A Story With Legs – Plamegate

Evidence Suggests White House Conspiracy
    By Jason Leopold
    t r u t h o u t | Report

    Thursday 06 April 2006

    Special
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stated in a court filing late Wednesday
in the CIA leak case that his investigators have obtained evidence
during the course of the two-year-old probe that proves several White
House officials conspired to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson,
a critic of the administration’s pre-war Iraq intelligence.

    This
is the first time the special counsel has acknowledged that White House
officials are alleged to have engaged in a coordinated effort to
undercut the former ambassador’s credibility by disseminating
classified intelligence information that would have contradicted
Wilson’s public statements.

    Fitzgerald’s
court filing was made in response to attorneys representing I. Lewis
“Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff,
who was indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and
lying to investigators related to his role in the leak, who are
desperately trying to obtain evidence from the government to prove
Libby did not intentionally lie to the grand jury when he was asked how
he found out about Plame Wilson and whether he shared that information
with the media.

    Furthermore,
Libby’s attorneys have argued that they are entitled to the evidence in
order to prove Libby was not engaged in a “plot” to discredit Wilson.
But Fitzgerald said he does not have evidence that would prove that
theory. Instead, Fitzgerald said the evidence he has obtained proves
there was a coordinated effort by White House officials to discredit
Wilson.

    “There
exist documents, some of which have been provided to defendant and
there were conversations in which defendant participated, that reveal a
strong desire by many, including multiple people in the White House, to
repudiate Mr. Wilson before and after July 14, 2003.

    Although
Fitzgerald makes it abundantly clear that Libby is not charged with
conspiracy, he argues that Libby’s suggestion that no there was no
White House plot to discredit Wilson is ludicrous given the amount of
evidence Fitzgerald has in his possession that suggests otherwise.

    “Once
again, defendant ignores the fact that he is not charged with
participating in any conspiracy, much less one defined as a “White
House-driven plot to punish Mr. Wilson,” the filing states. “Moreover,
given that there is evidence that other White House officials with whom
defendant spoke prior to July 14, 2003, discussed Wilson’s wife’s
employment with the press both prior to, and after, July 14, 2003 –
which evidence has been shared with defendant – it is hard to conceive
of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of
White House efforts to ‘punish’ Wilson.”

    Wilson’s
wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was an undercover CIA operative whose
identity was unmasked to reporters by several White House officials in
what the former ambassador claims was an attack after he penned an
op-ed in the New York Times in July 2003 exposing the administration’s
use of flawed intelligence on the Iraqi nuclear threat.

    Fitzgerald
did not name the other White House officials who were involved in the
effort to undercut Wilson, but sources close to the case said that
White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and National Security
Adviser Stephen Hadley are the officials who were involved in the
alleged plot.

    A
footnote in the court filing states that Hadley was intimately involved
in conversations and meetings that took place at Cheney’s office where
White House officials discussed how to respond to Wilson’s statements
about the administration’s use of bogus intelligence that purportedly
proved Iraq actively sought 500 tons of uranium from Niger.

    At
one point during the meeting, Hadley discussed declassifying a portion
of the highly sensitive National Intelligence Estimate and leaking it
to reporters as a way of responding to Wilson’s statements.

    “The
government is producing to defendant Mr. Hadley’s notes of meetings and
conversations in which both defendant and Mr. Hadley participated, and
in which the potential declassification of the NIE was discussed,” the
court filing says.

    Moreover,
Wednesday’s court filing lays out for the first time how White House
press secretary Scott McClellan came to publicly exonerate Libby and
Rove during a press briefing in October 2003, three months after Plame
Wilson’s identity was unmasked by a columnist Libby and Rove had been a
source for.

    The
filing suggests that Libby lied to McClellan about his role in the leak
when he was asked about his involvement in October 2003, and urged the
press secretary to clear his name during one of his morning press
briefings. Additionally, the court document states that President Bush
was unaware of Libby’s involvement in the Plame Wilson leak and that
Libby also concealed his involvement from Cheney.

    “During
this time, while the President was unaware of the role that the Vice
President’s Chief of Staff and National Security Adviser had in fact
played in disclosing Ms. Wilson’s CIA employment, defendant implored
White House officials to have a public statement issued exonerating
him,” the filing states. “When his initial efforts met with no success,
defendant sought the assistance of the Vice President in having his
name cleared.”

    Libby
prepared notes for McClellan to use during his daily press briefing
that could be used to clear Libby’s name from being associated with the
Plame Wilson leak.

    “Though
defendant knew that another White House official had spoken to Novak in
advance of Novak’s column and that official had learned in advance that
Novak would be publishing information about Wilson’s wife, defendant
did not disclose that fact to other White House officials (including
the Vice President) but instead prepared a handwritten statement of
what he wished White House Press Secretary McClellan would say to
exonerate him:

People have made too much of the difference in
How I described Karl and Libby
I’ve talked to Libby.
I said it was ridiculous about Karl.
And it is ridiculous about Libby.
Libby was not the source of the Novak story.
And he did not leak classified information.

    “As
a result of defendant’s request, on October 4, 2003, White House Press
Secretary McClellan stated that he had spoken to Mr. Libby (as well as
Mr. Rove and Elliot Abrams) and “those individuals assured me that they
were not involved in this.”

    McClellan’s
public statement and the fact that President Bush vowed to fire anyone
in his office involved in the leak was one of the motivating factors
that led Libby to lie during an interview with FBI investigators in
November 2003, Fitzgerald states in the court filing.

    “Thus,
as defendant approached his first FBI interview he knew that the White
House had publicly staked its credibility on there being no White House
involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson and that, at
defendant’s specific request through the Vice President, the White
House had publicly proclaimed that defendant was “not involved in
this.”

    “The
President had vowed to fire anyone involved in leaking classified
information. In that context, defendant proceeded to tell the FBI that
he had merely passed information from one reporter (Russert) to other
reporters while disclaiming any knowledge of whether the information he
passed was true, and certainly unaware that he knew this classified
information from government channels,” the filing says. “Once that die
was cast, defendant repeated the story in a subsequent interview and
during two grand jury appearances.


    Jason Leopold
spent two years covering California’s electricity crisis as Los Angeles
bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year
cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and is a
regular contributor to t r u t h o u t.A Story with Legs

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