Posts

Now This IS Interesting Scottie McClellan News

Back in November, when Scottie McClellan’s publisher first started to pitch Scottie’s book, he made a stir when he posted the following blurb about the book.

The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

There was one problem. It was not true.

I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the President himself.

That set off a minor firestorm, as people misread the plain language of the blurb to mean that Bush had knowingly asked Scottie McC to lie about Libby’s and Rove’s involvement in the leak of Valerie Wilson’s identity. As I pointed out then, the firestorm probably contributed to making little Scottie rich.

Scottie McC’s publisher has pulled off quite the coup–taken a detail that was, largely, already known, and used it to cause a stir about a book that will not yet be published for another 6 months. Already, Dodd is calling for an investigation, folks are calling for HJC or Waxman to hold a hearing. What the left has done is read one publishing blurb designed to generate this kind of buzz, and played right into the plan. Congratulations. You’re all making Scottie McC rich.

And while I still don’t advocate that you all go out and buy Scottie’s book (tell you what–I’ll buy it and tell you the interesting bits), this little revelation is interesting news.

McClellan also suggests that Libby and Rove secretly colluded to get their stories straight at a time when federal investigators were hot on the Plame case.

Read more

One Corrupt Lawyer Disbarred

An entire party full of corrupt lawyers yet to be disbarred.

A three-judge panel on the D.C. Court of Appeals stripped Libby of his ability to practice law after he was found guilty last year of obstructing the investigation in the CIA leak investigation, WTOP radio reported.

Next up, Alberto Gonzales? Harriet Miers? John Yoo? David Addington?

(I suspect Mary has a prioritized list in her back pocket…)

Bush Administration Tries to Reverse A1 Cut-Out Declassification

Remember back in the halcyon days when people still believed Judy Miller was a journalist? The Bush Administration repeatedly used her as a cut-out, leaking highly classified information to her (like intelligence about aluminum tubes, mobile bioweapons labs, and even covert agents’ identities). She would then publish a story on the first page of the NYT. And Administration officials would quote her story, now treating the highly classified information as if it had been declassified. It worked like a charm until Judy’s credibility got so damaged with her Iraq reporting that she couldn’t oblige Cheney by writing an article leaking Valerie Wilson’s identity.

In 1992, the opposite occurred. Someone leaked a draft of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney’s Defense Policy Guidance to the NYT.

The document was provided to The New York Times by an official who believes this post-cold-war strategy debate should be carried out in the public domain.

[snip]

In contrast, the new draft sketches a world in which there is one dominant military power whose leaders "must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role."

The NYT published chunks of the draft, which shocked voters and allies. So poor little Scooter Libby, always the faithful acolyte, had to rewrite the draft to hide Cheney’s aggressive nature, perhaps believing they could persuade presidential year voters that Bush’s aides weren’t a bunch of nut-cases before the election that November.

Now the National Security Archive has published a series of those drafts, including a few memos from Libby, now a felon, to the guy he’d later commit a felony to protect (unfortunately, there’s none of Libby’s chicken scratch notes, so all the skills we’ve developed reading trial exhibits will be wasted).

Pathetically, the Bush Administration has refused to declassify some of the same passages that appeared in the NYT almost sixteen years ago.

Remarkably, these new releases censor a half dozen large sections of text that The New York Times printed on March 8, 1992, as well as a number of phrases that were officially published by the Pentagon in January 1993. "On close inspection none of those deleted passages actually meet the standards for classification because embarrassment is not a legal basis for secrecy," remarked Tom Blanton, director of the Archive." The language that the Times publicized can be seen side-by-side with the relevant portions of the February 18, 1992 draft (see document 3 below) that was the subject of the leak.

Read more

January 23, 2006

Sorry. I’m afraid Waxman has me hooked on these damn email documents.

But I wanted to point out a curious bit of timing. I’m working on a mega-timeline, but note this mini-timeline:

January 20, 2006: McDevitt and friends determine that there are gaps where the missing emails should be.

January 23, 2006: Fitzgerald informs Libby’s lawyers "via Telefax and regular mail" that:

In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.

January 23, 2006, 11:18 AM: McDevitt writes Susan Crippen,

Someone needs to fill in some of the blanks.

January 23, 2006, 1:19 PM: Crippen responds,

SIS has "filled in" the blanks.

January 24, 2006: Someone in the White House writes a document claiming to have found the missing emails.

According to a document dated just four days later that was shown to Committee staff, but not provided to them, the White House team recovercd 17,956 e-mails from these individual mailboxes on the backup tape and used these as their basis to search for e-mails responsive to the Special Counsel’s request.

January 31, 2006: Fitzgerald’s letter entered into PACER, alerting the press and DFH bloggers to the missing emails.

