Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal
Details the myriad illegal, immoral, and unethical activities of Dick Cheney when CEO of Halliburton, his obstruction of justice, and lies to the American public since his appointment as Vice President. For information on an equally corrupt politician, see link to Tom DeLay-Corporate Whore. Be sure to visit our cavernous vault of archives.
Army to Pay Halliburton Unit Most Costs Disputed by Audit
By JAMES GLANZ February 27, 2006
The Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its disputed costs on a $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.
The Army said in response to questions on Friday that questionable business practices by the subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, had in some cases driven up the company's costs. But in the haste and peril of war, it had largely done as well as could be expected, the Army said, and aside from a few penalties, the government was compelled to reimburse the company for its costs.
Under the type of contract awarded to the company, "the contractor is not required to perform perfectly to be entitled to reimbursement," said Rhonda James, a spokeswoman for the southwestern division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, based in Dallas, where the contract is administered.
The contract has been the subject of intense scrutiny after disclosures in 2003 that it had been awarded without competitive bidding. That produced criticism from Congressional Democrats and others that the company had benefited from its connection with Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton's chief executive before becoming vice president.
Later that year auditors began focusing on the fuel deliveries under the contract, finding that the fuel transportation costs that the company was charging the Army were in some cases nearly triple what others were charging to do the same job. But Kellogg Brown & Root, which has consistently maintained that its costs were justified, characterized the Army's decision as an official repudiation of those criticisms.
"Once all the facts were fully examined, it is clear, and now confirmed, that KBR performed this work appropriately per the client's direction and within the contract terms," said Cathy Mann, a company spokeswoman, in a written statement on the decision. The company's charges, she said, "were deemed properly incurred."
The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency had questioned $263 million in costs for fuel deliveries, pipeline repairs and other tasks that auditors said were potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation. But the Army decided to pay all but $10.1 million of those contested costs, which were mostly for trucking fuel from Kuwait and Turkey.
That means the Army is withholding payment on just 3.8 percent of the charges questioned by the Pentagon audit agency, which is far below the rate at which the agency's recommendation is usually followed or sustained by the military — the so-called "sustention rate."
Figures provided by the Pentagon audit agency on thousands of military contracts over the past three years show how far the Halliburton decision lies outside the norm.
In 2003, the agency's figures show, the military withheld an average of 66.4 percent of what the auditors had recommended, while in 2004 the figure was 75.2 percent and in 2005 it was 56.4 percent.
Rick Barton, co-director of the postconflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said despite the difficulties of doing business in a war zone, the low rate of recovery on such huge and widely disputed charges was hard to understand. "To think that it's near zero is ridiculous when you're talking these kinds of numbers," he said.
The Halliburton contract is referred to as a "cost-plus" agreement, meaning that after the company recovers its costs, it also receives various markups and award fees. Although the markups and fees are difficult to calculate exactly using the Army figures, they appear to be about $100 million.
One of Halliburton's most persistent critics, Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, said in a written statement about the Army's decision, "Halliburton gouged the taxpayer, government auditors caught the company red-handed, yet the Pentagon ignored the auditors and paid Halliburton hundreds of millions of dollars and a huge bonus."
About $208 million of the disputed charges was mostly related to the cost of importing fuel, which was at the heart of the controversy surrounding the contract. Kellogg Brown & Root hired a little-known Kuwaiti company, Altanmia, to transport fuel in enormous truck convoys. The Pentagon auditors found that in part because of the transportation fees that Kellogg Brown & Root agreed to pay Altanmia, the cost for a gallon of gasoline was roughly 40 percent higher than what the American military paid when it did the job itself — under a separate contract it had negotiated with Altanmia.
The Army said in a written statement that it had largely accepted Kellogg Brown & Root's assertions that costs had been driven up by factors beyond its control — the exigencies of war and the hard-line negotiating stance of the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. The Army said the Kuwaiti fuel company blocked attempts by Kellogg Brown & Root to renegotiate its transportation contract with Altanmia. In the end, the Army decided to pay the Halliburton subsidiary all but $3.81 million of the $208 million in fuel-related costs questioned by auditors.
The Kellogg Brown & Root contract, called Restore Iraqi Oil, or RIO, will be paid with about $900 million of American taxpayer money and $1.5 billion of Iraqi oil proceeds and money seized from Saddam Hussein's government. Official criticism of the work became so intense that in November, an auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended that the United States repay some or all of the $208 million related to the alleged fuel overcharges — an allegation Halliburton says has never been justified.
In fact, Ms. Mann said, the Army's decision clearly showed that "any claims that the figures contained in these audit reports are 'overcharges' are uninformed and flat wrong." She said that the fuel charges themselves had been 100 percent reimbursed and that the reductions all came from adjustments on administrative costs associated with that mission.
Still, the Army conceded that some of the criticisms of the company's business practices were legitimate. As a result, the Army said, it would exclude about half of the auditors' questioned charges from the amount used to derive the markups and fees, which are calculated as a sliding percentage of the costs. That decision could cost the company a maximum of about $7 million.
Ms. James, the Corps of Engineers spokeswoman, said that in addition to the other modest penalties that Kellogg Brown & Root had been assessed by the Army's contracting officers, the sliding percentages on some of the fees had been lowered by unspecified amounts to reflect shortcomings in the company's dealings in Iraq. "All fees were awarded in accordance with the award fee plan set out in the contract, which placed more emphasis on timely mission accomplishment than on cost control and paperwork," Ms. James said.
Mr. Barton, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that with the relatively small penalties paid by the company for falling short in its performance in Iraq, it was hard to see what the Army's scrutiny of the company's practices had amounted to in the end.
"When they say, 'We questioned their business model or their business decisions' — well, yeah, so what?" Mr. Barton said. "You questioned it but there was no result."
In answer to written questions, a spokesman for the Defense Contract Audit Agency, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said the settlement of the disputed charges was based on "broader business case considerations" beyond just Pentagon audits.
But when asked whether the Army's decision reflected on the quality of the audits, Colonel Maka said only that the agency "has no indication of problems with the audit process," and he referred questions on the settlement itself to the Army.
A former senior Defense Department manager knowledgeable about the audits and the related contracting issues said, "That's as close as D.C.A.A. can get to saying, 'We're not happy with it either.' "
Because of the size of the contract and the contention surrounding Halliburton's dealings with the government, the RIO audits were carried out by the agency's top personnel and were subjected to extraordinarily thorough reviews, the former manager said.
