Lewis Libby: Who Is The Second Reporter He Spoke To

This is one of those long ones intended for the seriously PlameGate afflicted:

There's lots of speculation going on about the recently published redacted affidavit of Patrick Fitzgerald in the Judith Miller/Matthew Cooper subpoena case respecting the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. Jane at Firedoglake has a compilation of links to all the recent documents in the case. These are among the latest documents released (pdf):

  • The judge's February 2005 decision in the Miller case, with parts of formerly redacted portions in italics on pages 30-39.
  • Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Aug. 27, 2004 affidavit in the Miller case, released in conjunction with the appeals court's document.
  • The appeals court order from Feb. 3, 2006 unsealing "in significant part" the redacted pages of a judge's decision in the case.

Tom Maguire (linked above) spotted this important paragraph on page 3 of Fitz's August, 2004 redacted affidavit:

Thus, Russert could not have then imparted that information to Libby. Moreover, Libby has given accounts of conversation with two other reporters - [redacted] and Matt Cooper of TIME magazine - that are contradicted in many respects by the testimony of [redacted] and Cooper.

Tom Maguire wonders who the second reporter is and whether it might not be Robert Novak.

The first name that comes to mind is Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post. But I don't think it's him because Kessler's and Libby's testimony reportedly matched - and Kessler later says he didn't discuss the content of the conversations. He only verified to Fitz that he and Libby did not discuss Wilson, Plame or the trip to Niger.

Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post notes that while he did agree to talk to Patrick Fitzgerald, as this article says, he wants to make clear that the scope of the questioning was very limited. Kessler says he did not divulge what two conversations he had with I. Lewis Libby in July 2003 were about, but merely affirmed that the subjects of Valerie Plame, Joseph Wilson, and Wilson's trip to Niger had not come up.

The Washington Post in June, 2004 described Kessler's involvement this way:

Kessler said he agreed to be interviewed about two phone conversations he had with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, at Libby's urging. At the prosecutor's request, Libby and other White House aides have signed waivers saying they agree to release reporters they have talked to from keeping confidential any disclosures about Plame.

Kessler said he told prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald that, during conversations last July 12 and July 18, Libby did not mention Plame or her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, or Wilson's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger to investigate whether Iraq tried to buy uranium there.

So if Kessler and Libby told the same story, and Kessler gave Fitz his information before the August, 2004 affidavit, he isn't the second reporter referred to in the affidavit.

The first reporters to write that Valerie Plame was an undercover operative were Newsday's Timothy Phelps and Knut Royce. Columnist Bob Novak was the first to write she worked for the CIA. Phelps says:

In his Times op-ed, Wilson said the Bush administration had "twisted" information from his 2002 trip to Niger in order to exaggerate Iraq's nuclear threat. Novak's column said, "according to administration officials," that the Niger trip had been set in motion by Wilson's wife, a CIA "Agency operative." When I read the column I wondered whether Plame was working undercover. So, along with Newsday's Knut Royce, known for his sources in the intelligence community, I started making inquiries.

A week later we wrote a story quoting "intelligence officials" as saying that Plame did indeed work undercover at the CIA, on weapons of mass destruction, raising the possibility that the disclosure to Novak broke the law. Novak himself volunteered something interesting when we reached him. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me." His sources, he said, "thought it was significant; they gave me the name and I used it."

Our story was the first to establish that Plame was undercover. In fact not only was she working for the secret "D. O." or Directorate of Operations at agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, but she was also still in transition from an even deeper underground mission as a "NOC" for Nonofficial Cover, posing as a businesswoman during agency-sponsored trips to Europe.

Phelps then discusses the WaPo coverage:

In a front-page story on Sunday, September 28, The Washington Post led with the preliminary Justice Department inquiry. But the real news was down in the fifth paragraph:

"Yesterday, 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."

....Two days after the Post story, the Justice Department told the White House that it was conducting a full formal investigation of the Plame outing, and ordered that all White House staff members preserve documents relating to conversations with Novak, Royce, and me. (Sources told us that the CIA had referred not only Novak's column but our Newsday story to the Justice Department for investigation because we, too, had revealed new classified information -- that Plame was working undercover.)

....Roughly two months after he empaneled a grand jury in Washington in December 2003, Patrick Fitzgerald called Newsday saying he wanted to talk to us. So far as I know, we were the first reporters he contacted, with the possible exception of Novak, whose interactions with Fitzgerald are still unknown. Don't worry, Fitzgerald assured us, he was not asking us to name our sources. He simply wanted some information about our discussions with the sources.

