The Contents of the Fitzgerald-Cheney Interview

Mary pointed me to DOJ’s latest attempt to prevent CREW from accessing the materials relating to Cheney’s interview with Fitzgerald and the FBI. I’ll get into what a load of crap the DOJ argument is later. But first, I want to lay out what the FOIA declarations say about the Cheney interview itself.

First, the date. Rather than early June, as previously assumed, the CIA declaration included with this document reveals the documents were dated May 8, 2004–a month earlier in the investigation that we had  known (and therefore a month and a half earlier than Bush’s interview).

Otherwise, the declarations reveal the following contents of the interview:

  • 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.
  • Vice President’s discussion of his requests for information from the CIA relating to reported efforts by Iraqi officials to purchase uranium from Niger.
  • Vice President’s recollection of the substance of his discussions with the National Security Advisor while she was on a trip to Africa.
  • Vice President’s description of government deliberations, including discussions between the Vice President and the Deputy National Security Advisor, in preparation of a statement by the Director of CIA regarding the accuracy of a statement in the President’s 2003 State of the Union Address.
  • Vice President’s recollection of discussions with Lewis Libby, the White House Communications Director, and the White House Chief of Staff regarding the appropriate response to media inquiries about the source of the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA employee.
  • Vice President’s description of his role in resolving disputes about whether to declassify certain information.
  • Vice President’s description of government deliberations involving senior officials regarding whether to declassify portions of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate.
  • Description of a confidential conversation between the Vice President and the President, and description of an apparent communication between the Vice President and the President. 
  • Names of non-governmental third-parties and details of their extraneous interactions with the Vice President.
  • Name of a CIA briefer.
  • Names of FBI agents.
  • Names of foreign government and liaison services.
  • The name of a covert CIA employee.
  • The methods CIA uses to assess and evaluate intelligence and inform policy makers.

Now, as I’ll get into when I discuss what a load of crap this is, almost every single bit of this was already revealed at trial. The single event we don’t know significant details of already is this:

Vice President’s recollection of the substance of his discussions with the National Security Advisor while she was on a trip to Africa.

Given the location of the discussion–it appears on the same page as the description of the Cheney-Libby-Hadley discussions on the Tenet statement–it probably pertains to the perceived understanding of Condi’s role in sticking the shiv in Tenet’s back–and/or her willingness or not to admit fault in sticking the uranium claim in the State of the Union. Also remember–Condi passed word through Hadley that Bush was "comfortable" with their plan (which may have included outing Plame).

Another interesting detail not introduced at trial: schedules released during the trial and a CIA document released after the trial show Cheney had a meeting with John McLaughlin during the week of June 9, 2003–when Cheney learned of Plame’s identity. But this seems to confirm that Cheney also had a conversation with Tenet that week (Libby claimed Cheney learned of Plame’s identity from Tenet, though I think Cheney learned of it from reading two memos Plame wrote wrt the trip).

The one other piece of information that would be very interesting would be the "names of non-governmental third-parties and details of their extraneous interactions with the Vice President." Otherwise known as "media," including (at a minimum) Andrea Mitchell, but also Bob Novak.

For some reason, Obama’s DOJ doesn’t want us to see these things. But considering what a ridiculous argument they’re making here–and the degree to which these things are already declassified–I’m guessing we get to see some of this. 

image_print
  1. Leen says:

    Obama, Holder “no one is above the law”

    Jesus Mary and Joseph are they going to protect an administration that purposely outed a CIA undercover agent. Do they believe in justice or not? Looks like not

  2. Waccamaw says:

    ew –

    Another contribution toward the fundraiser heading in your direction after the holiday. You’ve earned it today, girl!

    *smooch*

  3. sojourner says:

    Slightly OT, but not entirely — I cannot figure out if Obama is just willing to allow Mr. Holder to do whatever he deems fit, or if Obama does not really care. I keep feeling that the torch has been passed to Obama by the Bushies, and he is toeing a line — not so much to protect them, but to allow the pressure to build on its own so that then he can say that he “had” to reveal things.

