A Cautious Man
October 29, 2005
 
Bad Scooter Searching For His Groove
If anyone tells you that the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is nothing, because he was not indicted for disclosing that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, tell them to pay attention to what United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had to say yesterday. First, it seems that "Scooter" himself thought that he had done something wrong, because he made up stories to deflect attention from himself, to blame other people, and to keep from disclosing that he had aggressively been "outing" Ms. Plame. He wove an elaborate tale, and he told it again and again, even under oath -
When it was clear that Valerie Wilson's cover had been blown, investigation began. And in October 2003, the FBI interviewed Mr. Libby. Mr. Libby is the vice president's chief of staff. He's also an assistant to the president and an assistant to the vice president for national security affairs.

The focus of the interview was what it that he had known about Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, what he knew about Ms. Wilson, what he said to people, why he said it, and how he learned it.

And to be frank, Mr. Libby gave the FBI a compelling story.

What he told the FBI is that essentially he was at the end of a long chain of phone calls. He spoke to reporter Tim Russert, and during the conversation Mr. Russert told him that, Hey, do you know that all the reporters know that Mr. Wilson's wife works at the CIA?

And he told the FBI that he learned that information as if it were new, and it struck him. So he took this information from Mr. Russert and later on he passed it on to other reporters, including reporter Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on on July 12th, 2003, two days before Mr. Novak's column, that he passed it on understanding that this was information he had gotten from a reporter; that he didn't even know if it was true.

And he told the FBI that when he passed the information on to the reporters he made clear that he did know if this were true. This was something that all the reporters were saying and, in fact, he just didn't know and he wanted to be clear about it.

Later, Mr. Libby went before the grand jury on two occasions in March of 2004. He took and oath and he testified. And he essentially said the same thing.

He said that, in fact, he had learned from the vice president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned the information from Mr. Russert during this phone call he learned it as if it were new.

When he passed the information on to reporters Cooper and Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was just information he received from reporters; that he told reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to another at the long end of a chain of phone calls.

It would be a compelling story that will lead the FBI to go away if only it were true. It is not true, according to the indictment.

In fact, Mr. Libby discussed the information about Valerie Wilson at least half a dozen times before this conversation with Mr. Russert ever took place, not to mention that when he spoke to Mr. Russert, Mr. Russert and he never discussed Valerie Wilson or Wilson's wife.
Now, you may ask, even if he was not indicted under the strict standards of the law against outing a covert agent, did Mr. Libby actually do something wrong? Again, listen to Mr. Fitzgerald -
Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community.

Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life.

The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003.

But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told.

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

...

I can say that for the people who work at the CIA and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected. And they have to expect that when they do their jobs, that information about whether or not they are affiliated with the CIA will be protected.

And they run a risk when they work for the CIA that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees.
...

I will say this: To the CIA people who are going out at a time that we need more human intelligence, I think everyone agrees with that, at a time when we need our spy agencies to have people work there, I think just the notion that someone's identity could be compromised lightly, to me compromises the ability to recruit people and say, Come work for us, come work for the government, come be trained, come invest your time, come work anonymously here or wherever else, go do jobs for the benefit of the country for which people will not thank you, because they will not know, they need to know that we will not cast their anonymity aside lightly.
Come to think of it, is it really so surprising that an Administration official would violate the secrecy of a CIA officer, and lie about it? These people thought nothing of making things up, in order to precipitate a war in which thousands of Americans, and tens of thousands of Iraqis, have lost their lives. What's one more little fib?

To read Mr. Fitzgerald's full remarks, look here (Link to NY Times; you can log in as "Cautiousman" with the password "Cautious").

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