's earlier comment that his source "was not a partisan gunslinger," these leaks seem to be a Rove or Libby attempt to implicate probably witnesses against them, rather than reliable information about how the leak happened.

September and After: The Post Judy World

I think, throughout this period, Rove and Libby had one hope to avoid indictments. So long as Judy refused to talk, they could continue to claim they learned of Plame's identity from a journalist. Then they could avoid responsibility for the primary leak and probably make a case (as JimmyJeff had done for them, many months earlier) that Plame's identity was common knowledge. Sure, there'd be some indictments, like a violation of their security clearance agreements. But nothing like willfully outing a spy.

But something made Judy talk.

I think a variety of things happened. First, it appears that NYT came under some legal jeopardy. I suspect this may relate to their claim they did not have anything related to Judy source. You'll recall that Time magazine was held in contempt along with Cooper for not handing over his notes. Somehow, the NYT avoided this. I suspect they made some claim that, because Judy was being disciplined, if she were writing an article about Plame it couldn't be considered work for hire and therefore couldn't be considered their property. Which works if Judy's and Libby's meeting related exclusively to Plame. But if, as Libby claims, it related to WMDs (the only subject Judy was allowed to write on, apparently), then the NYT claim might come under scrutiny.

Another possibility is that Bolton's famous visit to prison had some effect on her. We know from Murray Waas that Judy started dealing just after Bolton's visit.

I'm also beginning to wonder wheter Charles Duelfer's visit might have had an impact. The Duelfer Report misrepresents who found the uranium document Judy claims to have found in Iraq. If, as I suspect, that document was also a forgery, and if as Libby says he and Judy were talking about
WMDs, they may have been discussing what to do about that forgery. So Duelfer might have said more to Judy than just brag that he had finally tainted Kofi Annan with the UN Oil for Food scandal.

At the same time, though, Waas' article seems to have provided Fitzgerald with enough leverage to pressure Libby to waive Judy's confidentiality agreement.

It remains to be seen, finally, whether Judy said enough to indict the whole crowd. Or whether Libby managed to direct Judy's testimony so it matched his. We're finally at a point where we can hold our breath.

Originally posted to emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 10:40 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  One thing I was reminded of (4.00)
    While writing this, is Abrams.

    Abrams was actively involved in the smear on Fulton Armstrong (although that is, admittedly, more in his area of expertise). He was rumored to be involved in this in September 2003. What ever happened to the old Iran-Contra bugger?

    This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

    by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 10:39:13 AM PDT

  •  Too late (4.00)
    Bush just gave a major speech on terrorism---no one cares about Plame anymore.
    •  You're being sarcastic, right? (none)
      You're being as if.

      Or has Fitz has thrown in the towel? Do you know something the rest of the waiting-to-exhale world doesn't?

      On hearing Bush's speech did Fitz weep, concede defeat, announce his retirement and hop the next flight to Costa Rica? Because for your doomsaying to have any bearing on reality it would truly take no less.

      I suppose there's a time and place to dismiss good work as all for nothing--to bow one's head and concede defeat--but since by most accounts both Fitz's investigation & the diarists' comprehensive digest of events (undertaken for our benefit) are paying off in spades, somehow I don't think this was it.

      Many gracious thanks to you, emptywheel.

      Is nothing secular?

      by aitchdee on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 03:07:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not too mention terror threats in NYC (none)
      Seems to have wiped Plame off of CNN for today.

      Hey! You can't blame 'em. It works!

  •  LOL Boring! such a magnificent speech, too (none)
    emptywheel, thank you!!   I'm going to have to read this about 3 more times to get around it.  Beautiful work!

    "War is regarded as nothing but the continuation of state policy with other means." - Karl von Clausewitz

    by maybeeso in michigan on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 10:54:47 AM PDT

  •  Sure, this is good (none)
    But did you run it by Jane and Swopa first?
    Anyway, you got your magnum opus out first---congrats, and very interesting. I'm afraid my expectations are minimalist at this point, in terms of indictments----i.e., not a D.P. case for Rove.
    •  Nope (4.00)
      I guess I'd better sheeplishly admit I got it out, huh?

      This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

      by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 10:57:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You'll regret it :-) (4.00)
        The price for going first is being picked apart by the others .... ("sadly, emptywheel overlooks the very important...")
        •  I'm looking forward (none)
          To what you have to say.

          One of the areas I know this is weakest is in the SAO talking to WaPo. I think you had almost convinced me that it wasn't Tenet or Powell. But I stubbornly have stuck with the Tenet Powell ID. So I do expect you to rip me apart there!!

          This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

          by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:17:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My personal hunch is Powell (none)
            The major piece of evidence I see against that is that Mike Allen called the SAO a "White House official" in a recent WaPo article ... and since Allen knows who the SAO is, you gotta take that seriously.

            But the logic points so strongly to Powell, IMO, that I'm leaning toward interpreting the "White House official" phrase as intentional misdirection (or just a freak error).

            •  Nuts (none)
              Didn't you have a theory it was Bartlett for a while? Like I said, you almost convinced me (I think it was the WH Official thing).

              But yeah, given the "partisan gunslinger" comment, their attempts to implicate Powell, and the kind of language used, I've got to believe it's Powell.

              This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

              by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:48:03 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I've flirted with Bartlett and Card (none)
                Um, metaphorically speaking.

                But my gut hunch keeps coming back to Powell.

                (P.S. The "partisan gunslinger" refers to the SAO who talked to Novak in July, not the WaPo in September, right?)

                •  very suspicious (none)
                  Haven't you flirted with Judy too? Why are you not mentioning this now----waiting to get the sheets washed first?
                  tsk, tsk.
                •  partisan gunslinger (none)
                  Well, Novak uses it to refer to his purported source from July.

