Sources close to the investigation into the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson have revealed this week that Attorney Alberto Gonzales has not turned over emails to the special prosecutor's office that may incriminate Vice President Dick Cheney, his aides, and other White House officials who allegedly played an active role in unmasking Plame Wilson's identity to reporters.
Moreover, these sources said that, in early 2004, Cheney was interviewed by federal prosecutors investigating the Plame Wilson leak and testified that neither he nor any of his senior aides were involved in unmasking her undercover CIA status to reporters and that no one in the vice president's office had attempted to discredit her husband, a vocal critic of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence. Cheney did not testify under oath or under penalty of perjury when he was interviewed by federal prosecutors.
We've already heard that two dozen of the critical missing emails purportedly implicate not only Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney, but also Stephen Hadley, Karl Rove, and others in the White House Iraq Group.
The emails Gonzales is said to be withholding contained references to Valerie Plame Wilson's identity and CIA status and developments related to the inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Moreover, according to sources, the emails contained suggestions by the officials on how the White House should respond to what it believed were increasingly destructive comments Wilson's husband had been making about the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence.
Gonzales, who at the time of the leak was the White House counsel, spent two weeks with other White House attorneys screening emails turned over to his office by roughly 2,000 staffers following a deadline imposed by the White House in 2003. The sources said Gonzales told Fitzgerald more than a year ago that he did not intend to turn over the emails to his office, because they contained classified intelligence information about Iraq in addition to minor references to Plame, the sources said.
He is said to have cited "executive privilege" and "national security concerns" as the reason for not turning over some of the correspondence, which allegedly proves Cheney's office played an active role in leaking Plame Wilson's undercover CIA status to reporters, the attorneys said.
Aside from the emails that have not been turned over, there are also emails that Patrick Fitzgerald, the Special Prosecutor investigating the case, believes were either "shredded" or deleted, the attorneys said.
It's already been extensively reported that in a January 23, 2006 letter to Libby's lawyer, Fitzgerald asserts that "some emails from the offices of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had not been saved."
But a new additional claim is that:
His letter does not claim that any member of the Bush administration discarded the emails, but sources close to the probe say that is what Fitzgerald has been alleging privately.
Spokespeople for Gonzales and the White House would not comment citing the ongoing investigation. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Fitzgerald, also wouldn't comment. A spokesman for Cheney did not return calls for comment nor did Cheney's criminal attorney, Terrence O'Donnell.
Cheney's Apparently False Testimony To Fitzgerald and Federal Investigators
Even more potentially damaging for Cheney is information about the timeline of his reported knowledge and involvement with the Valerie Plame - Joseph Wilson disclosures and apparent smear campaign.
Cheney testified for a little more than an hour about his role in the leak in early 2004. What he told prosecutors appears to be identical to testimony his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, gave before a grand jury during the same year. Libby was indicted on five-counts of obstruction of justice, perjury, and lying to investigators related to his role in the Plame Wilson leak.
Two weeks ago, additional court documents related to Libby's case were made public. In one document, Fitzgerald responded to Libby's defense team that Libby had testified before a grand jury that his "superiors" authorized him to leak elements of the highly classified National Intelligence Estimate to reporters in the summer of 2003 that showed Iraq to be a grave nuclear threat, to rebut criticism that the administration manipulated pre-war Iraq intelligence.
News reports citing people familiar with Libby's testimony said Cheney had authorized Libby to do so. Additionally, an extensive investigation during the past month has shown that Cheney, Libby and former Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley spearhead an effort beginning in March 2003 to discredit Plame Wilson's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the administration's intelligence related to Iraq, who had publicly criticized the administration for relying on forged documents to build public support for the war.
Cheney did not disclose this information when he was questioned by investigators.
Cheney responded to questions about how the White House came to rely on Niger documents that purportedly showed that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from the African country. Cheney said he had received an intelligence briefing on the allegations in late December 2003 or early January 2004 and had asked the CIA for more information about the issue.
Cheney said he was unaware that Wilson was chosen to travel to Niger to look into the uranium claims and that he never saw a report Wilson had given a CIA analyst upon his return, which stated that the Niger claims were untrue. He said the CIA never told him about Wilson's trip.
However, these attorneys said that witnesses in the case have testified before a grand jury that Cheney, Libby, Hadley, the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Justice Department, the FBI, and other senior aides in the Office of the Vice President, the President, and the National Security Council had received and read a March 9, 2002, cable sent to his office by the CIA that debunked the Niger claims.
The cable, which was prepared by a CIA analyst and based on Wilson's fact-finding mission, did not mention Wilson by name, but quoted a CIA source and Niger officials Wilson had questioned during his eight-day mission, who said there was no truth to the claims that Iraq had tried to purchase 500 tons of yellowcake uranium ore from Niger.
