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January 18, 2006

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Cecil Turner

my view is that the Brits' review is self- and U.S.-serving

Did you read the rest of it? They were hardly complimentary on the "45 minute" issue, or concerning the "production and possession of chemical agents." If you're claiming they're biased, you might explain the lack of consistency. I'd suggest they actually believe the intelligence supports the conclusion drawn.

You were able to see really easily that I was reading the newly released memo . . .

Not really. Once I saw your interpretation differed from mine, I had to go back and re-read the section in question, and juxtapose your interpretation. Only then did I see you were missing what to me was second nature (I worked in one of those windowless hellholes for a three-year tour, reading and writing that kind of thing [shudder]).

In that debate, WMD was the central justification, the nuclear case was the heart of that . . .

WMD is the central case, but bio is the heart of it. A suitcasefull could kill literally millions, and smuggling it in is no real trick (producing the bio agent is). And unfortunately, you could hide the program in a basement, so it's really hard to spot one. The nuclear program is a longer-range threat and an indicator.

Close enough.

I disagree. Even the main case has never been settled. Extrapolating to a clearly false "Bush lied" (by repeating what the CIA told him) is counterproductive nonsense.

kim

I'm not expert, but I believe anthrax production can be initiated and accelerated with relative ease.
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BurkettHead

According to the Key Findings of the Duelfer Report:

"Depending on its scale, Iraq could have re-established an elementary [Biological Warfare] program within a few weeks to a few months of a decision to do so, but ISG discovered no indications that the Regime was pursuing such a course."

"ISG judges that in 1991 and 1992, Iraq appears to have destroyed its undeclared stock of BW weapons and probably destroyed remaining holdings of bulk BW agent. However ISG lacks evidence to document complete destruction. Iraq retained some BW-related seed stocks until their discovery after Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)."

kim

I guess those seed stocks were in case they got overrun with cattle, or maybe they planned to manipulate the cattle futures market.
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Jeff

WMD is the central case, but bio is the heart of it.

Again, you're talking reality, and I'm talking rhetoric -- the administration's, that is. You may well be right that the thing to really worry about when it comes to WMD are biological weapons (and it's obvious even to a layperson that the category "WMD" is unhelpful, given the enormous, meaningful differences between the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons). But my claim is that in the administration's effort to justify the war to the country, the heart of the case they made was the threat of a nuclear Saddam -- "the mushroom cloud" (with special thanks to Judith Miller) and all that. Who wouldn't be frightened at the prospect of Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons?

Extrapolating to a clearly false "Bush lied" (by repeating what the CIA told him) is counterproductive nonsense.

Shall we settle on "Cheney lied" and call it a day, then? (Just kidding.) On a slightly more serious note, I'd be curious to hear if any of y'all think Cheney got a bum rap in Plan of Attack, just because he was pretty uncooperative with Woodward. That's sort of the way it looks to me. And Woodward is apparently known for more or less coercing people into talking to him with the knowledge that everyone else will talk, and those who don't get portrayed badly in the book.

Cecil Turner

But my claim is that in the administration's effort to justify the war to the country, the heart of the case they made was the threat of a nuclear Saddam -- "the mushroom cloud" (with special thanks to Judith Miller) and all that.

They made the bio case several times. People (and especially the media) just didn't pay as much attention.

  • Like:"Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known."
  • Or: "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.
IMHO, the media dropped the ball on covering the real threat. The fascination with tubes and forged documents was always a sideshow (and mainly an indicator of intent), because the main threat was a program we couldn't see.

I'd be curious to hear if any of y'all think Cheney got a bum rap in Plan of Attack . . .

I only got a couple chapters into it, and skimmed the rest. (Woodward's inclusion of extraneous detail was a terminal distraction.) From what I remember, his main rap on Cheney was an implication that he was irrationally pro-war. But if you accept the premise that going after state sponsors of terrorism is the right answer, it's the only strategy that makes sense. Woodward's inability to see that viewpoint (unless it was in one of the parts I skipped) marks him as clueless.