February 2, 2006: Addington prints off email for discovery.

February 6, 2006: Fitzgerald receives "missing" emails.

February 11, 2006: Dick shoots an old man in the face.

Okay, okay, I just included Dick’s lawyer-hunting for fun (though I have long believed the revelation of Cheney’s NIE cover story and the missing emails contributed to his carelessness that day).

But does anyone else find it odd that the WH "found" the missing emails the day after Libby’s lawyers learned that news of them would imminently become public?

Did Eric Edelman Lie to the Plame Grand Jury?

us-v-libby-gx104t-transcribed-plame-cp.jpg

And did he do it to protect Dick?

I admit. I can’t help myself. By some strange force, I found myself back at Prettyman this week, wading through the million-dollar CIPA battle that Libby waged in his graymail attempts (for the record, Fitz must say "graymail" about 20 times by the second day of these hearings). And in a December 29, 2005 defense filing (I haven’t scanned it yet, either because I was liveblogging all day or I’m just trying to torture Jeff) asking for further information to be declassified in response to the Jencks information they got, I found this footnote clarifying the sentence, "According to [Libby’s CIA briefer, Craig] Schmall, ‘Since I had no knowledge of the ambassador or his wife, I presume Libby gave me [the names Joe Wilson and Valerie Wilson].’"

Eric Edelman, whom the government recently decided not to call as a witness, contradicts Mr. Schmall on this point. According to Mr. Edelman, sometime before June 6, 2003 (when Mr. Edelman left the OVP), Mr. Schmall "identified the former envoy as Joseph Wilson" and "advised Edelman that the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division sent Wilson to Niger to conduct the inquiry, not the OVP." 6/23/04 Edelman FBI 302 at 2. According to Mr. Edelman, Mr. Schmall showed him internal CIA emails about the Wilson trip. 8/6/04 Edelman Grand Jury T. at 16. In addition, Mr. Schmall may have told Mr. Edelman during this period that Ambassador Wilson’s mission to Africa was suggested by his wife. 6/23/04 Edelman FBI 302 at 2; see also 7/7/04 Edelman FBI 302 at 2-3 (same); 8/6/04 Edelman Grand Jury T at 15-19 (same). Apart from the fact that Mr. Edelman contradicts Schmall on a significant point, the government may have elected not to call him because he makes clear in his grand jury testimony that he does not recall any mention of Ms. Wilson in his discussion with Mr. Libby following the June 19 New Republic article (see Indictment at 5-6 12-13) , and he never discussed with Mr. Libby the nature of the "complications" to which Mr. Libby referred. 8/6/04 Edelman Grand Jury T. at 29-30.

Now, as to the substance of Edelman’s denial that he was talking about Plame when he advocated leaking "information" to rebut Joe Wilson, here’s what the indictment said. It clearly relies on a witness or some other evidence that is not named Scooter Libby.

Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson’s trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line.

And in his grand jury testimony, Edelman told a story that did not directly contradict the substance of testimony apparently given about that conversation, but conveniently denies everything for which there was no apparent witness (that is, if you thought Edelman were trustworthy, you might just think Edelman dropped the issue after the witness stopped following it).

That’s interesting. But I’m much more interested in this part of the footnote.

According to Mr. Edelman, Mr. Schmall showed him internal CIA emails about the Wilson trip. Read more

“The 9/11 Commission Wants Internal Emails”

I found something rather interesting in Scooter Libby’s notes for July 8, 2003 (here’s the transcription of his chickenscratch). At the tail end of a conversation about the 9/11 Commission (which may have taken place at the White House’s Senior Staff Meeting that morning), and at the beginning of more obsessive notes about Joe Wilson [on how these notes work, see the update below], Libby wrote:

9/11 Commission wants internal e-mails, mark-up drafts of President’s speech, materials for President’s discussions with Blair, etc.

Now, I have no idea what they wanted internal emails pertaining to–though the reference to a Bush speech and discussions with Blair indicates it was a speech about war, most likely the September 20, 2001 speech announcing his response to the 9/11 attacks. Though, the Commission briefly reviewed the early (2001) discussions about hitting Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and Libby’s note appeared just one day before the Commission held a hearing on Al Qaeda’s relationship with other parts of the Arab world, including Iraq (Laura Mylroie even testified!).

But I find the mention interesting, given all the attention to the White House’s faulty email archiving system. Libby’s note presumably reflects discussions of the 9/11 Commission’s First Interim Report, released on the same day. In the report (and at the press conference accompanying it), Commission described the status of EOP’s document requests as follows:

First, the executive office of the president. The document requests have been filed with the executive office. Those documents cover every major part of the executive office of the presidency, including, of course, the National Security Council. We will not go into detail on the substance of these or other requests. We can say that we have received and are in the process of receiving access to a wide range of sensitive documents, and that to date no requested access has been denied. Many more documents are being requested. Conditions have been imposed, in some cases, with respect to our access to and usage of materials, and our discussions will continue.

