Jeffrey Sterling

Did John Brennan’s Leak Hypocrisy Catch Up to Him?

In his interview with Jason Leopold in May 2010, Jon Kiriakou explained how his book got approved by the CIA Publication Review Board. He describes someone who–given the mention of the transition team and the seniority at CIA–must be John Brennan, advising him to wait to resubmit his book until after the Obama Administration cleaned out the CIA.

Kiriakou: I called a very senior CIA officer, former CIA officer, who was very quietly supportive of me.

Leopold: Can you identify that person?

Kiriakou: I can’t, unfortunately. But he said, ‘I’m on the Obama transition team. We’re going to win this election next week. And we’re going to be making wholesale changes over there. Everybody’s gonna go. So make your changes and don’t resubmit until I tell you to.’ A week later Obama wins. About six weeks pass, Director Hayden resigns. Several people a layer or two, three layers beneath him also resign, My friend calls me back and says ‘resubmit it.’ This is immediately after Panetta is named Director. I resubmitted it. A week later, I got a one page letter saying ‘the book is cleared in its entirety.’

So not only was this guy who appears identical to John Brennan “quietly supportive
of Kiriakou,” but this John Brennan lookalike also played a key role in getting Kiriakou’s book approved.

Which is mighty interesting, because John Brennan was also centrally involved in this investigation, particularly in the hiring of Pat Fitzgerald in March 2010 to respond to CIA’s demand for IIPA charges.

According to the officials, the dispute centered on discussions for a interagency memorandum that was to be used in briefing President Obama and senior administration officials on the photographs found in Cuba.

Justice officials did not share the CIA’s security concerns about the risks posed to CIA interrogators and opposed language on the matter that was contained in the draft memorandum. The memo was being prepared for White House National Security Council aide John Brennan, who was to use it to brief the president.

The CIA insisted on keeping its language describing the case and wanted the memorandum sent forward in that form.

That resulted in the meeting and ultimately to Mr. Vieira withdrawing from the probe.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Kiriakou was targeted just to get back at John Brennan.

But I am saying that it is–at the very least–ironic that a world class leak hypocrite would be supportive of the guy who got nabbed in this investigation.

On the one hand, after all, Brennan had an antagonistic role with at least one of the whistleblowers the Obama Administration has targeted.

Yet, at the same time, he’s a noted leaker himself, such as for the breathless account of the Osama bin Laden targeting, and, more recently, providing on the record details that the Administration had declared a state secret.

The CIA got their IIPA charge. I’m not sure whether Kiriakou is the guy everyone thought they’d get.

William Welch, Jeffrey Sterling, and the Sixth Amendment

As Josh Gerstein reported, the government has submitted a filing in its appeal of some rulings in the Jeffrey Sterling case that reveals a little more about their reason for appealing. The key detail is that the government considers two people, about whom the government withheld impeachment information, so critical to their case that without them, the prosecution would be “terminated.”

The second issue on appeal relates to the district court’s decision to strike two of the government’s witnesses as a sanction for the late disclosure of alleged impeachment material related to those witnesses. This decision was rendered orally at a pretrial hearing and is based on factual conclusions concerning the weight and necessity of the government’s evidence and the history of discovery in this case. The district court’s decision to strike these witnesses effectively terminated the prosecution.

In order to adequately respond to the district court’s decision, the government believes it is necessary to explain the government’s extensive discovery efforts (much of which involved the review and disclosure of classified information); the import of the alleged impeachment material at issue and the ways in which Sterling proposes to use it; and the ways in which the two witnesses are important to the government’s case. The government must also address the effect of precedent from the Supreme Court and from this and other circuits concerning a district court’s limited authority to strike witnesses as a sanction for an alleged discovery violation. [ my emphasis]

I have suggested that one of these witnesses likely leaked classified information, but was not prosecuted for it. If I’m right that this is one of the witnesses that Judge Leonie Brinkema struck, consider what it means: that one of the most critical witnesses in this case also disclosed classified information (behavior, Sterling asserted in a filing, that was “more egregious” than what he was alleged to have done).

The government is preparing to argue that this may not amount to impeachment information. Presumably, they’re also going to offer some excuse for how they didn’t manage to find and turn over this information until shortly before the trial.

And this witness is crucial to the government’s case.

Now couple all that with one of the other disputes at issue: the government wants to withhold the real names of 10 CIA witnesses–not just from the jury, which I understand to a point. But also from Sterling himself.

