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October 19, 2005

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Jimmy's Attack Rabbit

Me thinks the ratings for Nadagate must be pretty good for the Plame Broadcasting Network. However, you should advise readers to wrap their heads with Ace Bandages when trying to comprehend all the nooks and crannies of this meaningless story.

Prediction: No indictments.

Neo

The NYT is reporting that there will be no final report. No surprise as the Special Prosecutor Law has expired and DOJ rules for investigations don't allow for final reports, only indictments, if any.

I find it amazing that anyone thought there might be a report. Any reporter that has spent time at DOJ would know this, but the political junkies are still living in the (blank)gate days.

Given the reading of tea leaves that has surrounded this investigation, especially since prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hasn't had any leaks (of note), this whole story has amounted to listening to reporters talk to themselves. This might be considered a real test of sanity, as reporters have conjectured based on the own grand jury testimony.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the White House continues to "leak", the CIA continues to "leak", and the reporters continue to "leak." As the President is the final authority on classified status of US secrets, the White House "leaks" might be legal, the CIA "leaks" are probably criminal and the reporters "leaks" are just insane.

Syl

I glazed over on this one.

We'll never know exactly what Judy said, or see her notes. We'll never know what Libby really said either. Or Rove, or Wilson, or anyone else.

Ever.

All of this...all the complexity...all the myriad players and opiners...all of it boils down to the simple fact we have to believe that one man, along with an unknown GJ, can sort it out.

Well, that's our system.

And I believe we have the best system around.

But sometimes, it sure can be frustrating. Especially in a case where the press, on whom we depend to keep us informed, is so deeply involved in the very matter themselves that we don't trust their own reporting of it.

It's going to be difficult to rid ourselves of the taste of this one, no matter the outcome.


Syl

Brainfart time. It just hit me that I've never noticed any report of notes Libby might be going from. No info, no reporting. But not even a mention that 'his notes say'. Rove had the email to Hadley re Cooper. There were phone logs for other conversations I suppose.

But Libby met Judy in person twice. She took notes. Did he?

Cecil Turner

Now, I happen to think that Libby's apparent failure to disclose the June 23 meeting creates a significant legal problem for him.

That's looks to be the conventional wisdom, but I think it depends on unpublished details. If Libby and Miller talked on a regular basis, and the Prosecutor was focused on the July meetings (which he was, at least initially), then the question is more about whether and how Plame was discussed at the first meeting. And Judy's published report of her testimony does not appear to me to be sufficient to support a "he-said/she-said" perjury charge. In particular "Flame" and "bureau" stand out as incorrect detail with questionable timestamps, which tends to shade the credibility of the rest of it.

Also, there's no obvious reason for trying to hide that particular meeting. (Although it might tend to bolster a longer-running conspiracy charge, there's plenty of time for a conspiracy from July 8-12.) And again, the focus on July was apparently originally supplied by Fitzgerald. It seems to me the greater legal jeopardy is from either proving an underlying crime, or if any of that could be seen as coaching the witnesses. (Aspens rooting together, perhaps?) BTW, I admire your canastas for tilting at Murray again (good initiative . . . judgment to be assessed later).

Jim E.

"pre-emptive and innoculative leaks are the norm in Washington. If Libby's side thought that Judy's story would be leaked as 'Libby told me', the standard ploy in Washington would be to leak that news first, in order to control the timing, present the news sympathetically, and soften the blow."

Of course, lying is the "norm" in Washington, too. But the context for this isn't just politics, but the GJ. Libby had a lot of time to leak his side. Why right before Miller testified? If he was concerned with teh news cycle, he could just as easily leaked WHILE she testifying, so that it appeared after her GJ appearance. I no clue if what Libby did amounts to a crime, but it is certainly suspicious. I highly doubt that Libby was concerned with the news coverage.

boris

But he added that the C.I.A. "took it upon itself to try and figure out more" by sending a "clandestine guy" to Niger to investigate. I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I thought "clandestine guy" was a reference to Mr. Wilson

So, did the names Wilson or "Flame" get mentioned June 23 ??? Unclear from the telling of this professional journalist.

TCO

How often did Wilson and Miller meet (on any subject)? What were the dates. That is a natural next qestion.

From "home team side", there may be some hope that Libby just forgot a detail or that Miller and Libby have differing recollections (it is odd that she says "my notes say" several times to the GJ, rather than "I remember"). And interpreting notes can be a hazard. I make notes to myself while listening to someone talk. It's not a perfect transcript. Still the pattern here with Libby is disturbing (press secretary lie to public, Miller in jail, discrepancy on Jun22 and on mention of name, Tate/Abrahms, etc.) Even if it was no big deal or if Libby et al never intended to "out" Plame (and I find it very hard to beleive that it was other than a mistake...the NOC issue), Libby has shown some ass (I think ). So maybe he needs to go.

TM

It just hit me that I've never noticed any report of notes Libby might be going from.

A good and potentially damaging point. From the NY Times in Feb 2004:

Armed with handwritten White House notes, detailed cellphone logs and copies of e-mail messages between White House aides and reporters, prosecutors have demanded explanations of conversations between aides and reporters for some of the country's largest news organizations that under ordinary circumstances would never be publicly discussed. So far, no reporter has been questioned or subpoenaed.

One set of documents that prosecutors repeatedly referred to in their meetings with White House aides are extensive notes compiled by I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and national security adviser. Prosecutors have described the notes as "copious," the lawyers said.

I took that to be notes of WHIG meetings. But, upon reflection, if it is notes about everything Libby did and everyone he talked to, he might have a big problem if his June 23 with Miller had disappeared from his notes, day planner, etc.

Cecil Turner

Still the pattern here with Libby is disturbing (press secretary lie to public, Miller in jail, discrepancy on Jun22 and on mention of name . . .

The Press Secretary statement was about “leaking classified information” (which is at worst "not proven"), Miller waiting for a personalized version of the waiver never made a lot of sense, and the details on the June 23 meeting are still pretty hazy. Mentioning the name is pretty much a non-issue (probably only proffered to substantiate the claim he didn't know her status)--it obviously has no legal impact on the act of "outing."

Libby has shown some ass (I think ). So maybe he needs to go.