This is unlikely to be the last time the Army and Halliburton meet over negotiated costs. On a separate contract in Iraq, for logistics support to the United States military, more than $11 billion had been disbursed to Kellogg Brown & Root by mid-January, according to the Army Field Support Command, based in Rock Island, Ill. Pentagon auditors have begun scrutinizing that contract as well.
Drinks query revives Cheney row
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday February 24, 2006
Vice-President Dick Cheney faced fresh questions yesterday about the shooting of his hunting companion on a Texas ranch, with the release of conflicting witness statements about whether alcohol had been consumed.
The statements released by the local sheriff's office broadly confirm the circumstances under which Mr Cheney, wheeling about to shoot a covey of quail on February 11, sprayed Texas lawyer Harry Whittington with birdshot, wounding him in the face, chest and torso.
But statements from Mr Cheney's host and other companions gave conflicting accounts about whether alcohol had been consumed amid accusations that the hunters had broken Texas laws on drinking and hunting.
The ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, said: "To the best of my knowledge there was no alcohol involved." Her sister, Sarita Armstrong Nixon, said she was unaware the hunting party had had any alcohol.
Pamela Willeford, the US ambassador to Switzerland, who was directly beside Mr Cheney when Mr Whittington was shot, said she had a glass of wine at lunch, but no alcohol was consumed in the field.
Mr Cheney said he had had a beer at lunch. Mr Whittington has yet to file his account. The statements were submitted to the sheriff's office on February 15.
Secret Service agents say Cheney was drunk when he shot lawyer
By DOUG THOMPSON
Feb 22, 2006, 07:35
Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.
Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.
According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.
We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.
"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."
One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.
Cheney has a long history of alcohol abuse, including two convictions of driving under the influence when he was younger. Doctors tell me that someone like Cheney, who is taking blood thinners because of his history of heart attacks, could get legally drunk now after consuming just one drink.
If Cheney was legally drunk at the time of the shooting, he could be guilty of a felony under Texas law and the shooting, ruled an accident by a compliant Kenedy County Sheriff, would be a prosecutable offense.
But we will never know for sure because the owners of the Armstrong Ranch, where the shooting occurred, barred the sheriff's department from the property on the day of the shooting and Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III agreed to wait until the next day to send deputies in to talk to those involved.
Sheriff's Captain Charles Kirk says he went to the Armstrong Ranch immediately after the shooting was reported on Saturday, February 11 but both he and a game warden were not allowed on the 50,000-acre property. He called Salinas who told him to forget about it and return to the station.
"I told him don't worry about it. I'll make a call," Salinas said. The sheriff claims he called another deputy who moonlights at the Armstrong ranch, said he was told it was "just an accident" and made the decision to wait until Sunday to investigate.
"We've known these people for years. They are honest and wouldn't call us, telling us a lie," Salinas said.
Like all elected officials in Kenedy County, Salinas owes his job to the backing and financial support of Katherine Armstrong, owner of the ranch and the county's largest employer.
"The Armstrongs rule Kenedy County like a fiefdom," says a former employee.
Secret Service officials also took possession of all tests on Whittington's blood at the hospitals where he was treated for his wounds. When asked if a blood alcohol test had been performed on Whittington, the doctors who treated him at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial in Corpus Christi or the hospital in Kingsville refused to answer. One admits privately he was ordered by the Secret Service to "never discuss the case with the press."
It's a sure bet that is a private doctor who treated the victim of Cheney's reckless and drunken actions can't talk to the public then any evidence that shows the Vice President drunk as a skunk will never see the light of day.
A 3-year-old executive order that vastly expanded his powers illuminates how the vice president and his minions led us into war.
By Sidney Blumenthal
Feb. 23, 2006 |
After shooting Austin lawyer Harry Whittington, Dick Cheney's immediate impulse was to control the intelligence. Rather than call the president directly, he ordered an aide to inform White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card that there had been an accident but not that Cheney was its cause. Then a host of surrogates attacked the victim for not steering clear of Cheney when he was firing. Cheney attempted to defuse the subsequent furor by giving an interview to friendly Fox News. His most revealing answer came in response to a question about something other than the hunting accident.
Cheney was asked about court papers filed by his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA operative, Valerie Plame. (She is the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq.) In those papers, Libby laid out a line of defense that he had leaked classified material at the behest of "his superiors" (to wit, Cheney). Libby detailed that he was authorized to disclose to members of the press classified sections of the prewar National Intelligence Estimate on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. (The NIE was exposed as wrongly asserting that Saddam possessed WMD and was constructing nuclear weapons.) Indeed, Cheney explained, he has the power to declassify intelligence. "There is an executive order to that effect," he said. Had he ever done that "unilaterally"? "I don't want to get into that."
On March 25, 2003, President Bush signed Executive Order 13292, a hitherto little known document that grants the greatest expansion of the power of the vice president in American history. The order gives the vice president the same ability to classify intelligence as the president. By controlling classification, the vice president can in effect control intelligence and, through that, foreign policy.
Bush operates on the radical notion of the "unitary executive," that the president has inherent and limitless powers in his role as commander in chief, above the system of checks and balances. By his extraordinary order, he elevated Cheney to his level, an acknowledgment that the vice president was already the de facto executive in national security. Never before has any president diminished and divided his power in this manner. Now the unitary executive inherently includes the unitary vice president.
The unprecedented executive order bears the earmarks of Cheney's former counsel and current chief of staff, David Addington. Addington has been the closest assistant to Cheney through three decades, since Cheney served in the House of Representatives in the 1980s. Inside the executive branch, far and wide, Addington acts as Cheney's vicar, bullying and sarcastic, inspiring fear and obedience. Few documents of concern to the vice president, even executive orders, reach the eyes of the president without passing first through Addington's agile hands.
To advance their scenario for the Iraq war, Cheney & Co. either pressured or dismissed the intelligence community when it presented contrary analysis. Paul Pillar, the former CIA national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, writes in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, "The administration used intelligence not to inform decision-making, but to justify a decision already made."
On domestic spying conducted without legal approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Addington and his minions isolated and crushed internal dissent from James Comey, then deputy attorney general, and Jack Goldsmith, then head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.
