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9/11: A Story of Attacks, Horror, Victims, Heroes and Jingoistic Shame

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-2-54-38-amSeptember 11, 2001 is now 15 years in the mirror of life. Like the two Kennedy assassinations, the Moonshot and a few other events in life, it is one of those “yeah I remember where I was when…” moments. Personally, being on west coast time, I was just waking up thinking all I had was a normal morning court calendar. When my wife, who gets up far earlier than I, shouted at me to rub out the cobwebs and watch the TV because something was seriously wrong in New York City. She was right. It was a hell of a day, one of unspeakable tragedy and indescribable heroism. It was truly all there in one compact day, unlike any other, save maybe December 7, 1941.

2,996 people lost their lives, and their families and history were forever altered in the course of hours on an otherwise clear and beautiful day in Manhattan. Most were simply innocent victims, but many were the epitome of heroes who charged into a hellscape to try to salvage any life they could. There were other heroes that altered their lives in response, and either died or were forever changed as a result. One was a friend of mine from South Tempe, Pat Tillman.

No one can speak for Pat Tillman, and, save for his family, those who claim to only prove they never met the man. All I can say is, I wish he were here today. The one thing that is certain is he would not give the prepackaged trite partisan reaches you are likely to hear today. It would be unfiltered truth. Which the US did not get from its leaders after September 11, 2001, and is still missing today.

Instead of rallying and solidifying the oneness of the American citizenry that was extant immediately after September 11, 2001, the Bush/Cheney Administration and GOP told us to go shopping and that we needed to invade Iraq, who had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. It was a fools, if not devil’s, errand and a move that threw away an opportunity for greatness from the country and exploited it in favor of war crimes and raw political power expansion and consolidation.

Instead of gelling the United States to make ourselves better as the “Greatest Generation” did sixty years before, America was wholesale sold a bill of goods by a determined group of unreformed and craven Neo-Con war criminals left over from the Vietnam era, and we were led down the path to a war of aggression that was an unmitigated disaster we have not only not recovered from today, but are still compounding.

The 2000’s will prove to be a decade of American shame when history is written decades from now. Not from the attacks, but from our craven response thereto. So, pardon me if I join Colin Kaepernick and choose not to join, every Sunday, just because the Madison Avenue revenue generating NFL of Roger Goodell cravenly exploits it, the jingoistic bullshit of rote dedication to a racist National Anthem. Also, too, shame on opportunistic and Constitutionally ignorant whiny police unions who scold free speech and threaten to abandon their jobs in the face of it.

powell_un_anthraxBut that is all over now surely. Taking the United States, nee the world, to a forever war on the wings of a craven lie is universally recognized, condemned and scorned, right?

No. The Neo-Cons are unrepentant and still trying to advance themselves on the lie that their once and forever war justifies more than their prosecution and conviction in The Hague. Here is a belligerent and unrepentant Dick Cheney passing the torch of evil to his spawn Liz Cheney in the august pages of the Wall Street Journal:

We are no longer interrogating terrorists in part because we are no longer capturing terrorists. Since taking office, the president has recklessly pursued his objective of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo by releasing current detainees—regardless of the likelihood they will return to the field of battle against us. Until recently, the head of recruitment for ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan was a former Guantanamo detainee, as is one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders in the Arabian Peninsula.

As he released terrorists to return to the field of battle, Mr. Obama was simultaneously withdrawing American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls this policy “ending wars.” Most reasonable people recognize this approach as losing wars.

Times may change, but the bottomless pit of Cheney lies and evil do not. As Charlie Savage pointed out on Twitter, the two terrorists the Cheneys refer to were actually released back to the “field of battle” by Bush and Cheney, not Obama. Was Obama involved in the story? Yes, he would be the one who actually tracked them down and killed them.

And then there is the failure to learn the lessons of the failed torture regime Bush and Cheney instituted as the hallmark of the “War on Terror”. Our friend, and former colleague, Spencer Ackerman has a must read three part series over the last three days in The Guardian (Part One, Part Two and Part Three) detailing how the CIA rolled the Obama Administration and prevented any of the necessary exposure, accountability and reform that was desperately needed in the aftermath of the torture regime and war of aggression in Iraq. It will take a while, but read all three parts. It is exasperating and maddening. It is also journalism at its finest.