    There is honor among thieves, to be sure, but I still feel that Obama has greater concerns and is willing to do more for our country than for his own pocketbook… I hope!!

  4. NMvoiceofreason says:

    To reveal the identity of an active Non-Official cover agent is treason.

    To protect those who revealed the identity of a NOC is conspiracy to commit treason.

  5. Mary says:

    bmaz will enjoy watching Breuer shift gears from Clemens to Cheney.

    I have to admit I know little to nothing about the FOIA and so I’m probably going to regret saying this – but it seems to me that where you have a DOJ criminal investigation of the Executive branch, you cannot also have DOJ acting in a capacity of giving advice as to what evidence obtained in its criminal investigation of the Executive branch is — privileged from disclosure by the Executive branch. That just ain’t right. It’s tied in with the points Fitzgerald made in the party alignment issues in the Libby investigation, but there is something fundamentally wrong with having DOJ on the one hand arguing that their function is to protect the Executive and assert privilege to prevent release of information put together in connection with a criminal investigation and on the other hand assert that they were the entity conducting that investigation. I’m not sure where, but at an absolute minimum there needs to be something from WH and WH Counsel and VP counsel in those affidavits instead of having the head of the DOJ division investigating the VP arguing on behalf of the VP and VP counsel against disclosure in an affidavit – some link isn’t linking here.

      • Mary says:

        I probably can’t very coherently and I’m out the door to pick up dog food from a seller who closes soon, but I’ll try a quickie and maybe come back to it thise evening after horses.

        The office of the Special Investigator was at least potentially adverse to the WH and the OVP in the Plame investigation. It turned out (cloud over the VP, indictment and conviction of Libby) to be more actual than just potentially adverse and in the discovery I know you will remember a point where Walton was going down the road of aligning the Special Prosecutor, bc he was inhouse DOJ, with all manner of elements of the Executive branch, and the Special Pros made a point of going back and saying — um, not to change the outcome of your rulling, Judge, but would you please not base it on aligning me with all those Exec branch agencies and actors, bc after all, I was getting info from them by subpoena and we aren’t really necessarily on the same side on all this.

        Now you have OLC and the Crim Div head both queing up to say that they can provide advice to the Special Pros about what to turn over by making arguments on behalf of the advserse parties to the Spec Prosecutor as to what should be subject to deliberative privilege etc. and what should be subject to his (Spec Pros) work product privilege at the same time. It’s a weird mishmash of playing both sides of the field in a way lawyers generally are not allowed to play and it also has people like Barron making the factual declarations on deliberation on behalf of the WH and OVP about things that involve the WH and OVP being subject to a criminal investigation that is by the SPec Pros that they are also telling not to turnover based on work product privilege.

        There is something there that doesn’t pass the smell test from both a legal ethics and a due process standpoint. Maybe FOIA allows this and contemplated letting OLC and the head of the Crim Div file on behalf of protecting the interests of the suspects in a crim investigation while they are also directing the lawyer in that investigation, but it doesn’t hit the right notes to me.

        IMO, the acting AG for the Plame matter (whoever that is now) should recite how they got to be AG and make the declaration for things like the work product sets of issues and the interference with investigations sets of issues, and WH Counsel should be filing the declarations on deliberative privilege. Barron and Breuer just don’t seem right as the parties on those declarations and OLC involvement is weird period – unless they want to also put up a chinese wall and designate someone at OLC to provide guidance to the acting AG and special counsel as a separate and potentially adverse wing.

        Too rambly I know and not enough hard refernces – but there’s a reason lawyers have that technical “smell test” standard – not that they are always right on it, but that it is often something that needs a second think through.

        • LabDancer says:

          I’m very much with your feeling on this — that there’s a number of things that are extremely wrong with this scene. Not going to go beyond mentioning it [because it doesn’t seem all that useful, especially with a president who seems to be enforcing discipline on maintaining focus on health care and then energy/global warming and otherwise attending to foreign policy and domestic economic fires], I do think it’s necessary to observe that this problem would be alleviated — if not eliminated — by there being a special prosecutor of the old style before the statute was repealed.