The third issue on appeal relates to the district court’s decision to require the government to disclose to Sterling and the jury the true names of government witnesses who are covert CIA officers or contractors. This decision was rendered orally at two pretrial hearings, and requires a close familiarity with the extensive procedural history concerning the discoverability and admissibility of the witnesses’ true identities (which are classified).

Now, the government claims these two efforts aren’t that closely related–”each of [these appellate issues] is almost entirely distinct from the others.” Yet is that really true? The government, either by accident or intent, tried to prevent Sterling from learning details about two key witnesses against him. And it is also trying to prevent him from tying the people testifying against him to actions he probably knows firsthand, from his time at the CIA–if not from this late-produced discovery information.

It sure looks like the government is trying to play games with evidentiary issues to eliminate the Sixth Amendment. Typical William Welch.

Why Is William Welch, Whose Team Is Accused of Intentional Prosecutorial Misconduct, Still at DOJ?

As Nedra Pickler first reported, Judge Emmett Sullivan has submitted a scathing order describing the results of an investigation into the Ted Stevens prosecution.

Based on their exhaustive investigation, Mr. Schuelke and Mr. Shields concluded that the investigation and prosecution of Senator Stevens were “permeated by the systematic concealment of significant exculpatory evidence which would have independently corroborated his defense and his testimony, and seriously damaged the testimony and credibility of the government’s key witness.”

[snip]

Mr. Schuelke and Mr. Shields found that at least some of the concealment was willful and intentional, and related to many of the issues raised by the defense during the course of the Stevens trial. Further, Mr. Schuelke and Mr. Shields found evidence of concealment and serious misconduct that was previously unknown and almost certainly would never have been revealed – at least to the Court and to the public – but for their exhaustive investigation.

Sullivan’s investigator, Henry Schuelke, found the lawyers involved could not be charged with criminal contempt because they had not been explicitly ordered to follow the law.

Mr. Schuelke bases his conclusion not to recommend contempt proceedings on the requirement that, in order to prove criminal contempt beyond a reasonable doubt under 18 U.S.C. § 401(3), the contemnor must disobey an order that is sufficiently “clear and unequivocal at the time it is issued.” See, e.g., Traub v. United States, 232 F.2d 43, 47 (D.C. Cir. 1955). Upon review of the docket and proceedings in the Stevens case, Mr. Schuelke concludes no such Order existed in this case.

But he did hint that at least some of the six attorneys might be charged with Obstruction of Justice (which DOJ would have to do).

Mr. Schuelke “offer[s] no opinion as to whether a prosecution for Obstruction of Justice under 18 U.S.C. § 1503 might lie against one or more of the subject attorneys and might meet the standard enunciated in 9-27.220 of the Principles of Federal Prosecution.”

One of the attorneys investigated here, of course, is William Welch (the others are Brenda Morris, Edward Sullivan, Joseph Bottini, and James Goeke, as well as Nicholas Marsh, who committed suicide last year), who has overseen the Jeffrey Sterling and Thomas Drake cases.

Now, Sullivan made it clear that at least some of the lawyers involved might be well served for Schuelke’s report to be made public.

in fact, under these circumstances, some or all of the subjects may be prejudiced by withholding the results of Mr. Schuelke’s Report from the public;

So we can’t be sure whether Welch was directly implicated in the misconduct, or whether just those lawyers who reported to him were.

But Welch’s prosecutions since have been beset by the same kind of prosecutorial problems as the Stevens one. For example, in the Drake case, the government didn’t tell the defense that one of the documents they charged Drake with leaking was unclassified until 10 months after the indictment. Then, when they tried to apply CIPA to unclassified documents, they did so after the opportunity to object had passed. The judge in that case, Richard Bennett, called the prosecution “unconscionable.”

And in the Sterling case, it appears that Welch postponed telling Sterling that one of the key witnesses against him had herself leaked classified information until after the opportunity for discovery on that leak had passed–the same kind of derogatory information on a key witness the Stevens prosecutors withheld.

In other words, we can not be sure that Welch committed the misconduct at the heart of the Stevens case. But his ongoing cases do seem to be subject to the same kind of misconduct.

So why is he still at DOJ, prosecuting cases, when an independent investigator has determined this his past prosecution teams didn’t follow the law because they had not been specifically ordered to, and such behavior might amount to Obstruction of Justice?