                  But he writes the column, seemingly, in response to the WaPo article. It goes something like this:

                  • WaPo's SAO says 6 journalists got calls and it was intentional
                  • Novak says there weren't 6 journalists and it was not intentional and, oh btw, his source isn't a partisan gunslinger
                  • WaPo's SAO reiterates the claim that it was intentional

                  In other words, Novak's aritlce was a response, which means the claim about the partisan gunslinger may well be too. And after BushCo realized there was at least one really good witness out there, to the whole conspiracy, they probably started trying to figure out how to neutralize this person. So, voila, Novak's source is not a partisan gunslinger, and a year and a half later, everyone and their mother leaks the story of seeing (not a partisan gunslinger) Colin Powell holding the INR memo on AF1.

                  This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

                  by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:04:34 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Great diary! (none)
                    Thanks emptywheel.

                    Also, in light of the Strauss/Libby threads, I wonder if "last throes" has particular neocon meaning you could shed any light on.

                    It is becoming clearer to me that there is a neocon lexicon that these whackos use to communicate with each other in the national media.

      •  Sorry, I can't resist (none)
        Needling Plame speculators..
      •  And along comes Hadley, (none)
        my favorite non-partisan gunslinger..

        Murray Waas today

        Rove will appear voluntarily, but during tomorrow's session, Rove will be pressed about issues as to why his accounts to the FBI and grand jury have changed, or evolved, over time. He will also be questioned regarding contacts with other senior administration officials, such as then-deputy National Security advisor Stephen J. Hadley and I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney in the critical week before the publication of columnist Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, which outed Plame as a covert CIA operative.
  •  Magnificent! (4.00)
    Great overview and excellent resource.  Easy on the eyes too.

    "We're all working for the Pharoah" - Richard Thompson

    by mayan on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 10:58:47 AM PDT

  •  cheney (none)
    guess who met with fitzgerald today?
  •  Magnum Opus (4.00)
    Maybe you could call it:

    "The Symphony of a Thousand Lies"

    ...with apologies to Gustav Mahler, of course.

  •  Terrific recap! (none)
    Is there any way to get a minimus opus (or whatever the correct Latin phrase would be) for my friends whose attention span isn't this long?

    You'd lose 'em after about 200 words.....

    "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." -Governor George W Bush (R-TX)

    by espresso on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:08:35 AM PDT

  •  Great work, emptywheel (4.00)
    You've consistently been able to piece things together ahead of the rest of us. Thanks!

    "I ain't always right, but I've never been wrong - seldom turns out the way it does in a song."

    by Glic on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:12:56 AM PDT

    •  emptywheel (none)
      You are quite an investigative reporter...I wish that WaPo was as aggressive as it was in the Watergate era...WaPo could hire you as one of their most highly-paid journalists to investigate and to find out the truth as to what's rotten in Washington DC, full-time.  If investigative journalism was your sole "life's mission", and if you had direct access to as many of the Washington "insiders" that many of WaPo's reporters do, you would help to clean up the federal government.

      You are marvelous in your ability to read between the lines, separate the lies from the truth, and figure out from actions and words, why specific participants in a scandal are actually doing the things they do.

      Your insights into Novak's "misdirection plays" were especially revealing.  Novak has always struck me as someone that will say, write, and do whatever will help him accumulate power and influence, regardless of the truth.

      To put Novak's brand of journalism into perspective, contrast Bob Novak's approach to journalism with that of two other journalists, Howard Kurtz and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.  

      Although both Howard Kurtz and Dana Milbank seem to have a primarily conservative bias in their reporting, neither one of these Washington Post journalists have a tendency to stray too far from the truth, even though they can at times neglect to include important pieces of information that are widely available, but would hurt their standing with their conservative employers at WaPo if they included those items in their reporting.

      Bob Novak, on the other hand, seems to have the journalistic integrity of Fox News.  It seems as he is far too willing to be a voice of propaganda for the White House (i.e. with rare exceptions, to give the impression that he is not entirely beholden to anyone's interests).  I would not trust Novak when he writes that a source that he spoke with was "no partisan gunslinger" or that it is untrue that "somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found [Novak] as a willing pawn."  Novak just does not appear to have any credibility.

      -4.75, -5.33 Cheney 10/05/04: "I have not suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."

      by sunbro on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:19:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  To Novak's credit (4.00)
        He's a little more sophisticated (and a little more of an independent player) than Fox.

        Take the six journalists claim. He says it's not true that "somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found [Novak] as a willing pawn."

        Well, you know what? He's right. In fact, they also succeeded in planting this story with at least Cooper. Moreover, it's not like they went to Novak last. They went to Novak very early in the process. Novak is simultaneously trying to use misdirection (but not an outright lie) to refute the SAO that had just appeared in the WaPo article. And he is attacking any stories that put him in the position fo the chump.

        This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

        by emptywheel on Fri Oct 07, 2005 at 05:18:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Awesome! (none)
    Printed out for further reading!  Thanks for your great work on this.

    Oh when the frogs. . Come marching in. . Oh when the FROGS COME MARCH-ING IN!

    by pontificator on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:13:51 AM PDT

  •  Great, concise, and sourced. Thank you. (4.00)
    Please post this in the Dkosopedia, if you haven't already.

    "Think. It ain't illegal yet." - George Clinton

    by jbeach on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:18:49 AM PDT

  •  emptywheel, you're hardly empty. (4.00)
         Free Ph.D. for this opus. :D
  •  I almost feel (4.00)
    as if I've just read the Pentagon Papers.

    Excellent work - it will be intresting to see how much of your speculation pans out.  

    Thank you for your effort.

  •  WOW! (none)
    Its all making sense now. Fantastique!
  •  Thanks for all your work (4.00)
    I'll read it with care.

    Darkness washed over the Dude...darker than a black steer's tookus on a moonlight prairie night...there was no bottom

    by moon in the house of moe on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 11:35:08 AM PDT

  •  good compilation, here's another good read... (4.00)

    Our french collegues theorize that the whole Bush admin could go down for conspiracy related to Africa WMD claims...

    ...this would be much much worse for Bush if this happened:

    As the Washington Post reported back in July:

    "Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed."