On torture policy, as reported by the New Yorker this week, Alberto Mora, recently retired as general counsel to the U.S. Navy, opposed the Bush administration's abrogation of the Geneva Conventions -- by holding thousands of detainees in secret camps without due process and using abusive interrogation techniques -- based on legal doctrines Mora called "unlawful" and "dangerous." Addington et al. told him the policies were being ended while continuing to pursue them on a separate track. "To preserve flexibility, they were willing to throw away our values," Mora said.
The first vice president, John Adams, called his position "the most insignificant office ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." John Nance Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt's first vice president, said it was not worth "a warm bucket of spit." When Dick Cheney was secretary of defense under the first President Bush, he reprimanded Vice President Dan Quayle for asserting power he did not possess by calling a meeting of the National Security Council when the elder Bush was abroad. Cheney well knew the vice president had no authority in the chain of command.
Since the coup d'état of Executive Order 13292, however, the vice presidency has been transformed. Perhaps, for a blinding moment, Cheney imagined he might classify his shooting party top secret.
Cheney Advisor Won’t Say If “A Beer” Is “Literally One Beer”
Today on Meet the Press, Tim Russert asked Cheney advisor Mary Matalin a reasonable question:
RUSSERT: Was alcohol in any way, shape or form consumed during the afternoon? And should we accept the [Vice] president’s “a beer” as literally one beer?
Matalin didn’t answer it:
MS. MATALIN: What Katharine Armstrong was answering is a literal fact going to the question she was asked, which is always the case on the Armstrong ranch, you don’t drink and hunt, and you don’t hunt with drinkers. And that’s what the sheriff reported, that’s what she reported. It is true that the vice president had a beer at lunch, and let me ask anybody sitting at this table who knows the vice president, has known him for many years, has seen him in social situations, he’s known not to be a drinker. But let me ask you a more logical question—you think the Secret Service would let the vice president out, tanked up, with a loaded gun, or let him be around anybody who’s drunk with a loaded gun? It just defies common sense that the press would even go there. And that’s why these adversarial question-and- answer periods set up the presumption that Cheney would be drunk, or having to deny that Cheney was drunk, as opposed to presuming what we all know, that he doesn’t drink, he wouldn’t hunt and drink, the Secret Service wouldn’t let anybody around him who is drinking and hunting.
Instead of answering the question, Matlin appeals to the ego of Russert and the other panelists. If you are in the know, if you’ve hung out with Cheney, you would know to stop asking these questions.
What’s puzzling is that Matalin insists its a “literal fact” that Cheney doesn’t “drink and hunt” even though he has admitted to drinking before hunting. She also says that the press should have assumed that Cheney “doesn’t drink” even though we know he had beer before and “a cocktail” immediately after the hunt.
The Vice President shot someone in the face, didn’t talk to the police until the next morning and then blamed the person who got shot. The American people, who pay his salary, have the right to know exactly how much Cheney was drinking and if that amount of alcohol would interact with his medications.
McClellan ducks Cheney alcohol-related questions
Published: February 16, 2006
When asked whether the Vice President's actions were a metaphor for the Bush Administration's "inability to come clean" such as the perceived "lack of cooperation" in the Abramoff scandal and Katrina investigations, McClellan responded that "only the most partisan of people or conspiracy theorists" would say something like that and that "most Americans reject it."
One reporter aggressively interrogated McClellan about Vice President's admission in the Fox interview that he had a beer four to five hours before shooting Harry Whittington. She said that it all wasn't "in a nice neat package like the White House wants," that "there was alcohol at lunch," that the Vice President's blood level wasn't checked at the time, and that he wasn't interviewed by local police until the following day.
"I don’t think you characterized the full picture there," McClellan responded, " I believe most Americans believe the issue has been covered thoroughly. I reject this characterization."
The same reporter suggested that the "average American" wouldn't be able to avoid the police or blood alcohol tests. But McClellan kept side-stepping the questions, and advised the press to look at the sheriff department's report, which said that alcohol wasn't involved, though the Vice President did have at least one beer before the incident.
‘No comment’ on blood test
At a news conference Wednesday outside Whittington’s hospital in Corpus Christi, reporters asked hospital officials whether Whittington’s blood-alcohol level had been tested. The officials responded with a "no comment."
In a recorded, on-the-record phone call with NBC News, Armstrong said that beer may have been available at lunch that day. "If someone wants to help themselves to a beer," she said, "they may, but I did not see anyone do that," Armstrong says. She says she was not sure if there were beers in the coolers but wasn't ready to rule it out: "There may be a beer or two in there, but remember not everyone in the party was shooting," she told NBC News.
Armstrong added that she did not believe that Cheney or anyone else shooting in the hunting party had alcohol on Saturday before the hunting accident.
NBC News called the vice president’s office for comment four times Tuesday and Wednesday and asked whether the vice president or anyone in the hunting party had consumed any alcohol on Saturday prior to the accident. In an e-mail statement Wednesday to NBC News, the vice president’s press secretary referred NBC News to the Kenedy County Sheriff’s Department report on the incident. Later in the day on Fox News, Brit Hume stated that Cheney told him during a taped interview that he had "had a beer at lunch" before the hunting incident.
'Beer quote' pulled from MSNBC Cheney hunting party article
The Missing Beer Or Two
February 15, 2006
Thought nothing of Lawrence O'Donnell's pickle-barrel musings in the Huffington Post yesterday, which carried the headline, "Was Cheney Drunk?"
But now Raw Story has made the question more interesting.
O'Donnell, the former West Wing exec producer who was chief of staff, for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, wrote:
The L.A. Times is edging closer to the most likely reason for the 18 hour delay in reporting that the Vice President of the United States shot someone:
"This was a hunting accident," said Gilbert San Miguel, chief deputy of the Kennedy County Sheriff's Office. "There was no alcohol or misconduct."
How do we know there was no alcohol? Cheney refused to talk to local authorities until the next day. No point in giving him a breathalyzer then. Every lawyer I've talked to assumes Cheney was too drunk to talk to the cops after the shooting. The next question for the White House should be: Was Cheney drunk?
Among his evidence? The observation that rich Republicans sometimes drink riotously at Ivy League tailgate parties.
The Raw Story reports that an MSNBC Website post on the vice president's accidental shooting of a hunting buddy was edited to remove a reference to the alcohol that might have been available at a pre-quailing picnic.