I generally don't agree with tossing people overboard (unless it becomes such a distraction that it affects governance--in this case that's moot, since the distraction would not leave with Libby). If he's indicted (or, even if not, if details emerge of dishonorable or unethical behavior), then he ought to go. But I don't think we're there . . . yet.

TM

From CT:

If Libby and Miller talked on a regular basis, and the Prosecutor was focused on the July meetings (which he was, at least initially), then the question is more about whether and how Plame was discussed at the first meeting.

I would like to think so, but apparently Judy had been in Iraq. From her Times account:

In June 2003 I had just returned from Iraq, where I had been embedded with a special military unit charged with finding Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons. Now I was assigned to a team of reporters at The Times examining why no such weapons had been found.

More CT:

In particular "Flame" and "bureau" stand out as incorrect detail with questionable timestamps, which tends to shade the credibility of the rest of it.

I will say this - Ms. Miller clearly notes Libby referring to Wilson as "clandestine guy" early on. Thereafter, her notes refer to Wilson, but it is not completly clear (maybe I am in denial) that Libby was using the name - maybe Miller knew the name (from Kristof?), and used it in her own notes.

Now, naming Wilson was probably not a crime. But the meeting does seem to be relevant to the investigation, and it was a meeting, not a phone call, so how did Libby forget?

From Jim E:

But the context for this isn't just politics, but the GJ. Libby had a lot of time to leak his side. Why right before Miller testified? If he was concerned with the news cycle, he could just as easily leaked WHILE she testifying, so that it appeared after her GJ appearance.

Presumably, they would have leaked it earlier if they thought it would help, which adds to the idea that they would prefer not to see this discussed.

Even if it was no big deal or if Libby et al never intended to "out" Plame (and I find it very hard to beleive that it was other than a mistake...the NOC issue), Libby has shown some ass

I still don't think we have any conclusive evidence (leaked by the defendant's side) suggesting that they knew she was a NOC, and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

And I don't like the idea of indicting exclusively for weak cooperation with the investigation.

But as you say, Libby is not standing up as Mr. Clean here.

TM

BTW, I admire your canastas for tilting at Murray again (good initiative . . . judgment to be assessed later).

I can't be wrong everytime!

And if I keep doubling, I only need to be right the last time.

kim

It's bad enough to be the recipient of 'I told you so', but when you weren't, and it isn't so, and the IED who told you so can't be touched without blowing up in your face, then you are in a quandary. Was this trap deliberate or just a part of Joe's general incendiariness?

We'll probably just have to depend on the wisdom of Fitz.
====================================

Anonymous Liberal

Your point about Libby's notes is a good one. It's surprising that no one has mentioned those recently.

As for your attempt to spread the blame to the Times for leaking Libby's testimony, I'm not sure that's fair. My guess is that the Times originally refused to print the testimony for the reasons stated in Waas' article. But then when they saw that the Post had already let the cat out of the bag, they included the testimony in their next story. They had the information, and it had already been printed elsewhere. The damage, if any, had already been done. So they printed what they knew.

Cecil Turner

Now, naming Wilson was probably not a crime. But the meeting does seem to be relevant to the investigation, and it was a meeting, not a phone call, so how did Libby forget?

An "I forgot about the meeting" defense would not be very persuasive. But a "we never discussed Plame at that meeting, I didn't think it pertinent, and you never asked" might well work (especially if it happened to be true). Especially if they had had more meetings than just those three (and there's considerable speculation that Miller's sources for her pre-war reporting were Libby&co, though good point about the embedding from late March to early June).

And if I keep doubling, I only need to be right the last time.

Gutsy call, man (but I'd recommend against trying out that theory in Vegas). Murray has skills (or possibly a better source than he admits).

windansea

Interesting article by Byron York

money quote

"At the end of the day," says the former intelligence official, "this could end up being a situation where there wasn't a crime until there was an investigation."

http://www.nationalreview.com/york/york200510190902.asp

kim

I find that idea, windansea, compelling, and it ties in with my idea that it was Joe's hysteria that catapulted this from reasonable debate to catastrophe. And the press was delinquent.
==============================================

"At the end of the day," says the former intelligence official, "this could end up being a situation where there wasn't a crime until there was an investigation."

I think this was Syl's theory as well

kim

Didn't Byron credit syl?
==========================

windansea

something that bothers me about this whole affair...any criticism aimed at any administration that involves a covert CIA employee cannot be refuted if the pushback leads to the identity of the operative

in this case, let's say Valerie Plame is both overt (WINNPAC) and covert (WMD DO)

if you were trying to refute a lie or impression that "Dick Cheney sent me" and this lead to "his wife at the CIA Valerie Plame recommended him" then basically you are screwed.

cathyf
...(it is odd that she says "my notes say" several times to the GJ, rather than "I remember"). And interpreting notes can be a hazard. I make notes to myself while listening to someone talk. It's not a perfect transcript...
I'll add my own personal example -- I sing in groups, and there have been numerous occasions when we have pulled out some piece of sheet music, and there are notes all over it in my handwriting, but I have no memory whatsoever of ever having heard the song before. This is rather an interesting broader question of law and neurobiology. The neurologists tell us that memory functions in a particular way: There is a short-term memory which is on a 15-minute loop. It is detailed and very accurate. Depending upon the activity which the short-term memory generates in the brain, the brain will copy some part (rarely all) of the memory into a completely different part of the brain which stores long-term memories. So all memories are completely forgotten from short-term memory every 15 minutes. (The exception would be in autism -- the inability to delete short-term memory is profoundly disabling.) If none of the memory is copied during the 15-minute window, then the memory is just gone. Not partially gone, not hazy -- that's what happens to the small fraction of stuff you copy partially into long-term memory. The vast majority of thoughts in your brain are recycled out without any long-term memory being made. The repressed-memory recovery "experts" are simply charletens. There are not repressed memories, these memories are simply gone.

