Thursday, February 09, 2006

Murray Waas: Cheney and Other "White House Superiors" Authorized Libby To Leak Classified Info To Press

Came home to hear Tweety screaming on Hardball that the National Journal was reporting some big, big news in the CIA leak case:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.

Libby testified to the grand jury that he had been authorized to share parts of the NIE with journalists in the summer of 2003 as part of an effort to rebut charges then being made by former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence information to make a public case for war.
But besides sharing details of the NIE with reporters during the effort to rebut Wilson, Libby is also accused of telling journalists that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, had worked for the CIA. Libby and other Bush administration officials believed that if Plame played a role in the selection of her husband for the Niger mission, that fact might discredit him.
A federal grand jury indicted Libby on October 28, 2005, on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice, alleging that he concealed his role in leaking information about Plame to the media. He resigned his positions as chief of staff and national security adviser to Cheney the same day. Libby has never claimed that Cheney encouraged him to disclose information about Plame to the media.


Libby is defending himself by admitting that Cheney and other White House "superiors" ordered him to leak classified info to members of the press.

Superiors like Karl Rove, Dubya's consilgiere, and former deputy national security adviser (and now current NSA) Stephen Hadley.

As Jane at Firedoglake notes, Libby's using the "Ollie North defense" to try and stymie the prosecution by asking for classified documents that his bosses in the Bush administration can then refuse to declassify for use in the case, thus killing Fitzgerald's case against Libby.

It worked for Ollie North during Iran-Contra. It may work for Libby now. But I also keep hearing how the documents Libby's lawyers are demanding for their defense is so tangential to the charges against Libby that the Ollie North moves won't work here.

I guess we'll see.

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