Several lefty bloggers noted the change, starting with JohnnyCougar, who was commenting on Democratic Underground. Raw Story reported:
In the article, credited to Aram Roston and the NBC Investigative Unit, Katherine Armstrong, a member of the family who own the ranch, revealed new details about her lobbying for the Bush Administration, and about circumstances surrounding the incident itself, which wasn't reported to the media until the following morning. Armstrong was the one who reported the news to a local news reporter, and she said that Cheney agreed with the decision.
This was the missing paragraph:
Armstrong also told NBC News that she does not believe alcohol was involved in the accident. She says she believes no one that day was drinking, although she says there may have been beer available during a picnic lunch that preceded the incident. "There may be a beer or two in there," she said, "but remember not everyone in the party was shooting."
This is how the article appears now. This is how it was.
It might have been good journalism to remove this speculation, since the quote is messy. There may have been a beer or two "in there," she says. But she also says no one that day was drinking. I suppose someone could do an accounting. Interview some people. Maybe the vice president will address the matter some time.
An MSNBC.com spokeswoman is on the case. Will update.
Texas Sheriff Barred From Interviewing Cheney About Shooting Incident
CBS News reports that local law enforcement officials were prevented from interviewing Vice President Cheney after he accidentally shot a 78-year-old man during a hunting trip:
CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer reports Texas authorities are complaining that the Secret Service barred them from speaking to Cheney after the incident. Kenedy County Texas Sheriffs Lt. Juan Guzman said deputies first learned of the shooting when an ambulance was called.
McClellan was asked about it at the press briefing but played dumb:
QUESTION: Scott, there’s a report coming out of a sheriff’s deputy there who said that he was prevented from interviewing the vice president by the Secret Service. Do you know anything about that? And is that appropriate?
MCCLELLAN: No, I don’t know anything about that. You have got to direct that to the Secret Service. My understanding was that Secret Service took the appropriate steps to inform law enforcement.
Of course, the question is not whether the Secret Service informed law enforcement, but whether law enforcement was permitted to speak with Cheney. As Talk Left notes, although the incident was an accident, it could constitute criminal negligence.
UPDATE: National Journal reports that, after initial resistance, Cheney was interviewed by law enforcement sometime on Sunday.
UPDATE II: At the breifing McClellan refuses to “speculate” as to whether the accidental shooting was a criminal offense:
QUESTION: Under Texas law, is this kind of accidental shooting a possible criminal offense?
MCCLELLAN: I won’t even speculate on that, but I think the sheriff’s office or the local law enforcement office has already commented on that and said it was a hunting accident.
When Did The Sheriff Interview Cheney?
The NYT says Saturday night:
Sheriff Salinas said he sent his chief deputy, Gilbert Sanmiguel, to the Armstrong Ranch that night. He said Mr. Sanmiguel interviewed Mr. Cheney and reported that the shooting was an accident.
That would be significant because it would suggests Cheney cooperated with the investigation, which is ongoing.
But the AP reports that Cheney didn’t agree to be interviewed until Monday morning:
At least one deputy showed up at the ranch’s front gate Saturday evening and asked to speak to Cheney but was turned away by the Secret Service, [Secret Service spokesman Eric] Zahren said. There was some miscommunication that arrangements already had been made to interview Cheney the next morning, he said.
Who has the story right? How did these two papers get conflicting information?
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE VEEP WHO COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN DICK CHENEY'S HUNTING "ACCIDENT"?
February 13, 2006
A smart mid-western friend who has a lot of quail-hunting experience writes:
The entire Cheney hunting accident story stinks. The delay in announcing it is suspicious, obviously. I'll bet Cheney had a few beers in him, but I'm not sure that is illegal in Texas (drinking and hunting is illegal in most states, but I couldn't find out if that includes Texas).
But a few other points that may be worth noting:
1. The news reports say the accident happened "around 5:30 pm" on Saturday. In Texas, quail can be hunted until 30 minutes after sunset. Sunset on Saturday, in Corpus Christi, was at 6:18, which means they were legal until 6:48. The "around" is suspicious.
2. The news reports say that after Whittington (left) had gotten off his shot and went looking for his bird, Cheney and the other hunter went to another spot where they saw a covey of quail. Texas quail might be different from Iowa quail, but in Iowa when a shotgun goes off, every quail within earshot flutters away. The story doesn't make sense.
3. None of the stories have commented on the fact that they were "road hunting", or hunting from a car. That is just about the lowest kind of low-rent, dishonorable kind of hunting there is (the phrase "road hunting" is often used synonymously with "poaching"). When I was growing up in Iowa, I went pheasant or quail hunting on scores of occasions with my Dad and others. We never would have hunted from a vehicle and it was an insult to even suggest that someone might. It was considered dangerous and declasse, as it was too great an advantage for the hunter to be "fair". It most states, including Texas, it is also illegal:
"It is unlawful to hunt from or by means of motor-driven vehicles and land conveyances or aircraft of any kind except paraplegics and single or double amputees of legs may hunt from stationary motor-driven vehicles or land conveyances."
However, Texas exempts private property owners from the prohibition when they are on their own land and Cheney was with the property owner on his ranch. But it is still really tacky.
4. Hunting quail in Texas requires an "Upland game bird stamp", which costs $7. This is a relatively new requirement, but I'll bet Cheney didn't have one.
5. The spin is that Whittington "came up from behind the Vice President", implying that he snuck up on him or was somehow partially responsible because Cheney didn't know he was there. When hunting, it is bad form to walk in front of someone's gun. When given a choice, one would always approach another hunter from behind.
Cheney has gotten negative press in the past for participating in "canned hunts" and a couple of years ago he got really negative press for going on a canned pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania where he got between 70 and 95 birds (depending on which report is to be believed). The typical daily limit in places like Iowa and South Dakota, where we have many more pheasants than Pennsylvania, is 3 or 5 per day and a possession limit of 15 or 20.
To many of our milieu, hunting is hunting is hunting and the distinctions noted above aren't that big of a deal. To hunters, these are important distinctions. Hunting regulations are strictly enforced in most states and every sixpack Joe knows he better abide by them or he'll get in trouble. Most hunters aren't affluent suede vest guys, they are working class guys within a couple of generations of agriculatural roots. The gluttony of shooting 70 pheasant in a day is almost impossible for them to comprehend.
