Monday, May 22, 2006

Fitz: Libby Knew Plame Was Classified

Read this Walter Pincus article in the Washington Post and ask youself why special prosecutor Fitzgerald didn't charge Scooter Libby with the crime of exposing the identity of a covert CIA agent:

The classified status of the identity of former CIA officer Valerie Plame will be a key element in any trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, according to special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald has said that at trial he plans to show that Libby knew Plame's employment at the CIA was classified and that he lied to the grand jury when he said he had learned from NBC News's Tim Russert that Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, worked for the agency.

Libby's lawyers have said their client did not know that Plame's job at the CIA was classified, and therefore he had no reason to remember conversations about her or lie about them to the grand jury.

When Libby testified before the grand jury on March 5, 2004, he said, according to the government's indictment: "Mr. Russert said to me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife, or his wife works at the CIA? And I said, no, I don't know that. And then he [Russert] said, yeah -- yes all the reporters know it. And I said, again, I don't know that."

At that same grand jury appearance, Libby was asked about a conversation he had with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in which he said reporters were the source of his information that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA.

"I was very clear to say reporters are telling us that because in my mind I still didn't know it as a fact. I thought I was -- all I had was this information was coming in from reporters," Libby told the grand jury, according to the indictment.

The indictment said Russert never disclosed anything about Plame in his conversation with Libby. Instead, prosecutors say, Libby learned about Plame's CIA employment in June 2003 from Cheney, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman and at least one senior CIA official, according to court papers.

At last week's court argument on pretrial motions, Fitzgerald said Libby had a "motive to lie" to the grand jury. By "attributing to a reporter" his information about Plame's CIA status and emphasizing that he was "passing on" scuttlebutt but "didn't know if it were true," the prosecutor said, Libby in his testimony was deliberately casting his actions as "a non-crime" in a way that "looks much more innocent than passing on what you know to be classified."

To support his case, Fitzgerald disclosed that at some time after Robert D. Novak's July 14, 2003, column identified Plame as a CIA "operative," Libby was part of a conversation with a CIA official and one other Cheney employee who is not identified in court papers. The CIA official discussed "the dangers posed by disclosure of the CIA affiliation of one of its employees," according to a May 12 court filing by the government.

At the oral argument that same day, Fitzgerald, referring to the conversation, described the CIA official as a witness who described to Libby "and another person the damage that can be caused specifically by the outing of Ms. Wilson."

That conversation, Fitzgerald added, "goes directly to his [Libby's] state of mind as to . . . there [being] a motive to lie."

It sounds like Fitzgerald hasn't evidence to show that Libby knew Plame was covert. So why isn't he charging him with that crime? Does Fitzgerald figure the perjury/false statement/obstruction charges are much easier to prosecute? Or does he plan on charging someone else with the crime of outing a CIA agent later on, say, someone who told Libby about Plame and her status and then ordered him to talk to the press about her?

Say, someone like Cheney?

Let's remember that when Fitzgerald was in his showdown with Judith Miller and Matt Cooper over their testimony, he went to a judge and said he needed to jail these reporters if they wouldn't cooperate because the circumstances of the case were extraordinary and these two reporters were his only way of finding out certain pieces of evidence crucial to his investigation. Judge Hogan agreed with Fitzgerald, adding that the case was certainly serious enough to warrant Fitzgerald's pressure on Miller and Cooper. Now what would make both Fitzgerald and Judge Hogan decide the case was so extraordinary that members of the press could be threatened with jail (and ultimately placed in jail for 80+ days in Miller's case)?

Maybe criminal behavior by the vice preznit.

Just speculation on my part, of course. But this seems to be where the case is heading. Perhaps that's why we got no announcement about Karl Rove's status in the past two weeks. Perhaps Mr. Rove has decided his own ass is more important to cover than the VP's and he's helping Fitzgerald make his case against the VP.

Again, just speculation.

That is my feeling too. I think this thing is going to bust wide open. This is the calm before the storm.
I doubt it, actually. Rove, prior to selling out Cheney, would warn the oft-aligned quail hunter, and Cheney I think would find some way to "Resign with pride", that is, resign quietly (hah!) provided he avoids indictment.

So the real question is this: How truly big are Fitz's ambitions? (original word thought better of) If he is truly amibitious (I suspect he is) then I would guess he isn't holding out for Cheney, but the supreme fowl himself: Lame Duck Bush.
I have always suspected Dead-eye Dick..the Shrub..nah..he's not involved in decisions..he is merely their mouthpiece.

I don't thnk Fitz is ambitious..he is meticulous..His biggest case to date took years to get to fruition.
praguetwin, I dunno if this is the calm before the storm, but it sure feels like the calm. After a lot of frenetic rumor-mongering and leaking about Rove's status in the case, everything just seems to have dried up right after people started having doubts about Leopold's article. It's weird. But I hope you're right and the storm comes soon.

Luke, I'm not sure Fitz really is aiming at Bush. My view is that Bush may have known big picture stuff, but I would guess the name Valerie Plame was known to him when Cheney was bandying it about to Libby pre-Novak's column. Now it's true that Bush could have been part of the cover-up later on, but even there, i suspect that he was kept in the dark on the details, even if he said something like "Take care of this" to Cheney or Rove.

And dusty, meticulius is the right word to describe Fitz. Looking at the Ryan case and the Hollinger case, it is obvious that Fitz works on Fitz time, not ours. It sucks for us now because we haven't gotten to celebrate Fitzmas yet, but we're hoping it will pay off big time when DeadEye Dick gets taken down (Can't wait to see the look on Lynn Cheney's face as DeadEye gets frog-marched and/or resigns from office!)
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