Jeff

They made the bio case several times.

Well aware of that, and perfectly consistent with what I said.

The fascination with tubes and forged documents was always a sideshow (and mainly an indicator of intent), because the main threat was a program we couldn't see.

Again, you're talking reality, I'm talking the way the Bush administration pitched their case for war. You think the Bush administration was unaware of the fascination? They were well aware of how to get maximum effect, and they did it quite well.
And the prospect of a mushroom cloud was designed to fascinate (in a negative way, of course). Of course this did not limit them to the nuclear case. Powell, in disgrace, put his considerable credibility with non-Bush-enthusiasts on the line with a spectacular show -- holding up vials and the like -- that even he now admits to being ashamed of.

Jeff

And let the delays begin!

In a joint filing with prosecutors, lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 55, warned U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton that a trial likely will be delayed because of their strategy to seek more subpoenas of reporters' notes and other records.

Libby's lawyers' job is to get him out of hot water. I bet they're good at what they do. Do you think they're good enough to delay until January 2009, pardon time? I bet they are.

There's more:

Fitzgerald said he has turned over 10,150 pages of classified and unclassified documents to Libby's defense team.

But the defense attorneys said they want more. They said they may subpoena other executive branch agencies besides the special prosecutor's office and the FBI if Fitzgerald continues to refuse to turn over information he has from those departments. They did not specify which agencies.

That's what I'd be doing if I were Libby's lawyers.

topsecretk9

much MORE

"The filing provides the most concrete indication yet that a large part of Libby's trial strategy will be identifying other government officials who knew Plame was a CIA operative and told reporters about it.

The kind of subpoena cited is for documents or records, not testimony. Such subpoenas usually require records to be turned over before trial so the defense team would have a chance to review them. Libby's team said it expects a delay in the trial while news organizations fight the subpoenas, if Walton agrees to issue them.

The defense attorneys also told Walton that a significant disagreement is brewing between Libby's team and Fitzgerald's prosecutors over whether reporters heard Plame's name from government sources other than Libby.

Libby's lawyers said information about other sources used by reporters is "material to the preparation of the defense."

No trial date has been set. Walton had requested the update on the prosecution's exchange of evidence with the defense before a Feb. 3 hearing in the case.

Fitzgerald said he has turned over 10,150 pages of classified and unclassified documents to Libby's defense team.

But the defense attorneys said they want more. They said they may subpoena other executive branch agencies - besides the special prosecutor's office and the FBI - if Fitzgerald continues to refuse to turn over information he has from those departments. They did not specify which agencies. "

maryrose

Nora O'Donnell on Hardball says Libby's lawyers want to subpoena reporters to get more information on who knew what when. Perhaps Libby's lawyers have been reading this blog where that suggestion has been raised many times.

clarice

TS where did you get that from..The editors and Publishers article I cited on another thread doesn't have that level of detail.

topsecretk9

Here

more too
"Lawyers for a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told a federal judge Friday they want to subpoena journalists and news organizations for documents they may have related to the leak of a CIA operative's name.

In a joint filing with prosecutors, lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, 55, warned U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton that a trial likely will be delayed because of their strategy to seek more subpoenas of reporters' notes and other records. "

Also, is this old?

"...Now, recently unsealed court papers show there is an additional dispute between Russert and Libby, one concerning the ground rules under which they spoke. In those same papers, the special prosecutor in the case, Patrick Fitzgerald, accused Russert of selectivity in protecting confidential sources.

The papers demonstrate that three of the main participants in the Libby case have different understandings about how confidential relationships between reporters and their sources are formed, and they suggest that the trial in the case will explore how journalism is practiced in Washington...

...n his motion, Russert invoked the reporters' privilege, which can protect confidential communications between journalists and their sources. He said the privilege covered his conversation with Libby and, indeed, all of his conversations with "sources of information throughout the federal government."