Though the same interim report bragged that the Commission had received detainee interviews, and we know from Phillip Zelikow’s recent report on the CIA’s stonewalling regarding any tapes of detainee interrogations that as soon as June 2003, the CIA was withholding responsive materials.

Read more

Plame Investigation and Missing Emails Timeline

Okay, what follows is an uber-timeline, matching the dates for which OVP and WH don’t have any email archives to the Plame investigation, as well as laying out further details on how the investigation proceeded over time. Before you read further, a couple of important comments:

  • It would be completely irresponsible to assume that the email losses are entirely related to the Plame investigation. The large number of emails missing from CEQ, CEA, OMB, and OTR shows that, even if the emails were disappeared deliberately (which is a big assumption), they were disappeared for a myriad of reasons, many of them completely unrelated to the Plame investigation. That’s part of the reason I did the Medicare Part D post–while that post, like this one, is completely speculative, it shows there may be any number of explanations for the missing emails.
  • This post relies on information about the investigation revealed during the Libby trial. With one exception (the WHIG subpoena), those materials cover only subpoenas to OVP. There are undoubtedly subpoenas to the White House that we don’t know about that may pertain to these dates.
  • Remember that, in addition to the days for which no email archives exist for a given office, there are a large number of days for which offices don’t have archives of all the emails (that is, days when an archive includes vastly fewer emails than the office would have sent). So this timeline probably leaves out a large number of days which might be interesting or pertinent, because some significant number of emails are missing from the archives.
  • Even if all the connections you could might draw from this timeline were valid, they still wouldn’t explain all the funkiness with email pertaining to the Plame investigation. It still doesn’t describe possible funkiness with the Rove-Hadley email, and the search terms used to find emails may have led to further funkiness.
  • I will do a speculative post on some of the connections we might draw (probably tomorrow or Monday, I’m toast). But understand that this whole examination is one big experiment, which has the potential of drawing completely bogus conclusions. By looking solely at two discrete events, we presume a connection between them that ignores the complexity of the White House, or even the sheer number of potential scandals! Read more

Missing Emails: Addington’s Search Terms

Among the documents introduced at the trial was a draft version of the search that David Addington requested Keith Roberts of the Office of Administration to do on the emails on the OVP server. This is not a final version–it is what Addington sent to Deputy Special Counsel Roos to get his approval before he submitted it to Roberts to do his search. So hopefully Roos fixed some of the glaring holes in the email search–I don’t know.

In any case, here are the searches Addington requested in order to elicit emails on or to journalists from June 1 to October 31, 2003 and Joe and Valerie Wilson from October 1, 2003 until January 23, 2004 (I’m having a few technical issues, so this isn’t an image; make sure you click through to see the PDF):

First Search

Search for email messages created between June 1, 2003 and October 31, 2003, inclusive through use of the following search terms:

"_Novak_"
"_Royce_"
"_Phelps_"
"_Leiby_"
"Mike_Allen"
"Dana_Priest"
"Glenn_Kessler"
"Matthew_Cooper"
"_Dickerson_"
"_Calabresi_"
"Michael_Duffy"
"_Carney_"
"Evan_Thomas"
"Andrea_Mitchell"
"Chris_Matthews"
"_Russert_"
"Campbell_Brown"
"_Kristof_"
"_Sanger_"
"Judith_Miller"
"_Hitt_"
"_Gigot_"
"John_Solomon"
"Jeff_Gannon"
"Talon_News"

Second Search

Search for e-mail messages created between October 1, 2003 and January 23, 2004, inclusive, through use of the following search terms:

"Joseph_C._Wilson" or "Joseph_wilson" or "Joe_wilson" or "Ambassador_wilson" or "Amb._Wilson" or "Amb_Wilson" or "Plame_" or "Niger_"

Now, once again, I don’t know whether this search for emails used these precise search terms, but if it did, here are the gaping holes which the search wouldn’t cover:

Journalist Names

For the journalists with unusual last names, Addington requests a search of those last names, which would be the most expansive search. Such journalists include Russert, Sanger, and Kristof–all names that, by the time this thing was done (and certainly before for Paul Gigot and Timmeh Russert)–were probably self explanatory without the first name. Curiously, the list of last name searches includes Dickerson; that’s surprising because John Dickerson’s last name is neither so unique nor his role in this story so central (unless you’re trying to make Ari Fleischer the fall guy) that it should be self-standing.

