Skip to comments.The CIA-Leak Fiasco. Back where it started, after three years of investigation.
Posted on 08/28/2006 2:38:02 PM PDT by .cnI redruM
On October 3, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell talked to reporters after meeting with Laszlo Kovacs, the foreign minister of Hungary. The meeting went well, with nothing controversial to discuss. It went so well, in fact, that a reporter said to Powell, Mr. Secretary, things are so smooth I thought Id ask you about something else. The State Department is offering to help in the search for the person who leaked the CIA officials name. Can you say something about that situation? How might the State Department help?
We have been asked by the Justice Department, those who are conducting this investigation, to make ourselves available for any purpose that they have, Powell answered. Promising to cooperate fully, Powell added, We are doing our searches in response to the letter we received yesterday, and make ourselves available. Im not sure what they will be looking for or what they wish to contact us about, but we are anxious to be of all assistance to the inquiry.
No one in the press corps knew it at the time, but if a newly published account of the CIA-leak case is accurate, Powell knew much, much more than he let on during that session with the press. Two days earlier, according to Hubris, the new book by the Nations David Corn and Newsweeks Michael Isikoff, Powell had been told by his top deputy and close friend Richard Armitage that he, Armitage, leaked the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak. Armitage had, in other words, set off the CIA-leak affair.
At the time, top administration officials, including President Bush, were vowing to get to the bottom of the matter. But Armitage was already there, and he told Powell, who told top State Department officials, who told the Justice Department. From the first week of October 2003, then, investigators knew who leaked Valerie Plames identity the ostensible purpose of an investigation that still continues, a few months shy of three years after it began.
Justice Department officials also knew who else had spoken to Novak. In that same time period, October 2003, FBI investigators spoke to top White House aide Karl Rove, and Rove told them of a brief conversation with Novak in which Novak brought up learning of Plames place of employment and Rove said he had heard about that, too. So by October 2003 more than two months before the appointment of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald the Justice Department knew who had told Novak about Plame.
ONE FRENZIED WEEK Given the most recent revelation about Armitage no surprise to anyone watching the case plus what was previously known about the leak, the question now is, why did the investigation go on? Why was it expanded, and why was Fitzgerald named, and why does it continue today? Some of the answers can be found in the events of a single, frenzied week at the end of September and beginning of October 2003.
Justice Department officials originally did not want to pursue the case. The CIA first contacted the Department about the Wilson leak shortly after Wilsons identity was revealed in Novaks column on July 14, 2003. Such referrals are often handled quickly by the Department, but it appears the Plame referral languished there for more than two months. And then, on Saturday and Sunday, September 27-28, all hell broke loose, when news leaked that George Tenet had written a letter to the Justice Department about the matter.
On Monday, September 29, 2003, the Washington Post reported that The controversy erupted over the weekend, when administration officials reported that Tenet sent the Justice Department a letter raising questions about whether federal law was broken when the operative, Valerie Plame, was exposed. She was named in a column by Robert D. Novak that ran July 14 in The Post and other newspapers. CIA officials approached the Justice Department about a possible investigation within a week of the columns publication. Tenets letter was delivered more recently.
After the Tenet leak, Democrats in Congress, led by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, demanded an investigation. On September 30, 2003, the Post published a front-page story, Bush Vows Action if Aides Had Role in Leak, which reported that, President Bushs chief spokesman said yesterday that the allegation that administration officials leaked the name of a CIA operative is a very serious matter and vowed that Bush would fire anybody responsible for such actions.
The furor prompted Novak to write another column on the Plame matter. During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why [Joseph] Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger, Novak wrote. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIAs counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger.
According to Hubris, Armitage had gone through the weekend of September 27-28, and then the continued furor on Monday and Tuesday not to mention the previous three months without realizing he was Novaks source. It was only upon reading Novaks no partisan gunslinger column, allegedly, that Armitage knew he was the source and got in touch with Powell.
