Condi, AIPAC, and the A1 Cut-Out

You’ll recall that the AIPAC defendants called Condi and Stephen Hadley to testify about how they routinely leak classified information. Well, the government claims that these two, at least, don’t have to testify.


Secretaryof State Condoleezza Rice and other senior intelligence officialsshould not be forced to testify about whether they discussed classifiedinformation with pro-Israel lobbyists, federal prosecutors argued in aclosed-door court hearing Friday.

Two former American IsraelPublic Affairs Committee lobbyists facing espionage charges havesubpoenaed Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, DeputyNational Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and several others to testifyat their trial next year.

If their testimony is allowed by U.S.District Judge T.S. Ellis III, the trial could offer abehind-the-scenes look at the way U.S. foreign policy is crafted.

(Note, it’s unclear whether the government is claiming just Hadley and Rice don’t have to testify, or whether they’re making the same claim for the others who have been subpoenaed, including Richard Armitage and Anthony Zinni.)

Basically, the Administration is arguing it should be able to keep its strategy of using A1 Cut-Outs secret. By A1 Cut-Out, I’m referring to the Administration’s practice of leaking classified information to a journalist–usually at the NYT and, until she was gone, often to Judy Miller–who then publishes it on the front page of the paper. The Administration then points to that story, pretending that they don’t know the information remains highly classified. The Administration famously did this with the aluminum tubes story, but it comes in really handy when you’re trying to drum up wars against countries whose names have four-letters starting in "Ira."

  1. JohnLopresti says:

    There was an announcement of another opportunity scheduled to ask that A-1 Cutout in person at an event six weeks from now the reporter’s perspective.

  2. Ishmael says:

    Good work by the AIPAC lawyers, right out of the greymail playbook. If they succeed in getting the subpoenas, look for a quick resolution of the case on â€national security†grounds.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Private conversations not intended for public dislcosure among administration officials and representatives of foreign govts should be and are protected from disclosure. Identical conversations with reporters, where the discloser intends the information to be made public, ought not be protected. There’s a fundamental difference. One is the conduct of diplomacy. The other is psy-ops, propaganda or message management intended to influence public debate.

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    Information is a form of patronage, though some reporting last spring concerning the ruckus about purged US attorneys seemed to indicate actual checkwriting might have been involved in one instance to keep the influence streamflow fluid.

  5. Sara says:

    Odd — the rules on Security Clearance are quite clear. Anyone who has a clearance is prohibited from either confirming or denying anything they have learned from classified sources without first checking to see whether something has been properly declassified.

    In otherwords if the NYTimes published the information that yes indeed the Moon is made of Green Cheese, and we have budgeted X Dollars to send mice up to eat it, and that was classified, anyone with a security clearance is prohibited from comment until they check the proper classification of the initial intelligence or classification status of the mouse translunar program.

  6. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Fits in perfectly with the ’we create our own reality’ School of Mediated Politics. It must be quite a rush repeatedly punking the press, the public, and Congress. And for narcissists who require constant admiration to shore up their fundamentally weak sense of personal superiority, it must REALLY be a rush. One can safely assume that Punking the World provides a stronger rush than even coke or booze. Like drugs, it’s probably addictive; dopamine receptors in the brains of Bu$hCo members and their allies probably demand their daily hit of â€punk’d ’em!†, dopamine-delivered euphoria.

    Maybe these asshats aren’t so stupid, after all. This strategy is perfect:
    1. They don’t have to articulate policy.
    2. They don’t have to defend policy.
    3. They don’t have to provide documentation, nor be accountable.
    4. They can’t be questioned — after all, THEY haven’t said anything.
    5. They deny anything unpleasant.
    6. They can’t be ridiculed, nor scorned, since THEY haven’t done anything.
    7. If anything does go wrong, they’re the ’victims’ — in every instance.

    Actually, one ought to marvel at how well this has worked for Bu$hCo and its allies in oil, energy, and god-only-knows-where-else. It’s an ideal strategy for any narcissist with an inflated sense of superiority, who can’t tolerate being questioned, ridiculed, nor threatened. Works perfect, every time.