Now certainly courts have been willing to admit testimony based upon "recovered" memories, and have even sent people to jail if the witness was testifying under oath and convinced the jury that the memories were real. The reason I say that this is broadly interesting is that our legal system places great weight upon the testimony of witnesses, and assumes that they are either lying or telling the truth. The problem is that the science tells us that these people may have been there, but they are not really witnesses in the sense that the law assumes them to be, in that they have a detailed picture of the events stored in their memories. The science tells us that even our permanent "memories" consist of storing the high points of the occurence in our brains, and then filling in the missing data using a combination of logic, intuition and other memories of similar events whenever we are called upon to produce the narrative of a particular event. Compare that against the witness's oath to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." The assumption in law is that an eyewitness can tell us everything that happened (the whole truth) when the science tells us that about the only folks who physically can do this are the autistic. Who are generally the least "credible" as witnesses because they are mentally "handicapped."

If Fitzgerald is really going to call it perjury when someone writes something in their notes and then testifies under oath that he/she doesn't remember what happened, he is going to have a pretty tough time getting a conviction. As long as the jury is not completely autistic, the members will all have ample personal experience that the reason that you take notes is because you normally forget most things, and that the rare people who are neurologically different and have photographic memories don't take notes. Normal people know that it is hard to remember things even though you think they are important, which is why you have to study in order to learn. If the defense is that the person didn't think that the fact was important, the prosecutor is going to have a pretty hard sell that the defendent forgetting the fact in question, and indeed acting in a way (taking notes) that showed that he expected to forget the facts, somehow is evidence that the defendent thought that the fact was important.

Maybe somewhere there is a jury that will buy a prosecutorial theory that it's a conspiracy when nobody could remember the conspiracy at the time and nobody remembers it later.

cathy :-)

Gary Maxwell

TM

This whole thing has become like a chronically leaky faucett. Its annoying but not a big deal. I wish Fitzgerald would go ahead and do whatever he intends to do at this point.

Obstruction of justice charges are the only thing that this whole steaming pile is going to produce? Surely we are in another parellel dimension now.

Boy and girls, let this be instructive on why many attorneys refuse to allow their clients to testify. Your own words can be used against you and you can be accused of some devious intent to withhold info even if the truth is that you just forgot.

If Fitzgerald goes forward the whole way Washington operates will be fundamentally changed. Leakers will likely send stealth couriers with unsigned written messages that never can be traced in reporters notes. The news will be full of more, not less, annonymous sources and the press will be less certain of the accuracy of rumors and leaks.

kim

Why the ancients scorched tougues to determine guilt or innocence. More accurate than memory.

Windansea. Let's hope Goss is improving things. Your little immunity(on top of the marital immunity in this case) is a structural problem that must be addressed. The question in this case is has that immunity been abused for political attack.
=========================================

Patrick R. Sullivan

'...maybe Miller knew the name (from Kristof?), and used it in her own notes.'

In fact, she said the name was known to Washington insiders. And, the Valerie Flame reference is not in the section of her notebook where she took the notes during her interview of Libby, but in another section amidst references to Iraq and WMD.

Also, since Judy came to the OEB on June 23rd there almost certainly is a record of her visit, so it's hard to imagine Libby trying to keep it a secret.

cathyf

Nah, kim, the tongue-scorching technique still rests upon the same underlying assumption: the people there know what happened, and they are either lying or telling the truth. Neither the ancients nor moderns seem to allow what appears to be the truth in many cases: the people who were there have little or no more memory of what happened than the other 6 billion people who weren't there. If there are notes, then the reader of the notes who also happens to be the writer of the notes knows no more or less about the events described in the notes than any other person who reads the notes.

So Cooper testifies that his call to Rove had nothing to do with welfare reform. Rove testifies that he never talked to Cooper that he remembers. Then Rove finds an email detailing the call including the welfare reform part and amends his testimony. If you believe that everyone remembers everything in perfect detail and the only explanation for differing stories is lying, then you take this to mean Cooper and/or Rove must be lying. If you know biology this account is perfectly plausible. Rove forgot the entirety of the meeting, including that it happened at all, and the only information he has is what he read in the email. Cooper forgot some or all of the meeting, and has only his notes, and he didn't write down welfare reform. Neither are lying; it's simply that Rove and perhaps also Cooper are no better informed about the phone call than any other readers of the notes & emails.

cathy :-)

TCO

Cathy,

There is also a danger of reconstructing the memories. Let's say Miller can't remember, but sees notes, now she "remembers" and then she comes out with a statement that it is in the notes and she remembers. But the notes may be ambigous and her reconstructed memory faulty. There were enough points in her article where she did not seem to remember the discussion in detail that at this time, I'd be very hesitant about her being a strong witness for perjury.

DerKommisar

Put your red pen through this.

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."

Remarks By George H.W. Bush
41st President of the United States,
At the Dedication Ceremony for the George Bush Center for Intelligence, 1999.

http://www.cia.gov/cia/public_affairs/speeches/1999/bush_speech_042699.html

Cecil Turner

The science tells us that even our permanent "memories" consist of storing the high points of the occurence in our brains, and then filling in the missing data using a combination of logic, intuition and other memories of similar events whenever we are called upon to produce the narrative of a particular event.

Excellent point. From personal experience (crash investigation) the assertion from a witness that an airplane was on fire in the air is totally unreliable. Apparently people see a fiery crash, replay the event in their minds, and move the fire backward in time to explain the crash. (There's an old adage: if 9 out of 10 witnesses claim an airborne fire, throw away their statements and interview the tenth guy.)

windansea

another thing that bothers me

many on the left argue that you cannot reveal ANY CIA employee's name without first checking with CIA to see if they are a NOC

some even argue that you can't even say "Joe Wilson's wife at the CIA"

we know that Novak did indeed check and first got confirmation, then a "warning" not to print her name.

the "answer" to this seems to be "that guy at the CIA made a mistake"

that's it????

kim

cf: I think(guess) the ancients were more sophisticated than we suspect. I think the technique did not depend on the memory of the suspect or witnesses; the ancients ran into the same problems with memory that we have now. Instead, the suspect would know whether or not they were capable of the crime as presented to them at trial(easy if you did it) and their tongue would tell the story. Similar in concept to a lie detector test, in that it depends on a physiological, unconsciously controlled, mechanism.
===================================================

cathyf

Ok, this is wandering off-topic, but what the heck, I'm waiting for a long compile and I find it interesting... :-)

