Henry Gets Impatient

Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed that, since the time when Henry Waxman first asked Michael Mukasey to hand over the White House-related materials from the CIA Leak Case investigation, he has proven to mighty responsive to requests from Congress when it involves covering up for the White House. Compare these two response times to requests from Congress:

Torture Tapes: 6 Days Response

December 8: Congress begins to call for its own investigation of the destruction of the torture tapes

December 14: Mukasey sends a letter telling Congress to butt out

CIA Leak Investigation: 15 days and counting

December 3: Waxman requests White House investigation materials from Mukasey

December 18: Waxman asks again

Given the disparity in time–and the apparent logic that the disparity seems to stifle oversight in both cases–I can see why Waxman is getting impatient. He sets up his very own confrontation with Mukasey, too, giving him a deadline of January 3:

Thus, I request that you provide the Committee by January 3,2008, with the documents requested in the Committee’s July 16 letter
to Mr. Fitzgerald, including the reports of interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other White House officials.

And if a deadline isn’t enough, Waxman throws Mukasey’s logic back at him.

You resisted providing information to the committees because of your concern that providing information could undermine the Justice Department’s on-going investigation. In the Plame matter, there is no pending Justice Department investigation and no pending Justice Department litigation. Whatever the merits of the position you are taking in the CIA tapes inquiry, those considerations do not apply here.

I’m not holding my breath. But seeing Dick and Bush’s interview transcripts sure would be an interesting way to start the New Year.

When All EOs Are Pixie Dust, It Means Dick Can Declassify Anything He Wants

Brit Hume once asked Dick Cheney whether he had declassified "information" in response to Joe Wilson’s op-ed. Cheney claimed he had the ability under an Executive Order to declassify such "information."

HUME: On another subject, court filings have indicated that Scooter Libby has suggested that his superiors — unidentified — authorized the release of some classified information. What do you know about that?

CHENEY: There’s nothing I can talk about, Brit. It’s an issue that’s been under investigation for a couple of years. I’ve cooperated fully, including being interviews done by a special prosecutor. All of it’s now going to trial. Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He is a great guy. I worked with him for a long time. I have tremendous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case and it is therefore inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case.

HUME: Let me ask you another question. Is it your view that a vice president has the authority to declassify information?

CHENEY: There is an executive order to that effect.

HUME: There is.


HUME: Have you done it?

CHENEY: Well, I have certainly advocated declassification. I have participated in declassification decisions.

HUME: Have you —


CHENEY: I don’t want to get into that. There’s an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously it focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president.

But the EO in question–EO 12958 as modified by EO 13292–says no such thing. The modified EO gives the Vice President to classify information. Read more

Scooter Libby, Still a Felon; the Unitary Executive, Still a Dubious Theory

I agree with the surmise of many that Libby dropped his appeal, partly, because the damn thing was getting expensive. And given this passage from Ted Wells’ statement on why they dropped the appeal, I also think Harriet Grant once again drove the decision-making process.

However, the realities were, that after five years of government service by Mr. Libby and several years of defending against this case, the burden on Mr. Libby and his young family of continuing to pursue his complete vindication are too great to ask them to bear.

Shorter Harriet: You’ve already sacrificed your law license, your children’s adolescence, and your pride for these thugs. Let it drop, please.

But I’m really curious by this part of Ted Wells’ statement:

Mr. Libby has made the decision to discontinue his appeal in recognition that success on the appeal would lead only to a retrial, a process that would last even beyond the two years of supervised release, cost millions of dollars more than the fine he has already paid, and entail many more hundreds of hours preparing for an all-consuming appeal and retrial.

Um, no, not really. Remember, there were two parts to Libby’s appeal. First, the claim that Judge Walton should have made Andrea Mitchell testify, so Wells could undercut her credibility and therefore suggest she had told Tim Russert of Valerie’s identity and Wells could argue that NBC was just out to get Scooter Libby.