Updated: Added Bennett’s comments.

William Welch Appears to Commit Prosecutorial Misconduct. Again.

DOJ has submitted its statement of issues it plans to appeal in the Jeff Sterling case. They are:

(1) Whether the district court erred in finding that author James Risen was protected by a “reporter’s privilege” and, therefore, could not be compelled to testify at trial as to the identity of persons who unlawfully communicated highly classified national defense information to Risen and as to other relevant matters regarding the receipt by Mr. Risen of that information;

(2) Whether the district court erred in ordering the disclosure to the defendant and jury of classified information regarding the identity of certain government witnesses (CIPA issue); and

(3) Whether the district court erred in striking the testimony of two government witnesses for the late pre-trial disclosure of potential impeachment information about these witnesses.

It was always likely they were going to appeal the James Risen subpoena.

And I noted here that the government was likely going to try to hide the identities of its CIA witnesses, even from Sterling, for all that would seem to violate the Sixth Amendment.

But then there’s what appears to be more of William Welch’s practice of withholding relevant material from defendants (Carrie Johnson first reported this aspect here).

While we don’t know which witnesses Leonie Brinkema has excluded, I think it possible that one of the witnesses in question was investigated, but not prosecuted, for leaking in the past.

Sterling moved to dismiss his case for selective prosecution on October 11, less than a week before the case was scheduled to go to trial. That’s obviously late to raise an issue like selective prosecution. That filing and a later response has not been redacted yet. But the government response makes it clear that Sterling complained about what appears to be another CIA officer who leaked classified information, but was not prosecuted.

The defendant claims that he was selectively prosecuted. At bottom, he alleges that because someone else was not prosecuted for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, then he must have been selectively prosecuted.

[snip]

Here, prior prosecutors reviewed the circumstances surrounding Person A’s statements and concluded that Person A’s statements had been obtained in violation of Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967). Person A’s statements are the only evidence against Person A cited by the defendant. Person A had been interviewed a number of times by internal security investigators, and Person A had an employment obligation to cooperate with those internal security investigators. Failure to do so meant loss of security clearances and potentially loss of employment for Person A. Thus, the threat of loss of employment, whether implied through the loss of security clearances or express, supplied the requisite coercion to render Person A’s statements inadmissible, and Person A never waived any Garrity rights or executed any Garrity waivers prior to making the statements at issue. Thus, the situation of this defendant and Person A are starkly different, not similarly situated.

Given the late date of Sterling’s motion to dismiss, it seems likely he got information on this person about a month ago, which makes it likely he received it in late discovery.

In her most recent ruling (which she issued in sealed form the day before the CIPA conference at which the government announced it would appeal), Brinkema responded to Sterling’s selective prosecution attempt with this comment.

The defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Based on Selective Prosecution or, in the Alternative, to Take Discovery Related to Selective Prosecution [Dkt. No. 254] is unsupported by the facts before the Court and the law. Moreover, there is not enough time before the start of the trial to conduct further discovery.

Given her dismissal based on time considerations, I think it likely this may be the impeachment evidence: that at least one of the witnesses who would testify against Sterling had, in the past, leaked herself, and yet Sterling had not been given enough time to learn about the nature of this leak.

Gosh, it seems like just a few hours ago I was posting on the capriciousness with which our government treats leaks. And it seems like just days ago that I was recalling William Welch’s series of prosecutorial screw-ups.

You’d think that DOJ would start to get the idea that none of this stuff is cool.

Update: I made an error before. Sterling’s reply to the government’s response on selective prosecution was not sealed. Here’s one more detail that adds to the picture of his selective prosecution claim.

With respect to the Government’s first contention, as set forth in his motion, Mr. Sterling has made a detailed showing. Mr. Sterling showed that the conduct of Person A was more egregious, Person A was not prosecuted, Mr. Sterling had sued the CIA for discrimination, and Mr. Sterling was prosecuted.

So whatever Person A leaked, Sterling claims it was worse than what he is accused of leaking.

Also note, Sterling’s reply came on October 13, the same day Brinkema issued her ruling rejecting the selective prosecution. So it’s possible that Sterling’s lawyers raised this issue in the CIPA hearing the next day, which is when the government decided to appeal.

John Rizzo Latest Target for DOJ Probe into Leaking

It pains me to defend John Rizzo. After all, his willful dumbness–or more likely, outright deceit–played a key role in our country’s approval of torture.

