Scotty Squeals

I just have time for a quick note — I have been out this evening and just learned that Scott McClellan is dishing on his old White House homeboys in a new book, to be published in the spring. Mike Allen and Michael Calderone write for The Politico:

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan names names in a caustic passage from a forthcoming memoir that accuses President Bush, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney of being “involved” in his giving the press false information about the CIA leak case.

McClellan’s publisher released three paragraphs from the book “WHAT HAPPENED: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong With Washington.”

The excerpts give no details about the alleged involvement of the president or vice president.

But McClellan lists five top officials as having allowed him inadvertently to mislead the public.

“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 seniormost aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” McClellan wrote.

“There was one problem. It was not true.”

McClellan then absolves himself and makes an inflammatory — and potentially lucrative for his publisher — charge.

“I had unknowingly passed along false information,” McClellan wrote.

“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.”

McClellan says he was in that position because he trusted the president: “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.”

I’ve wondered if McClellan’s resignation as White House Press Secretary in April 2006 had anything to do wit the Plame-Wilson mess. Perhaps.

It Ain’t a River in Egypt

Kevin Drum writes about the confirmation that Valerie Plame was covert:

So that settles that. I hope the wingosphere can finally stop bleating about how she wasn’t “really” covert and there was no harm in what Libby et. al. did.


On another note, this probably means I was wrong about the reason Fitzgerald didn’t try to prosecute anyone for leaking Plame’s name. (Libby was tried only for perjury, not for outing a covert agent.) I figured it was because Plame had been working inside the U.S. for six years at the time of the leak, and one of the technical elements of “covert” under the IIPA Act is that the agent has “within the last five years served outside the United States.”

But obviously she had been working under cover outside the U.S. quite extensively during the previous five years, which means that Plame almost certainly qualified as “covert” under the specific definitions outlined in IIPA. Nonetheless, for some reason Fitzgerald decided not to bring outing charges against anyone. This suggests that Mark Kleiman has been right all along: Fitzgerald’s decision had nothing to do with technical aspects of IIPA, but rather with its scienter requirements. That is, the leakers had to know that leaking Plame’s name could be damaging, and Fitzgerald didn’t think he had the evidence to make that case. That might have been especially true since the leaks seem to have been authorized at very high levels, something the leakers could have used in their defense at trial.

Of course the wingnuts aren’t admitting they were wrong; they are clinging to their delusions more fiercely and frantically than ever. My favorite so far is the Flopping Ace, who draws upon his vast personal experience in espionage to write,

So basically what constitutes a “covert” agent within the CIA is that they travel overseas sometimes using an alias, sometimes using their true name.


Just wow.

I mean a foreign country would never keep tabs on the real names of agents would they? But hey, she was “covert”.

They still haven’t figured out it wasn’t her “name” that was a secret. It was her “job.” They still insist that Plame wasn’t “covert,” even though the CIA says she was, because (they claim) she doesn’t meet the criterion of “covert” under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. And they know this because Victoria Toensing and other Faux Snooze media personalities told them so. And in their minds, since (they think) the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 was not violated, then there was “no underlying crime,” even though Mr. Fitzgerald’s original indictment discussed allegations that other laws may have been been violated, such as “Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order 13292).” Those don’t count.

My understanding has been all along that the reason Mr. Fitzgerald didn’t charge anyone with revealing classified information under any of the several statutes discussed in the indictment is that he couldn’t prove intent. He also couldn’t determine for certain if the people who “outed” Plame fully appreciated that her status as a CIA employee (not her “name,” wingnuts) was classified. My understanding of the various statutes is that to be convicted of spilling classified beans the prosecution must prove the spiller knew the beans were classified. Fitzgerald couldn’t put together a strong enough case to bring this charge to trial, and one reason he couldn’t put this case together is that Scooter Libby wouldn’t tell the truth.

But try explaining that to a wingnut. Just try.

Elsewhere on the wingnut-o-net I’m seeing replays of the whole Plame mythos, including the “she sent Joe Wilson to Niger and lied about it” tale, which has been debunked so many times I’ve lost count. It doesn’t matter; you know Faux Snooze and Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Echo Chamber are pushing the same old lies and misinformation as hard as they can today. And nobody’s minds will change. We’re way past the point that fact matter to these people.

The Underlying Criminal

Speaking of impeachment — last Friday Patrick Fitzgerald filed a sentencing memorandum for Scooter Libby. Today Dan Froomkin discusses it.

Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has made it clearer than ever that he was hot on the trail of a coordinated campaign to out CIA agent Valerie Plame until that line of investigation was cut off by the repeated lies from Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. …

… In Friday’s eminently readable court filing, Fitzgerald quotes the Libby defense calling his prosecution “unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics.” In responding to that charge, the special counsel evidently felt obliged to put Libby’s crime in context. And that context is Dick Cheney.

