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Lewis Libby and the Valerie Plame Investigation

Further research is indicating to me that Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, is one of those special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has in his cross-hairs. Whether he will get him, or whether there's anything to get, remains unknown. I also now believe that Matt Cooper's second source (Libby being the first) is Karl Rove. But...is it possible that Fitzgerald wants Cooper to tell what he and Rove talked about not to get Rove, but because that conversation may make a case against Libby and possibly others? Or, does he want Rove as well?

I've accumulated another few dozen documents off of Lexis and I don't have the space on a blog to go through all of them. So I will list some that I haven't seen discussed much either in MSM or on the blogs I've read. These are just more dots and I'm not done trying to connect them. Also, my goal is to figure out where Fitzgerald is headed from publicly available information. I'm not an investigative reporter. My focus is on the legal issues and possible criminality involved - not on national security issues.

1. First up is the transcript (25 pages, pdf) of a Democratic Policy Committee Hearing held on October 24, 2003, presided over by then Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, on the national security implications of the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. The chief witnesses were Jim Marcinkowski, Former CIA Case Officer; Larry Johnson,Former CIA Analyst; and Vince Cannistraro,Former Chief of Operations and Analysis, CIA Counterterrorism Center.

In his opening remarks, Cannistraro says:

CANNISTRARO: Thank you, Senators, for inviting me here today. I'll make my comments as brief as possible. I think it's very important to understand the context in which this leak occurred. We had a pattern of pressure directed at CIA analysts for a long period of time beginning almost immediately after September 11th in those disastrous events. The pressure was directed at providing supporting information data for the belief that Saddam Hussein was, one, linked to global terrorism and, two, was a clear danger not only to his neighbors but to the United States of America.

And in support of that argument assertions were made that he was about to renew a nuclear program and was attempting to acquire uranium ore in Africa for which he was going to be exploiting it for an enriched weapons program.

Toward December of 2001, intelligence report was received in Washington that alleged that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to acquire yellow cake uranium ore in Niger and two other African countries. The vice president of the United States and other senior officials in the administration seized on this information as a proof that Saddam was that clear and present danger and needed to be addressed immediately in order to eliminate that danger.

The vice president and his chief of staff went out to CIA headquarters on a number of occasions -- at least on two occasions -- specifically to address the questions of weapons of mass destruction and the attempt to acquire a nuclear capability. These meetings, I'm told secondhand, were contentious, but the vice president insisted that there must be some support for this reporting of the yellow cake acquisition attempt. CIA analysts, I'm told, didn't have any independent data to verify that, but as a result of the insistent pressure being applied to the analysts and particularly to the nonproliferation center, the CIA did send, as they've said publicly, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger.

Later, the Senators take turns asking Cannistraro questions:

Sen. Harkin: The last point I wanted to make was, again, Mr. Cannistraro, I want to be perfectly clear on this as much as I can. I read your testimony and I heard you say it again that the vice president and his chief of staff, Lewis Libby, visited the CIA headquarters to engage the CIA analysts directly on this issue of uranium acquisition in Africa.

You call it, "an unprecedented act for the vice president to engage desk-level analysts resulted in a contentious give-and-take. Vice president insisted that CIA analysts were not looking hard enough for the evidence."

HARKIN: Again, in all of your years you've never seen a vice president or his chief of staff come down and engage in that kind of activity?

CANNISTRARO: No, I haven't, Senator. The vice president gets the president's daily brief every morning and he's briefed by a senior-level CIA official who goes out to the White House and does the briefing. So he has no need in going out and debating with desk-level analysts.

This transcript makes it clear that to the CIA, Valerie Plame was indeed an undercover operative at one time, that she might have gone back into undercover work, and even if she didn't, the agency and other agents would still want to protect her identity. For example, if it were known she had been an undercover CIA agent, she'd be ripe for a kidnapping ever after to get classified information out of her.

2. On to Matt Cooper. It's important to remember that he was subpoenaed initially specifically about Lewis Libby, held in contempt, and then, because he got a personal waiver from Libby, agreed to be deposed by Fitzgerald. It was after that deposition that he got the second subpoena, asking about communications with other sources. Cooper, Miller and Floyd Abrams appeared on the radio show Fresh Air on February 24, 2005. The host was Terry Gross. Here's a portion:

GROSS: Matt Cooper, you are refusing to divulge your sources. However, you did decide to divulge one source, Lewis Libby, after he agreed to release you from the confidentiality pledge--there was like a waiver of confidentiality. Can you talk about your decision in doing that, and how you feel about this, kind of, new emphasis on the confidentiality waiver?