  •  Rove/Katrina (4.00)
    Did I miss something, or is Rove still nominally in charge of the Katrina recovery effort?    My take on that assignment is that Bush wanted to give Rove a new job SO important that he could justify keeping an indicted Rove on board.  After all, how could he let partisan accusations deprive the Katrina victims of such a great advocate? <obviously, snark>
  •  Grand jury/forgeries (4.00)
    Great work, emptywheel.    Btw, do you think Fitzgerald's grand jury has been asked to look specifically at the forgeries?   Any chance his report will touch on their source?
  •  We now know why Miller kept schtum (4.00)
    In a diary I wrote a ways back, Why is Miller keeping schtum?, I hypothesized that Miller was keeping quiet because she had done something, unrelated to Plame(more likely related to Chalabi and how Iran obtained intel), that could have her facing waayy more serious charges.

    Sure enough, one of the reasons she decided to talk was that Fitzgerald promised her that he wouldn't ask questions beyond the scope of who told whom what re: Plame

  •  Lawrence O'Donnell: Plamegate - The Next Step (4.00)
    O'Donnell just posted over at Huffington, but this is appears at Yahoo News
    If Karl Rove's lawyer, Bob Luskin, is still as easy to read as he has been since I broke the story that his client was Matt Cooper's source, then we now know that Rove has received a target letter from Patrick Fitzgerald. How do we know it? Luskin refuses to deny it.   [snipping good parts]

    "If Fitzgerald is sending target letters at the end of his investigation, those are just invitations to come in and work out a deal."   [snipping more good parts]

    Prediction: at least three high level Bush Administration personnel indicted and possibly one or more very high level unindicted co-conspirators.
    Oh happy day - Oh happy day! but the suspense is killin' me!!
    •  lawyer trivia question (none)

      Can any lawyers reading this (cmon, I know there are tons) tell me whether the term 'unindicted co-conspirator' was invented for Nixon? I know why the GJ chose to call him that - they didn't want to provoke a constitutional crisis by indicting a sitting president, which is a scenario not covered in the Constitution. But I don't know whether the term existed before that or if the prosecutor (Cox? Jaworski? can't find who was running that one) created the term ad hoc.

      Here's hoping it becomes relevant again...

      •  Not A Lawyer... (none)
        ... but I watched Watergate unfold like a hungry vulture, and in my memory the phrase was brand new.  If not, it certainly hadn't been used previously in my lifetime.  

        The comedians certainly jumped all over it.  And I think some grammatically-correct types (like me) pointed out the annoying redundancy of "co-conspirator."

        Protection, Peace and Prosperity: Vote Democrat

        by Irfo on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 01:10:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Whoa. (4.00)
      I read something to this effect yesterday, but couldn't quite believe it. Thanks Terre.


      Please, please, please, Fitzgerald, have all your ducks in perfect rows... this needs to be an airtight case, you know how difficult it is to eradicate roaches.

  •  O'Donnell on HuffPo (none)
    Lawrwncw O'Donnell has a prediction about "Plamegate" on HuffPo:
    •  Corporatists vs Neocons? (none)
      That's kinda what I'm reading into O'Donnell's and other's narratives.  We have Bush and Rove on one side, Cheney and Libby on the other.  They were all in on it but now the two groups are turning against each other.  Not quite what the Aspen metaphor implied.  Oh, but that letter was written almost a month ago.  So, maybe Libby was trying to tell Judy that they had decided on a fall guy and it was going to be Karl.  Except that Bush sided with Karl (He is Bush's brain after all and presumably, he can't live without Karl).  Was that why Cheney was so conspicuously absent after Katrina?  He was peeved at the President?  And then Bush goes and restates his trust in Karl by appointing him thief, cook and bottle washer of the Gulf Coast recovery zone?
      Hmmm, sounds like there is tension, deception and betrayal in the WH.  
      I can't wait for the movie.  

      "Choose something like a star to stay your mind on- and be staid"

      by goldberry on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:27:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the writeup! (none)
    Excellent stuff...I guess the proof will be in the pudding now :)

    Cant wait...god I hope there is some justice in this world.

  •  I've only made it about halfway (none)
    through this great piece now, but I have a question.  If the fake company that was outed had more employees than Plame, wouldn't everyone who received a W-2 from this company have been outed as well?  

    "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -- Galileo Galilei

    by Dittoz on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:06:05 PM PDT

    •  Outed to the IRS, (none)
      but that's tax information that everybody in the IRS is supposed to keep confidential.
    •  To the people who matter, yes (none)
      I believe that foreign governments make a habit of knowing who is employed by whom when traveling within their country.  If that is true then any government that has ever hosted a Brewster-Jennings employee knows who he or she is.  

      Tom DeLay's GOP: cheating America in a time of war.

      by Tom Frank on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 02:51:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, it could have been a very bad leak. (none)
        Known fact:  a CIA star (meaning death of an agent) went up on the wall on the weeks following the outing.  The name and situation is still classified.

        very unconfirmed rumor I saw:  outing of the whole operation set back human intelligence in the mideast significantly, 1 US agent, and up to 60 foreign sources were killed.

        If that's true, might Fitz be indicting on a death penalty charge?

        •  oh, frack (none)
          If your estimate is right then Fitzgerald's enthusiasm for this case makes perfect sense.  

          Do you suppose that the CIA damage assessment will ever see the light of day?

          Tom DeLay's GOP: cheating America in a time of war.

          by Tom Frank on Sat Oct 08, 2005 at 07:12:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Magnum Opus (4.00)

    In matters of conscience, the Law of Majority has no place. -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by Ranting Roland on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:08:58 PM PDT

  •  Here's a question (4.00)
    For those who have been following this.

    When was the last time you were able to access any of Novak's Townhall articles related to this? Poof, the two big ones, gone. I wonder if they were removed about the time that Novak stormed off the set of CNN.

    And speaking of flipping people, if I were Fitz, that'd be the first place I'd go. Novak originally had no risk with this matter, journalists can't be indicted for IIPA. But then, some moron convinced him to participate in the coverup conspiracy that fall. And all of a sudden, 70 year old Novak with a bad hip is looking at jail time.