And so, as we glide through the fifteenth anniversary of September 11, what are we left with from our response to the attacks? A destabilized world, an ingraining of hideous mistakes and a domestic scene more notable for jingoism and faux patriotism than dedication to the founding principles that America should stand for.

That is not what the real heroes, not only of 9/11 but the totality of American history, died to support and protect. In fact, it is an insult to their efforts and lives. If America wants to win the “War on Terror”, we need to get our heads out of our asses, quit listening to the neocons, war mongers, and military industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower warned us about, and act intelligently. This requires a cessation of adherence to jingoistic and inane propaganda and thought, and a focus on the principles we are supposed to stand for.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

CIA’s NSC’s President’s Torture Program'>The CIA’s NSC’s President’s Torture Program

One more diversionary post before I delve into why the Administration is so worried about releasing a short phrase that, I suspect, acknowledges that George Bush’s September 17, 2001 Memorandum of Notification authorized the torture program.

National Security Advisor Jim Jones submitted a declaration supporting Administration efforts to keep the authorization behind the torture program secret

I want to reflect on what it means that then-National Security Advisor Jim Jones submitted a declaration–sometime in Fall 2009–to keep this short phrase hidden. The government revealed that, though without hinting at what Jones had to say, in the October 29, 2009 closed hearing with Judge Alvin Hellerstein.

MR, LANE . We think the first Issue before we get to documents is your Honor had asked us to specifically identify the second declarant. There is a second declaration in this case. And we wanted to put that on the record that that declaration is from James L. Jones, Assistant to the President for National Security and National Security Advisor,

AUSA Sean Lane then goes on to make clear that Jones’ declaration argues why Hellerstein should withhold the few word acknowledgment that the Memorandum of Notification authorized the torture program.

THE COURT: Both [Jones’ declaration and a second sealed one from CIA Associate Information Review Office Wendy Hilton] support the argument for maintenance of the redactions.
MR. LANE: Correct, your Honor. They both address what the government ties been calling “the Intelligence method” withheld from the two OLC memos, and the Court has been referring to as “The source of the CIA’s authority.”

So it’s not just that–as I inaccurately suggested the other day–that the CIA is trying to keep this short phrase noting that the President authorized the torture program secret. The National Security Advisor–for all intents and purposes, the President himself–is going to some lengths to keep that phrase secret as well.

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Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Third Way “Solution” to Foreclosure Fraud? Limits on Rule of Law

The Third Way has just released a response to the US Bank v. Ibanez decision that purports to offer a solution to the foreclosure problem.

I’m sure others will point out other problems with this document: its embrace of the “strategic default” myth, its focus on the Uniform Commercial Code rather than the Pooling and Servicing Agreements that govern securitization, its confusion of the dual track problem with the robo-signer problem, its apparent ignorance of other problems in foreclosure fraud, such as insufficient notice to homeowners, even though that, too was an issue in Ibanez.

But I wanted to point out something about the first step in its purported remedy, in which it describes how to protect injured homeowners. It includes among its injured homeowners:

  • Those who were current on their mortgage payments but who were foreclosed on anyway
  • Those who were robo-signer foreclosed via on while awaiting a modification decision
  • Those who were robo-signer foreclosed while in the process of short-selling their home
  • Those who had made a payment on delinquent mortgage but were foreclosed “because of a faulty process that failed to take that payment into account”

Note how carefully this paper avoids admitting the improper payments that servicers often use to force people into foreclosure, which are a separate problem from robo-signing?

In any case, here’s the remedy the Third Way advocates:

These aggrieved borrowers should be entitled to four things: (1) the immediate suspension of foreclosure proceedings; (2) the right to sue for actual damages caused by a wrongful signed foreclosure; (3) access to a 30-day expedited application process for loan modification if they have an application pending (but without a guarantee the modification will be granted); and (4) a refund of any fees and charges assessed by the bank, as well as protection from any deficiency judgments (if a borrowers was seeking a modification or short sale). [my emphasis]

It goes on to suggest that banks should be in charge of points 1, 3, and 4. That is, while elsewhere it espouses putting the Consumer Finance Protection Board in charge of standardizing servicing, it does not want the government involved in the process of “protecting injured homeowners.” Maybe that’s so it can retain for the banks–as it does later in the paper–sole discretion whether or how to modify loans. That is, even while the paper admits Ibanez shows that the banks still have a shitpile problem, it doesn’t want banks to take the hit for the fact that they don’t have legal standing to foreclose on the loans they’re foreclosing on. Nor does it really provide a solution for what to do with truly delinquent loans on which banks do not have legal standing to foreclose. Nor does it say what happens when people are denied a modification by a bank that doesn’t have the legal right to foreclose.