Libby’s lies, Fitzgerald wrote, “made impossible an accurate evaluation of the role that Mr. Libby and those with whom he worked played in the disclosure of information regarding Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment and about the motivations for their actions.”

It was established at trial that it was Cheney himself who first told Libby about Plame’s identity as a CIA agent, in the course of complaining about criticisms of the administration’s run-up to war leveled by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. And, as Fitzgerald notes: “The evidence at trial further established that when the investigation began, Mr. Libby kept the Vice President apprised of his shifting accounts of how he claimed to have learned about Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment.”

The investigation, Fitzgerald writes, “was necessary to determine whether there was concerted action by any combination of the officials known to have disclosed the information about Ms. Plame to the media as anonymous sources, and also whether any of those who were involved acted at the direction of others. This was particularly important in light of Mr. Libby’s statement to the FBI that he may have discussed Ms. Wilson’s employment with reporters at the specific direction of the Vice President.” (My italics.)

Not clear on the concept yet? Fitzgerald adds: “To accept the argument that Mr. Libby’s prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President.” (My italics.)

Later in the column:

Nexthurrah blogger Marcy Wheeler blogs at the Guardian about how Libby’s “defense team solicited his friends and associates to write letters to the judge arguing that Libby deserves a reduced sentence. Last Friday, Libby’s lawyer Bill Jeffress submitted a filing opposing the release of those letters to the public. In it, he writes: ‘Given the extraordinary media scrutiny here, if any case presents the possibility that these letters, once released, would be published on the internet and their authors discussed, even mocked, by bloggers, it is this case.’ ”

Concludes Wheeler: “Jeffress’ invocation of bloggers is a cheap attempt to dismiss precisely what bloggers bring: an appropriate scrutiny of the motivations and actions of those who lied us into war and outed Valerie Plame.”

At The Guardian, Marcy’s response to this was admirably genteel. The suggestion that the people’s right to know is less important than keeping VIPs from being discussed, even mocked, might have annoyed the hell out of me.

Big update: NBC News

An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame’s employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was “covert” when her name became public in July 2003.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald’s memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation. …

The employment history indicates that while she was assigned to CPD, Plame, “engaged in temporary duty travel overseas on official business.” The report says, “she traveled at least seven times to more than ten times.” When overseas Plame traveled undercover, “sometimes in true name and sometimes in alias — but always using cover — whether official or non-official (NOC) — with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.”

I wonder what righties will say about this.

Truth and Truthiness

May all the buddhas and bodhisattvas bless Marcy Wheeler, who took on the mighty task of being Keeper of the Facts in the Valerie Plame Wilson case. Today she takes on the fact-challenged House testimony of Victoria Toensing. This is worth a bookmark.


By now you may have heard the sad news that Elizabeth Edwards’s cancer has returned. There were reports earlier today that John Edwards would suspend his campaign, but he says this is not so.

Valerie Speaks

I’m watching Valerie Plame Wilson in C-SPAN; she is testifying to the House. She says she did not send Joe Wilson to Niger; nor did she suggest him or recommend him. She is saying that another CIA agent suggested sending Joe Wilson. She is saying she was ambivalent about sending him. The colleague made the suggestion to her supervisor, and the supervisor asked Plame Wilson to ask her husband to come in to discuss the trip.

Update: “Karl Rove clearly was involved in the leaking of my name, and he still carries a security clearance,” she said.

Update update: One rightie talking point that comes up frequently is that, when Wilson came back from Niger, he told the CIA that the Niger-uranium story was credible. They get this from a 2004 bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report. Plame Wilson says that another CIA employee’s testimony was twisted out of context. This employee asked the Senate to re-interview him, so he could set the record straight. The request was denied.

Update 3: See Think Progress.

Update 4: Here’s a transcript of Valerie Plame Wilson’s opening statement.


I will be surprised if President Bush pardons Scooter Libby. As Ezra says, Bush’s famous “loyalty” only goes one way —

It’s long been his M.O to cut loose even the most faithful of servants after they outlive their usefulness. And Scooter Libby has definitely outlived his usefulness. To pardon him would refocus the blame onto the presidency, make it clear the administration felt indebted to an underling doing their bidding. That’s all true, of course, save for the indebted part. Libby was doing their bidding and now it is done. End of transaction.

Well, almost. Peter Baker and Carol D. Leonnig report for the Washington Post:

President Bush said yesterday that he is “pretty much going to stay out of” the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby until the legal process has run its course, deflecting pressure from supporters of the former White House aide to pardon him for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Scooter’s lawyers plan to seek a new trial. As long as there is even a possibility of more litigation, the White House can continue to use the “ongoing legal proceeding” excuse not to answer questions about Libby. That’s another reason I don’t believe we’ll see a pardon at least until after the 2008 elections.

