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Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classified Information

Bump and Update: Libby's lawyers deny he would try to blame higher-ups as a defense strategy. [link fixed]

Sen. Kennedy comments on the Cheney aspect to the story:

"These charges, if true, represent a new low in the already sordid case of partisan interests being placed above national security," Kennedy said. "The vice president's vindictiveness in defending the misguided war in Iraq is obvious. If he used classified information to defend it, he should be prepared to take full responsibility."

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Original Post (11:00 a.m)

Murray Waas breaks new ground again in the Scooter Libby case: Cheney and other top Administration officials authorized Libby to release classified information in the summer of 2003 to counter Joseph Wilson's charge that Bush misrepesented intelligence information in order to make the case for going to war.

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (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.

Fitzgerald said as much in the published correspondence to Libby's counsel. But, Waas's first hand sources have more. First, Fitz's letter:

"Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE") ... in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003.... We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."

Waas' sources: One of those who authorized Libby to leak the classified information, including details of the NIE to journalists was Dick Cheney.

Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.

Others who may have been in on it:

Libby also testified that he worked closely with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove in deciding what information to leak to the press to build public support for the war, and later, postwar, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence.

Back to Cheney. Here's a question I have. As Murray notes, Fitz also put in his now published letter that Libby testified the purpose of his meeting with Miller on July 8 was to discuss the then-classified NIE report that supported the claim Iraq was acquiring uranium. Miller confirms this in her account of their July 8 meeting. Did Cheney specifically authorize Libby to release classified portions of the NIE to Judith Miller at the July 8 meeting?

The big question is whether Cheney knew and participated in the plan to discredit Joseph Wilson by leaking his wife's employment status with the CIA to reporters in an effort to suggest Wilson's trip was the result of nepotism and therefore a "boondoggle." We don't have the answer to that yet. As Murray says,

...the new information indicates that Libby is likely to pursue a defense during his trial that he was broadly "authorized" by Cheney and other "superiors" to defend the Bush administration in making the case to go to war. Libby does not, however, appear to be claiming that he was acting specifically on Cheney's behalf in disclosing information about Plame to the press.

What does this all mean? Waas says the disclosures by Libby are part of a defense strategy, orchestrated by attorney John Cline, the national security expert on the team, to enable Libby to demand huge amounts of classified information. If the Court orders the Government to turn it over, the Government might choose to dismiss the case rather than comply.

Also, a defense that asserts Libby was acting at the behest of higherups could play to the jury. Cline was also a lawyer for Oliver North in the Iran-Contra case, and utilized a similar strategy there.

a Libby defense strategy asserting that he released classified information or took other actions as broadly authorized by Cheney might have other advantages, if the North case is any guide. At North's trial, the counts on which the jury acquitted him tended to be those involving actions that appeared to be authorized by superiors. He was found guilty of three felonies on which the evidence indicated that he was acting on his own initiative or for his own financial benefit.

North was sentenced to probation, but his convictions were later overturned on appeal.

Explaining his own leniency in sentencing the former NSC aide, Gesell told North: "I do not believe you were a leader at all, but really a low-ranking subordinate to carry out initiatives of a few cynical superiors. You came to be a point man in a very complex power play developed by higher-ups."

There's lots more food for thought in Murray's article, go on over and read the whole thing. Some background is here.

Update: Jason Leopold writes that Cheney's efforts to smear Joseph Wilson began in March, 2003, not June, 2003. I'm glad someone else is picking up on this as I've been been harping on it a long time, based on statements by Wilson himself and the same CNN transcripts that Jason mentions today.

Update: Ariana says:

This proves just how far the White House was willing to go to back up its deceptive claims about why we needed to go to war in Iraq. The great protectors of our country were so concerned about covering their lies they were willing to pass out highly classified information to reporters. And remember -- and this is the key -- it's not partisan Democrats making this claim; it's not Bush-bashing conspiracy theorists, or bloggers reading the Aspen roots.