Mr. COOPER: Sure, Terry. Well, just to review the facts, I had--this is actually my second subpoena. I'd gotten one last year that was of a more limited nature. The current one is basically for everything I've--that's in my notebook related to these stories. But the first one was quite focused. It asked about my conversations with one individual, Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. And we fought that in the courts, and at a certain point we thought we would just go to the source himself and seek his unambiguous clear waiver, and see if he was willing to grant it. And if he was, I was certainly willing to give testimony. You know, the idea of this source protection is to protect the source. If the source wants you to speak, it's my feeling--others might disagree--that, you know, there's really no problem in coming forward. Otherwise you're--you know, you're hanging by the branch of a principal and the tree walks away. And I think there's really no reason not to speak. And so I reached out to Lewis Libby and got his personal unambiguous waiver, and then I gave testimony to the special counsel last August.

And, in fact, he accepted my testimony and my contempt citation at that time was cleared. I was in the legal clear. And, you know, I think there are certainly times when reporters, you know, can feel comfortable talking to grand juries or court settings, if they're not dealing with confidential sources, a source gives them a waiver. I'm not a zealot about these matters, but, you know, the subpoena I'm under now is much more sweeping and much harder to comply with.

3. The New York Times reported the other day:

Mr. Cooper's decision to drop his refusal to testify followed discussions on Wednesday morning among lawyers representing Mr. Cooper and Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser, according to a person who has been officially briefed on the case. Mr. Fitzgerald was also involved in the discussions, the person said.

In his statement in court, Mr. Cooper did not name Mr. Rove as the source about whom he would now testify, but the person who was briefed on the case said that he was referring to Mr. Rove and that Mr. Cooper's decision came after behind-the-scenes maneuvering by his lawyers and others in the case.

Those discussions centered on whether a legal release signed by Mr. Rove last year was meant to apply specifically to Mr. Cooper, who by its terms would be released from any pledge of confidentiality he had made to Mr. Rove, the person said. Mr. Cooper said in court that he had agreed to testify only after he had received an explicit waiver from his source.

4. As I mentioned here, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision (pdf) upholding Cooper's contempt for failing to comply with the second subpoena described the subpoena as:

“[a]ny and all documents . . . [relating to] conversations between Matthew Cooper and official source(s) prior to July 14, 2003, oncerning in any way: former Ambassador Joseph Wilson; the 2002 trip by former Ambassador Wilson to Niger; Valerie Wilson Plame, a/k/a Valerie Wilson, a/k/a Valerie Plame (the wife of former Ambassador Wilson); and/or any affiliation between Valerie Wilson Plame and the CIA.

5. The International Herald Tribune October 15, 2004

For a second time, the judge, Thomas Hogan, ordered Cooper, to disclose sources for an article in which he wrote that "some government officials" had identified Valerie Plame as an official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Also for a second time, Cooper refused, citing a journalist's promise to protect his sources.

Hogan then found Cooper in contempt of court. Two months ago, Hogan made the same ruling, but he lifted that order after one of the sources, Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, waived his confidentiality agreement with Cooper to allow discussion of their conversations before the grand jury. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor investigating leaks of Plame's identity, called Cooper before the grand jury again, seeking the names of other sources. As before, Cooper refused.

6. On to Lewis Libby: United Press International July 29, 2004

Federal law enforcement officials told UPI that Libby was a suspect in the FBI investigation attempting to determine who leaked the name of a serving CIA agent, Valerie Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to the Washington press corps.

Agence France Presse -- June 5, 2004

US Vice President Richard Cheney has been interviewed by federal prosecutors who asked whether he knew of anyone at the White House who had improperly disclosed the identity of an undercover CIA officer, The New York Times reported Saturday. Citing unnamed people involved in the case, the newspaper said Cheney was also asked about conversations with senior aides, including his chief of staff, Lewis Libby. Cheney was also asked whether he knew of any concerted effort by White House aides to name the officer, according to the report.

International Herald Tribune, April 3, 2004:

Fitzgerald is said by lawyers involved in the case and government officials to be examining possible discrepancies between documents he has gathered in the case and statements made by current or former White House officials during a three-month preliminary investigation conducted last fall by the FBI and the Justice Department. Some officials spoke to FBI agents with their lawyers present; others met informally with agents in their offices and even at bars near the White House.

...The suspicion that someone may have lied to investigators is based on contradictions between statements made by various witnesses in FBI interviews, the lawyers and officials said. The conflicts are said to be buttressed by documents, including memos, e-mail messages and phone records turned over by the White House.