Still, I have mixed feelings about investigating–and probably reprimanding, but not prosecuting–him.

The Justice Department is investigating whether a former top U.S. intelligence official, John Rizzo, improperly disclosed classified information about the CIA’s drone campaign, one of the spy agency’s most secretive and politically sensitive programs.

People familiar with the matter say that the CIA’s general counsel’s office opened the probe in March, shortly after Newsweek published an article in which Rizzo — who had retired in 2009 after serving as the CIA’s acting general counsel — outlined an array of specific details about how CIA officials choose terrorists for drone strikes and which American officials sign off on actually carrying them out.

[snip]

Investigations into current or former senior CIA officials like Rizzo are exceptionally rare, and people familiar with the investigation said they expected this one to end with some sort of formal reprimand, and possibly a financial penalty such as a decrease in his government pension, rather than with his imprisonment. Until the Justice Department decides what it wishes to do, however, the CIA cannot take any action.

Rizzo may have spoken on the record for this article out of pique that his torturers, but not Obama’s drone killers, had come under criticism (plus, I’d dispute that the drone strikes haven’t come under criticism).

But this kind of information is actually crucial for citizens in a democracy to know:

How CIA staffers determine whether to target someone for lethal operations is a relatively straightforward, and yet largely unknown, story. The president does not review the individual names of people; Rizzo explains that he was the one who signed off.

Continue reading

If Gun Walking Is Wrong, Why Isn’t Nuclear Blueprint Walking?

In his statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Holder tried to stave off questions about Fast and Furious by asserting that “gun walking” is wrong.

I want to be clear: any instance of so-called “gun walking” is unacceptable.   Regrettably, this tactic was used as part of Fast and Furious, which was launched to combat gun trafficking and violence on our Southwest Border.   This operation was flawed in concept, as well as in execution.   And, unfortunately, we will feel its effects for years to come as guns that were lost during this operation continue to show up at crimes scenes both here and in Mexico.   This should never have happened.   And it must never happen again.

It’s a statement he repeated a number of times during the hearing.

The emphasis on the problems with the technique of letting illegal guns pass into Mexico to allow the ATF to trace straw buyers represents a shift in the way Democrats are dealing with the Fast and Furious scandal by looking at similar efforts made under Attorney General Mukasey.

For example, to undercut Darrell Issa’s efforts on Oversight, Elijah Cummings has asked him to include the earlier instances under Mukasey.

A briefing paper prepared for Attorney General Michael Mukasey during the Bush administration in 2007 outlined failed attempts by federal agents to track illicitly purchased guns across the border into Mexico and stressed the need for U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials to work together on such efforts using a tactic that now is generating controversy.The information contained in one paragraph of a lengthy Nov. 16, 2007, document marks the first known instance of an attorney general being given information about the tactic known as “gun-walking.” It since has become controversial amid a probe by congressional Republicans criticizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for using it during the Obama administration in an arms-trafficking investigation called Operation Fast and Furious that focused on several Phoenix-area gun shop

[snip]

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to the panel’s Republican chairman, Darrell Issa of California, asking that he call Mukasey to testify about his knowledge of the program.

“Given the significant questions raised by the disclosures in these documents, our committee’s investigation will not be viewed as credible, even-handed, or complete unless we hear directly from Attorney General Mukasey,” Cummings wrote.

It’s nice our elected officials are coming to the conclusion that it’s not a good idea to intentionally deal guns directly to people with ties to drug cartels.

But then why is Eric Holder’s DOJ prosecuting Jeff Sterling for allegedly exposing CIA’s practice of dealing nuclear blueprints to Iran (while, at the same time, alerting them to the flaws in those blueprints designed to sabotage their nuclear program)?

After all, if selling guns to cartel members presents unacceptably high possibility for unintended consequences, doesn’t passing on nuclear blueprints to Iran present an even greater risk?

And if that’s true, and if DOJ agrees that the ATF officers who exposed this program are whistleblowers, then doesn’t it follow that Sterling allegedly was, too?

If, as the Attorney General himself maintains, Fast and Furious was “flawed in concept, as well as in execution,” then what distinguishes it from Merlin?

Is DOJ Trying to Hide Valerie Plame at the Sterling Trial?

While I was away in South Carolina, the government released the redacted copy of Leonie Brinkema’s order on several issues relating to the Jeffrey Sterling case (the government immediately appealed aspects of this ruling).