Meanwhile, the paper remains silent on who should be in charge of point 2.

You know, the right to sue, that right protected by the Constitution?

But of course, point 2 is not actually a protection. Rather, it is a limitation on their protection. Rather than admit that property owners have the right to sue in this country, the Third Way thinks that we can best protect them by limiting their right to sue to actual damages.

And the Third Way supported limit to rule of law goes further. It calls for Congress to bail out the banks holding shitpile by:

  • Eliminating foreclosure challenges on vacant or abandoned homes
  • Eliminating foreclosure challenges on borrowers who defaulted 18 months ago who have not cured the default
  • Instituting 12-month statutes of limitation on “paperwork-related” lawsuits

To begin with, their envisioned bailout doesn’t account for many realities: homeowners who were harassed into leaving their home, homeowners who are only in default because of the often-undisclosed and exorbitant fees banks slap onto late payments, and homeowners who did not get proper notice of the foreclosure. The Third Way wants to take away the right to sue of all these people, even though they have a legitimate grievance.

But don’t worry, Third Way says, this does not amount to letting banksters avoid any consequences for their actions:

What it emphatically does not do is shield bad actors from the consequences of their behavior. A safe harbor and statute of limitations will do nothing to protect banks and their lawyers from the investigations currently underway by state attorneys’ general across the country.15 Nor will it prevent disbarment and other consequences that are likely to be suffered by lawyers at the “foreclosure mills” at the heart of the robo-signing scandal. The now infamous firm headed by David J. Stern in Florida, for example, “has seen its fortunes plummet, with major clients, like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Citigroup, cutting ties to Stern. Stern’s operation has also laid off hundreds of employees in recent weeks.”

The consequences the Third Way believes are adequate for bankster trying to take property they don’t have legal standing to take, resorting to legal fraud to do so, involves an Attorney Generals’ investigation that itself says will include no criminal charges, disbarment no one expects to happen, and the loss of business.

But nowhere does the Third Way envision the banksters will have to take a financial hit on the value of these loans, much less any legal consequences for fraud. Now, ultimately, the former may well be negotiated by the Attorneys General. But the Bill Daley-connected Third Way seems to see the Ibanez decision as a moment to offer pseudo-solutions that are not only inadequate, but stop short of what would otherwise come out of the Attorneys General “investigation.”

In short, this seems like an admission by the Third Way that the shitpile remains a serious problem. But also an attempt to preempt processes already underway to solve the shitpile. Not to mention eliminate legal recourse for many of the people who have been wronged here.

Update: The more I think about this paper, the more it seems like Third Way is saying, “Congress, we’ve had a major setback in the courts. Can you please make sure to 1) limit access to the courts and 2) preventing any more of these judgments that will reveal just how deep the shitpile really is?”

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Cheney Pissed at Bush: Distraction with the Wrong Cover-Up

Today’s news will be dominated with Bush’s admission that Cheney was mad at him for not pardoning Libby.

Bush, in an interview aired Monday on TODAY, said Cheney was angry that Bush only commuted the sentence of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted of lying during the leak investigation.

[snip]

‘I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield,’ former president says ex-VP told him.

Of course we already knew this. This was widely reported just after Obama’s inauguration. And as I pointed out at the time, the underlying story to the non-pardon probably has everything to do with making sure that Libby won’t ever reveal Bush’s own role in exposing Valerie Plame’s identity.

It would have been nice if Matt Lauer asked Bush about whether he refused to pardon Libby so as to keep him silent, but I suppose Lauer’s job is to help Bush sell books, not to ask tuff qweschins.

But an even better question would have been to ask Bush whether he believes, with the statute of limitations expiring on the torture tape destruction, his own role in approving torture is now safe. Bush allies have spun a nice story that the White House opposed the destruction of the torture tapes and was mad that Jose Rodriguez did it anyway. If that’s true (ha!), then Bush ought to be pissed that Rodriguez is, apparently, getting away with it. But again, I think Lauer’s role is to help Bush sell books, not ask the difficult questions.

As the press is distracted with a rehashing of the successful cover-up of one of Bush’s crimes, we ought to remember that today marks the successful cover-up of a more horrible crime.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Bush Admits to Approving Torture–But Which Use of It?