At the same time, Fitzgerald is said to be investigating whether the disclosure of Plame's identity came after someone discovered her name among classified documents circulating at the upper echelons of the White House.

7. This Chicago Tribune article of March 5, 2004 is chock full of clues, so I'm quoting quite a bit of it:

The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity has subpoenaed records of Air Force One telephone calls in the week before the officer's name was published in a column in July, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Also sought in the wide-ranging document requests contained in three grand jury subpoenas to the Executive Office of President Bush are records created in July by the White House Iraq Group, a little-known internal task force established in August 2002 to create a strategy to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.

And the subpoenas asked for a transcript of a White House spokesman's press briefing in Nigeria, a list of those attending a birthday reception for former President Gerald Ford and, casting a much wider net than previously reported, records of White House contacts with more than two dozen journalists and news outlets.

The three subpoenas were issued to the White House on Jan. 22, three weeks after Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed special counsel in the probe and during the first wave of appearances by White House staffers before the grand jury.

...All three subpoenas were sent to employees of the Executive Office of the President under a Jan. 26 memo by White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez saying production of the documents was "mandatory" by Jan. 29....The third subpoena repeats an informal Justice Department document request to the White House last fall seeking records about staff contacts with Novak and two Newsday reporters, Knut Royce and Timothy Phelps, who reported July 22 that Plame was a covert agent and Novak had blown her cover.

The subpoena added journalists such as Mike Allen and Dana Priest of The Washington Post, Michael Duffy of Time magazine, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" and reporters from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press.

...3-stage document order

The subpoenas required the White House to produce the documents in three stages--the first on Jan. 30, a second on Feb. 4 and the third on Feb. 6--even as White House aides began appearing before the grand jury sitting in Washington. The subpoena with the first production deadline sought three sets of documents.

It requested records of telephone calls to and from Air Force One from July 7 to July 12, while Bush was visiting several nations in Africa. The White House declined Thursday to release a list of those on the trip.

That subpoena also sought a complete transcript of a July 12 press "gaggle," or informal briefing, by then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer while at the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria. That transcript is missing from the White House Web site containing transcripts of other press briefings. In a transcript the White House released at the time to the Federal News Service, Fleischer discusses Wilson and his CIA report.(my emphasis)

Finally, the subpoena requested a list of those in attendance at the White House reception on July 16 for former President Ford's 90th birthday. The White House on Thursday declined to release the list, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation, which paid for the event, did not return phone calls.

The subpoena with the second production deadline sought all documents from July 6 to July 30 of the White House Iraq Group. In August, The Washington Post published the only account of the group's existence. (my emphasis)

It met weekly, The Post said, and its regular participants included senior political adviser Karl Rove; communication strategists Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and James Wilkinson; legislative liaison Nicholas Calio; policy advisers led by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy Stephen Hadley; and I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. (my emphasis)

Current White House press secretary Scott McClellan, press aide Claire Buchan and former press aide Adam Levine have told reporters they appeared before the grand jury Feb. 6.

So, two missing items: Ari Fleischer's press conference (in which some news reports say he admitted the U.S. made a mistake on the uranium story) and the birthday party list (which other news reports have mentioned may have something to do with Alan Greenspan being there, who is married to Andrea Mitchell, who later was queried by grand jury investigators.) And the White House Iraq Group seems to be right in the thick of things.

8. Newsday (New York) February 11, 2004 Wednesday

Several top White House press aides have been among the first to go before a grand jury in the investigation of who leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative to a newspaper columnist, the aides and other sources confirmed yesterday.

Among those confirming that they appeared before the grand jury led by a special Justice Department prosecutor appointed six weeks ago are chief White House spokesman Scott McClellan, former press aide Adam Levine and Republican consultant Mary Matalin, who served as a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

...McClennan's deputy Claire Buchan told the Associated Press she had appeared before the grand jury, and the Washington Post reported yesterday that the FBI has interviewed at least five current or former Bush administration aides. Matalin appeared before the grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23, her office said. Buchan told the AP she appeared on Jan. 30. McClellan said he appeared Friday. Levine, who left the White House in December, also appeared for a 30- to 45-minute session on Friday, his attorney said.

In the grand jury sessions, press aides were confronted with internal White House documents, mainly e-mails and telephone logs, between White House aides and reporters and questioned about conversations with reporters, according to sources and reports.

The logs indicate that several White House officials talked to Novak shortly before the appearance of his July 14 column, the Washington Post reported. According to the New York Times, the set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser.

The FBI has interviewed Rove, Libby, McClellan, Levine, Matalin, White House communications director Dan Bartlett, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and Cheney aide Cathie Martin, the Post reported.