    I would imagine by about July of this year Novak, who is a survivor and finally out for himself, began to see that.

    This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

    by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:09:04 PM PDT

  •  This is so awesome.... (none)
    I hope you are saving these somewhere. Well done. You have really been tearing it up as of late.
  •  Amazing... (none)
    ...good to have it all together in one place.

    Incidentally, now that Fitz's letter to Tate is out in the public, do you think that this was a not-so-subtle threat of indictment on obstruction charges stemming from his refusal to release Miller?  He keeps on saying that communicating the offer wouldn't be considered obstruction, but he never says anything about not communicating the offer other than it maintains the status quo and keeps Miller in jail.

    I also find the parenthetical statement in Tate's reply very interesting, in where he reiterates the sequence of events with Cooper as:
    a)Cooper calls Libby to verify that the waiver was voluntary, b)Libby thanks Cooper, but says I can't discuss that, talk to my lawyer, c)Tate calls Cooper's lawyer (Bennett?) and affirms that the waiver is valid.

    Why does Tate feel the need to have to lay this out?  He says it's to "clarify" Fitz's letter, where Fitz claims, sort of obliquely, that Libby was the one who initiated contact with Cooper.  Is this just a case of an overcautious lawyer, or did Libby say something to Cooper, like go ahead and testify, but only talk about Rove? (hence concern for obstruction)

    I still find it fascinating that Bennett seems to be the guy that brokers the testimony deals for both Cooper and Miller.  Clearly, they (Cooper and Miller) must know some other things that Libby doesn't want to see the light of day.  And I'm sure Bennett is very sympathetic to certain factions within the administration.

    All this is not to say your analysis of other factors leading to Judy's testimony is mutually exclusive of my speculation.  On the contrary, I think you're dead on in saying that the NYT, Bolton, possibly Duefler all had a hand.  My only question, is why now?  Why couldn't they string this whole thing along ad infinitum?  I doubt it's because of concern for Judy's welfare.  Maybe Fitz was going to charge her with criminal contempt, or convene a grand jury to focus on bogus WMD claims (which Cheney, almost assuredly, was into up to his neck), so they figured they'd go with the lesser charges in the Plame affair and try to plea out?

    In any case, I still think the rift you hint at betwee Rove/Bush and Cheney's office is real, and I think team Cheney is setting up team Bush to take the fall for the Plame affair, hence Bush's absolutely pathetic leadership on Katrina (Cheney no where to be seen) and his bizzare appointment of Miers (he needs personal friends he can trust on the court).

    People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.

    by viget on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:10:57 PM PDT

  •  Holy shit. (4.00)
    Rove is going to give 11th hour testimony before the grand jury.  They have warned Rove that doing so won't prevent him from being indicted IF he is going to be indicted.

    They said further that a person can't be called before a grand jury if they are likely to be indicted unless they specifically inform the person that their testimony can be used against him.

    HEY - why haven't you visited my blog?

    by RenaRF on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:19:05 PM PDT

  •  kudos (4.00)
    This is why blogs exist.
    See for the above headline (nothing to link to yet.

    If Rove is the a target and has been told he is, would there be any point to this?  Is it possible the too-good-to-be-true-maybe-we-shouldn't-even-say-it-out-loud-so-as-not-to-jinx-it speculation that maybe Rove has been flipped and is ready to give up the goods on W is behind this, and Rove is even as we speak singing like a canary?

    As much as I had always hoped to see Rove frog-marched out in disgrace, if he's taking W down with him that's the one thing that could make up for seeing Rove walk away without significant jail time.

  •  US officials brace for decisions in CIA leak case (none)
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The federal prosecutor investigating who leaked the identity of a CIA operative is expected to signal within days whether he intends to bring indictments in the case, legal sources close to the investigation said on Wednesday.

    Rest of article here.

    Great work emptywheel! Your diary needs to be posted on as many blogs as possible!!

    In matters of conscience, the Law of Majority has no place. -- Mahatma Gandhi

    by Ranting Roland on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:34:37 PM PDT

  •  One thing I still don't get... (none)
    I can see how outing Valerie would be a way of retaliating against Joe Wilson. What I don't see is how it would discredit him or be a smear against either of them, as it is often portrayed. I just don't get it. Can anyone clarify?

    The Unavoter...manifesto coming soon! Be the first kid on your blog to visit Fahrenheit 11/2.

    by unavoter on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:35:34 PM PDT

    •  I think the so-called logic is... (4.00)
      1.  Joe Wilson reportedly sent by VP's office to check up on Niger claims.

      2.  Wilson comes back and says "no dice."

      3.  White House goes ahead with yellow cake claim.

      4.  Wilson publishes editorial spilling the beans.

      5.  White House, in damage control mode, sets out to destroy Wilson's credibility.

      6.  Besides casting him as a partisan hack, the decision is to "prove" that he wasn't sent by VP's office (since that confers some amount of vetting and credibility).

      7.  Someone learns that Wilson's wife works for the CIA on WMD issues.

      8.  They decide to spread the story that it wasn't the VP's office who sent Wilson, but his wife.

      9.  Ergo, this is a scheme by two out-of-control partisan hacks and Wilson never was considered authoritative enough to have been sent by the VP's office on such an important mission.

      10.  As a bonus, Wilson's wife's CIA career is destroyed, sending the message that you don't mess with the White House.

      Ten easy steps.

      Let's hope it leads to some serious jail time.

    •  nepotism (none)

      The (vague) idea is that she worked for the CIA, the CIA arranged his trip to Niger, so she must have suggested his name. Thus he was (supposedly) not qualified to do the job in Niger, he just got the assignment as some kind of boondoggle (woohoo! free trip to Niger!). Note that the facts do not support this allegation - Wilson did have the diplomatic chops to do the job, and Plame didn't suggest his name anyway.

      It's pretty rich for this crowd to toss around charges of nepotism/cronyism. But that was the general idea.