The WaPo reports that Bush, in his book, admits to approving waterboarding.

In a memoir due out Tuesday, Bush makes clear that he personally approved the use of that coercive technique against alleged Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed, an admission the human rights experts say could one day have legal consequences for him.

In his book, titled “Decision Points,” Bush recounts being asked by the CIA whether it could proceed with waterboarding Mohammed, who Bush said was suspected of knowing about still-pending terrorist plots against the United States. Bush writes that his reply was “Damn right” and states that he would make the same decision again to save lives, according to a someone close to Bush who has read the book.

At one level, this is thoroughly unsurprising. We know the Bush Administration very deliberately implemented torture, so it’s unsurprising to hear that it was approved by the President.

But–at least as Jeffrey Smith relays the admission from Bush–it raises as many questions as it does answers.

It appears that Bush admits to approving torture for use with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. That is, he approved torture sometime around March 1, 2003, when KSM was captured.

That date is itself very significant. After all, on February 5, 2003, the first Democrat (Jane Harman) was briefed that the CIA had used waterboarding. Her response was a letter, objecting not just to the destruction of the torture tapes, but also asking specifically whether Bush had signed off on torture.

I would like to know what kind of policy review took place and what questions were examined. In particular, I would like to know whether the most senior levels of the White House have determined that these practices are consistent with the principles and policies of the United States. Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?

In response, CIA appears to have met with the White House around February 19, ostensibly to talk about an appropriate response. They also appear to have consulted with the White House on how they should record the results of the Gang of 4 briefings from that month; in the end, they only recorded the outcome of the Senate briefing–which Jay Rockefeller did not attend and at which Pat Roberts is recorded to have signed off not just on torture, but on destroying the torture tapes depicting that torture. In other words, for much of February 2003, CIA was working closely with the White House to create a false appearance of Congressional approval for torture, even while they were specifically refusing to give Congress something akin to a Finding making it clear the President had signed off on that torture.

And now we come to find out that’s precisely the period during which–at least according to Bush–he approved torture.

But note what that leaves out. At least from Smith’s description, it appears that Bush says nothing about approving the waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah (nor the reported waterboarding of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi). Mind you, Ron Suskind has reported that Bush was intimately, almost gleefully, involved in ordering torture for Abu Zubaydah.

But Bush doesn’t cop to that in his book.

Now, there may be good reason for that. After all, John Yoo had not yet written the memo claiming that waterboarding did not amount to torture at the time Abu Zubaydah was first tortured.

Moreover, there’s the whole issue of the approval method for the torture that occurred before August 1, 2002.

The source says nearly every day, Mitchell would sit at his computer and write a top-secret cable to the CIA’s counterterrorism center. Each day, Mitchell would request permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques on Zubaydah. The source says the CIA would then forward the request to the White House, where White House counsel Alberto Gonzales would sign off on the technique. That would provide the administration’s legal blessing for Mitchell to increase the pressure on Zubaydah in the next interrogation.

According to multiple reports, the White House–Alberto Gonzales at least, if not his boss–approved the torture of Abu Zubaydah on a daily basis. And when you read the Bybee Memo and the OPR Report on it, it’s very clear that the memo carved out legal authorization specifically for the torture directly authorized by the President. Indeed, the White House’s prior approval for torture–potentially up to and including waterboarding–may explain the urgency behind the memo in the first place, to provide retroactive legal cover for Bush’s unilateral disregard for US laws prohibiting torture.

In other words, Bush has admitted to approving torture in 2003. But that likely obfuscates his earlier approval for torture at a time when he had no legal cover for doing so.

In other news, the statute of limitations on the torture tape destruction expires in just three or four days. Yet we’ve got silence coming from John Durham.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Why Isn’t Obama Clearing Brush on PDB Day?

Nine years ago today, George W Bush was informed that “Al Qaeda [was] determined to strike in US.”

And then he went out to clear more brush at his pig farm in Crawford.

Obama is showing no such presidential manliness in the second year of his term. Yesterday, his Justice Department actually indicted 14 of those who were materially supporting al-Shabaab, which is determined to strike at the US.

And today, in addition to getting his own PDB and Economic Daily Brief and meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama will celebrate the confirmation of just the fourth woman to serve on the Supreme Court (may Elena Kagan be as much of a pleasant surprise on the Court as Sonia Sotomayor has), and will talk about the economy at a small business (though it’d be nice if he did more than talk…).

