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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

With all the rush of news of late, I had not seen that my friend Penn Kemble died a week ago. An honorable man. I'll miss him.

Remember, I. Lewis Libby doesn't just work for the Vice President.

From the beginning of the administration, a key root of Libby's power at the White House is that he works both for the Vice President (as Chief of Staff and National Security Affairs Advisor) and the President of the United States (as Assistant to the President).

Overlooked in the current discussion.

Go to page 5 of the indictment. Top of the page, item #9.

On or about June 12, 2003, LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Divison. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA.


This is a crucial piece of information. The Counterproliferation Division (CPD) is part of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, i.e., not the Directorate of Intelligence, the branch of the CIA where 'analysts' come from, but the DO, where the spies, the 'operatives', come from.

Libby's a long time national security hand. He knows exactly what CPD is and where it is. So does Cheney. They both knew. It's right there in the indictment.

Late Update: To be clear, there are of course support staff of various sorts in the DO. Not everyone is a field operative or a 'spy', certainly not in the colloquial sense of the term. But this is the essential difference between these two branches of the agency. These two guy had every reason to know what they were doing.

Libby indictment devastating for the White House.

The Libby indictment is just out. And though I've now read through it, it was necessarily a cursory read. So consider this a preliminary reaction subject to revision.

A few points.

It's true that perjury charges can in some cases amount to 'gotchas', prosecutions brought for minor misstatements or possible lapses of memory.

This ain't one of those cases.

An indictment is always the prosecutor's case, unrebutted by the defense. But Fitzgerald seems to make a very powerful case that Libby repeatedly made claims under oath that he simply must have known were false. We'll have time to go over the details as time goes on. But that's my sense from a quick read.

Far more important, however, is the rest of the information included in the indictment. If you read the recitation of events which takes up, roughly, the first half of the indictment, one thing is made very clear: Libby was in communication about what he was doing with all sorts of people at the White House while he was doing it.

Cheney speaks ...

Mr. Libby has informed me that he is resigning to fight the charges brought against him. I have accepted his decision with deep regret.

Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and talented individuals I have ever known. He has given many years of his life to public service and has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction.

In our system of government an accused person is presumed innocent until a contrary finding is made by a jury after an opportunity to answer the charges and a full airing of the facts. Mr. Libby is entitled to that opportunity.

Because this is a pending legal proceeding, in fairness to all those involved, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the charges or on any facts relating to the proceeding.


More to follow.

Top of the list: who do you figure the "Under Secretary of State" (p.4) was who seems to have worked closely with Libby in getting information on Wilson?

Hint: Look at the org chart at the State Department and whose purview the State Dept intel shop, INR, falls under.

Late Update: Just to clarify, I believe this detail and the person's name was identified in an article in the Post some time in the last few months.

Fitzgerald tells members of Congress he believes "there is no legal authority to issue a public report in the Special Counsel matter", also confirms that the Plame grand jury is not a 'special grand jury'.

Now, about that FBI investigation into the origins of the Niger forgeries, discussed by Doug Jehl in his piece in today's Times.

(Apologies to longtime readers of the site who will be familiar with much of what follows.)

Jehl reports that a "counterespionage official said Wednesday that the inquiry into the documents ... had yielded some intriguing but unproved theories."

That's not a lot for an investigation that began two and a half years ago.

And, remember, the existence of the supposed FBI investigation was the basis on which Sen. Roberts' Senate intel committee agreed not to examine anything about the origins of the documents or how they came into American hands.

So how serious has that investigation been? And what is known by the two senators -- Roberts and Rockefeller -- who've been regularly briefed on it?

Consider this: As is now all over the papers in the US and Italy, the 'security consultant' who tried to peddle the forgeries to a reporter for the Italian magazine Panorama in October 2002 is a man named Rocco Martino. FBI sources continue to tell reporters that they have not been able to question Martino because they have not been able to secure the permission of the Italian government to speak with him.

Given the gravity of the case, it seems difficult to believe that the United States would tolerate Italy's non-cooperation. But what about when Martino came to the United States?

Martino travelled to the United States twice last year. He travelled under his own name and stayed in New York City where he provided interviews to me and two other journalists. By the time Martino made his second visit to the United States his name and his central role in the case had been reported in several Italian and two major British papers. Yet no effort was made to contact him or question him when he was in the US for several days.

Surely US law enforcement wouldn't need the permission of the Italian government to speak to Martino when he was on US soil.

How serious can an investigation be when there is no attempt to speak to the central person in the case?

Another indication.

Elisabetta Burba is the Italian journalist, who works for the Berlusconi-owned magazine Panorama, to whom Martino tried to sell the forgeries. She was interviewed by the FBI not long after Sen. Roberts agreed to co-sign Sen. Rockefeller's request for an FBI investigation in the spring of 2003. But she describes the interviews and follow-ups as cursory at best.

There are various other reasons to doubt that the Justice Department has made a serious effort to solve the mystery of the Niger forgeries. But the apparent lack of interest in even speaking to the man at the center of the scheme is a decent place to start.

As Chairman of the senate intel committee, Sen. Roberts is in a position to receive detailed briefings on the status of the investigation. And his spokespersons say he's received them. So what does he know? More reporting needed.

Today's LA Times story on the Niger forgeries contains the following passage ...

The murky saga involves one Rocco Martino, an occasional Italian spy and businessman who initially peddled the documents. He has told reporters over the last few years that he obtained the papers through a contact at the Niger Embassy in Rome (which, incidentally, was burglarized in 2001) with the help of another officer from Italian military intelligence, and that he sold them to a French intelligence agency with which he occasionally traded.

Through his lawyer, Martino declined an interview this week. "The less I say, the better," the lawyer, Giuseppe Placidi, quoted Martino as saying. The lawyer would only say that Martino, who was questioned by Italian prosecutors, did not realize the material was fake and did not obtain it from military intelligence.

Martino is a problematic figure. La Repubblica described him as a "failed carabiniere [policeman] and dishonest spy" and a "double-dealer" who plays many sides of every fence and was fired from his job in the Italian secret service.


There's actually a bit more to it than this. There are year-old and as yet unbroadcast taped interviews with Martino in which he describes the arrangement with SISMI officer Antonio Nucera and a female SISMI asset who works at the Niger embassy in Rome. In addition, there are interviews with another party to scheme which confirm Nucera's role. Thus, while Martino himself is what a lit prof might call an untrustworthy narrator, other evidence confirms his claims about SISMI involvement.

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