But notice some of the journalists for whom Addington submits first and last name, in quotes, that would return just that string: Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, and Andrea Mitchell. This search will probably return any email from or to these journalists, picking up email signatures with their full names. Read more

Disappearing White House Emails Timeline

Jeff kicked my arse on a timing related issue yesterday, so I thought I better lay out the disappearing White House email timing all nice and neat like. Much of the detail on emails relies on some very cool work Jeff did on the emails.

I’ll move this over into a permanent timeline after you guys tell me what I’m missing (Jeff, I’m looking at you).

February 26, 2001: Gonzales informs White House staff they must preserve their email.

April 2001: GAO report on problems with ARMS and emails from the VP’s office in the Clinton Administration.

June 4, 2001: Bush announces plan to name CIO to manage and monitor email.

2001, unknown date: Susan Ralston prints off Rove email in response to Enron inquiry, gives that email to Alberto Gonzales, presumably alerting him to Rove’s use of RNC servers for official emails.

Late 2001 to early 2002: White House deactivates ARMS system put in place by Clinton Administration to archive emails.

Between 2002 and 2003: White House converts from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange.

March 2003: Starting date of period during which White House has incomplete archives for emails.

July 11, 2003: Rove writes Hadley email immediately after his call with Matt Cooper.

September 26, 2003: DOJ starts an investigation into Plame leak.

September 29, 2003, morning: Scottie McClellan claims ignorance of a DOJ investigation into the leak.

September 29, 2003, evening: John Ashcroft informs Alberto Gonzales of investigation.

September 30, 2003, morning: Alberto Gonzales informs White House staff of investigation.

September 30, 2003, 6:15 PM: Alberto Gonzales informs White House what to retain.

October 2003 (unknown date): White House CIO stops "recycling" backup tapes.

October 1, 2003: Mayfield to Martin email passing on transcript from that day’s Press Gaggle; the email was not apparently turned over until February 2006, presumably among the emails "not archived properly."

October 2, 2003: DOJ requests White House turn over materials relating to Wilson, his Niger trip, Novak, Royce, and Phelps.

October 3, 2003: Gonzales informs White House to turn over materials by October 7.

October 5, 2003: Date on which Martin to Fleischer email printed out, apparently by Martin. It was originally written on July 7, 2003 and contained OVP talking points on Wilson for Fleischer to use in his press briefing, including the words, "Niger" and "Joe Wilson." Probably turned over to DOJ on October 9, 2003.

October 7, 2003: Reporter asks Scottie McClellan whether White House officials have to turn over emails they’ve deleted.

Q No, I understand that. I’m just saying how would this work? Let’s say I remember — I’m an official, I remember sending some email about this, but I’ve long since deleted it. How —

[snip]

Q I just want to be clear, though, the White House is obligated to provide emails that may have been deleted by the individual but are still archived by the White House —

MR. McCLELLAN: Look back — it said what is in the possession of, I believe, in the White House, the employees and staff.

October 13, 2003: Date on which July 11, 2003 Martin to Michael Anton email printed out. The email was apparently discovered in a search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Niger" and "Wilson."

November 25, 2003: Per Hubris, date on which Rove aide B.J. Goergen prints out Rove-Hadley email (eventually turned over on October 14, 2004). The email mentions "Cooper" and Niger."

November 26, 2003: Oldest Rove email preserved by RNC.

February 2, 2004: Addington drafts a letter to Keith Roberts, Acting General Counsel, Office of Administration, listing the new terms for a search of the OVP domain. If "Joe Wilson" or "Niger" were mentioned in the October 1 gaggle, the October 1 Martin to Mayfield email should have been found in this search.

February 11, 2004: Date on which June 11, 2003 Martin to Mayfield email printed out. The email was apparently discovered in a search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Pincus" and "Niger."

February 11, 2004: Date on which July 11, 2003 Martin and Cooper email exchange printed out. The email was apparently discovered in search of OVP files by "OVP RM." It mentions "Cooper" and "Niger." Cooper’s initial email was printed out, probably on July 11 or 12, though it has no date; Libby wrote notes on it on how he would respond to Cooper.

March 2004: FBI begins probe into Abramoff scandal.

March 24, 2004: Fitzgerald asks Libby about email, suggesting Fitzgerald was surprised by the lack of email he received as evidence.

Q. You’re not big on e-mail I take it?

A. No. Not in this job. I was in my prior job.

May 8, 2004: Date on which Abramoff-Susan Ralston email using the RNC server printed out by Greenberg-Traurig. This may have been the first public indication that White House employees (Ralston) were using the RNC server to bypass the more public White House server.

June 2004: Senate Indian Affairs Committee issues its first subpoena in its investigation into Abramoff scandal.

August 2004: In response to "unspecified legal inquiries," RNC stops its automatic email destruction policy. 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