I may not love everything President Obama is doing on PDB day and every day. But at least he’s doing something more than clearing brush on a pig farm.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

If Ever You Doubted Water-Boarding KSM Was a Bad Decision…

George Bush is on the rubber chicken circuit in anticipation of the release of his book, A’m the Deciderer Decision Points. Which means he’s now out in public defending two of his “greatest” decisions, side-by-side:

George Bush admitted yesterday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded by the US, and said he would do it again “to save lives”.

“Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” the former president told a business audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I’d do it again to save lives.”

[snip]

In his speech, Bush also defended the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. He said ousting Saddam Hussein “was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him”.

Of course, Bush has absolutely zero proof that waterboarding KSM saved lives. Just as he can’t be sure that the world is better without Saddam, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (and almost 5,000 American servicemen and women), with the US deep in debt, and the seeds of the same kind of abusive government–this one with close ties to Iran–in place in Iraq.

But the really telling bit about this news is that it puts the decision to waterboard KSM right there next to the decision to launch a war of choice rather than focus on beating the terrorists who attacked us. That is, it puts Bush’s decision to embrace torture right there next to what many consider one of the biggest foreign policy mistakes in history.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

Bush’s July 7, 2003 Discussion about Wilson

One thing DOJ redacted in this document–the most highly protected part of the document–was Cheney relaying what was said about Joe Wilson at a meeting with Bush, probably on July 7, 2003.

When Fitzgerald asked Cheney whether he ever spoke about Wilson with Condi Rice, Andy Card, and Karl Rove, Cheney answered this way:

The Vice President advised that it was probable that he discussed Joe Wilson at some point with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, but he had no recollection of discussing Valerie Wilson at all with her. He advised his thoughts were the same regarding Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Card–he probably would have discussed Joe Wilson with Card, but not Valerie Wilson. He said the same held true for Presidential Advisor Karl Rove–he probably discussed Joe Wilson with Rove, but would not have discussed Valerie Wilson with him.

The Vice President went on to explain his reason for believing he possibly discussed Joe Wilson with the latter three individuals. The Vice President stated that after he receives his 7:00 a.m. briefing at his residence from the CIA briefer, he travels to the White House where he joins the President for a daily CIA briefing which the President receives from either DCI Tenet or DDCI McLaughlin. Chief of Staff Card and Dr. Rice are also present for these briefings, along with a Presidential briefer from the CIA. Normally, when the CIA’s briefing is completed, the four, who are sometimes joined after the briefing by Mr. Rove, will discuss a wide range of topics. At some point in time, after the Wilson issue had become public, the Vice President recalls [two lines redacted].

The Vice President said he could not recall exactly when he had this discussion and who was present for it, but it may have been at one of the morning meetings. He said that it was possible he had the discussion with the President prior to the publication of Wilson’s editorial on 7/6/03, but it probably occurred afterwards. It may have occurred early on Monday, 7/7/03 although he stated that he would not have discussed it with the President on Sunday, 7/6/03, the day when he returned to Washington from Wyoming. Additionally, the Vice President had no recollection of discussing Wilsons wife at any time with the President.

DOJ has exempted the redaction claiming Presidential Communication. In their filing on the interview, they wrote,

The presidential communications privilege protects certain confidential communications with the President pertaining to his conduct of his Office. In this case, the privilege protects portions of the FBI report, see page 12, lines 9-11, … because they summarize a confidential conversation between the Vice President and the President.

So to review, Cheney admitted to talking to Condi, Card, and Rove about Wilson, by rather circuitously (!?!?) admitting that something was said about Wilson while they all met, possibly on the morning of July 7, 2003.

Now, I’ll come back to this admission–probably many many times.

But just to fill out the chronology a little, here’s an exchange Fitzgerald had with Libby about events of that morning during Libby’s March 5, 2004 grand jury appearance.

Q. And on July 7th, do you recall if at the 6:45 briefing in the morning you and the Vice President asking Craig Schmall about Mr. Wilson and the circumstances of his trip?

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Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Libby Non-Pardon: From the Department of Pre-Spin

I thought I was done with the myth on the Scooter Libby non-pardon. But dday’s emphasis on the second most eye-popping detail from Time’s story–Libby’s unsuccessful attempt to appeal to Bush personally for a pardon (the most eye-popping being Bush’s consultation with his own defense attorney)–made me want to tell this story again to emphasize the known facts rather than Bush’s self-serving spin of those facts.