Focusing on the kill rather than the hunt is frowned upon. Killing more than you can eat is frowned upon. Canned hunts and that kind of over-indulgence is for the Rambo hunters, who are not thought highly of by the old-fashioned Izaak Walton league type of guys, like my Dad.
Someone should be asking if Cheney was drinking, if he was properly licensed with his Upland Game Bird Stamp, when (and if) the hunting accident was actually reported to the authorities and if anyone has investigated why the quail in Texas seem to have gone deaf.
Ms. Armstrong claims to have been in the car, but to have witnessed the shooting. If so, that would mean the hunters were fairly close, within eyeshot, which makes it even less likely that Whittington had gotten off a shot at a quail and then there were other quail still waiting around for Cheney to find them. It just does not make sense.
GOP SEN. ALLEN CALLS FOR PROBE OF CHENEY IN LEAK
Meanwhile, Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia (left) -- a potential Republican presidential contender in 2008 -- has called for Cheney to be put on the grill about reports in the Plame case that he leaked her name to Scooter Libby, AP reports. On Fox News Sunday, Allen said a full investigation was necessary, adding, "I don't think anybody should be releasing classified information, period, whether in the Congress, executive branch or some underling in some bureaucracy."
Cheney 'Authorized' Libby to Leak Classified Information
By Murray Waas, National Journal
© National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006
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.
According to sources with firsthand knowledge, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
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.
Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
Previous coverage of the CIA leak investigation from Murray Waas
Libby testified to the grand jury that he had been authorized to share parts of the NIE with journalists in the summer of 2003 as part of an effort to rebut charges then being made by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make a public case for war.
Wilson had been sent on a CIA-sponsored mission to investigate allegations that the African nation of Niger had sold uranium to Iraq to develop a nuclear weapon. Despite the fact that Wilson reported back that the information was most likely baseless, it was still used in the President's 2003 State of the Union speech to make the case for war.
But besides sharing details of the NIE with reporters during the effort to rebut Wilson, Libby is also accused of telling journalists that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, had worked for the CIA. Libby and other Bush administration officials believed that if Plame played a role in the selection of her husband for the Niger mission, that fact might discredit him.
A federal grand jury indicted Libby on October 28, 2005, on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, alleging that he concealed his role in leaking information about Plame to the media. He resigned his positions as chief of staff and national security adviser to Cheney the same day. Libby has never claimed that Cheney encouraged him to disclose information about Plame to the media.
In a January 23 letter, related to discovery issues for Libby's upcoming trial, Fitzgerald wrote to Libby's attorneys: "Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate ("NIE") … in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003.… We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."
Although it is not known if Cheney had told the special prosecutor that he had authorized Libby to leak classified information to reporters, Dan Richman, a professor of law at Fordham University and a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, said, "One certainly would not expect Libby, as part of his defense, to claim some sort of clear authorization from Cheney where none existed, because that would clearly risk the government's calling Cheney to rebut that claim."
The public correspondence does not mention the identities of the "superiors" who authorized the leaking of the classified information, but people with firsthand knowledge of the matter identified one of them as Cheney. Libby also testified that he worked closely with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove in deciding what information to leak to the press to build public support for the war, and later, postwar, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence.
In the correspondence, Fitzgerald also asserted that Libby testified that he had met with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003, with the "purpose" of intending "to transmit information" to her "concerning the NIE."
That particular meeting has been key to Fitzgerald's investigation because the special prosecutor alleges that Libby lied both to the FBI and to his federal grand jury by saying that he had not discussed Plame with Miller on that date, when in fact he did tell her of Plame's work for the CIA.
In an account of her grand jury testimony, Miller has written that Libby discussed the NIE with her: "Mr. Libby also cited a National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, produced by American intelligence agencies in October 2002 … which he said had firmly concluded that Iraq was seeking uranium." Portions of the NIE were later declassified, but the material in it related to Niger was still classified at the time.
Libby, through a spokesperson, declined to comment, and the vice president, through a spokesperson, also declined to comment for this story.
The new disclosure that Libby has claimed that the vice president and others in the White House had authorized him to release information to make the case to go to war, and later to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence, is significant for several reasons. First, it significantly adds to a mounting body of information that Cheney played a central and personal role in directing efforts to counter claims by Wilson and other administration critics that the Bush administration had misused intelligence information to go to war with Iraq.
Second, it raises additional questions about Libby's motives in concealing his role in leaking Plame's name to the press, if he was in fact more broadly authorized by Cheney and others to rebut former Ambassador Wilson's charges. The federal grand jury indictment of Libby alleges that he had lied to the FBI and the federal grand jury by claiming that when he provided information to reporters about Plame's CIA employment, he was only passing along what he understood to be unverified gossip that he had heard from other journalists.
Instead, the indictment charges that Libby had in fact learned of Plame's CIA status from at least four government officials, Cheney among them, and from classified documents. Indeed, much of Libby's earliest and most detailed information regarding Plame's CIA employment came directly from the vice president, according to information in Libby's grand jury indictment. "On or about June 12, 2003," the indictment stated, "Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division."
Libby testified that Cheney told him about Plame "in an off sort of, curiosity sort of, fashion," according to other information recently unsealed in federal court. Not long after that date, Libby, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and a third administration official began to tell reporters that Plame had worked at the CIA, and that she had been responsible for sending her husband to Niger.
Finally, the new information indicates that Libby is likely to pursue a defense during his trial that he was broadly "authorized" by Cheney and other "superiors" to defend the Bush administration in making the case to go to war. Libby does not, however, appear to be claiming that he was acting specifically on Cheney's behalf in disclosing information about Plame to the press.
Libby's legal strategy in asserting that Cheney and other Bush administration officials authorized activities related to the underlying allegations of criminal conduct leveled against him, without approving of or encouraging him to engage in the specific misconduct, is reminiscent of the defense strategy used by Oliver North, who was a National Security Council official in the Reagan administration.
North, a Marine lieutenant colonel assigned to the National Security Council, implemented the Reagan administration's efforts to covertly send arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held in the Middle East, and to covertly fund and provide military assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras at a time when federal law prohibited such activities. Later, it was discovered that North and other Reagan administration officials had diverted funds they had received from the Iranian arms sales to covertly fund the Contras.
