Monday, October 31, 2005

Libby by the Numbers

Last Friday, the grand jury investigating the C.I.A. leak indicted Irving Lewis (Scooter) Libby, Jr. on obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements, and two counts of perjury. The full text of the indictment is available at:

As indictments go, this one is surprisingly long and detailed. The first thirteen pages concern Count One, Obstruction of Justice. The essence of the case comes down to three paragraphs.

Libby Indictment, P. 5, ¶ 9 —
On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson’s wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.

In June of 2003, The New Republic ran an article online about the so-called “sixteen words” in George Bush, Jr.’s State of the Union Address, when he claimed that Hussein had tried to buy uranium from Niger.

Libby Indictment, P. 6, ¶ 13-14 —
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.

On or about June 23, 2003, LIBBY met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. During this meeting LIBBY was critical of the CIA, and disparaged what he termed “selective leaking” by the CIA concerning intelligence matters. In discussing the CIA’s handling of Wilson’s trip to Niger, LIBBY informed her that Wilson’s wife might work at a bureau of the CIA.

In July of 2003, according to the indictment, Libby had a conversation with a senior White House official identified only as Official A. Official A told Libby that Robert Novak was going to write an article about Joseph Wilson’s wife.

Libby learned about Plame from the Vice-President of the United States, who got the information from the C.I.A. Plame’s work for Counterproliferation while employed by an Agency front was an obvious indicator that she was under cover. Libby clearly knew the information was sensitive, as evidenced by his unwillingness to discuss Plame with his deputy on a “non-secure” telephone line. And finally, Robert Novak — who actually “outed” Plame in the press — apparently discussed Plame with Official A, not Libby, before writing about her. In other words, the real source of the leak has yet to be identified.

Who is Official A? I don’t know, but I could venture a guess: Karl Rove. The source of the leak is still under scrutiny and Rove is, too. Even if Rove only confirmed Plame’s status to a reporter who acquired the information elsewhere, that would have been a violation of Rove’s non-disclosure agreement and should have been cause for dismissal. In 2003, George Bush, Jr. declared that anyone in his administration involved in the leak would be removed. Rove is clearly involved and yet he remains in the White House.

If, as alleged, Libby made false statements and committed perjury, why did he do it? The simplistic answer coming from the right-wing, the “Senator Hutchinson scenario,” is that Libby merely made a mistake. He forgot some point or he tried to correct some detail after initially providing other testimony. That seems unlikely given the sensitive and high-profile nature of the case.

There are two other possibilities: he lied to protect himself from prosecution under anti-espionage laws or he lied to protect his boss.

At a press conference on October 28, Fitzgerald made it clear that the Plame leak didn’t only jeopardize Valerie Plame. The damage, he said, “wasn’t done to one person. It wasn’t just Valerie Plame. It was done to all of us.”

Amy Goodman interviewed Larry Johnson for Democracy Now (10/31/2005). Johnson is a former C.I.A. analyst and former Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism. He described the entire affair — the Niger forgeries and the propaganda campaign leading to war — as a covert operation by the Bush administration against the American people.