          Not that I’d expect it, but at an administrative level Holder has the means to address the immediate very narrow problem by re-assigning Fitz some of the same powers he had under AAG Comey and AG AG and AG Mukasey. Under the theory Obama said he holds to on the relationship between the administration and the AG, with which Holder at least claimed to being sympatico, that puts the responsibility on Holder. If Dawn Johnson were in place, I’d expect she’d opine to that effect; but until — and unless – she or someone of the same quality is confirmed, it provides Holder the luxury of a marketable excuse for failing to address the mess.

          So in the end it appears we must be content with atavisms from some bygone era when something more approaching the rule of law was in place [like Iranians who until recently fancied they lived in a form of democratic republic], and here that appears to be the judiciary, which at least this administration is sorta kinda purporting to respect, even while it advances arguments that depend on its lapsing into full moron mode. The net effect is this administration will continue to be able to drag things out until the honeymoon with the judiciary is over and some asses are held in contempt.

          I think it’s absolutely nuts to risk that outcome, but momentum is a powerful force and based on 160 plus days of mo and the unlikelihood of things changing on this front before the fall, right now I’d bet on it happening.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            I think it’s absolutely nuts to risk that outcome, but momentum is a powerful force and based on 160 plus days of mo and the unlikelihood of things changing on this front before the fall, right now I’d bet on it happening.

            The sooner, the better.
            It’s hard to imagine the FBI isn’t doing a slow smouldering burn on this one. FWIW, I hope they are.

          • Mary says:

            Holder has the means to address the immediate very narrow problem by re-assigning Fitz some of the same powers he had under AAG Comey and AG AG and AG Mukasey

            This is a bit of non-sequitor, but it has always bothered the “tie up all the loose ends” part of my brain that no one has ever made DOJ account for the delegation of Acting AG status in that matter after Comey’s original hand off to Margolis. Fitzgerald made the point more than once in writing that his delegation was subject to being modified or withdrawn, anytime and from time to time. So IMO it would have been helpful for Congress, in addition to pushing for him to disclose this or that info (like the Cheney – or Bush – interviews), to have required a tracking of what was done with the delegation and, for that matter, where it is now.

            Did McNulty call it back from Margolis? When the decision was made not to pursue Rove, was that cleared in any fashion with the then acting AG and was there any duty to clear it in that fashion (even though it was not relevant to Scooter’s case, in the oral argument after the conviction Fitzgerald and Walton spent some of the short allotment of time going off into the weeds on whether or not Fitzgerald was REQUIRED to run the decision to indict by Margolis (which he had done anyway, but instead of just cutting it off and saying it doesn’t matter because I did so let’s get on to talking about sending Libby to jail, he got kind of argumentative that he did NOT have to run it by the acting AG)

            So to wrap things up for me, it would have been helpful for Congress

            to find out whether the delegation from Margolis ever went to anyone else and where is it now – with the chain of authority;

            to find out whether the mandate in the delegation was ever changed and if so, in what fashion; to resolve the exchange between Walton and Fitzgerald by finding out if DOJ believes that the acting AG did have ultimate thumbs up or down power and the right of review before charging decisions in an in-house delegation such as this (and given the fact that there are other ones going on right now, that would be kinda nice to get clarified);

            to find out the degree to which the mandate has been completely withdrawn now, with no charging decisions on anyone else and new AG, dep AG etc

            But they just didn’t. Didn’t even make a minimal effort to get at any of that – just wanted to glitz up the sexy requests for Cheney’s head.

            Maybe in a sideways manner we might get some of that info through this CREW request, though bc it seems to me that CREW could maybe craft (I’m not definite on this, I’d have to play with it some and not being a litigator by nature or practice makes me more iffy about my instincts on it) a response based on the competence of the declarations that gets at some of this. After all – how in the world is it that DOJ is, at this late date, making filings that say they “don’t know” if there was a confidentiality agreement and attaching declarations that say, “yeah, ya know, like we sometimes do make promises of confidentiality” and they never go to the special prosecutor or the AG for the special prosecutor to get a competent declaration of what was or was not done?

