Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conversations

Intrepid reporter Murray Waas has new disclosures in the Valerie Plame investigation. Not only did Cheney authorize Libby to leak the information in the NIE report, he also authorized him to leak information in the still classified March, 2002 CIA debriefing of Joseph Wilson conducted after his trip to Niger.

Vice President Dick Cheney directed his then-chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on July 12, 2003 to leak to the media portions of a then-highly classified CIA report that Cheney hoped would undermine the credibility of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson, a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to Libby's grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case and sources who have read the classified report.

The March 2002 intelligence report was a debriefing of Wilson by the CIA's Directorate of Operations after Wilson returned from a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger to investigate claims, later proved to be unfounded, that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation, according to government records.

Murray also picks up on this nugget in Fitzgerald's April 5 filing (pdf):

At some point after the publication of the July 6, 2003 Op Ed by Mr. Wilson, Vice President Cheney, defendant's immediate superior, expressed concerns to defendant regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife.

Up until now, focus generally has centered on Libby and Cheney's June conversations. Murray writes that the July conversation occurred "within days" of July 6th. The exact date is uncertain, but it could be as early as July 7, because it appears Libby knew about the CIA report before his July 8 meeting with Miller -- and that he may have shown her portions of it at that meeting. According to the Indictment, while Libby denied to Fitz and the grand jury that he told Judith Miller about Wilson and his wife on July 8th, the Government has a different account of the meeting:

LIBBY thereafter discussed with Miller Wilson's trip and criticized the CIA reporting concerning Wilson's trip. During this discussion, LIBBY advised Miller of his belief that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. (Par. 17.)

Libby told Fitz of his efforts to make sure he had adequate authorization for disclosing portions of the NIE report to Miller that date. He says he was also directed by Cheney to disclose portions of the CIA's March, 2002 report. Fitz wrote in that same April 5 filing (corrected version):

Defendant testified that he thought he brought a brief abstract of the NIE's key judgments to the meeting with Miller on July 8. Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, some of the key judgments of the NIE and that the NIE stated that Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure" uranium.

Defendant testified that this July 8th meeting was the only time he recalled in his government experience when he disclosed a document to a reporter that was effectively declassified by virtue of the President's authorization that it be disclosed. Defendant testified that one of the reasons why he met with Miller at a hotel was the fact that he was sharing this information with Miller exclusively.

In fact, on July 8, defendant spoke with Miller about Mr. Wilson after requesting that attribution of his remarks be changed to "former Hill staffer." Defendant discussed with Miller the contents of a then classified CIA report which defendant characterized to Miller as having been written by Wilson. Defendant advised Miller that Wilson had reported that he had learned that in 1999 an Iraqi delegation visited Niger and sought to expand commercial relations, which was understood to be a reference to a desire to obtain uranium. Later during the discussion about Wilson and the NIE, defendant advised Miller of his belief that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA. Indict., Count One, ¶ 17. (my emphasis)

Wilson was not the author of that report, and the report does not mention Valerie Plame Wilson, but that's not the point. It was a report of his debriefing after he returned from Africa. Would Libby, who was so careful about checking and rechecking the declassification status of the NIE report, and who had been told by Cheney to reveal the CIA report, really have disclosed information about Joseph Wilson's wife on his own initiative? Jane has more on this.

If not on July 7, Libby and Cheney's July conversation could have taken place as late as July 12, when Cheney, Libby and Cathie Martin took their now infamous plane trip to Norfolk on Air Force Two. According to Fitz's filing last week, Libby acknowledged being asked by Cheney to publicly refute Joseph Wilson's op-ed to the media on that date -- normally it would have been Cathie Martin's job to do that.

....Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson. Defendant was instructed to provide what was for him an extremely rare "on
the record" statement, and to provide "background" and "deep background" statements, and to provide information contained in a document defendant understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson.

Cheney and Libby were on the plane. It was likely after the plane returned to Washington that Libby returned a call to Matthew Cooper and again spoke with Judith Miller, and in both conversations, not only discussed Joseph Wilson but allegedly mentioned Valerie Wilson and her role in sending her husband to Niger. Cooper describes his version of the conversation, which occurred at 3:00 pm, in the Nov. 17, 2005 issue of Time. Fitz describes the importance of the conversations with Cooper and Miller in his April 5 filing:

During the conversations that followed on July 12, defendant discussed Ms. Wilson's employment with both Matthew Cooper (for the first time) and Judith Miller (for the third time). Even if someone else in some other agency thought that the controversy about Mr. Wilson and/or his wife was a trifle, that person's state of mind would be irrelevant to the importance and focus defendant placed on the matter and the importance he attached to the surrounding conversations he was directed to engage in by the Vice President.