There are several interesting aspects of the ruling. First, Brinkema refused to let the government admit the talking points Condi Rice used to convince the NYT not to publish the Merlin story back in 2003 without Rice testifying herself. Although the ruling will probably have a negligible affect in this case, I nevertheless find it ironic, given that the government gave up prosecuting two former AIPAC employees when their defense attorney Abbe Lowell threatened to call Rice to testify about her A1 cutout habits.

Also, Brinkema is allowing the government to introduce a redacted copy of Sterling’s 2000 performance evaluation, presumably so they can argue that Sterling leaked the details about Merlin out of anger that his Equal Opportunity complaint went nowhere. I find this troubling. When that suit was litigated, the government declared state secrets over something, presumably the real performance review. Given the possibility the review referred to Merlin, it seems unfair to allow the government to use the performance review against Sterling without releasing the whole thing (if that is, in fact, what the government invoked state secrets over).

But I’m most interested in what Brinkema’s order suggests about the government’s effort to deal with CIA witnesses. The government, it appears, wants to keep the names of 10 former and current CIA employees who will testify secret from both the defense and the jury.

[T]he Court will hold in abeyance pending further briefing the Government’s request not to disclose, even under seal, to the defendant or jury the true names of these witnesses as they testify.

Brinkema’s planned approach–in addition to using screens to hide the witnesses, she plans to delay the time when potential jurors would get a list of potential witnesses–suggests these names might be publicly recognizable.

Specifically, asking potential jurors if they recognize the names of any witnesses will be delayed until a qualified pool of jurors is established and jurors stricken for cause have been excused from the courtroom. Then, as groups of jurors are considered for peremptory challenge, they will be shown an alphabetical list containing the full names of all witnesses, with no other identifying information. Any jurors recognizing a witness’s name will be stricken for cause. Because the witness list will contain the full names of many CIA employees whose identities the Government wants to protect, it will remain classified; however, a redacted list will become part of the public record.

Of course, this trial will take place in Northern Virginia; it’s quite possible that these CIA witnesses are neighbors or friends of potential jurors. And the government has a clear interest in preventing these potential jurors from learning that their neighbors are actually spooks.

But as the video above makes clear, at least one of the former CIA employees who might be called to testify, Valerie Plame, would be recognizable to a far larger group of people–those who even remotely followed the CIA Leak Case (I think Valerie would have been on maternity leave during the actual events described in Risen’s book). And this filing (see PDF 5-6)–an argument laying out Pat Lang’s proposed testimony refuting the government’s claim that the information Sterling allegedly leaked hurt the country–shows Lang read the FBI interview reports of 22 witnesses; the last name of two of those witnesses, one classified, one apparently not, starts with a “W.”

Mind you, I’m not suggesting the government doesn’t already have very good reason to want to hide the CIA affiliation of these 10 proposed witnesses–they do, which is part of the reason their case may be in trouble, since these witnesses will be used, in part, to prove Sterling’s alleged leaks were serious. Sterling has a clear right to confront his accusers, but the government wants to ensure he doesn’t even know their real names (this may be one of the things the government is appealing).

But I wanted to raise the possibility that they want to hide at least one of these identities not because the identity remains classified–Dick Cheney ruined that–but instead out of a desire to avoid confirming that Plame played a role in the Merlin operation.

The Narratology of the Russian Scientist We’re Allowed to Memorialize but Not Quote

I was meaning to write a post on this filing in the Jeffrey Sterling case, largely to point out the government is trying to prevent Sterling from arguing that everyone–particularly John Brennan–leaks.

The Court should bar the defendant from presenting any evidence, argument or comments of selective prosecution or that everybody leaks classified information.

[snip]

Not only is such evidence not probative on the issue of whether the defendant committed the charged crimes, but the introduction of such evidence or arguments would force mini-trials over the similarities and differences between the present prosecution and every other specific instance of leaked classified information. Fights over the classification levels of the information, the potential damage caused to the United States, and a host of other issues would consume and overwhelm the real issues in this case.

The motion is particularly amusing not just because it was submitted at the very same time senior officials–including Brennan, who was involved in the underlying issues in this case–were leaking state secrets for days. And because, a week after this, the Defense did file a still-sealed selective prosecution motion. Moreover, the government’s case citations don’t address the instant issue: that the prosecuting agency itself–DOJ–leaks with impunity. It’s one thing to say other non-governmental criminals commit the same crime without being prosecuted; it’s another to say the agency prosecuting Sterling doesn’t prosecute people within its own agency that commit the same alleged crime.