    •  Cronyism (none)
      It was claimed that Valerie Plame had suggested that her husband be sent on the research mission to Niger.

      Whether or not it's true, I still don't see how that would discredit anyone, but that was certainly the intent.

    •  Exactly (none)
      and it was even criticized as an ineffective way to discredit Wilson by the source we suspect is Powell:
      "wrong and a huge miscalculation, because they were irrelevant and did nothing to diminish Wilson's credibility."

      I think another important element of outing Plame was to disable a competing WMD intel source, which could contradict the neocon cabal's  various forgeries and disinformations. In addition to damaging the independent WMD network of the OSP-rivals at the CIA, the attack on Plame also sent a very strong message to other CIA WMD operatives that these guys were not to be messed with. It may very well be that Plame's identity was laundered through Miller to Novak or WH staff by one of her OSP/Pentagon contacts, and that when Rove and Novak got their hands on it, they didn't even realize they were playing with fire, thinking her identity was just another talking point.

    •  This aspect of the thing has always bothered me (none)
      I just don't see how tying Valerie to Joe's trip "discredits" the information he collects. My response heretofore has been to speculate that Valerie and her network were the actual prime targets of the leak rather than Joe - that Joe's NYTimes op ed presented a PR crisis for the WHouse crew that was exploited as an opportunity by the Cheney cabal to do what they had wanted to do for some time, i.e., take down an impediment within the US intel community to their world-dominating aspirations.

      However, earlier today, a diary by samiizdat suggested an alternative: that Bush himself leaked Valerie's identity, and Rove and Libby (perhaps others) were covering for this fit of pique by the pissant-in-chief.

      I don't know yet . . . but stocked up on popcorn!

      The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

      by semiot on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 02:58:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Valerie was investigating Khan and WMDs (none)
      So she likely came upon the illegal nuclear deals made by Halliburton with Iran, as well as Khan information--all embarassing to Mushareff and Bushco.  She and her whole Brewster Jennings Associates network of "good" agents were thus eliminated as a factor.

      BJA also were our eyes and ears on Saudi oil and energy around the world.  Now we are flying blind, God knows what the "bad" Goss agents know or care about.

  •  Cogent, thorough, stunning work! (none)
    Thanks, emptywheel, this is quite an opus, indeed.

    I *gladly* donated to ePluribus Media. Support citizen journalism!

    by nancelot on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 12:45:41 PM PDT

  •  Excellent! Brava! (4.00)
    I just have one teeny chronological nit (that may be my mis-reading what you're saying?) about how/when/by whom Brewster-Jennings got blown. You write:

    The WH did two more things during this period. Perhaps to push back against the CIA for pushing this investigation (or perhaps to punish Tenet for speaking to the WaPo reporters?) they made damn sure not only Plame, but her front company Brewster Jennings, was outed. First, Administration officials admitted that Brewster Jennings was Plame's front company.

    The leak of a CIA operative's name has also exposed the identity of a CIA front company, potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure, Bush administration officials said yesterday.


    After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.

    Then, Novak wrote another article, inventing a reason (Plame's political donations) to publish the name of the company.

    As far as I can tell, the first public mention of Brewster-Jennings was by Novak on CNN (Woodruff's show, the Inside Buzz segment) on Fri Oct 3, 2003, when he said:

    NOVAK: I don't -- I think it's interesting, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) important. But I deal in interesting things a lot. Joe Wilson, the -- everybody knows he has given campaign contributions in 2000 to both Ford -- I mean to both Gore and to Bush. He gave twice as much to Gore, $2,000, $1,000 over the limit. The government -- the campaign had to give him back $1,000. That very day, according to his records, his wife, the CIA employee gave $1,000 to Gore, and she listed herself as an employee of Bruster, Jennings and Associates (ph).

    There is there no such firm, I'm convinced. CIA people are not supposed to list themselves with fictitious firms if they're a deep cover. They're supposed to be real firms, or so I'm told. So it adds to the little mystery.

    The WaPo story you quote was published on Sat Oct 4, and refers to the "broadcast" of the company's name. On the same day, Novak's syndicated column The Wilsons for Gore was published. Novak claimed at the time that one of his "researchers" had dug up Brewster-Jennings while looking for political contributions made by either Wilson -- opensecrets has NO entry for any "Plame" in any searchable year; Valerie's 1999 contribution to Gore was as Valerie Wilson.

    Nit aside, you've done an incredible job laying this all out -- Thank you!

    Still Embarassingly Liberal! -- Contribute to ePluribus Media

    by rincewind on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 01:12:04 PM PDT

    •  Good nit (none)
      Are you saying the WH comment to WaPo was damage control? Or just the chronological second attempt to make sure B-J was ruined?

      This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

      by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 02:07:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Key question this - goes to motive (none)

        The name is not the thing named, the map is not the territory. -- Gregory Bateson

        by semiot on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 03:02:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ambiguity abounds..... (4.00)
        I don't think we can assume that the confirmatory sources were WH -- Pincus and Allen refer to them as "Bush administration officials" and "administration officials", which covers a LOT of ground.

        I have a lot of respect for Pincus, but there are some statements made in that Oct 4 article that seriously puzzle me. For instance:

        The leak of a CIA operative's name has also exposed the identity of a CIA front company, potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure, Bush administration officials said yesterday.

        The company's identity, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, became public because it appeared in Federal Election Commission records on a form filled out in 1999 by Valerie Plame, the case officer at the center of the controversy, when she contributed $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign.

        For one thing, IF some other persons went looking for Wilson political contributions, nobody publicly announced Valerie Wilson's employer as Brewster-Jennings until Novak did it on Oct 3.

        For another thing, Valerie didn't make the contribution as "Plame". It appears that Pincus/Allen made an editorial decision to refer to Valerie consistently as "Plame", even though that didn't match the original source of the info -- 6 paragraphs later they acknowledge that Valerie "used her married name" in making the donation.

