The Times is OK with the lead:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, told a grand jury that he was authorized by his "superiors" to disclose classified information to reporters about Iraq's weapons capability in June and July 2003, according to a document filed by a federal prosecutor.
The document shows that Mr. Libby, known as Scooter, was actively engaged in the Bush administration's public relations effort to rebut complaints that there was little evidence to support the claim that Saddam Hussein possessed or sought weapons of mass destruction, which was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
It is only the details that go awry:
...The prosecutor's note of Jan. 23 does not, however, make any reference to Mr. Libby's involvement in the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity. It seems, rather, to be part of an effort by the prosecutor to demonstrate that Mr. Libby was engaged in using secret information to press the administration's case at the same time that Ms. Wilson's identity was leaked to reporters.
The letter was first reported Thursday by the National Journal, which said its sources had identified that one of the superiors was Mr. Cheney.
"The letter was first reported Thursday by the National Journal"? C'mon, set aside the fact that bloggers have been chewing on that letter for a week; other aspects of this letter have even made it to the mainstream press (WSJ, WaPo, Times). And the notion that the letter does not "make any reference to Mr. Libby's involvement in the disclosure of Ms. Wilson's identity" is absurd.
The National Intelligence Estimate, which was done in October 2002, said that Iraq "will probably have a nuclear weapon during this decade," but it included some dissenting views. The report was classified.
But amid doubts about the rationale for the invasion of Iraq some of which were attributable to Mr. Wilson's Op-Ed article, the administration declassified the report on July 18.
Well, parts of the NIE were declassified - that is almost the same thing.
Mr. Fitzgerald said in his letter that Mr. Libby discussed the contents of the classified report in a July 8 meeting — 10 days before it was declassified — with Judith Miller, then a reporter at The Times. Ms. Miller, who spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to testify in the leak case, has told the grand jury that Mr. Libby told her about Ms. Wilson at the same meeting.
I am certain others were sooner, but Mike Isikoff pointed out that what Libby told Ms. Miller about the NIE was not confirmed by its subsequent release.
OK, enough Times-bashing. The Waas article attracted lots of commentary yesterday, but let me toss in one point. From Waas:
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.
Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
So, Cheney was authorizing Libby to disclose classified info. Keep in mind that de-classification is an Executive Branch function, and let me toss in this from Fitzgerald's now-famous letter (via Byron York). Special Counsel Fitzgerald was explaining the possible importance of Judy Miller's testimony, but had already heard from Administration figures:
To date, we have no direct evidence that Libby knew or believed that Wilson's wife was engaged in covert work.
Let's note that there might be some haze around the phrase "direct evidence" - if, for example, Cheney testified that he told Libby that Ms. Plame was covert, but nothing to that effect shows up in Libby's notes or subsequent conversations, does Fitzgerald have "direct evidence" of Libby's knowledge, or not?
That asked, the Libby indictment notes several conversations between Libby and government officials about Ms. Plame - if anyone had said she was covert, wouldn't that have been mentioned?
"Covert" is word Fitzgerald did not want to use at his press conference, and he did not use it unambiguously in his subsequent correspondence, as noted by both Byron York and Mark Kleiman. Well, I am a broken record on this - until I see actual evidence, I am stuck on the notion that Ms. Plame's status was classified, she had been covert at one time, but as of June/July 2003, she was not a covert agent as defined by the relevant statute.
FWIW, that is a separate question from whether the leak of her CIA role actually harmed national security; Bob Woodward and Andrea Mitchell said no, Fitzgerald is not saying (and does not want to disclose that to Libby's team) but again, who knows?
NOTE: Fitzgerald did pass over this at his press conference; he circled around the topic and delivered something for everyone:
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.
Classified. Got it. How about the Intelligence Identities Protection Act?
...So let me tell you a little bit about how an investigation works.
Investigators do not set out to investigate the statute, they set out to gather the facts.
It's critical that when an investigation is conducted by prosecutors, agents and a grand jury they learn who, what, when, where and why. And then they decide, based upon accurate facts, whether a crime has been committed, who has committed the crime, whether you can prove the crime and whether the crime should be charged.
Agent Eckenrode doesn't send people out when $1 million is missing from a bank and tell them, "Just come back if you find wire fraud." If the agent finds embezzlement, they follow through on that.
Stop it. Either she was covert, as per the statute, or she wasn't. We have had a two year investigation, and that basic point remains unanswered? Please don't tell me you investigate facts, not statutes, and offer a silly bank robbery example - sure, there are lots of ways to rob a bank, but you can't out a covert agent who is not covert.
And by the way - the statute does not say that whether a person is covered by the statute is contingent upon the testimony of the Vice President's Chief of Staff. Her status under the IIPA is a fact independent of the testimony of Libby, Rove, or anyone else in the White House.
A reporter takes this up in the Q and A, with dismal results:
QUESTION: Can you say whether or not you know whether Mr. Libby knew that Valerie Wilson's identity was covert and whether or not that was pivotal at all in your inability or your decision not to charge under the Intelligence Identity Protection Act?
FITZGERALD: Let me say two things. Number one, I am not speaking to whether or not Valerie Wilson was covert. And anything I say is not intended to say anything beyond this: that she was a CIA officer from January 1st, 2002, forward.
I will confirm that her association with the CIA was classified at that time through July 2003. And all I'll say is that, look, we have not made any allegation that Mr. Libby knowingly, intentionally outed a covert agent.
FITZGERALD: We have not charged that. And so I'm not making that assertion.
He may not have charged it, but at the risk of repeating myself - whether she is covered by the statute is not contingent on what is charged - what about the public's right to know?
Of all the leaks of closely held information in Washington, I am astonished that this factoid has been kept quiet.