Alas, I am going to have to, instead, focus instead on the motion to prevent Sterling from presenting any evidence that the Russian Scientist tasked with handing off faulty blueprints to the Iranians might be James Risen’s source.

 The court should bar the defendant from presenting any evidence or any argument regarding alternative perpetrators absent some non-speculative evidence of a connection to Risen and some knowledge of or access to Classified Program No. 1. Specifically, absent such nonspeculative evidence, the caselaw forecloses the defendant from presenting any evidence or making any argument regarding the following:

[snip]

Arguments or comments that Human Asset No. 1 was Risen’s source and disclosed the national defense information contained within Chapter 9;

Of course, all this is happening while the government is simultaneously trying to get comments the Russian Scientist made to his case officer when Risen’s book came out admitted into evidence, while at the same time trying to prevent Sterling from subpoenaing the underlying documents that might show the Russian had to be Risen’s source.

The government, you see, wants to admit evidence that the Russian was scared Risen’s revelations put his safety at risk.

On or about January 23, 2006, after having read Chapter 9 and the information contained therein for the first time, Human Asset No. 1 contacted his CIA case officer and requested an unscheduled meeting. Human Asset No. 1 subsequently met with his CIA case officer and reported his fears and personal safety concerns for himself and his family. The case officer contemporaneously memorialized Human Asset No. 1′s fears in a cable. See Dkt. 153, CIPA Exhibit 47. That cable demonstrates that Human Asset No. 1 made his statements to his CIA case officer while still “under the stress of excitement” caused by the level of detail identifying him as the asset involved in Classified Program No. 1. In addition, the CIA case officer will testify at trial that he had never seen Human Asset No. 1 so shaken and scared than on that day as Human Asset No. 1 reported his fears and concerns to him.

The government moved to enter this cable after the defense had already apparently (the filing is heavily redacted) pointed out that Risen’s book had not identified the Russian scientist–the defense appears to want to call Pat Lang to support this point–but also to note that the Russian would have had as much reason to want to discredit the CIA as Sterling allegedly would after he had been put in the position of dealing bad documents to Iran.

More interesting, Sterling suggests that the Russian may be the only person who had a document mentioned in Risen’s book. One possibility is a written report the Russian made of his trip. Another is the content of the cover letter he wrote warning the Iranians that there was something wrong with the blueprints.

But most notably–given the claims and counter-claims about what Risen’s narrative style might indicate about his sources–the Defense notes that much of the narrative of MERLIN is focalized through the Russian.

Human Asset No. 1 obviously had knoweldge of almost all of the information that appears in Chapter Nine. Indeed, there are portions of that Chapter that detail actions about which only Human Asset No. 1 had first-hand knowledge and those portions of the Chapter are written from the perspective of Human Asset No. 1. See, e.g. State of War at 194-95 (“I’m not a spy, he thought to himself. I’m a scientist. What am I doing here?”); Continue reading

The Narratology of Leaks, Part Two: Schooling William Welch

Let me just say I do not relish seeing William Welch making precisely the point I have made in one of his filings. When you read this,

That Mr. Feldstein’s opinions are unreliable and based on no method at all is underscored by their internal inconsistency. He opines that “all statements in Chapter Nine that seem to indicate the potential identity of sources must not be taken at face value,” Attachment A at 3. Yet at the same time, he also concludes that “taken at face value, Mr. Risen had multiple sources” for Chapter Nine, including multiple human sources and documentary sources. Id. Moreover, because such testimony has a substantial likelihood of confusing the jury, it is also inadmissible under Rule 403.

You’d almost think Welch had read this,

The filing goes on to suggest that because Risen used this same technique he succeeded in hiding his sources.

Chapter 9 of State of War attributes thoughts and motivations hoth the “the Russian scientist” and to “the CIA case offcer.” It is not possible to infer from this attribution whether Mr. Risen spoke directly to both of these individuals, one of them or neither of them, in gathering the information contained in Chapter 9, much less what information, if any, either individual provided Mr. Risen.

Now, in the literary world, scholars are cautious about making definitive statements about the intentionality of the author (particularly as with books like this, which have clearly been edited to make the book a good read). But I’ll grant that a good investigative journalist might be (though might not be) a lot more cautious about the legal implications of the narrative voice used than a fiction writer.

