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From this evenings Nelson

From this evening's Nelson Report ...

ROVE/LIBBY...the Joe Wilson/Valeria Plame scandal...many thanks for a ton of interesting and valuable feedback from Loyal Readers to last night’s Report, and our use of the New York Times’ Frank Rich to lay out the most hard-line “case” against the Administration that could likely be imagined. Before we start, today’s hot gossip is that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald may have sent a “target letter”...an official warning of a likely indictment...to Vice President Cheney’s deputy chief of staff, John Hannah. According to sources which have been right from time to time, Hannah has told associates he has been forced to cut a deal, and that they think this includes testifying against his immediate boss, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Hannah’s name resonates to the insiders, since he is a samurai for UN Amb. John Bolton, detailed to the White House while Bolton was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs...in other words, an office with folks quite likely to have known the CIA connection which may form the basis of any criminal indictments in this case.

This is the hot gossip. But it's more than gossip. Not necessarily the point about a target letter, but on the point of Hannah's cooperation. A number of well-placed sources are now saying this. But there are logistical and inter-personal mysteries raised by Hannah's claimed cooperation that still make the whole picture appear murky to me.

The Hotline has a

The Hotline has a list posted here of everyone who's been interviewed, interviewed under oath, appeared before the grand jury or whatever in the Plame case. And they're looking to build out and correct their list with reader tips you can send in. Hey, wait a minute! Ahh, never mind. Just go look.

Newsweeks Christopher Dickey has

Newsweek's Christopher Dickey has a wise and thoughtful take on Judy Miller, the state of journalism and what this whole conflagration means.

If that doesn't pull you in. He also presses a Chalabi aide on whether Ahmed was Judy's source on Plame. And all he gets are non-denial denials.

The Times still seems

The Times still seems to be swimming on the edges of the Plame-Fitzgerald story. But Wednesday's piece introduces two tangible new details. No action from Fitzgerald this week. And Fitzgerald does not plan to issue a report of any kind.

As the Times reporters suggest, that leaves Fitzgerald with the options of indicting someone or simply closing up shop without telling anyone what happened. And that second possibility seems hard to imagine.

Still, we don't know what Fitzgerald's going to do.

A question about the

A question about the story beneath the story, the origins of the Niger forgeries and who covered up the trail.

The FBI was tasked with investigating the origins of the forgeries, who forged them and why. That was in March, 2003, soon after the IAEA publicly revealed the documents as forgeries.

But no real investigation ever took place. When reports of FBI footdragging became public a year ago, the Bureau begged off with feeble excuses about not having received permission from the Italian government to interview the key player in the mystery.

A case like that doesn't go uninvestigated by itself. Why did it? Who slowed it down? And which senators were getting briefed on the progress of the investigation over the course of 2003 and 2004?

For more than a

For more than a year we've been asking the following question, as have many others. After Sunday's revelations it became an even greater mystery. After the original fiasco of her WMD reporting and her on-going role in the Plame story, how did Judith Miller end up covering the UN 'oil-for-food' scandal for a year?

Recall that Times Executive Editor Bill Keller told his reporters that in the late summer of 2003 he ordered Miller off the Iraq and non-conventional weapons beats. But he either couldn't or wouldn't control her. "She kept kind of drifting on her own back into the national security realm," he told the paper.

This greatly understates what happened.

A year after Keller's order, as questions about Miller's reporting mounted and her tangle with the Fitzgerald investigation deepened, she was back covering the oil-for-food scandal for the Times. As I've written several times over the last year, that editorial decision is almost inexplicable.

The oil-for-food story was, by definition, about Iraq. So having Miller cover the case went directly against Keller's explicit instructions. But that's only the start of it. The most inflammatory accusations in the scandal, the ones that brought it to global prominence, were based entirely on documents of dubious authenticity produced by people on the payroll of Ahmed Chalabi. And Chalabi had been either the immediate or ultimate source for much of Miller's discredited WMD reporting. Beyond all these particulars, the whole struggle over the scandal became a replay by proxy of the lead-up to the war itself. Same players, same divide, many of the same issues at stake.

All told, there was scarcely any story this year or last on which Miller's credibility as a reporter was more compromised. And yet she either got the assignment or no one stood in her way when she took it on her own initiative. This is much more than drifting back into related issues.

Who made this decision or who failed to act to prevent it? If media criticism is a serious enterprise, this is a question that cries out for scrutiny.

I want to let

I want to let everyone know that we're having a discussion of the always vexed question of just how we got into Iraq and why, over at TPMCafe Book Club this week.

The basis of our discussion is George Packer's new book, The Assassins' Gate. You may know Packer from his extremely well-regarded New Yorker articles reported from Iraq. George got the discussion started. Foreign Affairs managing editor, Gideon Rose, responded last night. And Todd Gitlin has just weighed in with his first post "The War Movement and the Antiwar Movement".

Come by and join in the discussion.

It just gets more

It just gets more and more embarrassing for them (from Bloomberg) ...

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers disavows telling a U.S. senator that she believes there's a constitutional right to privacy and that a case the high court relied on when it legalized abortion was correctly decided, the lawmaker's spokesman said in a statement.

Senator Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the statement after telling reporters that Miers, the White House counsel, had told him there was a right to privacy.

Specter's spokesman, Bill Reynolds, said Miers called the senator after reading news accounts of his comments about their conversation to say Specter had misunderstood her position about privacy or the 1965 decision in Griswold v. Connecticut.


They sorta buried it

They sorta buried it, probably because they didn't feel their sourcing was strong enough to make it their lede. But the Daily News suggests Fitzgerald's got a cooperating witness inside the White House.