Had Libby won that appeal, we would have had a retrial, with all the same witnesses and evidence, plus Mitchell. That’s it. And he probably still would have been found guilty, since David Addington still would have testified that Scooter Libby knew Joe Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA two days before, Libby claimed, he learned it from Russert "as if it were new." Read more

Waxman Still after Fitz’s FBI Files

Well, it turns out that Waxman has been no happier than we are about Bush obstructing justice pardoning commuting Libby’s sentence. Turns out he asked Fitzgerald for his FBI files (that is, testimony not before the Grand Jury and therefore not subject to secrecy laws) back in July, not long after the commutation. But Bush won’t let him have the files. So now Waxman has sent Mukasey a letter asking for some help getting the files.

I’ll update this shortly, once I make sure the new digs are working…

[Shew, they’re working]

So here’s the key detail from Waxman–defining what he wants, and what he has already gotten:

Transcripts, reports, notes, and other documents relating to any interviews outside the presence of the grand jury of any of the following individuals:

  • President George W. Bush
  • Vice President Dick Cheney
  • Andrew Card
  • Stephen Hadley
  • Karl Rove
  • Dan Bartlett
  • Scott McClellan

Since the Committee’s letter was sent on July 16, Mr. Fitzgerald and his staff have cooperated with the Committee’s investigation and have produced a number of responsive documents to the Committee. Among the documents that Mr. Fitzgerald has produced to the Committee are "FBI302 reports" of interviews with CIA and State Department officials and other individuals.

Read more

Were the Cover-Up Conspirators Going to Meet in Aspen?

Just an update on the Aspen mystery, no doubt inspired by my three days of driving through recently turned Aspen clusters. Here is the mystery passage:

You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have storiesto cover–Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats andthe Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspenswill already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their rootsconnect them. Come back to work–and life.

To which Judy responded:

In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr.Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference onnational security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, Itraveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man injeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how theAspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.

“Judy,” he said. “It’s Scooter Libby.”

eRiposte notes an odd discrepancy. Libby mentions Judy’s vacation. Yet Judy says the Aspen reference relates to a conference. A big enough discrepancy, I think, to suggest one–or both–are bullshitting.

Then eRiposte goes on to ask whether,

[Judy’s anecdote] was just a convenient anecdote to take attention away from the “aspens turn in clusters” aspect of Libby’s letter.

But there’s another possibility–that Judy and Libby are both misdirecting.

In my original Aspen post, I suggested the most likely explanation was that Libby was referring to the Forstmann Little Aspen Conference, which started the weekend after he sent his letter. Rove and Novak definitely attended; I have seen no indicated whether Libby attended or not. When I made this speculation, though, I thought primarily of general Neocon scheming–that perhaps everyone involved in the Get Joe Wilson campaign could get together and compare notes. But one more detail has appeared that makes me think there was a more specific goal.

As I noted in my first thoughts on the NYT/Judy document dump this weeked, Judy’s response when Taubman asked if she were one of the six writers involved in the leak was no simple lie:

In the fall of 2003, after The Washington Post reported that “two top White House officials disclosed Plame’s identity to at least six Washington journalists,” Philip Taubman, Ms. Abramson’s successor as Washington bureau chief, asked Ms. Miller and other Times reporters whether they were among the six. Ms. Miller denied it.

“The answer was generally no,” Mr. Taubman said. Ms. Miller said the subject of Mr. Wilson and his wife had come up in casual conversation with government officials, Mr. Taubman said, but Ms. Miller said “she had not been at the receiving end of a concerted effort, a deliberate organized effort to put out information.

That is, this lie is not an invention Judy made up all by herself. Compare Judy’s Fall 2003 statement with the claim Novak makes in his  2003 column.

First, I did not receive a planned leak.


The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.

Judy and Novak–responding to the same article–provide almost the exactly same excuse. The leak was not planned, not deliberate. They weren’t pawns.

Now, Murray Waas has reporters investigators are looking closely at this story, as evidence of a cover-up.