            Because competence of the declarations is another issue, aside and apart from playing both sides. Who is competent to invoke deliberative privilege for the WH? The DOJ’s OLC that is also invoking work product for the attorney’s investigating the WH? If they are competent as to one (I’m not sure Barron is as to either) how can they be competent as to the other? How can they have the knowledge of DOJ’s investigative work AND the knowledge of the adverse party’s deliberations and declare to the court on both?

            /ramble

        • bmaz says:

          It’s a weird mishmash of playing both sides of the field in a way lawyers generally are not allowed to play…

          You got that right.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            Shuster has a report on Countdown for those interested. ‘Isikoff alert’ for those averse to that reporter.

            I’d have no clue about atty weirdness, so thanks for that mention.
            The whole thing is too AliceInWonderland for credulity.

    • bmaz says:

      Eh, for better or worse, Clemens was Rusty’s show conducted at the demands of his client. Not a huge Breuer fan, but I ain’t gonna tag him with that one.

  6. Slothrop says:

    Just getting ready for a nice holiday weekend and you mention the name “Robert Novak.”

    By the way, when I heard Joe Wilson interviewed on the radio a few months back, he corrected the host who referred to “Valerie Plame.”

    Joe said, “Her name is Valerie Wilson.”

    Just for the record.

    • Leen says:

      More importantly what did Valerie say? She was the one putting her life on the line. I really do not give a rats ass what her name is but I do care that she was purposely outed by Cheney and the rest of his thugs.

      Wonder if the public will ever get any word on the alleged investigation into how damaging her outing was to U.S. National Security. Bet Obama and Holder would stand in the way of us ever knowing

  7. Leen says:

    in the document
    “the political politicization of these sensitive issues”

    sure appears to be selective word smithing when they declare certain issues ’sensitive” and others (outing Plame) somehow not sensitive.

    Do they want to part those ‘clouds” over the former Vice President’s office or not. Looks like not.

    I thought they had promised the Wilson’s that Cheney would testify in public

  8. timbo says:

    Again, the reason there is not a special prosecutor here is that BOTH parties don’t like special prosecutors. Not surprising if one’s party is party to a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, n’est pas?

  9. Slothrop says:

    Leen, you’re absolutely right. I only offer that information as an aside so that when the time comes to write the graphic novel or produce the movie, attention can be paid to the unusual shifting identity of the intelligence operative.

    First, we don’t know her name. It’s a secret. Then, someone finds out her name. But they think it’s “Valerie Flame.” Wrong name. Actually it’s Valerie Plame. But Joe says Valerie Wilson.

    The identity dance is a window on the entire story.

  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    So on this thread, we learn that the DoJ is protecting Cheney’s treasonous ass. And on the next thread, a comment by MadDogs suggests that Larry Franklin is out yapping about meeting with Ghorbanifar — on orders from his superiors (who took orders, presumably, from Cheney).

    That would be the Franklin that I’d understood was in prison, until his sentence was suddenly reduced. So now Franklin can spin while DoJ covers Cheney’s ass (and, in doing so, also covers Bush’s).

    Wow.
    Just… wow.

    I’m so deep inside the Rabbit Hole and through the Stargate that I can’t even pose an intelligent question about the DoJ covering Cheney. But I am pleased to now know that black is white; that water is dry, and that the sun revolves around the earth.

    I feel so much safer knowing all this…

  11. JasonLeopold says:

    Last year, the DOJ said it wasn’t turning over the transcript because it contained classified info. But I don’t see Obama’s DOJ making that argument here. Unless I missed it.

    • JasonLeopold says:

      disregard my own question as I see they are still saying some of the material is classified

    • emptywheel says:

      They are–make sure you read the declaration from the CIA guy. Though I’m not sure they’re making the argument that the covert op (presumably, Valerie’s) ID is classified, still.

  12. JasonLeopold says:

    Just read his declaration. Thank you! One would think, as in other cases, that the CIA would just redact portions of the transcript dealing with what they say is national security and intelligence gathering, etc.