        So, "Valerie Plame" by itself, or even "Valerie Plame is CIA" doesn't get you to "Brewster-Jennings is a CIA front" (in publicly-available docs); it's only the formulation "Joe Wilson's wife Valerie who works for the CIA" that connects to Brewster-Jennings.

        The next paragraph of the article says:

        After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.

        Who can decipher what is meant by "administration officials" -- could be WH or CIA or IRS or ??? Who at the WH would be authorized to know that Brewster-Jennings was a CIA front? and isn't that yet another leak of classified info? I understood that only the CIA itself can confirm or deny this info, and then only under particular circumstances? Likewise, noone but the IRS is supposed to have access to W-2 info, yes? So that looks like yet another unauthorized leak of confidential info. Did plural somebodies in the WH breach 3 distinct pieces of protected info from 2 different fed agencies? Or did Pincus/Allen get the info directly from CIA and IRS (who could still be referred to as "administration officials")?

        Another oddly-phrased sentence grates on me:

        The inadvertent disclosure of the name of a business affiliated with the CIA underscores the potential damage to the agency and its operatives caused by the leak of Plame's identity.

        Novak's disclosure of Brewster-Jennings was anything but "inadvertent"; he went out of his way to, first, say it on national TV, and then to publish it in a nationally-syndicated column, on the lame excuse of "exposing" Valerie's "political bias". And he didn't just say she stated her employer in 1999 as Brewster-Jennings -- he made a big to-do about how NOC's are "supposed to" use "real" companies as cover, and some nonsense that Brewster-Jennings didn't even exist. He was rubbing salt in it.

        My opinion: Novak was definitely making sure that Brewster-Jennings was blown (although I don't know why he waited till Oct?). It's hard to see how he gets any real benefit from it, and therefore easy to speculate that he was acting under orders. Since it's not known who leaked the confirmations (CIA front and IRS tax info) to Pincus/Allen, I can't even guess at motives.

        Still Embarassingly Liberal! -- Contribute to ePluribus Media

        by rincewind on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 05:18:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Nice work (4.00)
          I've always assumed they had gotten the IRS stuff illegally, just didn't know how to prove it. I think you get close here.

          I've always assumed Brewster Jennings came up to punish or intimidate the CIA further for having pursued a case.

          The wait until October makes perfect sense to me--if you buy my argument that they were in full whitewash mode after collaborating in late September, then it's likely they decided to take down Brewster Jennings in an attempt to dissuade anyone at CIA from talking.

          It's the same thing with the INR memo, I think. They leaked it foolishly at this point to intimidate and make their case. They never thought they'd be held liable for it.

          So I guess I think Bush administration official is someone like, say, Wurmser. And he and Novak go with the Brewster Jennings at the same time, just as Wurmser is leaking the INR memo to right wing groups.

          This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

          by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 06:33:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I always assumed that outing Brewster Jennings (none)
            was Cheney's motivation.  As CEO of Halliburton and in bed with Saudi ARAMCO, I assume that he flipped when he realized Brewster Jennings was CIA, and that he had the ability to take them out.  Wonder what kind of bonus the Saudis would pay for that?  If there really is a new star on the wall, I hope there's a felony murder indictment with Cheney's name on it.
          •  I might be giving (none)
            Novak credit for more cleverness than is warranted, but my very first thought when I heard him spill Brewster Jennings (okay, second thought after "you asshole-slimeball-fucking-prick") was that it was a hole-card he'd had all along but hadn't wanted to have to play himself. I still do kind-of think so -- he put all the necessary pieces leading to Brewster Jennings in the July article, and then waited for 3 months(!) for somebody to pick up on it. I think he was really pissed that he had to be the "outer", again. I think you're right about the timing though, why he/they couldn't wait any longer for a somebody to put the pieces together (or be willing to publish 'em?).

            Still Embarassingly Liberal! -- Contribute to ePluribus Media

            by rincewind on Fri Oct 07, 2005 at 10:42:55 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  A recommend for you, Ms Wheel (none)
    and a "4" in your tip jar.  I'm lovin' it...
  •  Bush/Cheney indictment? (none)
    I found this on August 9.  Take it for what it is:

    Bush, Cheney Indicted In Chicago
    posted by George French/Tom Flocco is the author , 05.08.2005 10:26

    CAVEAT TO READERS: This story is contentious at this point however, several other journalists are now backing Flocco's claims and Tom is sticking by his story. Also a fellow media outlet's source says Flocco's site was hacked and he is retooling it having to a new server. Since no one else seems to want to touch it... we are unhiding it here so people can see what the fuss is about; we hope to soon have link to it and one other article at Tom Flocco's new site when he has it ready to go. It is possible this is bogus. Read it and the work of the other three journos and and decide for yourself!
    -batoche for Ottawa IMC.

    According to Tom Flocco and Cloak & Dagger's Skolnick... A Grand Jury has indicted President G. W. Bush, V/P Dick Cheney and others on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Mainstream media as usual remain silent.



    A Chicago grand jury has indicted the President and Vice-President of the United States along with multiple high officials in the Bush administration

    Chicago -- August 2, 2005 -- -- U.S. federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Chicago grand jury has issued perjury and obstruction of justice indictments to the following members of the Bush Administration: President George W. Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney, Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, imprisoned New York Times reporter Judith Miller and former Senior Cheney advisor Mary Matalin.

    There were no indications given as to whether the President and his top staff members would appear publicly before cameras at the grand jury proceedings, given the gravity of the charges.

    Besides the Valerie Plame CIA leak case, the Fitzgerald probe is reportedly far-reaching and expanding much deeper into past White House criminal acts involving Bush-Clinton drug money laundering in Mena, Arkansas to White House involvement in 9.11; but also for sending America's young people to their deaths or to be maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan under false pretenses.

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair was indicted for obstruction of justice and is reportedly consulting with members of Parliament and legal aides regarding how to avoid appearing in the U.S.A. for interrogation before Fitzgerald in Chicago.