If Libby's defense adopts strategies used by North, it might be in part because the strategies largely worked for North and in part because Libby's defense team has quietly retained John D. Cline, who was a defense attorney for North. Cline, a San-Francisco partner at the Jones Day law firm, has specialized in the use of classified information in defending clients charged with wrongdoing in national security cases.
Among his detractors, Cline is what is known as a "graymail" specialist-an attorney who, critics say, purposely makes onerous demands on the federal government to disclose classified information in the course of defending his clients, in an effort to force the government to dismiss the charges. Although Cline declined to be interviewed for this story, he has said that the use of classified information is necessary in assuring that defendants are accorded due process and receive fair trials.
In the Libby case, Cline has frustrated prosecutors by demanding, as part of pretrial discovery, more than 10 months of the President's Daily Brief, or PDBs, the president's morning intelligence briefing. The reports are among the most highly classified documents in government, not only because they often contain sensitive intelligence and methods, but also because they indicate what the president and policy makers consider to be the most pressing national security threats. In the past, the Bush administration has defied bipartisan requests from the Intelligence committees in Congress to turn over PDBs for review.
After Cline demanded the PDBs, Fitzgerald wrote to him on January 9 that the prosecutor's office has only "received a very discrete amount of material relating to PDBs" and "never requested copies of PDBs" themselves, in part because "they are extraordinarily sensitive documents which are usually highly classified." Moreover, Fitzgerald wrote, only a relatively small number of PDB pages included reference to Wilson's trip to Niger.
But Cline has insisted that it is imperative for his client's defense to be able to review the PDBs because part of Libby's defense is that he may have had a faulty memory regarding conversations he had with government officials and reporters regarding Plame, in that he had so many other pressing issues to consider every day as chief of staff and national security adviser to the vice president.
In a January 31 court filing, attorneys for Libby argued: "Mr. Libby will show that, in the constant rush of more pressing matters, any errors he made in FBI interviews or grand jury testimony, months after the conversations, were the result of confusion, mistake, faulty memory, rather than a willful intent to deceive."
In the North case, the Iran-Contra independent counsel, Lawrence Walsh, was forced to dismiss many of the central charges against North, including the most serious ones-that North defrauded taxpayers by diverting proceeds from arms sales to Iran to finance the Nicaraguan Contras-because intelligence agencies and the Reagan administration refused to declassify documents necessary for a trial on those charges.
Walsh and many of his deputies believed that the Reagan Justice Department refused to declassify documents necessary to try North because officials were personally sympathetic to him. A North trial would also have politically embarrassed the Reagan administration, and a North conviction might have led to charges against higher officials.
In court filings, Walsh said that much of what intelligence agencies and the Reagan administration had refused to declassify had long before been published in the media or made public in some other way.
"It was a backdoor way of shutting us down," said one former Iran-Contra prosecutor, who spoke only on the condition that his name not be used, because his current position as a private attorney requires frequent dealings with attorneys who were on the other side of the North case at the time. "It was a cover-up by means of an administrative action, and it was an effective cover-up at that."
The former prosecutor added: "The intelligence agencies do not declassify things on the pretext that they are protecting state secrets, but the truth is that we were investigating and prosecuting their own. The same was true for the Reagan administration. Cline was particularly adept at working the system."
Is it possible that a prosecution of Libby might be impeded or even derailed entirely by the refusal of the Bush White House or its Justice Department to declassify information that might be necessary to try Libby? "Under the current statute, it may well be the attorney general's call-or whomever he designates-to ultimately decide what should be declassified, and what might not be, in the Libby case," said Michael Bromwich, a former associate Iran-Contra independent counsel and a former Justice Department inspector general.
William Treanor, the dean of Fordham University's Law School, and also a former associate Iran-contra special counsel, said that it is less likely that the Bush administration would challenge Fitzgerald as former administrations did with special prosecutors. Walsh, dealing with the Reagan and elder Bush administrations, and Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, dealing with the Clinton administration, often alleged that political appointees in the Justice Department worked purposely to undermine their investigations.
"Walsh and Starr were not appointed by an attorney general," Treanor said, noting that Walsh, Starr, and earlier special prosecutors had been appointed by a three-judge federal panel instead of by the Justice Department. Currently, he pointed out, special prosecutors are appointed by the attorney general or their designate.
"With Walsh or Starr, the president and his supporters could more easily argue that a prosecutor was overzealous or irresponsible, because there had been a three-judge panel that appointed him," Treanor said. "With Fitzgerald, you have a prosecutor who was appointed by the deputy attorney general [at the direction of the attorney general]. The administration almost has to stand behind him because this is someone they selected themselves. It is harder to criticize someone you yourself put into play."
There are other reasons why it might prove difficult to undercut Fitzgerald, including outstanding questions about the role that Cheney and others in the Bush administration played in the effort to discredit Wilson, and the fact that Cheney is still the point man in defending the White House's use of prewar intelligence on Iraq.
And the new disclosure, that Libby is alleging that Cheney and other Bush administration officials "authorized" him to disclose classified information as a means to counter charges that the administration misused prewar intelligence, might also make it difficult for this administration to refuse to declassify information for Libby's trial.
But a Libby defense strategy asserting that he released classified information or took other actions as broadly authorized by Cheney might have other advantages, if the North case is any guide. At North's trial, the counts on which the jury acquitted him tended to be those involving actions that appeared to be authorized by superiors. He was found guilty of three felonies on which the evidence indicated that he was acting on his own initiative or for his own financial benefit.
"It was a memorable and powerful moment when North told the jury that he was 'a pawn in a chess game played by giants,'" Treanor said.
The claims by North that his activities had been broadly authorized by higher-ups, including even the president, also worked to his advantage when he was sentenced. Despite the fact that North had been convicted of three felonies and that Iran-Contra prosecutors argued before sentencing that letting North off with "only a slap on the wrist … would send exactly the wrong message … [only] 15 years after Watergate," he was sentenced to only probation, a fine, and community service.
North's trial judge, U.S. District Court Judge Gerhard Gesell, took note that the jury had acquitted North of criminal charges mainly where it appeared that his conduct might have been authorized by higher authorities: "Observing that many others involved in the events were escaping without censure or with prosecutorial promises of leniency or immunities, [the jury] used their common sense. And they gave you the benefit of a reasonable doubt."
