Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Anyone have any insight on this graf from 'Libby Charged' article in today's Times?

Mr. Fitzgerald was spotted Friday morning outside the office of James Sharp, Mr. Bush's personal lawyer. Mr. Bush was interviewed about the case by Mr. Fitzgerald last year. It is not known what discussions, if any, were taking place between the prosecutor and Mr. Sharp. Mr. Sharp did not return a phone call, and Mr. Fitzgerald's spokesman, Randall Samborn, declined to comment.

Remember, in his capacity as president, