Republicans are orchestrating yet another mob attack on one of President Obama’s African-American appointees. In this case, 97 House Republicans have signed a letter imploring Obama not to nominate Rice to replace Hillary Clinton. Yet they don’t raise any of the possibly legitimate reasons to oppose Rice’s appointment–her troubling record on Africa, her closeness to Obama.
These 97 Republicans don’t even try to make this look like legitimate opposition. Instead, they rehash a Benghazi attack that hearings last week debunked.
Ambassador Rice is widely viewed as having either willfully or incompetently misled the American people in the Benghazi matter. Her actions plausibly give the U.S. (and rivals) abroad reason to question U.S. commitment and credibility when needed.
They don’t know what the problem with Rice is, this mob of frothing Republicans. But if she’s black, they seem to be saying, she must be either incompetent or deceitful.
This frothing mob includes such leading lights of the racist right as Steve King, Ted Poe, Louie Gohmert, Michelle Bachmann, and Tim Griffin, and such discredited hacks as Scott DesJarlais and Joe Wilson.
While Alan West signed the letter, along with several Latinos, the letter largely pits a bunch of white radicals against a single black woman whom they claim is not credible because she read talking points developed by the CIA.
This is not the act of reasoned legislators. It’s a mob attack. A mob attack, like so many others, targeted blindly at an African-American professional appointed by our nation’s first African-American President.
As you’ll recall, back in April I went on a week-long rant about the great lengths–including submitting a secret declaration from the National Security Advisor–the Obama Administration had gone to hide a short reference to the September 17, 2001 “Gloves Come Off” Memorandum of Notification. In doing so, it appears the Obama Administration hid George Tenet’s invocation of the Presidential MON that authorized the capture and detention of terrorists but which the Bush Administration used as its authorization to torture those alleged terrorists. (post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4, post 5, post 6, post 7)
In a classified hearing on March 9, the government claimed that releasing the reference in question would “reveal for the first time the existence and the scope of” what now clearly appears to be the MON. After I went on my rant, the ACLU informed the Circuit Court that the claim might be false. If the reference was indeed to the MON, ACLU wrote, then the CIA had already revealed that the September 17, 2001 MON authorized torture in this litigation.
If true, it may be relevant to this Court’s consideration that the CIA officially acknowledged the existence of that memorandum in this very litigation.
In response to appellees’ Freedom of Information Act request, the CIA identified as responsive “a 14-page memorandum dated 17 September 2001 from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists” and “to set up detention facilities outside the United States.” Eighth Declaration of Marilyn A. Dorn
For the reasons set forth in the Government’s classified filings, the disclosures identified in plaintiffs’ letter, including the information provided in the Dorn declaration, do not constitute an official disclosure of the information redacted from the OLC memoranda.
Notably, in its discussion of the cases which it cited to support its claim that Dorn’s description of the MON doesn’t count, it also included language that would address John Rizzo’s extensive blabbing about the MON as well as Glenn Carle’s CIA Publication Review Board-approved reference to CIA having received a Finding covering torture (neither of which the ACLU mentioned in its letter). But look what case they cited to make that argument.
This Court applies “[a] strict test” to claims of official disclosure. Wilson v. CIA, Continue reading
Elliott Abrams makes a good point: the “reviews,” thus far, of Cheney’s book have focused on particular incidents rather than on the scope of the narrative. Once I get done with it, I plan to do a full review, which I think would have been better titled, “Portrait of the Evil Bureaucrat as a Young Man.”
Yet the sole defense of the full memoir Abrams offers is an assertion that Cheney’s principles as Vice President remained the same as those that guided him when he protected the illegal acts of the Iran-Contra conspirators.
I first knew Cheney when he was chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the House of Representatives (from 1981 to 1987), and our discussions centered then on the wars in Central America. Neither controversy nor scandal shook his view that preventing communist takeovers in that region was an important goal for the United States. Later, when I served at Bush’s National Security Council, I sometimes worked with Cheney, then vice president. Despite those who claim he changed over time, I did not find that so. The central qualities remained: total devotion to principle and to country, and complete and unswerving commitment to any policy he believed served American interests.
Curiously, Abrams neglects to admit that Cheney’s embrace of illegal means amounted to an embrace of Abrams’ own illegal means. No wonder Abrams is so fawning!
But the rest of Abrams’ piece on Cheney does precisely what he criticizes others for: relitigating individual events, notably Cheney’s policy differences with Condi Rice and Colin Powell.
Which is how he sets up his rather bizarre claim that Cheney never leaked.
Many use leaks to protect their personal interests. Cheney did none of these things. When he differed from a policy he told the president so, privately, and told the press and those outside the White House nothing — a practice that earned him unending attacks in the media from gossip-hungry journalists.
As to Powell, the criticism is more personal, for Cheney accuses him of criticizing the president and his policies to people outside the administration and of constant leaking.
Powell himself has admitted that he could not continue after 2004 because his views could not be reconciled with those of Bush. He has not admitted to the leaking, but the leaks by Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were too widely known in Washington to require any additional proof. And as to Cheney’s indictment of Powell and Armitage for standing by while Scooter Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, was unjustly prosecuted for the leak of Valerie Plame’s name, the facts are in; the complaint is justified.
Just as a reminder, Abrams was, himself, one of those initially listed among the leakers of Valerie Plame’s identity and we never learned Judy Miller’s sources for Plame’s identity besides Scooter Libby, so perhaps here again he is lauding Cheney for protecting him.
But even aside from Abrams’ factually incorrect statement of the facts revealed at the Libby trial–notably, that Libby lied to hide the fact that Cheney had ordered him to leak information, possibly including Plame’s identity, to Judy Miller–he ignores the leak Cheney’s office used as cover for their conversations with Bob Novak on July 7, the day before Novak asked Armitage questions that elicited Plame’s identity. On July 7, Cheney’s office spoke to Novak, purportedly in an attempt to scotch Frances Fragos Townsend’s appointment as Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor (precisely the kind of leak, Abrams says, Cheney didn’t do). And just as a reminder, Cheney was the only person known to have refused to release journalists he spoke to about Joe Wilson and Plame from their confidentiality agreements.
Elliott Abrams’ post amounts to a celebration that Dick Cheney would use any means–even illegal means–to achieve the ends he believed important, something Abrams himself has done too. And in support of that celebration, this convicted liar lies about Cheney and leaks; he lies about the substance of another convicted liar’s lies.
So I guess Abrams did pay tribute to Cheney’s entire life memoir after all.
Jeebus: Goldsmith may be getting a hang of this blogging thing, but I’m not: John Rizzo, not John Brennan. So the stuff I originally said about Brennan doesn’t make any sense.
I may not always agree with Jack Goldsmith, but he’s getting a hang of this blogging thing. Today, he posts the answer John Brennan gave him to the question of how Bob Woodward got very specific details of a meeting that a number of Obama’s top advisors had to leave because they didn’t have the appropriate clearance.
The first Chapter of Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars describes Barack Obama’s first post-election intelligence briefing from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, on November 6, 2008. The chapter shows McConnell, at the direction of President Bush, excluding many Obama aides (including Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta and former Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg) from the briefing. Because the briefing contained highly classified information about “sources and methods,” McConnell explained, only those “designated to take a top national security cabinet post” could attend. Woodward then recounts this highly classified intelligence briefing in great detail, including several highly classified CIA and NSA programs, and their code names.
After reading this chapter, I wondered how a meeting involving classified information so sensitive that a close Obama aide and former top national security official could not attend could the following year be recounted in such loving detail in the first chapter of a best-selling book. Woodward clearly got his information from participants in the meeting or their close aides. Was it right for these people to speak to Woodward about these matters? Was it legal? I sent these questions to John Rizzo, the just-retired thirty-four year veteran CIA lawyer who has seen his share of leaked classified information over the years.
Simple. When a President himself is a key source and directs or at least signals to his Administration to cooperate with the author, that for all intents and purposes means the book becomes one big authorized disclosure. That’s what Obama did for Woodward, and that’s what Bush did for Woodward in his three books during that Administration, which also were packed with hitherto sensitive information. That’s what is remarkable and unique about Woodward’s standing.
Now, Goldsmith appears offended that Obama and Bush would treat classified information so lightly.
Me, I’m more interested in what this says about Woodward’s (and, while we’re talking about it, Judy Miller’s) position in the information management function.
John Brennan–a guy who oversaw targeting for Cheney’s illegal wiretap program and therefore presumably had the highest clearance in two Administrations–lackadaisically says that if the President wants something leaked, it becomes legal to leak it.
In Judy Miller’s case, we saw how this selective leaking ensured the Administration could declassify its politicized case for war, while ensuring those who disputed the case were kept silent under threat of prosecution.
Woodward is even more interesting. Woodward knew to ask certain pointed questions of Richard Armitage–the same questions, as it turns out, that Bob Novak asked to elicit information about Valerie Plame’s purported role in Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger. But according to John Brennan, at least, even if Richard Armitage leaked Plame’s role intentionally, it would not be illegal. And remember, too, that on July 8 or 9 (this is reflected in notes introduced at trial; you’ll have to take my word for it though, because I don’t have my records with me), the VP’s office did give Woodward detailed information about the Iraq NIE. In other words, we know Woodward was a part of the OVP’s strategy for rebutting Joe Wilson in what was effectively a political hit.
More generally, though, consider what this suggests about the excuse that Cheney was prepared to use for having ordered the leak of Plame’s identity. John Brennan, at least, argues that if the President “signals to his Administration” that he wants certain information out there, it’s legal to leak it. I don’t necessarily buy that, mind you.
But it suggests one of Obama’s key advisors buys off on the idea that it’s cool for the President to selectively declassify information (you know, like leaks to the press about targeting Anwar al-Awlaki, even if you later invoke state secrets about it) for political gain.
Okay, this is one for the ages.
Karl Rove is out today with what is presumably an excerpt from his book, revealing his biggest mistake. He doesn’t verbalize what that mistake is, really. Rather, he bitches about a list of Democrats.
But the initial complaint appears to be that on July 15, 2003, Ted Kennedy accused George Bush of lying to get us into the Iraq war.
Seven years ago today, in a speech on the Iraq war, Sen. Ted Kennedy fired the first shot in an all-out assault on President George W. Bush’s integrity. “All the evidence points to the conclusion,” Kennedy said, that the Bush administration “put a spin on the intelligence and a spin on the truth.” Later that day Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle told reporters Mr. Bush needed “to be forthcoming” about the absence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Thus began a shameful episode in our political life whose poisonous fruits are still with us.
At the time, we in the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past. That was wrong and my mistake: I should have insisted to the president that this was a dagger aimed at his administration’s heart. What Democrats started seven years ago left us less united as a nation to confront foreign challenges and overcome America’s enemies.
July 15, 2003 was, of course, the day after Bob Novak–acting on a leak involving Richard Armitage, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove himself–outed Valerie Plame. Before Ted Kennedy said the first mean thing about Bush, Rove had already leaked to at least Novak and Matt Cooper, and OVP was leaking even more wildly (and it should be said, leaking classified information to the WSJ, where Rove’s piece appears, to make their case).
But now Karl Rove says “the Bush White House discussed responding but decided not to relitigate the past”?!?!?
Aside from the fact that Rove’s op-ed operates on the erroneous foundation that the Administration shared all the intelligence they juiced up with Congress (they didn’t), the entire op-ed is based on an absolutely delusional sense of timing.
And a convenient silence about what the White House had already done, in concert, before Ted Kennedy correctly accused the President of lying us into war.
Jason Leopold has a long article and videotape of an interview with Jon Kiriakou that you should check out in full. I’ll discuss their conversation about Abu Zubaydah’s torture (and, more interestingly, Kiriakou’s knowledge about who Abu Zubaydah is) later. But I wanted to look more closely at Kiriakou’s description of a June 10, 2003 meeting at which (Kiriakou says) Scooter Libby made it clear that he knew of Plame’s identity.
Kiriakou said he was the “note taker” at this meeting, which took place on June 10, 2003, when I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, “entered the room furious, putting on a big show, arms flailing around, swearing and demanding to know why nobody at the CIA told him that Valerie Plame was married to Joe Wilson.”
Kiriakou said it was clear to him that when Libby “entered the room” on June 10, 2003, he had already known that Plame was an undercover operative.
Now, it always pays to approach Kiriakou’s statements with some skepticism. And his description certainly doesn’t accord with what Grenier testified to at the Libby trial. But for the moment, let’s look at what Kiriakou’s description would mean for the chronology of the week of June 8, 2003.
After a break of several weeks after Nicholas Kristof first reported Joe Wilson’s allegations, the allegations returned again on June 8, 2003, when George Stephanopolous asked Condi Rice about the allegations. Apparently first thing on the following day, June 9, 2003, President Bush expressed to Libby in some way his concern about the allegations. And that seems to have been what set OVP into overdrive trying to learn about the source of the allegations. Later that same afternoon, John Hannah had already completed a briefing for Cheney on the issue.