Explaining his own leniency in sentencing the former NSC aide, Gesell told North: "I do not believe you were a leader at all, but really a low-ranking subordinate to carry out initiatives of a few cynical superiors. You came to be a point man in a very complex power play developed by higher-ups."
Later, North's convictions were overturned on appeal because of concerns that some of the evidence used against him during his trial might have been derived from his testimony before the House-Senate Iran-Contra investigating committee. North had been given immunity for that testimony.
But most outside legal observers say that Libby, because he was himself such a high-ranking official, will most likely face a much more difficult time than North did in arguing that, in some of his activities, he was just carrying out orders from Cheney or other senior White House officials.
"A defendant can make a claim that he is just a victim of Washington politics or doing the bidding for someone else," said Richman, the former prosecutor, "But there may be limits to a jury's sympathy when that defendant himself was so high-ranking. Given Libby's position in the White House, the jury is less likely to view him as a sacrificial lamb than as a sacrificial ram."
Cheney’s Credibility In Its Last Throes
Vice President Dick Cheney, yesterday:
I think we’ll look back several years from now and see that 2005 was really a turning point, in the sense the progress we made…in terms of training Iraqi forces, because we’ve now got a large number of Iraqis taking the lead various places around the country from a security and military standpoint. [Cheney, PBS Newshour, 2/7/06]
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, yesterday:
“Pace said only one Iraqi army battalion is capable of fighting without U.S. help. That is the same number as in September, when U.S. commanders disclosed that the number of such highly trained battalions had dropped from three to one, prompting criticism from lawmakers.” [AP, 2/7/06]
The Plame Case, Missing Email, and the President's Daily Brief
The government failed to preserve certain official email messages generated by the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President in 2003 as required by law, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald revealed in a January 23 letter (pdf).
The contents and quantity of the missing email is unknown.
In another letter dated January 9 (pdf), Mr. Fitzgerald also disclosed that his Office has received redacted versions of the President's Daily Brief ("a very discrete amount of material relating to PDBs") concerning Valerie Plame Wilson or Amb. Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger. Mr. Libby's attorney had requested (pdf) all copies of the President's Daily Brief "in its entirety" from May 2003 through March 2004.
These and several other interesting nuggets emerged in correspondence between the Special Prosecutor and attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former aide to Vice President Cheney who is being prosecuted for perjury in connection with the CIA Plame leak investigation. The correspondence was filed in DC District Court on January 31.
The Mother of all Lies by Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld
Larry Wilkerson, the Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, exposed the fact that the neo-cons in the Bush administration lied about Iraq's WMD to the State Department.
Excerpts from the PBS interview of Lawrence B. Wilkerson on PBS:
Lawrence B. Wilkerson was Chief of Staff at the Department of State from August 2002 to January 2005.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: We now know that there was deep skepticism within the intelligence community about some of these pre-war claims than what's being expressed publicly at the time. Is it reasonable to think that the administration knew about this skepticism?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Six months ago I would have said "no." Since that time, however, there have been some revelations. Principally about Sheik Al Libbi's testimony and how it was obtained. And how there was a DIA, for example, Defense Intelligence Agency, dissent on that testimony, apparently I'm hearing now, around the time the testimony was actually given.
And even more to the point than Al Libbi, Curve Ball. And the revelations that have come out about Curve Ball. And in particular the German dissent from the integrity of CurveBall's testimony.
I can tell you that having been intimately involved in the preparation of Secretary Powell for his five February 2003 presentation at the UN Security Council, neither of those dissents in any fashion or form were registered with me or the Secretary by the DCI, George Tenent, by the DDCI, John McLaughlin, or by any of their many analysts who were in the room with us for those five, six days and nights at the Central Intelligence Agency.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: And they didn't give you any inkling that--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Not a bit.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: -- there was this debate about some of this information?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Not a bit. In fact it was presented in the firmest language possible that the mobile biological labs and the sketches we had drawn of them for the Secretary's presentation were based on the iron clad evidence of multiple sources.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: Maybe they at the most senior level, like you, just didn't know?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I have to believe that. Otherwise I have to believe some rather nefarious things about some fairly highly placed people in the intelligence community and perhaps elsewhere.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: What do you think really did happen with regards to this-- disconnect between what we now know about these profound questions about some of these key sources and the fact that somebody had these questions in real time?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, I've been a consumer, a user of intelligence at the tactical, operational and strategic level for close to 35, 36 years. And I've seen many errors in intelligence. And I know it's not a perfectible business. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: We now know from published reports that Vice President Cheney and his right hand man, Lewis Libby, went over to the headquarters of the CIA about 10 times in late 2002 and early 2003. We don't know what was said. What do you think was going on?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, if the Vice President was exercising his right as one of the leaders of this country to go to one of its intelligence agencies and to-- check on how they're doing and to make sure that they're doing their jobs properly and so forth, I find it difficult to believe that took 10 times. And as I've said, it's absurd to think that intelligence isn't somehow politicized at times.
It's equally absurd for the Vice President to assert that his trips out to the agency were not bringing undue influence on the agency. That's preposterous. Anytime a leader of his stature visits a single agency that many times, he is, by simply the virtue of his position, bringing undue influence on that agency.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: So you can imagine a scenario where the Vice President's over there kind of CIA?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: I-- could imagine that scenario easily.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: I've never met the Vice President. He's the kind of guy who could lean on somebody?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Absolutely. And be just as quiet and taciturn about it as-- he-- as he leaned on 'em. As he leaned on the Congress recently-- in the-- torture issue.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: We've been talking grand policy. The then director of the CIA, George Tenent, Vice President Cheney's deputy Libby, told you that the intelligence that was the basis of going to war was rock solid. Given what you now know, how does that make you feel?
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: It makes me feel terrible. I've said in other places that it was-- constitutes the lowest point in my professional life. My participation in that presentation at the UN constitutes the lowest point in my professional life.
I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community and the United Nations Security Council. How do you think that makes me feel? Thirty-one years in the United States Army and I more or less end my career with that kind of a blot on my record? That's not a very comforting thing.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: A hoax? That's quite a word.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Well, let's face it, it was. It was not a hoax that the Secretary in any way was complicit in. In fact he did his best-- I watched him work. Two AM in the morning on the DCI and the Deputy DCI, John McLaughlin.