"No matter the context in which we communicate," he said in a sworn statement, "they provide information to me based on our shared understanding that we are speaking in confidence and that I will not disclose publicly either their identities or the information they provide."

Russert's lawyers said in court papers that the implicit understanding of confidentiality applies "in a formal interview, at a cocktail party or in a phone call initiated by one of them to complain about news coverage."

"Unless the parties agree otherwise with respect to a specific communication," the papers continued, "all of the information they share with each other remains confidential."

In the response opposing Russert's motion, Fitzgerald questioned Russert's assertion that, as the prosecutor put it, "every single contact with a government employee" gives rise to a confidential-source relationship.

Kirtley said she found the approach outlined in Russert's court filings "astonishing" and "a Faustian bargain."...

...NBC News spokeswoman Barbara Levin said Russert's legal position should be understood in context. His papers, she said, "did not advocate that every conversation between reporters and sources should be presumed to be confidential."

In his grand jury testimony, Libby said he had in fact reached a specific agreement with Russert. "You know, as always, Tim, our discussion is off the record," Libby said he had told Russert. According to Libby, Russert responded, "That's fine."

I know it doesn't seem like it, but there is more at the link.

maryrose

Great scoop T.S. Let the subpoenas begin.

MJW

The defense attorneys also told Walton that a significant disagreement is brewing between Libby's team and Fitzgerald's prosecutors over whether reporters heard Plame's name from government sources other than Libby.

Libby's lawyers said information about other sources used by reporters is "material to the preparation of the defense."

In reading the first line from the article, especially in light of the second, I wonder if something has been lost in translation, and the real issue between the prosecution and defense is not whether reporters heard Plame's name from government sources other than Libby, but rather whether it's relevent.

(If Fitz argues it isn't relevent, he should be required to explain why he found it relevent enough to include as part of the indictment, as well as mention twice in his press conference, that Libby was the first known leaker.)

clarice

Yup.MJW.Good catches TS..If Libby's defense is that he heard it from other reporters and they didn't get it from them, I think Fitz made a critical error in insisting in his presser that Libby was the beginning of the chain.

clarice

Damn. I'm too tired to type straight..should read:If Libby's defense is that he heard it from other reporters and they didn't get it from HIM, I think Fitz made a critical error in insisting in his presser that Libby was the beginning of the chain.

MJW

I erred when I said Fitzgerald alleged in the indictment that Libby was the first leaker; actually, it was in the press release.

I did notice something interesting when re-reading the indictment: despite all the huffing and puffing at the beginning about Libby's duty to protect classified information, nowhere that I can see in the indictment does it claim that Libby was aware that Plame's CIA status was classified.

The closest it comes is saying that Libby was told Plame worked in the Counterproliferation Division, which, being part of the Directorate of Operations, may make her status more likely to be classified; but that's never stated or implied in the indictment. Also, according the the CIA's website: "Domestically, the [Deputy Director for Operations] is responsible for the overt collection of foreign intelligence volunteered by individuals and organizations in the United States." I don't know what this may imply about the overtness of the domestic DO employees.

The indictment also says:

Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson’s trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line.
However, nothing in this paragraph suggests the "complications" had anything to do with Plames CIA association (or even necessarily the the complications related to the release of classified information.)

MJW

I'm a bit embarrased. The "first leak" accusation wasn't in the press release either, only in the press conference. I could have sworn it was in one of the written documents Fitz released. I'm lucky I wasn't in front of a grand jury; I'd probably have been indicted for perjury.

kim

Just why is it that this most powerful federal investigation has not followed the path of Libby's defense. Is Fitz simply not allowed to pursue the reporters, or has he chosen not to do so?

I'm even more of the opinion than I was before that , bizarre though it may seem, Fitz is using the defense to get at journalists. After all, the overiding duty of a prosecutor is to see that justice is done. Is charging an innocent man so that he can confront his accusers the underlying strategy?
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Wilson/Plame