To sum up, I think there are three points to focus on in Murray's new article:

  • How differently Libby acted before disclosing details of the NIE and the CIA report as compared to when he leaked details about Joseph and Valerie Wilson. The first two he went through great machinations to make sure he had authorization. But he wants us to believe that the information on the Wilsons he disclosed on his own, almost on a whim. This man did nothing on a whim. The inference to be made is that Cheney directed him to leak about Valerie Wilson the same as he did details in the NIE report and CIA reports.
  • The coincidental timing of the July 12 plane ride to Norfolk with Libby, Cheney and Martin aboard. They discuss a media plan to react to Wilson's op-ed. Right afterwards, Libby tells Miller and Cooper about Valerie Plame Wilson. Is it realistic that Cheney didn't know about or direct Libby's disclosures to Cooper and Miller that date?
  • The news of the second coversation between Libby and Cheney, occurring after July 6 and before July 13. In addition to supporting an inference Cheney directed Libby to disclose details about the Wilsons on July 12, doesn't this undercut Libby's lack of memory defense and his insistence that by July 8, he had forgotten what Cheney had told him in June?

More background:

In addition to Jane's response, noted above, other takes on Waas' article include: Steve Soto at Left Coaster; Booman at the Booman Tribune; Kevin Drum;

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  • Display: Sort:
    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 04:39:25 PM EST
    The three docs that Libby brought to the July 8, meeting were outlined speculatively in an April 9 post by empty wheel. From ew:
    Defendant testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials - including Cabinet level officials - were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003.
    And what was the third doc dated Jan 24. Empty Wheel makes a good case that is was a classified draft of the SOTU. Waas' new article claims that all the instant declassified stuff was passed to Miller on July 12th presumedly during their 37 minute second conversation that she had with Libby that day. From ew:
    And as I pointed out recently, in his affidavit from August 2004, Fitzgerald appears to have believed that Judy only spoke to Libby once on July 12, the three minute conversation while Judy was still in the cab.
    I guess???? it makes sense that the since second conversation on the 12th (37 minutes), was initially kept from Fitz's view, that is when Libby dropped his triple payload, as Waas claims. So what were they doing/talking about on July 8th at a secure location, the St. Regis, in person, not on the phone? Waas emphasizes the July 12 date throughout the new article. Some instant declassification must have happened prior to the meeting on the 8th. Something does not make sense here. As you put it:
    Going back to July 8 for a minute. Libby told Fitz of his efforts to make sure he had adequate authorization for disclosing portions of the NIE report to Miller that date. He says he was also directed by Cheney to disclose portions of the CIA's March, 2002 report.
    So why does Waas write this:
    Libby has insisted that the vice president never authorized or told him to discuss Plame's identity. Although Libby discussed Plame with Miller and Cooper on July 12, 2003 -- the same day he says he was authorized by Cheney to leak portions of the NIE and the CIA report -- Libby insists the two actions are unrelated.
    As the terminally addicted already know, empty wheel has a ton of great dope on the Miller Libby et al affair. And of course TL has been on the case since day one.

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 06:36:56 PM EST
    Sure seems he felt he had permission to leak from multiple documents with the blessings of both top officials; or maybe that is an alibi and it was more like the prosecutor is alleging, that it was closer to a Watergate conspiracy the coverup for which begat so many discordant micro-alibis that depositions became fertile soil for discovery of all sorts of fictions. However, this gets into the zone of executive vision, which, if farseeing, thrives upon well based hypotheticals. The miscreances here are, for me, more in the area of teleologies: what the folks were trying to do; how they assembled their research and construed its interpretive portions. As the executive is saying it is the article-2 law unto itself, and the current conflicts are about disruptive territoriless lawless persons, there is little likelihood congress or judiciary will have the will or the forum in which to reveal what actually happened, what people's motives were. Which is to say this is a socially disruptive armed conflict for all parties and nations involved; and that turbidity adds to the instinctive opacity of the current administration. Fitzgerald, evidently, sees ample areas upon which light may be shone.

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 06:56:42 PM EST
    Tl, or anybody who could shed light on; given that Libby's defence team are a heavywieght outfit, why would they consider putting forward a defense based on "Not remembering" This strikes me as feeble in the least,and as regards to credibility, well it's just not, is it? Thanks Oscar.

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#4)
    by squeaky on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 07:44:06 PM EST
    OW- The 'memory defense' was used as a shot of perpetrating a grey mail scheme. Top Secret PDB's and other sensitive WH documents are asked for in discovery. The WH refuses to release them for national security reasons. The case gets dropped. Fitzgerald was careful to limit the charges hedging the need for that intrusive kind of discovery. The PDB's were ruled out by the judge as were a great deal of the other docs the defense wanted. the greymail scheme seems to have failed. At this point the memory defense is working against him.

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#5)
    by Sailor on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 07:54:04 PM EST
    So, who's paying for libby's defense?

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 08:14:38 PM EST
    Barbara Comstock has the list.

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Apr 15, 2006 at 11:42:26 PM EST
    [OT] Oscar, did you try the instructions for linking that I posted here?

    Re: Maestro Cheney: Libby and Cheney's July Conv (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sun Apr 16, 2006 at 04:50:04 AM EST
    Cymro. As of this moment yes, I would have missed it, many thanks. Sailor. Thank you for the email. (same subject) Squeaky. Enlightenment, thank you.