According to Kiriakou’s story, Libby had his furious outburst on June 10. That would probably mean it happened at the 12:45 NSC DC [Deputies Committee] meeting, four hours before Kiriakou wrote his email requesting more information. Though note, the content of the Kiriakou email we have–which asks for very specific information for John McLaughlin in anticipation of a meeting with Cheney the following day and doesn’t mention the meeting itself–doesn’t match the description he gave Jason:
After Libby’s outburst, Kiriakou said he “went back to headquarters and I wrote an email to all of the executive assistants of all the top leaders in the agency saying, this meeting took place, Libby is furious, we believe that he was conveying a message from the vice president. I wanted to know when did we know that Valerie was married to Joe Wilson, sent it around, nobody ever responded to my email.”
That says, if Kiriakou’s narrative is correct, Libby probably learned of the tie between Plame and Wilson between June 9 and June 10, if not earlier. Which might explain why the date on Libby’s note record learning of Plame’s tie to Wilson appears to be written over. One possibility, for example, is that the note originally read June 9, not June 12.
This is where Kiriakou’s story begins to conflict with Robert Grenier’s and Marc Grossman’s. Marc Grossman testified he told Libby, probably at a DC meeting on June 11 or 12, that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA (based on the INR memo). And Grenier testified that Libby asked him for information on a phone call on June 11, at which point, Grenier claimed, he “had never heard of [Wilson’s trip] before.” Both claims would be false if Libby had blown up in the June 10 meeting.
Now, both Grossman and Grenier’s testimony is problematic on a number of other levels, so we can’t use their testimony to dismiss Kiriakou’s story out of hand.
But I didn’t do a very good job of explaining the consequences of that action from Cheney. Luckily, perris did that for me.
As a reminder, I’ve shown over the years that a great deal of circumstantial evidence suggests that Dick Cheney ordered Scooter Libby to leak a number of things to Judy Miller on July 8, 2003: The NIE (as Libby testified), but also the report from Joe Wilson’s trip and Valerie Wilson’s identity. From public reporting, it always looked like Cheney had constructed a firewall to defend against an IIPA violation. If Fitzgerald ever proved that Libby leaked Valerie Wilson’s identity to Judy Miller knowing she was covert, then Cheney could claim that he had insta-declassified her identity, thereby giving that leak a legal defense, however dubious. Cheney even went so far to imply to Tim Russert that he hypothetically could have declassified Valerie Wilson’s identity.
Q There was a story in the National Journal that Cheney authorized Libby to leak confidential information. Can you confirm or deny that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have the authority as Vice President under an executive issued by the President to classify and declassify information. And everything I’ve done is consistent with those authorities.
Q Could you declassify Valerie Plame’s status as an operative?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’ve said all I’m going to say on the subject, Tim.
But Cheney’s denials of all knowledge of the Plame leak during his Fitzgerald interview would have made that defense impossible.
[Cheney] has no personal knowledge of anyone having provided [Mrs. Wilson’s employment] to Robert Novak, or any other reporter.
he does not recall having a conversation with the President about the Wilsons. [note, Cheney goes on to contradict this claim]
He does not recall discussing Valerie Wilson with Libby prior to her name appearing in Novak’s column on 7/14/03.
His handwritten notes on the 7/6/03 editorial about Wilson’s trip and the involvement of Wilson’s wife in the CIAs selection of Wilson was triggered by his recollection of the prior telephone conversation he had with George Tenet, wherein Tenet identified Wilson’s wife as an employee of the agency. The Vice President also indicated that he never discussed the substance of his call with Tenet with anyone prior to the publication of Valerie Wilsons identity in Novak’s 7/14/03 newspaper column. [Note, earlier he had said he may have told Libby]
I tried to say nothing when news of Novak’s announcement came. I had nothing good to say, though my own father died of brain cancer and I empathize with Novak and his family for that–it is a horrible way to die, particularly for someone whose identity was tied with his intellect.
But I couldn’t resist a snark on twitter:
Cue Woodward claiming he got deathbed confession about what really happened during the 7/9/03 conversation Novak & Libby hid.
Perhaps Woodward will–as he did with Reagan’s CIA Director and Iran-Contra co-conspirator, Bill Casey, who also died of brain cancer–make dubious claims about deathbed conversations with Novak.