Federal investigators have been skeptical of Novak’s assertions that he referred to Plame as a CIA “operative” due to his own error, instead of having been explicitly told that was the case by his sources, according to attorneys familiar with the criminal probe.

Also of interest to investigators have been a series of telephone contacts between Novak and Rove, and other White House officials, in the days just after press reports first disclosed the existence of a federal criminal investigation as to who leaked Plame’s identity. Investigators have been concerned that Novak and his sources might have conceived or co-ordinated a cover story to disguise the nature of their conversations.

The investigators have some evidence that Novak’s story was the product of collaboration between Novak, Rove, and (presumably) Libby, part of an effort to tell a consistent story that exonerates everyone. Novak’s story, then, is a product of the cover-up. And Judy Miller is telling a very similar story at precisely the same time.

I’m going to hazard a guess–that Judy Miller was involved in the conspiracy to cover-up the crime of outing Plame.

If I’m right, this is important enough. It means Fitz may have evidence against Judy not just of perjury, but also obstruction of justice. It means Judy’s silence was part of the plan to cover up the crime. And if Fitz can prove this, it totally shreds whatever remaining claim to respecability and honor Judy had.

Which is where we get back to the Aspen reference. At least two of the cover-up conspirators were at Aspen together the weekend after Libby wrote his letter–at an event traditionally not covered by the press. Had Judy agreed to testify immediately upon receiving Libby’s letter, she would have an opportunity to be there as well. To join her cluster of conspirators.

To dream up a new story.

If I’m right, Judy refused to dig herself in deeper. She didn’t accept the letter as an adequate waiver. And in fact, she demanded another sign from Libby, which she received on September 19, after the conference ended. And, as I’ll show in a future post, right now she’s testifying willingly about the Libby obstruction, while she still seems to be lying (at least in public) about the Plame leak.

I think Libby’s Aspen reference was an invitation for Judy to further conspire to obstruct the investigation. An invitation she apparently declined. I wonder, given the apparent love-letter to Rove Novak filed from Aspen:

U.S. News & World Report disclosed this week, with apparent disdain, that presidential adviser Karl Rove took time off from the Katrina relief effort to be at Aspen. He was needed as a counterweight. I settled in for serious fireworks, expecting Bush-bashers to assault his alter ego at the conference’s final session. However, direct confrontation with a senior aide must have been more difficult than a remote attack on the president. It would be a shame if Rove returned to Washington without informing George W. Bush how erstwhile friends have turned against him.

Whether this was the first volley in a new attempt to cover-up. Anyway, just another speculation about the Aspen reference.

What Judy’s Aspen reference means, though, I’ve got no clue.

Update: lawgirl has a good diary at DKos noting that Bennett either slipped, or admitted that Judy visited Cheney on that trip to Jackson Hole in August 2003. And Quicksilver (to whom I owe the Forstmann idea) notes that the development where Cheney lives in Jackson Hole is called the Aspens. Given those two tidbits, I now think it possible that the cover-up conspirators all met in Jackson Hole at Dick’s house in August 2003. This is slightly earlier than I’ve believed the cover-up happened (I thought it was later, between the appearance of the September 30 WaPo article and Novak’s October column, but then they’d have to meet face-to-face first to agree to cover-up, right?). But still a distinct possibility.

Seeing the (Aspen) Trees that Make Up the Forest

I bypassed to the link to the Judy-Libby lawyer correspondance this early morning, thinking it’d be more boring lawyer letters. Silly me. Nothing has been boring in this Plame Affair. Thanks to pontificator for encouraging me to look further and providing the PDF link to the letters, which has been removed from the front page of the NYT (it’s now two layers down attached to this story).

Much has (rightly, IMO) been made of the cryptic last paragraph of Libby’s letter to Judy.

You went into jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover–Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program. Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work–and life.

I think the best guess about the aspen reference is Quicksilver’s, which suggests this refers to the Forstmann Little Aspen Conference, which was starting just as Libby wrote his letter. Perhaps Libby was trying to encourage Judy to make an immediate deal so she could join Rove and Novak and (possibly?) Libby at an off the record gathering, where they could compare notes.