And to try and hone the presentation down to what was, in the DCI's own words, a slam dunk. Firm. Iron clad. We threw many things out. We threw the script that Scooter Libby had given the-- Secretary of State. Forty-eight page script on WMD. We threw that out the first day.
And we turned to the National Intelligence estimate as part of the recommendation of George Tenent and my agreement with. But even that turned out to be, in its substantive parts-- that is stockpiles of chemicals, biologicals and production capability that was hot and so forth, and an active nuclear program. The three most essential parts of that presentation turned out to be absolutely false.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: You've said that Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld managed to hijack the intelligence process. You've called it a cabal.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Decision--
DAVID BRANCACCIO: And--
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: -- making process.
DAVID BRANCACCIO: The decision making process.
LAWRENCE WILKERSON: Right.
Court filings shed more light on CIA leak investigation
02/02/2006 @ 12:28 pm
Filed by John Byrne and Ron Brynaert
Third Time reporter, named in filings, says he has not testified in case
A series of striking revelations have emerged after the release of dozens of pages of court files in the CIA leak investigation that have gone unnoticed by the mainstream media, RAW STORY has found.
Some of them have been uncovered by astute bloggers – including the fact that the outed agent’s husband will not testify at a trial, and that a third Time reporter has been fingered as having information potentially relevant to some aspects of the case.
Moreover, the documents reveal that no formal damage assessment has been done with regard to how the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame affected the agency’s operations worldwide. They also hint that Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby may have outed Plame on the orders of his “superiors.”
Fitzgerald’s Jan. 23 letter was penned in response to a series of telephone conversations, letters, and motions filed by Libby, who was indicted for obstructing justice in the Plame investigation. Libby has sought to force the prosecutor to turn over more information about his case to bolster his defense.
In the letter, Fitzgerald notes that a third Time Magazine reporter – who now serves as Slate’s chief political correspondent – had conversations with Administration officials about a trip conducted by Plame’s husband to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger.
"We also advise you that we understand that reporter John Dickerson of Time magazine discussed the trip by Mr. Wilson with government officials at some time on July 11 or after, subsequent to Mr. Cooper learning about Mr. Wilson’s wife," Fitzgerald writes. "Any conversations involving Mr. Dickerson likely took place in Africa and occurred after July 11."
Matt Cooper, also a Time reporter, testified that Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove had cautioned him to play down the Wilson trip. Wilson, an ardent Bush critic, said he found no evidence to support claims that Iraq had sought to obtain uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon. Such claims were a keystone in the Administration’s efforts to convince the United States and Congress to support a pre-emptive war.
Reporter says he hasn’t been contacted in case
Dickerson told RAW STORY in an email message Thursday morning that he has not been contacted by the prosecutor.
“I didn't know I was mentioned in the court filings until I saw it on the web,” he said. “I've never been contacted by anyone in Fitzgerald's office.”
From July 8 to July 12, 2003, President Bush took a five-country tour of Africa, accompanied by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. A pool of reporters, including Dickerson, accompanied the President’s retinue.
Although the White House correspondent made no mention of any such conversations in his series of articles on the trip (link), Dickerson did contribute to a Time online report published on July 17, 2003.
From A War on Wilson?: "And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices."
Dickerson left Time in May 2005 for Slate. After Libby was indicted, he wrote about conversations he had with Fleischer at the time.
"He walked reporters, including me, up to the fact, suggesting they look into who sent Wilson, but never used her name or talked about her position," Dickerson wrote.
According to Newsday, Dickerson’s name appeared in a January, 2004 subpoena sent to the White House in search of “administrative contacts” with reporters regarding Plame or other elements of the probe.
Regardless, Fitzgerald says he’ll tell Libby by tomorrow which journalists he expects to call at trial.
"We will be providing to you prior to February 3 copies of subpoenas and pertinent correspondence relating to reporters referenced in the Indictment and/or whom we expect to call at trial," Fitzgerald wrote Libby.
Prosecutor won’t call Wilson; Says no CIA damage assessment
In response to Libby's motion to gather more information on Wilson, Fitzgerald said he doesn't "expect" to call the former Ambassador to testify at trial. He advises Libby to instead refer to Wilson's many media appearances and written accounts.
Also of note is the fact that Fitzgerald asserts that the CIA has conducted no formal damage assessment with regard to Plame’s outing.
“A formal assessment has not been done of the damage caused by the disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s status as a CIA employee, and thus we possess no such document,” Fitzgerald writes. “In any event, we would not view an assessment of the damage caused by the disclosure as relevant to the issue of whether or not Mr. Libby intentionally lied when he made the statements and gave the grand jury testimony which the grand jury alleged was false.”
Finally, Fitzgerald alludes to "authorization" by Libby's "superiors" – who may include President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney – who may have allowed him to disclose information about a then-classified report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction to the media. Previous reports have indicated that Cheney and Bush are not targets of the probe.
Fitzgerald writes, "As we discussed during our telephone conversation, Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate (“NIE”) to such reporters in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003 (and caused at least one other government official to discuss the NIE with the media in July 2003). We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."
Fitzgerald Hints White House Records Lost
By PETE YOST , 02.01.2006, 09:28 PM
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is raising the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.
The prosecutor in the criminal case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff said in a Jan. 23 letter that not all e-mail was archived in 2003, the year the Bush administration exposed the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Lawyers for defendant I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby this week accused prosecutors of withholding evidence the Libby camp says it needs to mount a defense.
"We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed," Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to the defense team.
But the prosecutor added: "In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." His letter was an exhibit attached to Libby's demand for more information from the prosecution.
Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the vice president's office is cooperating fully with the investigation, and referred questions to Fitzgerald's office.
Libby is charged with five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI regarding how he learned of Plame's identity and what he did with the information.
The Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress in 1978, made it clear that records generated in the conduct of official duties did not belong to the president or vice president, but were the property of the government.
The National Archives takes custody of the records when the president leaves office.
"Bottom line: Accidents happen and there could be a benign explanation, but this is highly irregular and invites suspicion," said Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists government secrecy project.
"A particular subset of records sought in a controversial prosecution have gone missing," Aftergood said. "I think what is needed is for the national archivist to ascertain what went wrong and how to ensure it won't happen again."