But there’s another problem. The filing later suggests a reader can draw conclusions from the narrative presentation of evidence.

Taken at face value, Mr. llsen had multiple sources for the portion of Chapter 9 of State of War that discusses a CIA operation to provide flawed information to Iran’s nuclear program. These sources include multiple human sources as well as documentary sources, which may have been  provided to Mr. Risen by persons who also gave oral information to Mr. Risen or by others in addition to those who gave him oral information. Mr. Feldstein bases this opinion, in part, on the following examples: 1) page 197 of the book attributes information to a “secret CIA report”; 2) the material quoted at pages 204-05 of the book appears to have been quoted from a documentary source; 3) page 208 attributes views to unnamed “offcials”: 4) page 211 cites “several former CIA offcials”; and 5) page 211 indicates that the Senate Selcct Committee on Intellgence received information about the program from the “CIA case offcer,” but states the Committee took no action.

Sterling’s team is trying to have it both ways, drawing on Feldstein’s amateurish identification of narrative voice to suggest one cannot draw conclusions about sources, then showing Feldstein doing just that based on the clear indications given in the narrative.

Say, Bill Welch? In case you’re reading this post, you made almost as stupid an error in your request to preclude the defense’s use of narratology at the Jeffrey Sterling trial as the defense did in trying to have it both ways. You try to argue that the typical juror would understand this stuff already. Trust me, I’ve taught this subject to literature majors and honors students at a good state university, and it is not commonly understood, even among uncommonly smart people.

But even funnier is the way you make this argument.

In addition to inadmissible speculation regarding sources, the defendant also intends to call this expert to testify regarding the fact that State of War is written in the “third-person omniscient narrative style.” Attachment A at 1-2. The concept of a narrative voice, including the “third-person omniscient” narrative voice, does not require expert explanation. It is a common feature of high school reading curricula. See, e.g., English Standards of Learning in Virginia Public Schools 2 (2010), available at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/english/ 2010/stds_english9.pdf; English Standards of Learning Curriculum Framework 2010: Grade Nine 12 (2010), available at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/english /review.shtml. Because the concept of “point-of-view” is within the common knowledge and education of the average juror, it is inadmissible and properly excluded.

First, here are the correct links, in case Judge Brinkema wants to see the original references and gets lost by the 404 errors the URLs in the filing pull up.

But what the curriculum document you’ve linked to–and you yourself–are referring to is “point of view,” not “third person omniscient” narrative.

The student will read, comprehend, and analyze a variety of literary texts including narratives, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama.

e) Explain the relationships between and among elements of literature: characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.

i) Explain the influence of historical context on the form, style, and point of view of a written work.

Neither the word, “omniscient,” nor the phrase “third person” appears in that curriculum document.

As even Wikipedia will tell you, “point of view” and “narrative voice” are different things. Both a first person and a third person narrative can use the same point(s) of view. The points of view (actually, focalization) James Risen used in the chapter in question is generally that of the Russian scientist and the case officer. We don’t, for example, get access to the feelings of the “senior CIA officer,” who might have been thinking that the “case officer” was being a big wuss about the doctored nuclear blueprints and should just suck it up and go on with the operation; we only get that person’s statements. And in spite of the fact that Risen uses some fairly interesting narrative techniques to convey the thoughts of the Russian (as I noted in my last post), this is not told in a first person narrative in the voices of the two: we (generally) get not only the narrator’s description of who said and thought what, but also a great deal of background about things like the IAEA, Russian nukes, and Nunn-Lugar that Risen is pretty damn knowledgeable about all by himself.

In other words, in the passage of the filing claiming that this stuff is known to VA’s high school freshmen, Welch makes an error, incorrectly conflating two aspects of narrative (and frankly, the two that would need to be distinguished for anyone, government or defense, to make an argument at trial about what the style of Risen’s text means about his sources).

Apparently, your average VA juror can be expected to know this stuff, but not a fancy government lawyer with degrees from Princeton and Northwestern.

Now, as I’ve said, I think this use of narratology in the court room is inappropriate, regardless of whether the defense or the prosecution attempts to use it (and both are trying to do so). I hope the defense responds to this filing by counter-filing that if their expert is precluded, the government should also be prevented from presenting their claims about what Risen’s narrative techniques mean, since the lawyers involved are obviously incompetent to do so.