In the whole "recovered memory" schtick, the biology works something like this: there is yet a third kind of memory, which records hindbrain things, like emotions, and repetitive actions, like how to play a particular musical piece. The mechanics of copying memories from short-term to long-term memory rely on neurotransmitters which fail in the presence of extreme trauma. Which is why people in accidents frequently "blank out" all memories the entire event, and sometimes several hours before the event. More importantly, it is why crime victims can blank out the entire crime if it was sufficiently emotionally traumatic. But that 3rd hindbrain memory works on different pathways and isn't disabled by trauma. What happens is that people have these sort-of-like memories of traumatic events, and then they will use logic, intuition & similar memories to fill in the blanks. And since this is the normal way that normal people's brains function, the person is not necessarily aware of the extent to which he or she is simply inventing details. This is a very serious problem when it comes to criminal justice, especially when the crime is horrific and we most want to make sure that the perpetrator is caught and punished. We are putting huge amounts of pressure on the victim to come up with the details which will allow us to identify the perpetrator, but those details may not actually exist in the victim's brain. Even if we're not burning tongues, we are nonetheless bullying people into supplying something that they simply may not have.

cathy :-)

kim

I have little doubt you are right. I'll bet tongue scorching was for minor crimes and horrific ones got instant retribution.
================================================

kim

OK back on topic. The correct solution way back then was for the press to expose Joe as the maniac he is, and do some pavement pounding a la Rossett y Duelfer to discover how dangerous Saddam was. Instead, in the knowledge that he was no longer dangerous, they chose to pick on the hero who defanged him.

Now, thanks to the press, we have justice delayed, justice become impossible.
=================================================

Jim E.

Patrick Sullivan wrote: "[Miller] said the name was known to Washington insiders."

Could you provide a citation for this? I've never heard that.

Sullivan also wrote: The Flame name was in "another section [of the notebook] amidst references to Iraq and WMD."

Citation?

Cecil Turner

Citation?

They're google-resistant, but the second appears to be based on Miller's article on her testimony:

I testified that I did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby, in part because the notation does not appear in the same part of my notebook as the interview notes from him.

Jim E.

I was more interested in the part of the notebook: "amidst references to Iraq and WMD."

TM

Also, since Judy came to the OEB on June 23rd there almost certainly is a record of her visit, so it's hard to imagine Libby trying to keep it a secret.

Interesting point that may work against Libby - if he was asked about that meeting specifically, and said it had nothing to do with Wilson and Niger, he could be in more trouble than if he had not mentioned it at all.

Where I'm stuck is that Fitzgerald put the two other conversations in the subpoena, per DoJ guidelines, and based, almost certainly, on Libby's testimony. If he knew about the third , why not subpoena it?

clarice

If he was operating on the theory that Plame was "outed" in retaliation for his op ed revelations, the dates in the subpoena make sense--they run from the op ed to the time Novak sent his piece in for publication.

The June meeting contradicts that scenario. It indicates the WH was more concerned with refuting the lie that Cheney sent Wilson.

Don't forget in May Pincus and Kristof were already writing up Wilson's lies sourcing them as anonymous and on June 14, 2003 (EPIC speech) Wilson states publicly he was that source.

cathyf
The June meeting contradicts that scenario. It indicates the WH was more concerned with refuting the lie that Cheney sent Wilson.
I don't see it, clarice. In Wilson's fantasy world, the persecution/outting would have been planned as soon as the WH knew it was him, which would certainly have been by the time of the EPIC dinner. Which makes the subpeona of just the July dates curiouser and curiouser. If Fitzgerald had Libby's notes, then he should have known he met with Miller in June and so why didn't he put that date in the subpeona?

cathy :-)

Cecil Turner

Where I'm stuck is that Fitzgerald put the two other conversations in the subpoena, per DoJ guidelines, and based, almost certainly, on Libby's testimony. If he knew about the third , why not subpoena it?

Maybe he, like me, was fixated on the INR memo being passed around AF1 (on the 7th?), and not really focused on anything before that? I'd also like to know why Miller didn't testify about it initially, then found it in her notes. That's no more plausible than Libby forgetting it, especially considering she went to his office. The other interesting thing, on re-reading her account, is that Libby initially referred to Wilson as "clandestine guy," but she wrote down "Joe Wilson." I'm not sure how much of the confusion is just sloppy writing, but this is giving me a headache.

 topsecretk9

You know, Judy's notebook might have been to Judy, what Rove's Cooper email was for Rove.

or has that already been hashed out?

Cecil Turner

The other interesting thing, on re-reading her account, is that Libby initially referred to Wilson as "clandestine guy," but she wrote down "Joe Wilson."

Which TM had just pointed out. To me. [sheesh] I'd better go get another cup of coffee.

cathyf

If Miller's is a lousy note-taker, and neither party has any actual memory of what actually was said, it may be that no one knows what was said in the meeting.

(But why the heck would she spend 85 days in jail if she doesn't actually remember anything particularly germane?)

cathy :-)

Neo

It seems obvious to me that there is a need for a national Standard on Note taking.

While there probably is a federal rule covering phone logs, memos and e-mails, there probably is not a note taking rule as to proper form and style of the notes. Likewise, the NYT probably has some standards, but is equally absent of form and style rules.

Perhaps the DOJ can formulate a standard of note taking for the purpose of future criminal prosecutions which can be adopted by the news media, federal agencies and the various criminal/political organizations worldwide, including al Qaeda and other NGOs.

LOL

boris

cathy :-)
we have pulled out some piece of sheet music, and there are notes all over it in my handwriting, but I have no memory whatsoever of ever having heard the song before.

You must be related to our keyboard player.

Ibelyle

Clarice,
"The June meeting contradicts that scenario. It indicates the WH was more concerned with refuting the lie that Cheney sent Wilson."

What lie? Do you have a cite for this comment?

kim

I've got one. It's a little tale called 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf'.
=================================================

clarice

Ibelyle,
Wilson's earliest comments were that he was sent in response to a Cheney inquiry, that he reported back facts contrary to those used in the SOTU address, that those findings were delivered to the VP and were ignored.

All of these statements were debunked by the SSCI.

windansea

Ibelyle

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/337paflu.asp

jukeboxgrad

Clarice: "Wilson's earliest comments were that he was sent in response to a Cheney inquiry ... [this statement was] debunked by the SSCI"

Here's what SSCI said: "Officials from the CIA’s DO Counterproliferation Division (CPD) told Committee staff that in response to questions from the Vice President’s Office and the Departments of State and Defense on the alleged Iraq-Niger uranium deal, CPD officials discussed ways to obtain additional information [portion redacted] who could make immediate inquiries into the reporting, CPD decided to contact a former ambassador to Gabon who had a posting early in his career in Niger."