But the fact is that Novak died with most of his role in the Plame outing still shrouded in secrecy. That’s partly true because of the significant changes in Novak’s story over time. All of the following Novak claims changed as the stage of the investigation suited:
On all those details, Novak’s story changed repeatedly. And then there’s one I’ve never heard anyone ask: from whom Novak got the talking point, "The White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, and not just Vice President Cheney, asked the CIA to look into it," a talking point that shows up in Libby’s note from Cheney on Plame’s identity and may appear in Judy Miller’s notes.
Yet today, most journalists assume Novak’s final answers–the ones that eventually shielded Rove and Libby and Cheney from most consequences–were truthful, and believe they know what happened.
Since there is still some confusion over the material from Dick Cheney’s interview with Patrick Fitzgerald that, DOJ says, cannot be made public, I decided to provide a more detailed description of what was in the interview with handy links for any media outlets that are too busy selling access to lobbyists to do their own work. What follows are the page-specific references in the DOJ FOIA response to material that appears in the FBI report of the interview. That document is 28 pages long, total, so this is a pretty good outline of what’s in the interview. I treat information that appears on the same page together, so a couple of these descriptions cover a number of separate issues raised in the filing.
Vice President’s discussion of the substance of a conversation he had with the Director of the CIA concerning the decision to send Ambassador Wilson on a fact-finding mission to Niger in 2002. (Page 3, lines 15-17, 21-28); The name of a covert CIA employee (Page 3)
As you recall, Libby first learned of Valerie Plame’s covert identity from a conversation with Dick Cheney some time during the week of June 9, 2003. He recorded his conversation with Cheney in a note which was a central focus of Libby’s grand jury testimony. When asked, Libby said Cheney may have learned of Valerie’s status from Tenet. And, when Fitzgerald was questioning Libby about Cheney’s notations on Joe Wilson’s op-ed, Libby explained that Cheney had asked Tenet earlier in June or July about the CIA sending ambassadors to gather information.
Q. When the Vice President asked you the question, "have they done this type of thing before," question to that effect, Vice — did the Vice President ever ask you has the Agency ever done this sort of thing before where an ambassador was sent out?
A. I think he may have at some point.
Q. And what did you do in response to that question, if anything?
A. I don’t know if I did anything particularly about it. I think he may have taken it up with, with Tenet rather than asking me.
Q. What did he talk to the official that you do know he talked about?
A. About, you know, how this came about. I have a sense that he had talked to Tenet or somebody about, about that.
Q. And what time frame was that?
A. Summer, June, July, something like that.
In other words, this conversation appears to be the conversation Cheney had during the week of June 9 in which he learned of Plame’s identity. That makes the reference to "a covert CIA employee’s identity" all the more interesting. While that might be a reference to Valerie’s colleague who first suggested sending Joe, it might well be a reference to Valerie herself. While we know the CIA still wants to hide details of Plame’s career, it would be the height of absurdity if CIA tried to prevent us from seeing Fitzgerald ask Cheney about Plame.
In any case, DOJ is probably attempting to prevent us from learning of Cheney’s account of how he learned of Plame’s identity before he passed it on to Scooter Libby.
The die was cast by John Bates’ exploitation (and to some extent contortion) of glaring and gaping holes in the pleading by Plame/Wilson. It is a shame, but especially in light of the subsequent Iqbal decision, there is no way to credibly call this a cover up. This case was over when it started.
But, as RawStory points out, it means Valerie Wilson will never get her day in court against the men who deliberately ruined her career in government service because she and her colleagues had proof of the Administration’s lies.
So unless Bob Novak has an illness-induced desire to come clean about what really happened in the leak–including the real details of the long-hidden conversation Novak had with Scooter Libby on July 9, 2003 (probably including Plame’s name and exact role in Counter-Proliferation, as well as still-classified details from Joe Wilson’s report to the CIA), or unless Scooter Libby gets tired of being a quiet felon, the only way we’ll find out the rest of the details of the case will be if Judge Sullivan orders Cheney’s FBI interview materials released. And even then, I think they won’t surprise any long-time reader of this site, though they might surprise the traditional press.
In that, the CIA Leak case feels like the rest of the Bush-Cheney tenure: it left the country far less safe, but no one will ever be held accountable for it.
Look on the bright side, though. Scooter Libby hasn’t gotten his inevitable Republican-as-felon radio show, yet.