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March 05, 2004

Comments

rlm

You were right -- it looks like the White House Iraq Group is in the middle of this.

The Newsday story opens up a lot of interesting lines:

Was the Air Force One telephone used to out Plame while Bush was on his 5 day Africa trip? If so, this scandal starts to get uncomfortably close to Bush. We know that Ari and Condi travelled with Bush. Who else was on the plane?

Five reporters are named, including a couple of new ones.

Since the Ford birthday celebration on July 16 was an occasion to honor Alan Greenspan, it is probable that Andrea Mitchell was there. Maybe someone from WHIG took her aside an whispered in her ear about Plame being "fair game."

TM

The Novak column was published on the 14th; the Corn response came out on the 16th. Ms. Plame really was "fair game" at that point, although the investigation also covers reporters from TIME and Newsday, who reported a bit later.

I can feel my thinking cap not working here. I can't guess why someone from the Vice-President's staff would be on the trip, which seems to help Libby; OTOH, the Air Force One telephone logs might just be sought to complete the file, so to speak. And if Libby (back in Washington?) talked to Rice or Bush, so what? They surely have other things to chat about beside Amb. Wilson.

Looks like I picked a bad day to give up crystal meth.

Cecil Turner

Super coverage! I'm not sure what it all means, but this is definitely the place to get the scoop. Thanks, TM.

TM

And a "Welcome back" to Mr. Turner himself. I'm taking heart from the fact that this story isn't grabbing you as key-critical, either.

stiffled

Newsday has just posted a follow-up story. And I think it's bigger than you realize.

The Fleischer briefing is supportive evidence that there was a conscious discredit-Wilson strategy before the Novak column saw print. And if any of those Air Force One calls were to certain reporters ...

Cecil Turner

Sorry Swopa, I don't see it. Fleischer pointed out some of the same glaring inconsistencies in Wilson's story we've been belaboring for months. (E.g., "Niger" isn't the same as "Africa," and "pursued" isn't the same as "bought.") If there's anything incriminating about the gaggle, it's that Fleischer clearly isn't very well-versed on the subject, and appears to have had material provided by someone else.

TM

That's a good point, "stiffled". Fleischer mentions Wilson at the July 7 press briefing; Tenet describes the Wilson report on July 11; and then Fleischer is a lot more critical of Wilson on July 12, and refers to Tenet's report.

If Tenet's report signaled open season on Wilson, it's easy to believe some of the African trippers were involved in at least discussing how the Wilson angle should be presented. OTOH, Ms. Rice, July 13, doesn't slam Wilson.

As an aside, the July 12 transcript has found its proper home on the WH website. Spooky.

stiffled

Another note -- the official White House line, as quoted by Joshua Marshall and the WaPo, is that they are "still in the process of complying fully" with the subpoenas.

TM

Well, a "nothing to worry about" argument would be that we always knew the WH phone logs and contacts would be subpoenaed; once we are reminded that a big chunk of the WH staff was on the African trip, those phone records come into play too.

*Very* modest support for the "no big deal" theory comes from this description of Air Force One communications, the gist of which seems to be, the sytem seems to connect back to the WH switchboard, which then completes the call to the wider world. If that is still true, the relevant phone records would be with the WH switchboard in Washington anyway, and what is taking so long to comply?

Cecil Turner

TM,

White House communications is a zoo, especially on a trip. For example, they have to be ready to run a nuclear war from wherever the President is, and that requires a bunch of complex, highly encrypted comm links. They also have to switch into the State Department comm links for the diplomats. All the logs are classified, and it's all very sensitive. AIUI the brains of the system are all back at the White House, but in any event it's not a simple matter of running down to the local phone company. Like the earlier requests for daily briefings, these very quickly run into high-level national security considerations, and those who don't appreciate that are unfamiliar with the process.

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