The short version, though, is that the White House prevented Libby from speaking to Bush directly about this case, all the while telling a narrative that the question of pardon pertained narrowly to whether Libby lied about his conversation with Russert and not the larger questions implicating both Cheney and Bush. After Libby appealed his case through Fielding indirectly to Bush, Bush consulted with his defense attorney. And the two of them–Bush and his defense attorney–apparently made the final decision not to pardon Libby just two days before Bush left office.

The Three Clouds over the Commutation and Pardon Discussion

Not long before the jury returned a guilty verdict, Patrick Fitzgerald summarized the problem with Libby’s successful perjury and obstruction of justice.

There is a cloud over what the Vice President did that week. He wrote those columns. He had those meetings. He sent Libby off to Judith Miller at the St. Regis Hotel. At that meeting, … the defendant talked about the wife. We didn’t put that cloud there. That cloud remains because the defendant has obstructed justice and lied about what happened.

As the trial revealed, Dick Cheney had ordered Scooter Libby to leak something to Judy Miller. Around the same time Cheney gave that order, Cheney made mad scribblings on Joe Wilson’s op-ed, singularly emphasizing the story of Joe Wilson’s wife. After receiving Cheney’s order, Libby leaked Valerie Wilson’s identity to Miller and went on to give Ari Fleischer some of the details–the name "Plame" and her covert status–that remain unexplained in Bob Novak’s article. 

In other words, the primary cloud over the Vice President was the question, "did the Vice President order his top aide to leak Valerie Wilson’s identity?" And since Libby was the only witness to Cheney’s order, so long as he remained willing to continue telling his lies about his role in the leak, Fitzgerald could never remove that cloud. So long as Libby was willing to take the fall for Cheney, we would never know whether Cheney and Libby had maliciously and knowingly outed Valerie.

But that cloud also blocked another cloud, one over the Vice President and the President. Libby had testified to the grand jury that–after hesitating about leaking the information to Judy (which had to be more than the NIE, since he had already leaked the NIE by this point), Cheney reassured him that President Bush had declassified it, meaning it was okay to leak. Libby didn’t entirely trust Cheney on that point–he double checked with David Addington whether Cheney’s reassurances even made sense legally. Read more

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

The Bush Fairy Tale on the Libby Pardon

You need to keep one thing in mind as you read this story about Cheney’s campaign to get Bush to pardon Scooter Libby for his conviction related to the CIA Leak case. (h/t MadDog) Judge Emmet Sullivan has strongly suggested he’s going to rule in favor of CREW in its FOIA of Dick Cheney’s interview with Patrick Fitzgerald. So chances are good that we’ll get to see that interview in the foreseeable future. But Congress withdrew its request and CREW has not made any request to get Bush’s interview.

In other words, the sources for the story know that Cheney’s interview will soon become public, but that Bush’s probably won’t be.

As a result, the Bush partisans can tell a story about Bush being really miffed at Libby’s role in the case, all while claiming that the commutation (which of course was and still is the best way to ensure Libby never talks going forward) had nothing to do with Bush’s own knowledge of the leak.

Time Ignores that Libby Was Protecting Cheney AND Bush

This misleading narrative pervades the entire story. For example, Time suggests that Libby lied to the FBI because his job was on the line, and not because he was protecting Cheney and–at least to some degree–Bush. Time claims Cheney "assured Bush" Libby "wasn’t involved," when the note Cheney wrote prior to that exoneration implicates Bush himself and may reflect Cheney’s recognition that Libby had leaked the CIA trip report.

But Libby had reason to lie: his job was at stake, and his boss’s was on the line too. Bush had declared that anyone involved in leaking Plame’s identity would be fired. Cheney had personally assured Bush early on that his aide wasn’t involved, even persuading the President to exonerate Libby publicly through a spokesman.

And Time reports Bush officials acknowledging that Libby may well have taken the fall–but in spite of evidence of Bush’s personal involvement, portrays that acknowledgment as pertaining only to Cheney, not Bush himself.

As a former Bush senior aide explains, "I’m sure the President and [chief of staff] Josh [Bolten] and Fred had a concern that somewhere, deep in there, there was a cover-up."

Read more

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.