The International Herald Tribune February 11, 2004 Wednesday,

One set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser. Prosecutors have described the notes as "copious," the lawyers said. In addition, the prosecutors have asked about cellphone calls made last July to and from Catherine Martin, a press secretary for Cheney.

...But prosecutors have threatened to use their authority to charge White House aides with obstruction of justice or false statements if they fail to provide truthful statements about specific conversations that some aides could not clearly recall among the hundreds of conversations with some White House reporters, the lawyers said.

Some questions I still have:

1. Does anyone have a copy of the transcript of Ari Fleisher's press conference? [Update: The White House version is here, thanks to Patriot Daily for the link. Is this the full transcript?]

2. Mary Matalin resigned from Dick Cheney's staff at the end of 2002 (corrected from 2004) but continued to be an unofficial advisor. She now works for Simon and Schuster book publishers. She testified before the grand jury in January, 2004. She's obviously still on good terms with Cheney. Was there a falling out between her and Libby?

3. Is Scott McClellan going to be a corroborative witness for Fitzterald on a perjury charge? See below:

USA TODAY, October 8, 2003,

On Tuesday, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan ruled out three senior Bush aides as possible sources of the leak: Karl Rove, Bush's political adviser; Lewis Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff; and Elliott Abrams, a senior official on the National Security Council. All have been named in Washington speculation.

He said each, when asked by him, denied leaking the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson to newspaper columnist Robert Novak, who revealed her identity in an article July 14. "They were not involved in leaking classified information, nor did they condone it," McClellan said.

4. Where does Judith Miller fit in? Who was her source and more importantly, what did he tell her? I think her source is Libby, as I reasoned in detail the other day.

5. Does this investigation stop at Libby and/or Rove, or does it go up to Cheney?

Associated Press Online July 11, 2003

One of the mysteries congressional investigators seem intent to explore is how much Cheney knew. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday that Cheney was not informed nor aware of the CIA report casting doubt on the British allegations. But Wilson, the former envoy who helped the CIA write the report, said in an NBC-TV interview last Sunday that Cheney's office requested and received from the CIA a report on Wilson's mission.

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    While the New York Timesí Judith Miller sits in jail for protecting the identity of the Valerie Plame turncoat, Bush White House grand inquisitor and likely leaker Karl Rove remains at large. Thatís why you need to play Karl Rove Whack-a-Mole, the contest that lets you be Karl Roveís judge and jury (though not executioner). The contest is simple. You get to sentence Karl Rove for his crimes; the best and most fitting punishment wins the contest and a 1 GB iPod Shuffle. For more details and to enter, see: "The Karl Rove Whack-a-Mole Contest."

    There is a press briefing from July 12 still up on the whitehouse website. I don't know if it's the one you're looking for, but he talks about Joe Wilson in this one.

    It is from the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria, July 12, 2003. Quite interesting, too. They may have taken it down at some point, but it's there today.

    Thanks - did they take it down at some point and put it back? If it is the complete transcript, I wonder why it had to be subpoenaed.

    Talkleft, yes, that press briefing had been taken down at some point. There was an article written about it last spring, I believe. That's spring '04. I'll try to find it.

    Cheetah, the March 5 Chicago Trib article I quote above says,
    That subpoena also sought a complete transcript of a July 12 press "gaggle," or informal briefing, by then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer while at the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria. That transcript is missing from the White House Web site containing transcripts of other press briefings. In a transcript the White House released at the time to the Federal News Service, Fleischer discusses Wilson and his CIA report.(my emphasis)
    I guess my question is just whether th e one that was put back is complete.

    Yes, I know. I'm trying to find something that would give a hint about whether the one up now is complete or not. If I do find anything, I'll post it.

    BTW, wasn't that briefing taped?

    Would Libby and Cheney have interacted or at least become aware of Plame on their coersive visits to the CIA? Since the Niger story was the one they were seeking to validated isn't it very likely that they found out about Plame being Wilson's wife at that time and realized the potential use of such information?

    I'm not a lawyer, but I find the argument that the target of a grand jury investigation is rarely asked to testify before that grand jury a compelling argument against Rove. I don't know whether Lippy has testified, however. I was thinking for awhile that it might be Libby, but now I just don't know. The case seems to be getting much larger and more serious in scope. I think it might have been Cheney.

    Jeralyn -- Here's a link to the August 2003 WaPo article you reference above. Note the focus on a character named "Joe" -- a CIA analyst who helped peddle the Bush administration's case for a nuclear Iraq. Wonder if he knew, or was in a position to find out, about Ms. Plame and to then pass that info on to the WHIG?