    Which means that until Congress and the press play by Different Rules, Bu$hCo will continue to punk us all. For Example # 8,925,634, see: â€Iran, War in the Offing†click on the NYT website today.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I guess Ishmael’s reaction must be the right one– this is about trying to get the administration to call the prosecutors off.

    Because I don’t see why it helps the defendants as a legal matter. Obviously it helps on sympathy and theatrics, but the statute presumably doesn’t include a â€it’s ok to jump off a bridge if all your friends are doing it†provision.

  8. R.H. Green says:

    The final question(from Fitzgerald?)in this otherwise helpful article seems nonsensical. It might be that there is the superflous word â€I†in the phrase, â€â€¦that I had been given…â€. Makes more sense without the â€Iâ€. Sorry for the minutia.

  9. Anonymous says:

    How can you charge two guys for espionage when the Administration’s own actions basically sanction precisely the behavior they’ve been charged with? How can you charge someone else for leaking classified information when top Administration officials do it routinely?


    Easy. Charge them and try them. If they make the effort to defend themselves by saying â€Our political superiors are doing it.†force them to name names and charge them also. If they don’t use that defense, send them to prison and let everyone know it is still a crime.

    It is a crime to follow an illegal order. It is even worse to perform an illegal act â€Because they did it.â€

    How can you charge them? Simple. The prosecutor just has to do his job of enforcing the law.

  10. Mary says:

    RickB – the guys who are being charged don’t fall in that scenario.

    The AIPAC trial is a very weird trial. What you have was the â€first round†trial of a guy named Larry Franklin and your argument would have applied there. He was charged with meeting with â€lobbyists†and a â€diplomat†with the Israeli embassy too IIRC, and passing on classified info about the US plans vis a vis Iran (they weren’t warlike enough for Franklin) in his hopes that Israelis would be able to bring more pressure to bear on the Administration to go to war with Iran.

    But the current trial involves the lobbyists to whom Franklin TOLD the information. They are being charged because he TOLD them classified info. It really is the case and the rulings that will open the door to the suits against reporter like Dana Priest who were told classified info about black sites and torture.

    In any event, the lobbyists are claiming that sure, Franklin told them stuff about Iran – but hell, everyone in Washington was telling them stuff – some of it the same stuff – about Iran. So how where they supposed to know that it was ok when Hadley and Rice and others would tell them something, but when Franklin told them the same thing it was a crime for them to hear it from him?

    In essence – and I’ve oversimplified and overstated on the lobbyists behalf, but that is the easiest distillation.

    EW – don’t forget Abrams when you query about others who have been subpoenaed, including Richard Armitage and Anthony Zinni

  11. emptywheel says:


    I presume Abrams would get the same treatment as Condi (from when she was NSA) and Hadley (now in that position, then her Deputy). That is, I think you can make an argument that members of the National Security Council don’t have to testify, since they’re counselors to the President. Armitage and Zinni are more remote.

    Though it’s not clear from the story whetehr that’s what the govt is arguing–or whether they’re arguing something broader.

  12. MarkH says:

    Shouldn’t they be able to make the point that THEY are not under any obligation to censure themselves on anything, as they never took an oath to protect classified information?

    Couldn’t they point to Robert Novak as someone who received and published classified information (NOC Plame job/work) as an example of this occurring and not being punishable?

    Couldn’t they ask specifically for the legal code which they were supposed to be bound to? It doesn’t exist as I’ve never seen it and I’m as civilian as they were.

    The whole case is bogus and just an attempt to scare journalists into not printing some things.

    That they do ask journalists to print classified information is quite amazing and should lead to prosecutions on it’s own accord. Who could have imagined that leaking classified information could be punishable by 20-life in a high security prison?

  13. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Since the A-1 won’t work unless it’s secret, it’s going to remain secret.
    If you don’t believe that the law applies to you, you simply don’t apply it to your own actions.
    So far, this strategy has served BushCheney magnificently.

    Too bad about those lobbyists.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I guess the thing that strikes me about this case is the fervor with which the government pursues the AIPAC boys with on charges that easily could have been tailored to fit a whole host of people in the Plame outing, but were laughed off.