Someone please explain how "sent in response to a Cheney inquiry" is not a fair paraphrase of the preceding paragraph. Let me highlight the key passage: "in response to questions from the Vice President’s Office."

jukeboxgrad

Jim E, you asked Patrick to back up some interesting assertions he made. I'd like to chime in and point out that it was Patrick who some time ago went out on a limb and said "the righties have better command of the facts and logic," virtually at the exact moment he was demonstrating precisely the opposite. (This is summarized here; just see the last 4 paragraphs).

So my suggestion is that you shouldn't hold your breath waiting for Patrick to come up with proof.

windansea

ok Jukester...lets concede that Wilson did not say he "was sent by Cheney"

how do you explain Wilson talking in detail about the forged niger docs 8 months before we had them??

jukeboxgrad

"how do you explain Wilson talking in detail about the forged niger docs 8 months before we had them??"

In an overall murky picture, I find the subplot regarding forged documents to be the murkiest part. In other words, I don't pretend to have a firm understanding of that aspect. Nevertheless, here are some comments.

You say "before we had them." This reflects the conventional wisdom, which is that the first time US hands ever came near these forged documents (or information drawn from them) was 10/02. Trouble is, that narrative leaves some perplexing facts that are hard to explain. One of these facts is that 7/7/2000 was a Friday, not a Wednesday.

The relevance of this fact is explained here. The point being made is that this exact date error (a reference to 7/7/2000 as a Wednesday) appears not only in the forged Nigerien documents (which supposedly weren't in US hands until 10/02) but also (according to SSCI) in a US intelligence report dated 3/02, discussing the exact same subject matter.

The odds of this happening by chance are obviously very small. Tom Maguire has his own theory (link), which I find unconvincing, and which raises more questions than it answers.

Aside from this matter of the odd date, the source I cited above provides a bunch of other arguments (some of which impress me more than others) to suggest that certain people in the IC had access to these documents (or information directly derived from them) prior to 10/02, and perhaps well-before 2/02.

So here's my attempt to put this part of the story together. Certain parts of what follows (it should be obvious which parts) are pure speculation on my part.

The forged documents (or information derived from them) were indeed in certain US hands well before 10/02. At the time of his trip, or shortly after, Wilson received information about these documents (perhaps just certain details). Maybe he wasn't supposed to have access to this information (maybe it was leaked to him via his wife, for example). Wilson suspected the documents to be forgeries and did indeed try to report this within the CIA, but was mostly ignored. Maybe he was not emphatic in his forgery alarm, perhaps because he had come upon only limited information about the errors in the documents, or perhaps because he came upon the information via unofficial means (and therefore was concerned about getting his source into hot water).

3/03 IAEA finally got their hands on the documents and promptly announced to the world that they are obvious forgeries. Now Wilson is much more confident in his earlier forgery beliefs. He is also less concerned about outing his source, since the cat is out of the bag, in a way. 5/03 Wilson is talking to people like Kristof and Pincus, who soon report that a certain US official suspected these documents were forgeries as of 2/02, and was speaking up internally at that time. These reports capture WHIG's attention in a big way.

7/9/03 Wilson writes his own oped. He has realized that he does not want to reveal how he got access to these documents (or information derived from them) in 2/02, because his source was not legitimate. Therefore in his own oped he states he never saw the "memorandum," but refers to "news accounts" that indicate it's a forgery. This allows him to avoid dealing directly with some very sensitive questions (when did he first suspect forgery, and how did he get access to the information he used to make that determination).

Similarly, the paragraph in SSCI about this issue gives me the impression that Wilson was also juggling these sensitive questions.

In this scenario I've written, Wilson is indeed hiding something, but in context it's fairly minor: the fact that he got access to the forged documents (or information derived from them, or perhaps an alternate version of the same documents) via some unofficial channel.

I have a feeling Fitz has taken an interest in this branch of the story, so hopefully soon we will all know more. The key question is who forged the documents. I say Chalabi.

kim

Very interesting speculation, JBG. You've actually outlined the actions of a sneaky man.

I also suspect that he had some knowledge of the letters, from where, I don't know. Chalabi is capable of forgery, but one would suspect that he would do a better job. That the forgeries are so obvious seems to have meaning to me(Rosen's shimmer). I think these were meant to be exposed. I know some in the left are highly suspicious that the FBI investigation was squelched. I'm in hopes that it's been folded in with Fitz's.

My bottom line? Rocco's a greedy con man. I would like the papers' origin to be a rogue cabal at the CIA, but more likely Rocco was greedy(maybe just hungry), Wilson's crazy, and the White House fought his insanity before they realized his wife was covert. Some of the tar off that baby has stuck to them, but justice will cleanse them. It can't cleanse Joe.
==============================================

jukeboxgrad

"Chalabi is capable of forgery, but one would suspect that he would do a better job"

I'm in a speculative mood, so here's some more of it, in response to the question of how is it possible that a forger could do such a shabby job, unless they had the explicit goal of the forgery being discovered.

I think the forger was working under the assumption (which came very close to being 100% correct) that the only people who would be in a position to examine the documents closely would be people who were ideologically congruent with the forger himself. I'm not necessarily saying that every American who handled the documents was explicitly in cahoots with the forger. I'm saying the Americans who were in direct physical control of the documents (and this was probably a small, tighly disciplined group with close ties to WHIG) had little or no motivation to ever look at them with a very close, skeptical eye.

Recall that IAEA only managed to get their hands on the documents "after months of pleading" (link). I believe the forger made the assumption that it would take more than months for IAEA to get the stuff; rather, it would take forever. That almost happened. It would be interesting to see a detailed account of how the US finally reversed its position and caved in to the pleading (something I think the forger assumed would never happen). This is the true mystery here. I can't understand how this happened. So far I can't find any such account. I would very much appreciate any leads.