Several current and former State Department and CIA officials familiar with the March 9, 2002, cable said they had testified before the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson leak that they had spoken to Libby and Hadley about the cable, and that they were told Cheney had also read it.
Badnews for Dick Cheney. More potential evidence of testimony contradicting Cheney's statements to prosecutors.
Cheney told investigators that when Wilson began speaking to reporters on background about his secret mission to Niger to investigate Iraq's alleged attempts to purchase uranium, he asked Libby to contact the CIA to "get more information" about the trip and to find out if it was true, the attorneys added.
Furthermore, Cheney told prosecutors that before he learned of Wilson's trip, his office simply sought to rebut statements made by Wilson to reporters and the various newspaper reports that said the Bush administration knowingly relied on flawed intelligence to build a case for war.
Moreover, Cheney said that he and his aide were concerned that reporters had been under the impression that Cheney chose Wilson for the Niger trip, the attorneys said. Cheney testified that he instructed Libby and other aides to coordinate a response to those queries and rebut those allegations with the White House press office.
"In his testimony the vice president said that his staff referred media calls about Wilson to the White House press office," one attorney close to the case said. "He said that was the appropriate venue for responding to statements by Mr. Wilson that he believed were wrong."
Cheney told investigators that he first learned about Valerie Plame Wilson and her employment with the CIA from Libby. Cheney testified that Libby told him that several reporters had contacted him in July to say that Plame Wilson had been responsible for arranging her husband's trip to Niger to investigate the Niger uranium claims.
Everyone catch that? Cheney told investigators he first learned about Valerie Plame Wilson from Scooter Libby, who has testified that he learned it from Dick Cheney. OK But other witnesses are supporting Libby's version, which is more bad news for Cheney.
Cheney also testified that the next time he recalled hearing about Plame Wilson and her connection to Joseph Wilson was when he read about her in a July 14, 2003, column written by syndicated columnist Robert Novak.
Worse, last Friday, Senator Kennedy called on Bush to keep his promise to the American people to fire anyone in the White House found to be leaking CIA information on Valerie Plame.
Representatives Hinchey, Waxman, and Conyers have demand that Cheney testify under oath to clarify his role.
Sunday, Senators Reed and Allen said it would be unacceptable if Cheney is found to be involved.
And Monday, DNC Chairmen, Howard Dean, said if Cheney was involved he must resign. He has a lot of explaining to do.
Update: 7:55 pm 2/16 Following paragraph modified to eliminate any unintended disparaging of anyones priorities in what stories we pay attention to or not. Changed text in bold. So my big question to the dkos community tonight is how do we best take advantage of the tremendous media attention being giving to Cheney' hunting accident into greater attention to Dick Cheney's long history of stonewalling congress, Federal investigators, the public, and apparently the president himself?
How can we maintain the justified outrage over the delays in reporting the shooting into equal outrage and demands that Cheney explain his role in the Intelligence Plamegate scandal?
Public outrage forced Cheney and the White House to put him on Fox news within three days. But not a peep from anyone about what appears to be a four year campaign and conspiracy to subvert the constitution of the US, mislead Congress, the American people, our allies, and the UN into War in Iraq, and a nasty retaliation against the Wilson's and anyone else who dared question their falsehoods?
Update Correction: 5:15 pm EST 2/16 My original diary state "They planted Judith Miller on the Staff." This is incorrect. I have restated it more correctly. Apologies to all including Judith Miller. Replacement Text in Bold
Evidence suggests that Scooter Libby, and perhaps other Neocons, used Judith Miller's secret security clearence to plant and innappropriately manipulate news published in the NYT as if it were unbias and objective" to help spread this false intelligence and misinformation.
They apparently violated US Criminal Code 18 Sections 1001 and 371 by misleading Congress in the 2003 SOTU message.
The White House appears to have ntentionally bypassed the FISA courts and have secretly launched the most extensive and unauthorized program of domestic espionage against US citizens in our nation's history.
Isn't this almost as upsetting as not reporting a hunting accident right away?
Shouldn't we at least generate half as much energy behind demands that at the very least President Bush and Vice President Cheney explain their current position and roles on these incredible allegations?
Is it even conceivable that folks consider it okay to wait for Fitzgerald, or 2008? These issues go so far beyond what Fitzgerald is even supposed to be investigating that it is mind boggling to me that this is even considered plausible. What am I missing? PS From yesterday's poll Among Republican registered voters, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona -- 33 percent and 28 percent, respectively -- were the clear favorites. Sen. George Allen of Virginia trailed behind with 7 percent, followed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee with 6 percent.