But I will say I’m having a bit of fun watching the debate about it.

William Welch & DOJ’s Dishonest Intelligence Witness Against Jeff Sterling

In a comment to Marcy’s The Narratology of Leaking: Risen and Sterling post yesterday, MadDog related this nugget regarding the Sterling case from a Steve Aftergood article in Privacy News:

I know EW’s post’s focus was on Sterling’s defense team’s strategy, but I’d be remiss in not commenting on this tidbit from Steven Aftergood’s post:

“…In addition, a former intelligence official now tells prosecutors that portions of his testimony before a grand jury concerning certain conversations with Mr. Risen about Mr. Sterling were “a mistake on his part.” As a result, prosecutors said (8 page PDF), Mr. Risen himself is “the only source for the information the government seeks to present to the jury.”…”

I wondered just what this paragraph meant. Did it mean, as I assumed, that one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, a former intelligence official, had in fact recanted the former intelligence official’s grand jury testimony?

Here is just what the prosecution blithely said on the matter from page 5 of their supplement (8 page PDF):

“…Fifth, the testimony of the “former intelligence official” referenced in the Court’s Opinion has changed. The former official will now only say that on one occasion, Mr. Risen spoke with him about the defendant and stated that the defendant had complained about not being sufficiently recognized for his role in Classified Program No. 1 and in his recruitment of a human asset relating to Classified Program No. 1, and that on a separate occasion, Mr. Risen asked him generic questions about whether the CIA would engage in general activity similar to Classified Program No. 1. This former official, however, cannot say that Mr. Risen linked the second conversation with the defendant, although both conversations occurred within several months of each other. The former official termed his grand jury testimony, which linked the two conversations together, as a mistake on his part. In addition, the former official further modified his testimony to say that although Mr. Risen had acknowledged visiting the defendant in his hometown, Mr. Risen’s trip to see the defendant was not the main purpose of his travel, but rather a side trip.

The testimony of this former official had been cited by the Court as providing “exactly what the government seeks to obtain from its subpoena [to Mr. Risen]: an admission that Sterling was Risen’s source for the classified information in Chapter Nine.” Memorandum Opinion (Dkt No.148) at 24. The former official’s testimony will not now provide such a direct admission, further underscoring the government’s contention that for the reasons discuss in its Motion, Mr. Risen is the only source for the information the government seeks to present to the jury…”

So, that got me thinking, what is the status of the “former intelligence officer” in question? Is he still on the witness list? Who is it, and why is he “former”? Has he been charged with false statements to a government officer under 18 USC 1001? Has he been charged with perjury under 18 USC 1623? Is there a criminal investigation regarding the duplicity underway? What is being done?

Because, giving the government’s prosecutors the benefit of the doubt that they did not misrepresent or puff the “former intelligence officer’s” statements and testimony to start with, which is a pretty sizable grant for a William Welch run show, then it seems pretty clear that the “former intelligence official” is now saying that he either testified to things he did not, in fact know at the time, or he embellished/lied to the grand jury and the attending prosecutors.

The problem with the above is, the “former intelligence official is not entitled to any protection or benefit of the doubt for a “recantation” under 18 USC 1963(d). Here is the relevant portion on Continue reading

Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel @kevinjonheller He hasn't thrown a pick yet, has he? Still watching bc I'm waiting for a pick.
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bmaz @OBEYshiba done.
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bmaz @Travis_Waldron "My only child born 4 days before last Lions playoff victory. I am now a grandfather." http://t.co/hGouSM0hVh cc @emptywheel
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emptywheel @Krhawkins5 Did you track the Black List? And how they changed policy on it?
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emptywheel @Krhawkins5 also, the guy the provenance of whose story CIA still refuses to declassify, right? ;p
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emptywheel @Krhawkins5 I don't remember it.
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emptywheel @kevinjonheller Also I don't dislike the Browns. Lived w/a guy chased by "Browns backers" for a year. I wish them well.
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emptywheel @kevinjonheller Yeah. Another Spartie I shouldn't be rooting for (like Cousins, who I REALLY like).
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emptywheel @kevinjonheller Don't disagree. He will benefit from having time to learn, though.
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emptywheel @kevinjonheller He's trying too hard. Meanwhile, the Kitties have a Smurf AND the snot-nose kid from down the street.
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emptywheel @NadiaKayyali Shit. Now I AM impressed. @onekade
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