Recall also that it took IAEA "only a few hours to determine that the documents were fake." They were in US and UK hands for months. How is it that we didn't notice they were fake? The only plausible explanation is the one I offered: the Americans holding the documents had no motivation to develop findings that would make their effective supervisor (Cheney, I believe) very unhappy.

Hersh reports further that "some senior C.I.A. officials were aware that the documents weren’t trustworthy." He says various analysts raised concerns but "were not heeded." All this seems highly consistent with everything we now know about the overall context, which becomes more clear with each passing day.

On 3/14/03, Sen. Rockefeller formally asked the FBI to investigate "why the intelligence community did not recognize the documents were fabricated." I would be very surprised to discover that this is not a key part of Fitz's agenda.

Here's another aspect of why the forgery was shabby. Yes, if the CIA had wanted to create such a document, it could have done a much better job. But WHIG didn't trust the CIA; such a plan would be too risky. Therefore the job was outsourced to Chalabi (I speculate), who was trusted. Chalabi probably had some character working in a basement.

It was also probably done under time pressure. I speculate that the forgery project was launched in the post-9/11 period. Recall that there was an immediate effort to try to pin 9/11 on Saddam. In this environment there was a heightened interest in such documents. When there is an important customer, there will inevitably appear an enterprising entrepreneur who will strive to meet the needs of that customer.

So the forgery project began after 9/11 and there was probably pressure (perhaps self-imposed) for speedy delivery. This creates quality constraints. A decision was made (which came very close to being a wise decision) to only devote enough effort to create a product that would withstand scrutiny from a distance. This was a tradeoff to achieve quicker delivery. Keep in mind what I said earlier, that despite the conventional wisdom (that we didn't see the documents until 10/02), there are signs that the documents were in US hands much earlier. So my speculation is that the forger was relatively unskilled and only devoted perhaps a couple of months.

By the way, I don't necessarily believe Scooter called Chalabi and said "we could use some forged documents" (although I think that's entirely plausible). It's also possible that Chalabi did this completely on his own initiative, and passed the material (via a circuitous path) into the hands of WHIG, which he knew would be grateful and unskeptical.

I realize freepers suggest that the forger was someone out to trap WHIG in a sting; i.e., the forger made the documents deliberately easy to ID as a forgery. However, this narrative fails to explain how it is the US failed to notice the forgery.

Another wrinkle. On 3/22/03, WaPo reported that "U.S. intelligence officials had not seen the 'actual evidence' until last month. 'The source of their information, and their doubts,' intelligence officials said, 'was a written summary provided more than six months ago by the Italian intelligence service, which first obtained the documents.'"

I find this hard to swallow. It strikes me as desperate spin. If Italy told us in 10/02 that they had these very interesting documents, why on earth would we fail to get our hands on them pronto, during this very critical prewar period? Why would we wait until 6 months later? Surely our ally would not have stonewalled us. This narrative doesn't pass the smell test.

kim

All very interesting, JBG, extremely so. I said you have skills. But you still don't know who dunnit.
===================================================

TexasToast

Well done. I hope the board reads this. It has always bothered me that Wilson knew what he knew before3 he should have known it.

I would be interested to read another theory.

kim

And where in the timeline is the 'crazy report out of Africa'? Or is that just one of Joe's confabs?

Publicly, I think little is known of the handling by the CIA of the Yellow Cake Papers and the preceding news of them. Similarly, little is publicly known of just by whom and when they were determined to be forgeries, except for the IAEA ID.

I'm certainly in hopes that Fitz know LOTS more than we do about all this. Why shouldn't he?
================================================

clarice

The only reason someone badly forges such an important document is to embarrass anyone who relied on it. We didn't but the Wilson/Demedia storyline pretends we did (SSCI Report).

jukeboxgrad

Thanks to TT and Kim for kind words.

TT: "I would be interested to read another theory."

Same here. In particular, I would appreciate hearing a righty explanation of how US authorities managed to not notice that these were forgeries, before we passed them along to the UN.

Clarice: "The only reason someone badly forges such an important document is to embarrass anyone who relied on it."

Clarice, maybe you would be an ideal person to offer an answer to the question I just raised.

TM

I realize freepers suggest that the forger was someone out to trap WHIG in a sting; i.e., the forger made the documents deliberately easy to ID as a forgery.

And I did not realize that Seymour Hersh was a freeper - surely you have read "The Stovepipe".

Just to help, let me skip past the Cheney-bashing and unbury his lead:

Another explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer. He had begun talking to me about the Niger papers in March, when I first wrote about the forgery, and said, “Somebody deliberately let something false get in there.” He became more forthcoming in subsequent months, eventually saying that a small group of disgruntled retired C.I.A. clandestine operators had banded together in the late summer of last year and drafted the fraudulent documents themselves.

“The agency guys were so pissed at Cheney,” the former officer said. “They said, ‘O.K, we’re going to put the bite on these guys.’ ” My source said that he was first told of the fabrication late last year, at one of the many holiday gatherings in the Washington area of past and present C.I.A. officials. “Everyone was bragging about it—‘Here’s what we did. It was cool, cool, cool.’ ” These retirees, he said, had superb contacts among current officers in the agency and were informed in detail of the sismi intelligence.

“They thought that, with this crowd, it was the only way to go—to nail these guys who were not practicing good tradecraft and vetting intelligence,” my source said. “They thought it’d be bought at lower levels—a big bluff.” The thinking, he said, was that the documents would be endorsed by Iraq hawks at the top of the Bush Administration, who would be unable to resist flaunting them at a press conference or an interagency government meeting. They would then look foolish when intelligence officials pointed out that they were obvious fakes. But the tactic backfired, he said, when the papers won widespread acceptance within the Administration. “It got out of control.”

Like all large institutions, C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, is full of water-cooler gossip, and a retired clandestine officer told me this summer that the story about a former operations officer faking the documents is making the rounds. “What’s telling,” he added, “is that the story, whether it’s true or not, is believed”—an extraordinary commentary on the level of mistrust, bitterness, and demoralization within the C.I.A. under the Bush Administration. (William Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency had no more evidence that former members of the C.I.A. had forged the documents “than we have that they were forged by Mr. Hersh.”)

There may be some freeper who suggested that earlier, but Hersh was the first person I read presenting that theory seriously.