As to what Fitzgerald wanted, Phelps writes:

In our case, Fitzgerald intimated that he might have a waiver from one or more of our sources. These exploratory conversations between a prosecutor and news organization usually involve quite a bit of shadow boxing. Neither side wants to give too much away, so things tend to be discussed in theoretical terms. But my impression was that Fitzgerald may have talked to or planned to talk to someone who had admitted talking to us. It seemed likely to us, however, that that person would deny having disclosed that Plame was undercover.

What Fitzgerald wanted us to do, among other things, was to differentiate between Source A, B, or C. Without giving up any names, would we simply outline which source had said what in our story?

They said no, and later worked out a different arrangement with Fitz.

Returning to the critical paragraph in the August, 2004 affidavit, if not Kessler, Phelps, or Royce, then who? Could it be Walter Pincus? The same June, 2004 WaPo article states:

In October, The Post reported that "on July 12, two days before Novak's column, a Post reporter was told by an administration official that the White House had not paid attention to the former ambassador's CIA-sponsored trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction."

The article said Plame's name was not mentioned and the purpose of the disclosure was to cast doubt on Wilson's report rather than reveal her identity. Novak had reported a similar account on July 14 that he said was provided him by two administration officials.

Pincus has never revealed the identity of his source to the public, only to Fitzgerald. This was done with the source's permission. But according to USA Today, the Washington Post has said Libby was not Pincus' source. Susan Schmidt of the Post says the same thing.

Check out the recently released Government Response to Dow Jones' motion to unseal all of the January, 2005 court opinion of Judge Tatel. It was filed after Libby's Indictment. Fitz discusses why he supports redacting and unsealing for Libby but not for others, whom he cateogorizes as subjects, witnesses, reporters, etc. (p. 7).

...the Special Counsel has concluded that continued secrecy is not necessary with respect to certain portions of the redacted pages that directly relate to Mr. Libby, whose status as a subject of the grand jury investigation became publicly known through the return of the indictment subsequent to the issuance of the Court's February 15, 2005 opinion, and that do not relate to other persons whose status as a witness or subject has not been publicly disclosed. However, the Special Counsel has concluded that secrecy continues to be necessary with respect to the remainder of the redacted pages, in order to protect from public embarrassment or ridicule individuals whose status as grand jury witnesses or subjects has not been publicly disclosed, as well as to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

[p. 10] ....The remainder of the redacted pages discuss grand jury testimony related to persons who have not been, and may never be, charged with a criminal offense, and persons who have not been publicly identified as witnesses or subjects of the investigation.

Earlier in the document he writes:

... all but one of the witnesses discussed in this portion of the redacted pages have publicly disclosed the substance of their own testimony before the grand jury.

So, any witness who remains sealed has not publicly discussed the substance of his conversations. If Fitz is referring to a reporter here, who else could it be besides Novak? On the other hand, the USA Today article linked above lot of reasons why Libby is neither Novak's nor Pincus's source and they all make sense. Plus, Novak has maintained that his other source is "not a partisan gunslinger."

One other note on the affidavit: Paragraph 5 on page 12 says:

A CIA employee assigned to provide daily intelligence briefs to the Vice President and Libby has handwritten notes indicating that Libby referred to "Joe Wilson" and "Valerie Wilson" by those names in conversation with the briefer on June 14, 2003 - a month before the Russert conversation.

Were Cheney and Libby briefed together on that day? Cheney was in Washington. Bush was in Kennebunkport. It was June 12, according to the Indictment and recently released redacted Affidavit that Cheney told Libby, purportedly for first time, that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

The beginning of Paragraph six of the Affidavit remains sealed and then goes into a recitation of a discussion between Eric Edelman and Libby. Edelman is named in Libby's indictment and was formerly deputy national security adviser to Cheney as well as principal deputy to Libby. Bush has since promoted Edelman to under secretary of defense. From a New York Times summary:

Eric S Edelman, under secretary of defense and former deputy national security adviser to Vice Pres Dick Cheney, for failing to tell Congress about his involvement with CIA leak case; Edelman is identified by his former job title in indictment of I Lewis Libby Jr as 'then principal deputy' to Libby; Pres Bush installed Edelman in post last summer using recess appointment to bypass confirmation process and Edelman advised committee in writing that he was not subject of any investigation; indictment provides no indication of any wrongdoing on his part and does not say whether he was interviewed by prosecutors or testified before grand jury, but identifies him as among handful of people with whom Libby held discussions about whether information about Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger could be shared with reporters; Edelman aide says Edelman cooperated fully with prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, but declines further comment; details of discussions between Libby and Edelman discussed.