In any event, the Justice Department moved quickly. In the next two weeks, DOJ investigators interviewed Armitage, Powell, Rove, Lewis Libby, and others. According to Hubris, Armitage told investigators about his talk with Novak, but did not tell them that he had also told the Washington Posts Bob Woodward about Plame. It appears that Armitage did not tell Fitzgerald about his Woodward conversation until November 2005, and then only after Woodward initiated the process.
TRAITORS? NEVER MIND Why did Armitage keep the information from Fitzgerald? In Hubris, Armitages allies hint at the same defense that Lewis Libbys lawyers use to explain why he didnt tell investigators everything: that Plame was a relatively inconsequential part of a big story and was not, as administration critics say, the focus of a White House conspiracy. My sense from Rich is that it was just chitchat, State Department intelligence head told Corn and Isikoff, saying that Armitage had simply f-ked up.
Whatever Armitages motives, the fact that he was the Novak leaker undermines destroys, actually the conspiracy theory of the CIA-leak case. According to Isikoff, in an excerpt of Hubris published in Newsweek: The disclosures about Armitage, gleaned from interviews with colleagues, friends and lawyers directly involved in the case, underscore one of the ironies of the Plame investigation: that the initial leak, seized on by administration critics as evidence of how far the White House was willing to go to smear an opponent, came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone
Its an extraordinary admission coming from Isikoffs co-author Corn, one of the leading conspiracy theorists of the CIA-leak case. The Plame leak in Novaks column has long been cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had misled the American public about the prewar intelligence, Corn and Isikoff write. The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework.
No, it doesnt. Instead, Corn and Isikoff argue that after Armitage got the ball rolling, his actions abetted a White House that was already attempting to undermining Joseph Wilson. Thats a long way from the cries of Traitor! that came from the administrations critics during the CIA-leak investigation.
WHY LIBBY AND NOT ARMITAGE? Of course, investigators knew that all along. So why did the investigation continue? And why was Libby ultimately indicted, and not Armitage?
It appears that Libbys early statements raised investigators suspicions. Early on, once the FBI started asking questions, Armitage told investigators he talked to Novak. Rove told investigators he talked to Novak. The CIAs Bill Harlow told investigators he talked to Novak. Their stories, along with Novaks description of how he learned about Plame (Novak talked to investigators at the same time, describing the process, but not naming sources), all lined up pretty well.
And then came Libby. During that same October time period, Libby who was not Novaks source told investigators he learned about Plame from Tim Russert. According to the Libby indictment, Libby said that Russert asked Libby if Libby was aware that Wilsons wife worked for the CIA. Although Libby wasnt one of Novaks sources, his story didnt fit with the others, and that would most likely make investigators suspect that somebody wasnt telling the truth. In this case, it probably appeared that person was Libby.
Ultimately, Libby was indicted on perjury and obstruction charges. But at the time Fitzgerald indicted Libby, at the end of October 2005, he did not know that Armitage had not told investigators about his, Armitages, conversation with Woodward. According to Hubris, Fitzgerald then re-investigated Armitage, finally deciding not to charge him with any crime.
Why? Certainly it appears that no one committed any crimes by revealing Plames identity, and one could argue that the Justice Department should not have gone forward with a wide-ranging investigation after it discovered Novaks sources. But if Fitzgerald was going to indict Libby, then why not Armitage, too?
The answer may lie in the bitter conflict inside the administration over the war in Iraq that is the backdrop to the entire CIA-leak affair. Armitages allies have made it clear that they believe Armitage is a good leaker while Rove, Libby, and others in the White House are bad leakers. We do not know what CIA and State Department officials told Fitzgerald during the investigation, but we do know that fevered imaginings about the terrible acts of the neocon cabal were not the exclusive province of left-wing blogs; they were also present inside the State Department and CIA. Fitzgerald may have chosen the course that he did appearing to premise his investigation on the conspiracy theorists accusations because he was pointed in that direction by the White Houses enemies inside and outside the administration.
