Sunday, October 02, 2005

New Wrinkle in Plame Game

There is an interesting article in the Washington Post this morning about the ongoing investigation into the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.

The other day, New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified to the grand jury that her secret source was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

We learned back in July that Bush's Brian, Karl Rove, had given the same information to Matthew Cooper of Time (Cooper, not having a martyrdom complex, worked out the deal that allowed him to testify before he was sent to prison).

So, we have two members of the upper echelons of the White House who—wittingly or not—blew the cover of a covert CIA operative in a broader attempt to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, who was calling "bullshit" on Bush administration claims that Saddam had attempted to acquire uranium from Niger.

According to the Post, the involvement of Scooter and Rove contradicts statements made to the press in the wake of the July 2003 Robert Novak column that blew the top off of this whole affair.
In October 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters that he personally asked Libby and Rove whether they were involved, "so I could come back to you and say they were not involved." Asked if that was a categorical denial of their involvement, he said, "That is correct."
The real question is whether this lie will have any consequences. The special prosecutor on this case, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been investigating a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. In order to make his case, Fitzgerald has an uphill battle to prove that Scooter and Rove knew that Plame was undercover and deliberately blew that cover.

The blockbuster revelation from the Post is that Fitzgerald might not be barking up that tree after all.
... a new theory about Fitzgerald's aim has emerged ... from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.
Conspiracy charges, as can be seen in the Tom DeLay fracas are easier to bring than straightforward criminal charges. Other lawyers close to the case, however, guess that Fitzgerald has no evidence of criminal intent and will ultimately bring no charges against Scooter, Rove or any other White House official.

The grand jury expires on Oct. 28, so we will know one way or another by then. If no criminal charges are filed, it will be interesting to see what President Bush decides to do. All throughout the intrigue, Bush has not commented on the case, citing the ongoing investigation. Once the investigation is over, however, Bush will be free to comment and, assuming no charges are filed, to take disciplinary actions of his own against the offenders.

What it may come down to is this: does George Bush really value national security? Does he really support the mission of the CIA? Or does all of that go out the window when his buddies are involved? Stay tuned.
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