So yes, the aspen reference is pretty darn curious. But I think the rest of the letter is just as damning–and supports the notion that Libby was trying to send a message to Judy.


I say that, primarily, because the letter doesn’t correlate with even what Libby (or his surrogates) have claimed to be reality. Let’s compare, for a moment, what a Libby friend or lawyer leaked to Steno Sue Schmidt with what he wrote in his letter. In Steno Sue’s column:

According to a source familiar with Libby’s account of his conversations with Miller in July 2003, the subject of Wilson’s wife came up on two occasions. In the first, on July 8, Miller met with Libby to interview him about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the source said. At that time, she asked him why Wilson had been chosen to investigate questions Cheney had posed about whether Iraq tried to buy uranium in the African nation of Niger. Libby, the source familiar with his account said, told her that the White House was working with the CIA to find out more about Wilson’s trip and how he was selected. Libby told Miller he heard that Wilson’s wife had something to do with sending him but he did not know who she was or where she worked, the source said. Libby had a second conversation with Miller on July 12 or July 13, the source said, in which he said he had learned that Wilson’s wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame’s name or that she was a covert operative, the source said. [emphasis mine]

But in his letter Libby refuses to admit he and Judy discussed Wilson:

…I had voluntarily waived the confidentiality of discussions, if any, we may have had related to the Wilson-Plame matter.


Because, as I am sure will not be news to you, the public report of every other reporter’s testimony makes clear that they did not discuss Ms. Plame’s name or identity with me, or knew about her before our call.


If you can find a way to testify about discusions we had, if any, that relate to the Wilson-Plame matter, I remain today just as interested as I was a year ago. [emphasis mine]

Now, there are several funny things here. First, in mid-September, Libby wouldn’t say definitively that he had had a conversation about Plame, even though he had already testified to Fitzgerald that he had, and even though Fitzgerald had already told Judy he knew who she had spoken with on July 8. But Thursday, he sent a friend or lawyer out to make sure just such an admission was in the press.

Second, it should be news to Judy–to all of us–that “every other reporter” said they didn’t discuss Plame’s identity. Because we know Cooper, at least (and Russert, too, although his testimony is famously unclear) did discuss Plame’s identity with Libby. As Cooper describes:

In that testimony, I recounted an on-the-record conversation with Libby that moved to background. On the record, he denied that Cheney knew about or played any role in the Wilson trip to Niger. On background, I asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson’s wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, “Yeah, I’ve heard that too,” or words to that effect. Like Rove, Libby never used Valerie Plame’s name or indicated that her status was covert, and he never told me that he had heard about Plame from other reporters, as some press accounts have indicated.

Sure, Libby didn’t tell Cooper Plame’s name, but he did discuss enough to affirm her identity as a CIA employee (but not a NOC)–and since Cooper raised the issue of Wilson’s wife, he certainly knew of her before the call! Libby’s letter, then, simply can’t be read as transparent communication.

Update: kainah points out below that I misread Libby’s passage. He’s saying the public reports of all his conversations with journalists either indicate that Plame did not come up at all OR Plame came up because the journalist (Cooper, for example) already knew of Plame’s identity. Someone needs to teach Libby the principle of parallelism. In any case, does this mean he’s trying to pin this all on Rove, since Cooper only knew of Plame because Rove told him?

These two cryptic bits seem, to me, designed to send two messages to Judy. First, she should feel free to talk about the parts of their conversation that related to Wilson and Plame. Which is, of course, precisely what she insisted on doing. By specifying, twice, that she should testify about their conversations relating to Wilson-Plame, he was telling her to refuse to discuss related items (trumping up WMD claims, probably?).

Second, he was giving her clear instructions on what to say in her testimony–that she hadn’t known about Plame before the call, and that Libby did not discuss Plame’s name or her NOC status. Which, since we’re living in 1984 leads me to believe that Judy did come to Libby on July 8 2003 already knowing about Plame and that Libby did tell her of Plame’s name and NOC status.