It is sounding more and more likely to me like Cheney is one of the as yet non-publicly disclosed subjects. He may not be a target, but it sounds like Fitz is investigating him. Fitz's prosecutors interviewed Cheney in the presence of Cheney's lawyer around June, 2004. Did he tell Fitz the truth about his requesting info on Wilson-- or his disclosure to Libby -- or the July 12 discussion aboard Air Force Two about how to respond to Wilson's July 6 op-ed?

Also, Fitz asked Judith Miller about Cheney.

"Before the grand jury, Mr. Fitzgerald asked me questions about Mr. Cheney. He asked, for example, if Mr. Libby ever indicated whether Mr. Cheney had approved of his interviews with me or was aware of them. The answer was no."

If Fitz is asking Judith Miller about Cheney, he's asked others as well. I'd bet Cheney's mentioned somewhere in the portions of Fitz's affidavit and Tatel's opinon that remain under seal.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Lewis Libby: Who Is The Second Reporter He Spo (none / 0) (#1)
    by Tom Maguire on Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 09:48:11 PM EST
    That is a great job of nixing Kessler. I am actually leaning towards Pincus, who says he talked to Libby, but not about Plame - maybe Libby says he *did* leak to him. Seems weird, but - maybe Libby's theory is (a) it shows how bad his memory is, and (b) it shows that once he talked to Russert, he really felt comfortable blabbing away to other reporters. OK, that is pretty weak, but Novak makes little sense either (the timing is terrible, for one thing).

    Re: Lewis Libby: Who Is The Second Reporter He Spo (none / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 09:55:34 PM EST
    Most would be surprised if Cheney was not at the top of the food chain. Libby's sloppy lies suggest covering for the boss. What would be surprising is if Cheney gets his just rewards. Jane at FDL has a bit, much from emptywheel on Libby's defense fund group. They speculate that the big effort is to stanch the wound with Scooter so the bigger fish can swim to safety.

    Re: Lewis Libby: Who Is The Second Reporter He Spo (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Sun Feb 05, 2006 at 09:57:44 PM EST

    Jeralyn Two things. First, check out this thread, wherein Jeff and p lukisiak argue very compellingly the bulk of the redacted affidavit makes the case for requiring Pincus' testimony. That doesn't mean Pincus isn't the redacted name, but that, plus Pincus' description that he testified about his unknown source in September 2004, would require that if the redacted name IS Pincus, it would mean he testified twice, once before August 27 about Libby, and a second time in September about Mr. X. Also, Fitz said we'd get the name of one witness in Tatel's opinion. I'm fairly certain that newly named witness is Bill Harlow, whose testimony was reported in the NYT but who is not named in Libby's indictment.

    I wonder where Bob the Traitor Novak fits in this case?

    Re: Lewis Libby: Who Is The Second Reporter He Spo (none / 0) (#6)
    by Tom Maguire on Mon Feb 06, 2006 at 10:25:40 AM EST
    Let me shovel some more dirt on the Pincus alternative. This Aug 10 WaPo story is either incredibly phony, or Pincus only testified in September. Lawyers involved in the case said it appears that Fitzgerald is now armed with a strong and unambiguous court ruling to demand the testimony of two journalists -- syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who first disclosed the CIA officer's name, and Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, who has written that a Post reporter received information about her from a Bush administration official. Pincus was served with a subpoena yesterday after Hogan's order was unsealed. In their statement, NBC officials said Russert agreed to the interview after first resisting on First Amendment grounds. NBC lawyers reached an accommodation with the prosecutor in which Russert "was not required to appear before the grand jury and was not asked questions that would have required him to disclose information provided to him in confidence." Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler agreed to a similar interview with Fitzgerald's office earlier this summer. In both Kessler's case and Russert's, prosecutors' questions concerned conversations the reporters had in early July 2003 with Lewis I. "Scooter" Libby... How do you write that with a straight face if Pincus had already struck a deal similar to Kessler's to talk about Libby?

    Re: Lewis Libby: Who Is The Second Reporter He Spo (none / 0) (#7)
    by squeaky on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 10:27:43 AM EST
    Murray Wass has a new article in the National Journal:
    (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.
    via Huffpo