    • JasonLeopold says:

      I’m slow today. And tired. It is my understanding that the DOJ is arguing against releasing the entirety of the report. Is that how y’all read it? Or is it that they would release a redacted version absent the meat of what Cheney said?

      • Mary says:

        They are arguing against releasing any of it. They have several broad exclusionary grounds for everything they are asserting, then they are ALSO asserting specific grounds as to parts and pieces, so if they were to lose their broad exclusionary arguments but won on some or all of their specifics you would still get a very redacted release.

        @31 – And I’ve always made the argument on that topic that there is a vast difference between declassifying and taking classified info and planting it in the domestic press and that no judge or jury would buy they are the same thing, and that the National Security Act pretty much prohibits the “plant classified info in domestic press” approach.

  13. Swopa says:

    The single event we don’t know significant details of already is this:

    Vice President’s recollection of the substance of his discussions with the National Security Advisor while she was on a trip to Africa.

    Given the location of the discussion–it appears on the same page as the description of the Cheney-Libby-Hadley discussions on the Tenet statement–it probably pertains to the perceived understanding of Condi’s role in sticking the shiv in Tenet’s back–and/or her willingness or not to admit fault in sticking the uranium claim in the State of the Union.

    Given the subject of the investigation (the leaking of Plame’s identity), I’d say that another key topic would be Rice’s knowledge about Plame before the press gaggle on the Africa trip, when she made her insinuation regarding Wilson’s visit to Niger that reporters “should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency.”

    If Cheney knew he had explicitly discussed Wilson’s wife in talking to Rice before Libby’s fictional chat with Tim Russert, that may explain why Libby’s alibi had to finger Cheney as his own (supposedly forgotten) source of knowledge about Plame. He couldn’t pretend that Dick didn’t know.

  14. albertchampion says:

    don’t you get it yet? that the blackbush and the blackgonsales[sic] are the agents of some more secret agencies?

    the creations of david rockefeller?

    some think that to suggest this is to be wearing a tin-foil hat.

    i think that one doesn’t have to be wearing a tin hat to notice that the blackbush and the blackgonsales[sic]are dancing to tunes orchestrated by others than the electorate.

    back in the us, back in the us, back in the ussr.

  15. Hugh says:

    Obama is fighting this and other disclosures because A) our elites protect their own, B) he agrees with Bush about secret government, and C) he doesn’t want a future Administration doing this to him.

  16. perris says:

    Vice President’s recollection of discussions with Lewis Libby, the White House Communications Director, and the White House Chief of Staff regarding the appropriate response to media inquiries about the source of the disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity as a CIA employee.

    Vice President’s description of his role in resolving disputes about whether to declassify certain information.

    it was this part of the interview that took Fitz off criminal charges concerning exposing national assets by anyone, including libby and cheney…that’s the turning point right there

    the vice president asserted his pixie dust;

    “I am the vice president, given authority by the president, to de-classify at will, on the fly, at my discretion if I believe there is a national security concern”

    to which Fitz had absolutely no method to defend against said claim and insure himself a victory, rather then put the country through the stress and then failing he went for the easy kill, lying to grand jury…to me not the best solution at all

    it was during this time that Cheney went on his treason tour, telling everyone he did indeed have the right to expose national assets on the fly at will

    this is Chaney’s m.o.

    when he knows he is exposed or about to be exposed he goes on tour in a pre-emptive strike against said exposure, therefore inoculating himself from that crime

    it worked incredibly well before Fitz, Fitz was played by Cheney, much to my chagrin since I believe Fitz a genius and Cheney a moron, I am sad to see this is what happened but I from my recollection of Fitz’s statement it did

    so since his treason tour worked so well, when confronted with war crimes he figured he would give the torture tour a go

    and that worked even better then his treason tour

    he’s getting better at his crime tour strategy

  17. tbau says:

    i’ve said it before: unless you want to believe that holder and the doj has gone rogue in their efforts to thwart transparency, it’s clear that obama is their firewall against any kind of investigation and prosecution.