From JGB:

I think the forger was working under the assumption (which came very close to being 100% correct) that the only people who would be in a position to examine the documents closely would be people who were ideologically congruent with the forger himself. I'm not necessarily saying that every American who handled the documents was explicitly in cahoots with the forger. I'm saying the Americans who were in direct physical control of the documents (and this was probably a small, tighly disciplined group with close ties to WHIG) had little or no motivation to ever look at them with a very close, skeptical eye.

From the SSCI:

(U) On October 16, 2002, INR made copies of the documents available at the NIAG meeting for attendees, including representatives from the CIA, DIA, DOE and NSA. Because the analyst who offered to provide the documents was on leave, the office's senior analyst provided the documents. She cannot recall how she made the documents available, but analysts from several agencies, including the DIA, NSA and DOE, did pick up copies at that meeting. None of the four CIA representatives recall picking up the documents, however, during the CIA Inspector General's investigation of this issue, copies of the documents were found in the DO's CPD vault.

Yup, pretty tightly held. Only four agencies outside of the INR.

And Hersh not withstanding, if I can rely on the Senate's bipartisan packet of lies, the IAEA requested the documents in early January; we delivered then in early Feb; and they reported them to be forgeries in early March.

Josh Marshall was very funny on a point related to this when he wrote:

You’ll remember that most of the papers in the bundle of Niger-uranium documents that arrived at the US Embassy in Rome were actually authentic. It was only a subset of the documents --- those specifically related to the alleged Niger-Iraq transactions and a couple others --- that were bogus.

I had a bit of a tirade, pointing out that Dr. M had never previously deviated from the story in the New Yorker, to wit, a blind man could spot these forgeries.

No matter - I have no idea how his Big Story turned out, but he seems to trace the forgeries back to the Italian Intel service (and from there to Michael Ledeen, who really wants Iran? I have no idea).

Look, Josh Marshall lived this dream for months - if Karl Rive and Lewis Libby had forged these, we would have heard it by now.

clarice

It's hard to see where josh and Raimondo begin and end on this one--LOL..To believe this you have to believe that Iraq's buying uranium was the critical item for justifying the war. It wasn't. The President never even argued that.

There is no way to make sense of this story EXCEPT that the people who forged the document badly wanted to embarrass the Administration and either (1) do it early enough (while we were at the SC of the UN trying to get enforcement of Resolution 1441 or (b) if that failed, used it to undermine the Administration by arguing they relied on a bad forgery to "manipulate" us into a war.

And the only people I can think of who would be interested in that are:(a)the anti-war crowd (Both the pro-Saddamites and the peacnik lefties) and(b) the President's political opposition, and (c) the intel service(s) of a country which opposed the war.

clarice

It's hard to see where josh and Raimondo begin and end on this one--LOL..To believe this you have to believe that Iraq's buying uranium was the critical item for justifying the war. It wasn't. The President never even argued that.

There is no way to make sense of this story EXCEPT that the people who forged the document badly wanted to embarrass the Administration and either (1) do it early enough (while we were at the SC of the UN trying to get enforcement of Resolution 1441 or (b) if that failed, used it to undermine the Administration by arguing they relied on a bad forgery to "manipulate" us into a war.

And the only people I can think of who would be interested in that are:(a)the anti-war crowd (Both the pro-Saddamites and the peacnik lefties) and(b) the President's political opposition, and (c) the intel service(s) of a country or countries which opposed the war.

kim

The CIA was on the horns of a dilemna; monstrously incompetent if they didn't detect the forgery, monstrously corrupt if they did. Maybe Joe and Val were the sacrifices to the minotaur which was to gore the White House.
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windansea

http://www.dailyhowler.com

must read!! scroll down to Aesop's Press Corp and keep reading

The IAEA debunked the docs, not Wilson. But egad! According to Wilson, he may have confused his own work with that of the IAEA! Avert your gaze in embarrassment as you ponder how Kristof, Pincus and Judis/Ackerman came to write those bogus reports—reports which helped prepare the way for Wilson’s not-contradictory column.

windansea

hopefully you have all read the daily howler piece I referenced above

now...wasn't misshandling of classified info part of Fitz's original brief???

that plenary letter on Fitz site giving him widened scope into perjury/obstruction charges was really unneccessary....or maybe it's a masterful head fake

clarice

windsea, it was bad enough that those reporters printed those lies, but it is even worse that they refused to correct the record after the SSCI report and continue to ignore it as TM has repeatedly noted.

Bob Somerby and I probably agree on little politically but I have enormous respect for his honesty.Unfortunately on his side of the aisle it is singular.

Jeff

I will have more to say about the Niger forgeries, but for the moment, just this:

clarice - Why did we go to war? What were the central justifications for going to war in Iraq. The issue of the public justification of war is of the highest importance in a democracy. So tell me.

kim

Didn't the resolution in Congress mention about seven reasons. Why get more particular?
=======================================

windansea

I will have more to say about the Niger forgeries, but for the moment, just this:

LOL...move along folks....nothing to see here....just the central figure of the kerfluffle lieing repeatedly to reporters about forged docs that first he seemed to have seen when he was just "the former ambassador" and then he "never saw them" as Joe Wilson

lefties and Joe lovers...I feel your pain but keep reading the howler piece and heal yourselves

or keep believing the lie

Jeff

kim - Why hide behind Congress? Surely the American democratic public matters more than Congress. Let's see, it's something about a mushroom cloud.

kim

Jeff, again. Read Rossett, Duelfer, and what would you do instead of what Bush did?
===============================================

Jeff

windansea - You can LOL all you want, but as kim among presumably others can attest, I am not just willing but ready and happy to see the question of the origin and circulation of the Niger forgeries investigated. Indeed, I am deeply disappointed that the FBI investigation that was initiated has been seemingly moribund and lame. I observe that that investigation was called for by wimpy Democratic Senator Rockefeller, that it served as the excuse for the SSCI to not look into the matter, and that I have not heard Republicans clamoring for its aggressive pursuit. I am willing to get on board, just show me the Republican officials to get behind! Furthermore, I note that the Democrats control none of the branches of government capable of initiating an investigation on their own, and I further note that to the best of my knowledge the Republicans who do control those branches have neither initiated nor clamored for such an investigation.