But now, after all the investigating, all the work, and the setting of terrible precedents for forcing reporters to testify in court or go to jail, the CIA-leak case hasnt moved much beyond where it was in that frenzied week in October 2003. And unlike the old independent counsels, who were required by law to issue a report on their investigation, Fitzgerald has no obligation to explain his actions to anyone. Some questions that are unanswered now might well remain unanswered forever.
There is no legal standard by which these independent counsel investigations are conducted. This was a witch-hunt from jump street.
The paragraph..."And then came Libby".....I can't make heads or tails of what Byron is writing!! What didn't fit about Russert and Libby??
Imagine if they had been investigating definite organized crime figures we know were guilty as hell. We would applaud them for nailing one of the bad guys on incidental perjury. The analogy falls down completely because the investigators' prejudice in this case is based on a gross misunderstanding of the decision to invade Iraq.
It needs to be made clear that Fitz has made huge mistakes.
Powell/Armitage let MILLIONS and MILLIONS of DOLLARS be spent and a woman went to JAIL, Judith Miller, and Libby will go to prison after having to spend a million on lawyers, Rove and Cheney had to spebd TONS of money....all because Powell/Armitage didn't tell the truth right away!!
This is a hoax investigation. First, as the article makes clear, Fitz knew who the leaker was three years ago.
Secondly, the CIA confirmed her employment over the phone to a reporter. If the CIA confirms your employment over the phone, you are not covert.
The investigation was a hoax. Fitz should be brought up on charges.
And the people in the CIA and State Department who have purposefully harmed this administration are going to go unpunished, despite the fact that they are obligated by law to follow what the administration wants done. Disgusting traitors!
Libby said he heard about Plame from Tim Russert, and I'll bet the farm that he did. Unfortunately, Russert has the bully pulpit and the media all side with him. Of course the media never lies.
Libby's loss of freedom will not bother the media one whit, if that is what ultimately happens. They serve a God higher than truth and justice. It is spelled Democrat.
Powell has not been a "friend" to Bush from the get-go, it seems like..
AND, Powell and Armitage are advisors on JOHN MCCAIN'S POTUS campaign staff...
"...that the initial leak...came from a man who had no apparent intention of harming anyone
Because Plame had not been working undercover overseas in the preceding 5 years, the statute *did not apply.* It was meant to stop loons like Phillip Agee from outing people overseas and them getting killed by rebels/revolutionaries/etc. Everybody on both sides of this is smart enough to know this...I can't understand why the Adminisration didn't say "STFU we didn't break any laws."
There have been theories that this was a SOROS plan, using the CIA..and Plame and Wilson to get to Bush...
Diabolical...but certainly possible..considering this turn of events.
However, I wouldn't absolve Powell and Armitage of guilt...THEY should have told Bush...he asked anyone that knew anything to come forward...and it would have been nice if they would have told HIM.
This entire thing was an unmitigated crock of crapola and everyone knows it. This woman was not under cover and had been out of service for more than five years birthing a couple of kids. I find it difficult that no one had a pair of those spherical objects big enough to step up and say so.
I think the only thing that could bring justice to this crap is for Fitzgerald to be disbarred for prosecutorial misconduct. Now THAT would be justice. A ridiculous waste of taxpayer money over a scandal that never was.
Apparently, Russert's remembrance of the meeting doesn't jibe with Libby's.
In which case, for reasons of his own, Fitzgerald has chosen to believe Russert and not Libby -- even though a perjury and obstruction case predicated on "He said, she said" is pretty thin prosecutorial gruel.
What's worst is the Fact most Americans will still believe it was Rove and Libby.This message will not reach Americans as it should because this Administration NEVER fights back.
Just one more reason not to support McQueeg.
As if I needed one...
What to make of Larry O'Donnell's insane rantings?
O'Donnell, Plame and Rove
Larry O'Donnell, the Pouter,
Blames Karl for Valerie's outer
Larry spits and he spins
Weaving "outs" out of "ins"
But he can't change the mind of this doubter.
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