Much is being made of Libby juror Ann Redington‘s desire to see Libby pardoned. I watched the Hardball segment in which she said this. My impression was that she was still thinking with Juror’s Mind, striving mightily to be fair and impartial. I’d be more interested in what she has to say about six months from now.

So Redington didn’t bother me nearly as much as Kate O’Beirne, sitting next to her, did. Kate thinks the jury tried its best but came up with the wrong verdict. Libby is, of course, innocent, no matter what the jury says. Just as Bill Clinton is guilty, even though Paula Jones lost her suit against him. See, courts are irrelevant. All you need to know to judge guilt or innocent are the political leanings of the accused. Anyone Kate judges to be one o’ hers must be innocent.

Hardball producers could save wear and tear on Kate if they just keep an inflatable Kate doll handy. Inflate it, stuff it into a chair, and play prerecorded talking points. ‘Twould be no better or worse than the real Kate. In fact, they might be doing that already.

At this point I don’t much care if Scooter sees jail time or not. If he were pardoned, it would not be like the pardons of Richard Nixon or Caspar Weinberger, whose pardons saw to it they were never tried. Avoiding those trials amounted to a cover up. But we’ve had Scooter’s trial; we know what happened. And Scooter’s just a factotum. It’s his masters I’m interested in.

Speaking of factotums (factoti?), David Brooks broods over the Libby trial today. He begins —

Three years ago I said some pessimistic things on TV about the war in Iraq. Scooter Libby called the next day. Methodically, though with a touch of wryness in his voice, he ran down a list of the hopeful developments he thought I was ignoring. Then as we were signing off, he interrupted himself and said: “Anyway, that’s the positive spin. I can do the negative spin just as well.”

Of course, Brooks was content with the positive spin.

Over the years, we had two lunches and about a half-dozen phone interviews, and he was more discreet each time. I would sit there — learning nothing — and think, We know the Bushies are not like us Jews because they’re willing to appear less knowledgeable than they really are, but can Scooter Libby be like this, too? [emphasis added]

Is that or is that not a damn weird thing to have written?

Yet it was hard not to like the guy — for his intelligence, his loyalty and his meticulous attention to ethical niceties. (At lunch he wouldn’t let me pick up the tab. He’d lay a $20 bill on the table to cover his half.)

Brooks goes around buying lunches for government officials? (I started to write “cheap lunches,” but I guess that shows I’ve lived in New York City too long.)

Yet that doesn’t begin to cover the sadness that this trial arouses, for the proceedings have revealed the arc of what the administration was and could have been.

Cue the violin music.

When you think back to the White House of 2003, the period the trial explores, you will discover a White House consumed by a feverish sense of mission.

Staff members in those days went to work wondering whether this would be the day they would die. There was a sense that any day a bomb might wipe out downtown Washington.

Hold that thought.

Senior officials were greeted each morning by intense intelligence briefings. On June 14, 2003, for example, Libby received a briefing with 27 items and 11 pages of terrorist threats. Someone once told me that going from the president’s daily briefing to the next event on Mr. Bush’s schedule, which might be a photo-op with a sports team, was like leaving “24” and stepping into “Sesame Street.” No wonder administration officials were corporate on the outside but frantic within.

The White House culture was also defined by the staff’s passionate devotion to the president. Bush’s speeches after 9/11 inspired a sense of intense connection, and the emotional bonds were kept perpetually aroused by the onset of war, by the fierce rivalries with the State Department and the C.I.A., and by the administration’s core creed, that everything it does must be transformational.

It was a time, in short, of grand goals but also of discombobulating and repressed emotion. [emphasis added]

But those intense emotions, especially the fear, not to mention a stew of underlying character pathologies, were driving the “grand goals.”

Today, the White House culture is less intense. The staff’s relationship to the president has simmered down, from devotion to mere admiration.

How precious.

Today, the White House staff is less disciplined but more attractive. There is no party line in private conversations. The trick now is to figure out what administration policy really is, because you can now talk to three different people and get three different versions on any topic. There’s more conversation and more modesty. The vice president has less gravitational pull, and there has been a talent upgrade in post after post: Josh Bolten as chief of staff, Henry Paulson at Treasury. If Bob Gates had been the first defense secretary, the world would be a much better place today. [emphasis added]

Then in the next paragraph, Brooks writes,

The administration has also lost its transformational mind-set. After cruel experience, there’s a greater tendency to match ends to means, and to actually think about executing a policy before you embark upon it.