    The revelations emanated from sources close to the grand jury who spoke with federal whistleblower Thomas Heneghen in California who said White House Senior Advisor to the President Karl Rove was also indicted for perjury and was reportedly involved with Mary Matalin in a major Bush administration document shredding operation to cover-up evidence.

    Heneghen had reported over ten days ago on a broadcast that his sources close to the grand jury said former Secretary of State Colin Powell had been subpoenaed and had testified against President Bush, telling the citizen panel that the President had taken the United States to war based upon lies--a capital crime involving treason under the United States Code.

    Heneghen also reported a week ago that Gonzalez and Card had been subpoened and that Tony Blair had defied his subpoena after the response time limit had expired.

    Sources close to the investigation report that members of the House, Senate, 9.11 Commission and other members of the media are also under investigation as potential targets by a grand jury regarding obstruction of justice and other oversight failures linked to the 9.11 attacks--indicating that citizen panelists working with Fitzgerald may be seeking a wholesale cleansing of what many have said is a crime-wracked White House and Congress.

    Also last Monday, the whistleblower reported that Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts was planning to obstruct justice by calling Fitzgerald for Senate hearings to question the prosecutor's motives for the far-reaching investigation.

    This, giving rise to questions as to whether Roberts and other Republican legislators--some now under secret investigation--would join President Bush in seeking to fire Fitzgerald in the same manner that President Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in order to obstruct justice and cut off further investigations into White House crimes.

    Two weeks ago Heneghen said he had talked to sources just ten minutes prior to French and U.S. intelligence agents intercepting British intelligence agents who were attempting to bomb the subway underneath the Dirksen Federal Building where Fitzgerald was presiding over grand jury hearings.

    Serious questions can also be raised as to whether intelligence forces linked to President Bush and Tony Blair had participated in a failed attempt to scuttle the Fitzgerald probe by literally blowing it up--at a time when UK reports reveal that military-grade explosives were used to blow up the London subway on July 7.

    Sources say the alleged Chicago subway bombing attempt has been attributed to an underground and closeted enmity involving warring intelligence and military factions within the United States government.

    Moreover, reports indicate that the disturbance occurred at the same time that the Chicago Tribune and local web blogs had reported that the subway had been evacuated for 45-50 minutes regarding a "suspicious package" late on Monday afternoon, July 18.

    Also confirming the under-the-radar-screen hostilities involving agents loyal to the administration and others who are disturbed about the cover-up of government involvement in the 9.11 attacks was a recent contact made with this writer by a major New York media outlet which called seeking "names of those who could confirm its own reports of warring factions within the government which were threatening the safety of U.S. citizens."

    developing.....please link or copy--and distribute widely.

    Last edited by TomFlocco on Tue Aug 02, 2005 12:55 am; edited 5 times in total

    It's a good thing they own the media. No one will break their oath of silence to blaspheme the fuhrer.

  •  no comment (none)
    just a place mark so I can find this easier when I have more time to read it.
  •  Good stuff Wheels (none)
    You've got a novel in the making.
  •  Great, great read (none)
    And I've been following the story. So much fun to see it layed out in consecutive order. Hope you're working on your book about the case. You could be early out of the gate if the shit really hits the fan, and I think publishers might be interested.
  •  forget about rove! (none)
    Just after CNN reported that the puffy svengali is going to testify again, they went straight to a story about a possible terra attack on the NYC subway system.
    gimme a fuckin break

    "War is a racket" Major General Smedley Butler, 1935

    by sydluna on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 02:17:21 PM PDT

  •  emptywheel, did you hear the Diane Rehm.. (none)
    ..interview with Scooter Libby in February 2002? Good color! I do think Libby is much closer to Bush than most of us realize.

    The interview is a call-in show and lasts most of an hour. I offer up my non-literary gloss in a extended comment (with links) here.

    "[I]n all due respect to your profession [journalism], you do a very good job of protecting the leakers." -- Bush on Oct 7, 2003

    by QuickSilver on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 02:17:57 PM PDT

  •  INR employee found dead in Nov 2003 (4.00)
    One of INR's Iraq weapons analysts, John Kokal, apparently committed suicide on November 7, 2003 after being depressed by problems with his security clearance.  Kokal may have been a CIA employee cross-posted to INR (the State Dept internal newsletter never ran his obituary), and he may, for all we know, have attended meetings at which Ms. Plame was present.  He may have had a copy of the memo.  For a time, his boss' boss was John Bolton, which may or may not be interesting.  Is there any chance this ties in?

    What makes it more interesting is that Kokal threw himself from a building with unopenable blast-proof windows and no roof access.  Tough thing to accomplish.  And they never found his shoes or suit jacket.  Last I heard it was a suspicious death and D.C. police had not ruled out homicide, but it got virtually no press coverage, so I don't know where it went from there.

    I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. -- Mark Twain

    by vinifera on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 02:37:23 PM PDT

    •  I have considered it before (4.00)
      The options are:

      1. Kokal is the INR analyst who wrote the notes about the meeting Joe Wilson attended. When it started to get leaked (it was leaked not long before he died), he tried to explain to people that his notes had been altered. But he was prevented from telling anyone this.

      2. Kokal is the INR analyst who wrote the INR memo (who we know is distinct from the one who wrote the notes) who was prevented from telling the story about the INR memo production.

      3. Kokal is the INR analyst who refuted the Niger memos and was trying to get THAT news out, but was prevented from doing so.

      4. Kokal is unrelated and his death was really a response to an impending security violation.

      One thing that would support 1 or 2 is that the overwhelming amount of testimony from INR analysts in the SSCI wrt to the Niger intelligence came from written sources. There are a few cases where the analyst testified in person, but they are the exception. The SSCI started its investigation in the summer of 2003, but it wasn't until fall of 2003--almost exactly before Kokal died--that they started looking in detail at Plame. Also, this is when the SSCI was told to hold off on Niger investigations, that the FBI would handle it. In other words, if Kokal was not alive during the period when the SSCI was investigating his aspect of Iraq intelligence, then they would have to rely on written sources.