< Patriot Act Agreement: It's Capitulation, Not a Deal | Libby, Cheney and Fitz, Part II >
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  • Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#1)
    by rdandrea on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:05:38 AM EST
    The trouble with Libby being "authorized" is that NOBODY can authorize you do disclose classified information. That's not how the system works. To be given classified information, you have to have 1) the right level of clearance, and 2) need to know. Before classified information can be released to uncleared people, it must be declassified first. Only an Authorized Derivative Classifier can do that.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#2)
    by roxtar on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:24:21 AM EST
    My first thought was to wonder if that was why Scooter wasn't originally indicted on a conspiracy count... Is joinder ever mandatory under Rule 8 in the Fed system? Could Fitz have a lil' something in his pocket that he's not yet revealed?

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#3)
    by TomStewart on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:35:48 AM EST
    So, he was only following orders. I was wondering when this excuse would come up.

    Clean out the jail cells. Looks like we are going to need at least an entire wing.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 12:49:58 PM EST
    we are going to need at least an entire wing Camp X-Ray is empty, available, and has all the comforts of home. :-)

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 01:01:55 PM EST
    You will hear from the "right" posters on this matter as soon as Limbaugh and O'Reilly give them their talking points.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 01:06:23 PM EST
    JL, For what? (un)Balance?

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 01:18:43 PM EST
    It just cracks me up that a few of them espouse this wealth of knowledge and depth of issues, yet you never hear from them until Rush has spoken. Monkey see monkey do.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#9)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 01:24:04 PM EST
    Yea, pretty weird, huh? "how do 'spect me to know what my 'pinion is till someone tells me?" ;-)

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#10)
    by desertswine on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 01:45:56 PM EST
    The trouble with Libby being "authorized" is that NOBODY can authorize you do disclose classified information.
    "We believe... that we have all the legal authority we need," Cheney said. Cheney can do anything. He's the President.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 02:09:27 PM EST
    The fact is that Libby lied and will go down for perjury. Fitzpatrick is smart enough not to go too far which is why he is keeping the charge with Libby simple. Espionage protection act is hard to procecute especially when the WH is going to claim every shred of evidence cannot be released because it would compromise National Security. Cheney is in the Batters box and Fitz will surely stirke him out. He just has to figure out the right pitches to throw. Slow and easy sets the pace. We, on the other hand, cannot wait to see the F**ker pay for the damage he has done to our country.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#12)
    by phat on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 03:25:30 PM EST
    Say, where are the Bush apologists? Maybe Limbaugh didn't even talk about it today. Maybe they'll have to watch O'Reilly. phat

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 03:42:30 PM EST
    Say, where are the Bush apologists? They're "thinking" about what to say. It takes a while... ;-)

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#14)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 03:45:36 PM EST
    Before classified information can be released to uncleared people, it must be declassified first. Only an Authorized Derivative Classifier can do that. Law, shmaw. Law is for suckers. We'll just use one of our all purpose Acme signing statements on any law you can think up. --Cheney, "The Dick"

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#15)
    by squeaky on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 03:47:19 PM EST
    what's up dick? dam wabbit.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#16)
    by jondee on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 04:12:31 PM EST
    deleted

    Uh, help. Link in update doesn't work.

    Fitz is a smart guy. He drew up the charges against Libby very narrowly. I think he's hoping to flush some game out of the bushes with the pressure he puts on Libby. The question is: how much does Libby trust the White House (and vice versa)? I can't believe anyone in their right mind would trust Rove, Cheyney, et al. So I think today's revelations are signs that Libby is starting to turn. This is going to be very interesting. The wild card, of course, would be a pardon. I believe Bush will pardon Cheyney, but would he pardon Libby? The good news is that pardons do not apply to impeachments.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#19)
    by Che's Lounge on Thu Feb 09, 2006 at 11:08:19 PM EST
    I hope his batteries are charged. This kind of news can have an irritating effect on what's left of his conduction system. Don't worry Dick, we're ready for ya.

    I don't understand how this is relevant to a defense against charges of perjury, making false statements, or obstruction of justice. Hell, I don't understand how "I was just following orders" would be a defense against a charge of revealing classified information, which isn't something Libby is facing anyway.

    Re: Waas: Cheney Authorized Libby to Leak Classif (none / 0) (#21)
    by jondee on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 02:41:56 PM EST
    Is saying Limbaugh is a RACIST bi-pedal slime mold allowed?

    I dunno, Jondee, I haven't heard of slime molds that are hypocritical, so we're probably talking about something on the level of blue-green algae, or, in laymans' terms, slime that you can find where there's moisture and light.