Wow, thinking. Just imagine anyone in the White House actually thinking. But they can’t be thinking real hard, since no one has any idea in hell what Bush’s policies actually are.

There’s much more tolerance for serious freethinkers — the Johns Hopkins scholar Eliot Cohen was just hired at State.

In his book Fiasco, Thomas Ricks identified Eliot Cohen as a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz. (See p. 16.) He was one of the military experts assembled in December for the purpose of telling Bush the Iraq War is still “winnable” and that it was OK to ignore the Iraq Study Group recommendations. So much for serious freethinking. The Bushies are drawing the same tainted water from the same old well.

In short, this administration’s capacities have waxed as its power has waned. And you can’t help but feel that today’s White House would have been much better at handling the first stages of the war on terror. But that’s the perpetual tragedy of life: the owl of Minerva flies at dusk. Wisdom comes from suffering and error, and when the passions die down and observation begins.

I picture Brooks with a three-day beard, crying into a gin bottle in some seedy Washington watering hole. How tragic it is — the Bush White House, after six years of bleeping up the planet, is finally getting its act together, even though no two of them can agree on what the act is. If only they’d done it sooner. Like six years ago. But now that they have embarked on the serious mission of governing — thinking about it, even — it’s too late, and the owl of Minerva has flown off with the mouse of accomplishment in its beak. And Brooks has the sorry task of having to write a column about it. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?

Yes, so tragic. Pass the gin.


Jeralyn’s explanation of what the Libby jury might be thinking gave me flashbacks to The Dumbest Trial of the Century. Here Jeralyn explains what some of the “dumbest trial” commenters were too thick to grasp:

Scooter Libby is not required to prove he didn’t lie or obstruct justice. All he has to do is raise a reasonable doubt in the mind of the jurors that he did.

The test for reasonable doubt is not a simple weighing of the evidence, after which the jury decides which side to believe more. That’s the test in a civil case where the standard of proof is a mere “preponderance of the evidence.”

In layman’s terms, in a criminal case, if both sides’ theories and arguments sound plausible, that alone is a reasonable doubt and the jury should acquit.

To which a commenter astutely replied,

… in the end, a trial is not about “what is the truth” but rather what limits are there on the power of the state to take away liberty.

Toward the end, the “dumbest trial” comment thread devolved into my trying to explain “burden of proof” to an impossibly stupid commenter. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof is on the prosecution (the government, a.k.a. “the people”). The “dumbest trial” judge explained to us that, strictly speaking, the defendant didn’t have to prove anything. Further, criminal trials usually require a unanimous verdict. Obviously, the reason for this is to discourage the government from throwing citizens into jail on phony charges. In other words, it’s to put limits on the power of the state to take away liberty.

(The defendant’s lawyer in the “dumbest trial” demonstrated that at least some of the evidence against the plaintiff had been fabricated by one of the detectives. This screamed “reasonable doubt” to eleven of us jurors. Essentially, the guy who hung the jury was unable to wrap his head around the concepts of “reasonable doubt” and “burden of proof.”)

Jeralyn says that she wouldn’t be surprised if the jury acquits, because she could see how they might decide they have “reasonable doubt” of Libby’s guilt. And, of course, if the jury acquits, the Right will conclude the entire Joe Wilson Saga was a fantasy of the Left.

But, of course, this trial wasn’t about Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame Wilson or the Iraq War or the weapons of mass destruction. It was about whether whether Scooter Libby lied to FBI agents and the grand jury and thereby obstructed justice.

However the jury decides, I agree with Jane that the testimony had vindicated Murray Waas. If you want a roundup of the real issues, read Waas’s two most recent reports for National Journal: “CIA Leak Probe: Inside The Grand Jury” (January 12) and “Cheney’s Call” (today).

In brief: Dick the Dick is the instigator of the whole mess. Scooter was just following orders.

See also:For Liberal Bloggers, Libby Trial Is Fun and Fodder.”

Fitzmas Cancelled?

Well, folks, if you’ve been living in the “When will Karl be indicted” camp, it appears you can strike the tents. According to David Johnston at the New York Times, Fitz won’t indict.

The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly three-year criminal investigation that had at times focused intensely on Mr. Rove.

The decision by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, announced in a letter to Mr. Rove’s lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove who testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury about his involvement in the disclosure of an intelligence officer’s identity.

In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, “On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove.”

Mr. Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Randall Samborn, said he would not comment on Mr. Rove’s status.

Many hopes will be hung on that last sentence.

A series of meetings between Mr. Luskin and Mr. Fitzgerald and his team proved pivotal in dissuading the prosecutor from bringing charges. On one occasion Mr. Luskin himself became a witness in the case, giving sworn testimony that was beneficial to Mr. Rove.

Make of that what you will.