As for the facts, you all don't seem to have a grasp of even the meager ones we do have in our possession. It may very well be, as JBG suggested above, that Wilson has been cagey about this because he saw the documents in an unauthorized way. But here is a fact you might want to start to use your prodigious interpretive powers on: according to the SSCI p. 37, the CIA's DO intelligence report, again sourced to a foreign government service -- presumably SISMI in Italy -- provided what was said to be "verbatim text" of the accord between Niger and Iraq. Just to be clear: this is February 2002, and we've got what's said to be verbatim text of the agreement -- not a document but verbatim text of such a document, including, presumably, names and dates and such. It is, presumably, just this report, with the verbatim text, that is discussed February 19, 2002, when Wilson is called in by the CIA as an outside expert and then to be asked to go to Niger.

There's still more to come, windansea, like the fact that clarice's theory is still completely non-sensical.

Jeff

kim - I would have made an honest argument to the American people.

Jeff

TM - It is worth noting about Hersh's story that the story about former CIA folks forging the Niger documents to get Cheney et al is 1)offered as one of a number of competing explanations and theories; 2)is pretty thinly sourced; and 3)has a massive contradiction right in the middle of it.

1) Hersh says

Who produced the fake Niger papers? Ther is nothing approaching a consensus on thi question within the intelligence community There has been published speculation about the intelligence services of several differen countries. One theory, favored by som journalists in Rome, is that sismi produced the false documents and passed them to Panorama for publication.
Another explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer.

Has there ever been any followup on this?

2) We've got a former senior CIA officer, who is reporting second hand information gathered at holiday gatherings with other former and current CIA people; and a retired clandestine officer reporting on what he's heard about water cooler gossip at the CIA. On the other hand, among other things, we hear from someone at the FBI about the alleged FBI investigation saying things could go in any number of directions.

3)Here's what Hersh's main source says, in quotes and on Hersh's telling:

“They thought it’d be bought at lower levels—a big bluff.” The thinking, he said, was that the documents would be endorsed by Iraq hawks at the top of the Bush Administration, who would be unable to resist flaunting them at a press conference or an interagency government meeting. They would then look foolish when intelligence officials pointed out that they were obvious fakes.

So it would be bought at lower levels, but it would be bought by hawks at the top of the Bush administration? Which was the strategy? Both? Huh?

One last thing: I am still quite skeptical of the Hardball report, but in light of the Hersh piece it is worth noting that the Raimondo report that Hardball appears to echo has its source -- yet another (?) former CIA operations officer -- saying that the unredacted version of the Italian parliamentary report on the Niger forgeries names two former CIA officers as the principal forgers, with the inimitable Michael Ledeen as the conduit for the documents (whatever that means). All of them are reported to have been close associates of Chalabi, and it is true that Ledeen has longstanding connections with the Italians, and with SiSMI in particular. It's possible to imagine that in a game of telephone around the water cooler at the CIA and CIA parties, the part about former CIA officials remained but their motivation changed, from supporting to seeking to undermine the commissars in Cheney's office. Again, I have no idea how much credibility to give to any of these sources. And I have been encouraging you to look into the Niger forgeries for a while now. I think it's awesome that righties are dying to look into this -- yet strangely official rightwingers with power, like those in the government, have been considerably less enthusiastic. In any case, let's go!

jukeboxgrad

TM: "surely you have read 'The Stovepipe'"

I have, and I know Hersh reported a theory about a "sting." Sorry, I just don't buy it. The errors are too glaring. How could the forger feel assured that the errors wouldn't be found, and the documents rejected, by the very first analyst who saw them?

The irony is that overlooking the errors is exactly what happened: various analysts did spot errors, but simply kept their mouth shut, for the most part. But it requires some tinfoil to think the conspiracists were so prescient that they could exactly anticipate this. Much like the tinfoil that's required to believe that Wilson set a trap, knowing that Rove wouldn't be able to resist outing Plame in order to discredit Wilson.

By the way, I wonder if you have any thoughts about why (as Jeff has pointed out) it was left to a Democratic senator (Rockefeller) to call for an FBI inquiry into the source of the forged documents.

I'm also still very unclear about how you explain the fact that our IC didn't quickly reject these documents.

And speaking of explaining things, I agree with Jeff that there should be more of an effort to look into the Niger forgeries. For example, I find the date issue (7/7/2000) to be intriguing, and as far as I can tell not much has been said about that around these parts.

"Yup, pretty tightly held. Only four agencies outside of the INR."

You're right. I was wrong to say that the documents were under the control of "a small, tightly disciplined group." Thanks for pointing me to that SSCI passage; I had missed it.

This was mostly just lazy writing on my part. Instead of saying the documents were under control of a small group, I should have said the forger _expected_ the documents to be under control of a small group. And what actually happened, in practical terms, didn't stray too far from that expectation; yes, a number of analysts in a number of agencies saw the documents, and had concerns, but also had enough political savvy to avoid making too much of a fuss. So it's incorrect for me to say that a small group had physical control of the documents, but I think it's not incorrect to say that a small group had control of the agenda, and were effective at squelching dissent.

"if I can rely on the Senate's bipartisan packet of lies, the IAEA requested the documents in early January"

It's true that SSCI (p. 62) refers to an IAEA request made on 1/6/03. Trouble is, it doesn't claim that this was the first such request. It only implies that, by omission. Which I suppose is sort of the same thing you're doing.

On the other hand, the IAEA claims that it made a request a little earlier, "immediately after" the State Department issued a "Fact Sheet" on 12/19/02 (link).

I realize we're only talking about a difference of two weeks (and over a holiday period), but it's still an error of 50% (6 weeks vs. 4 weeks). I'm sure you want to have your facts straight, and therefore you don't mind me pointing this out.

"we delivered then in early Feb; and they reported them to be forgeries in early March."

It's true that about a month elapsed, from the time we gave IAEA the documents, to the time they went public. But in my opinion this is not at odds with the report that they ID'd them as a hoax within hours. It's not surprising to me that it took them a month to wrestle with the political implications of going public with what they found.

Clarice: "To believe this you have to believe that Iraq's buying uranium was the critical item for justifying the war. It wasn't."

Then Libby and Rove sure got themselves all worked up (and into hot water) over something that wasn't "critical."

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Wilson/Plame