      This is the way democracy ends Not with a bomb But with a gavel -Max Baucus

      by emptywheel on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 03:11:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Insurgents last throes.... (none)
    ...and I don't mean the ones in Iraq.

    Excellent compilation of the story so far emptywheel.

  •  thanks for doing the MSM's job (4.00)
    since they fucking don't.

    Seriously.   This is why I'm here.

  •  I think you can drop out some players (none)

    My impression is that the September 28 2003 WaPo source is Powell.  It's his language.  Rove or Libby figured it out (not that it was hard- or maybe they just plain called up Novak and asked) and then smeared him with that story of his supposedly selling out Plame on Air Force One.

    What gets me is the psychological parallel to Watergate.  A group of smart and amoral people gets carried away with its power but finds that it hits limits they don't like but figure they can beat (but the rest of us term "reality").  They get frustrated and decide to take out their sense of superiority on some minor but temporarily painful enemy.  And what they end up doing is just plain ridiculously stupid and over the top- it doesn't really have much to do with the target, it's all just the worst part of themselves thrown out at the world in a belief of its (and/or their own) supernatural power.

    But it doesn't work, and slowly the world takes it and responds and counters.  It approaches innocuously but pushes, then squeezes them and pains them and begins to pursue, then to hound them and finally corners them.  And then it takes a huge chunk out of their ass.  Hubris....

    Renewal, not mere Reform.

    by killjoy on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 03:10:03 PM PDT

  •  Great Work (none)
    Ive been looking for the grand "Opus" version of events, too busy or too lazy to keep up... this really fit the bill.  Thanks for your hard work.
  •  Attawaytogo, em (none)
    Do you sleep?  Ever?

    AThis is an astoundingly thorough and valuable resource for this issue.  

    [The Administration] has just proved that it cannot save its citizens from a biological weapon called standing water. ~Olberman

    by GOTV on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 05:12:32 PM PDT

  •  my top five heroes (none)
    emptywheel, patrick fitzgerald, keith olbermann, frank rich and paul krugman. you knocked out bob herbert with this great piece.  bring on the indictments !!!!
  •  We should talk, EmptyWheel (none)
    I think you're close, but you're Niger timeline is slightly off in an important way. You have far more breadth of knowledge about Plame than I, but I have a couple of specific areas of expertise. Between the two of us...

    A great diary, btw. Thanks.

    -- "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression...will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." -- Thomas Jefferson

    by Todd Johnston on Thu Oct 06, 2005 at 08:01:25 PM PDT

  •  Well done. Thank you. (none)
  •  Two more ways they tried to kill the case in 2004 (none)
    • Illinois GOP proposed Fitzgerald for Alan Keyes spot (before they invited Keyes) Alas, he refused
    • Fitz top investigator got a big promotion to Philadelphia (a shut up promotion ?)

    Give me a minute to find the links

    Perception trumps Reality until a category 5 Reality blows all the spin away

    by lawnorder on Fri Oct 07, 2005 at 12:20:48 AM PDT

    •  Especially Desperate Measures (none)
      Found it!
      Needlenose: Especially Desperate Measures

      From the tail end of a New York Times article on the withdrawal of Jeri Ryan's now-infamous ex-husband as an candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, and the search for a replacement:

          Some Republicans have floated the name of United States Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is crusading against corruption in Illinois and is heading the Washington investigation into the leak of the name of an undercover operative in the Central Intelligence Agency, Valerie Plame. Mr. Fitzgerald has not indicated that he is considering electoral politics.

      Yeah, c'mon now, Pat -- you don't really wanna waste your time on that silly investigation, do you? Wouldn't you like a nice, cushy job in the Senate? We can arrange lots of campaign donations ... uh, please? Pretty please?

      Of course, if Fitzgerald turns them down and then indicts some top Orwell Bush administration officials, these anonymous Republicans will probably turn around and cite the rumors they started as proof of the prosecutor's 'political motivations' ..."

      Plame crazy

      An odd tidbit, for confirmed Plamemania buffs only, from the Philadelphia Inquirer this evening:

          The FBI agent in charge of investigating whether top Bush administration officials leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent as political payback against her husband has been named to head the Philadelphia FBI office.

          FBI Director Robert Mueller has designated John C. Eckenrode, a 29-year veteran, to be special agent in charge of the Philadelphia division, the agency announced today.

          Eckenrode heads the current probe of the disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity to conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak.

          . . . Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the local FBI office, said it is not unheard of for an agent heading a high-level probe to be transferred before the probe is finished.

          "It happens," she said.

          . . . Williams said that Eckenrode's new job is a promotion.

      Okay, everybody who believes that line about "It happens", raise your hand? Nobody?? That's what I thought.

      Anything is possible in a bureaucracy, of course, but it seems more likely to me that -- with interviews having already gone all the way up to the Oval Office and subpoenas out to reporters (which, by law, can only be done as a last step) -- the FBI's investigative work in the Plame grand jury probe is largely done. The only decision(s) now are whether and who to indict, to be made by the prosecutors.

      The alternate explanation is that this is an intentional disruption tactic by John Ashcroft via Mueller and the FBI. Presumably, they hope it works better than the attempt to divert special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into running the U.S. Senate from Illinois

      Perception trumps Reality until a category 5 Reality blows all the spin away

      by lawnorder on Fri Oct 07, 2005 at 12:54:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A gap in the story (none)
    There's a critical gap in your story that I would very much like to hear your opinion on.  The Ashcroft recusal.  As you say, the Bush administration seemed to have things reasonably under control going into December 2003, and then things fell apart.  What exactly were those things?  Why didn't Ashcroft brazen the whole thing out?

    I ask this because I have thought to myself that the CIA  must have pulled some very heavy threats to ensure that this investigation be conducted honestly.  I can't imagine any other reason why the Bush administration would have backed down.  Of course, one can never dismiss the hypothesis of dumb luck.  But given the context of a power struggle, a more systematic explanation seems more likely.  What do you think?

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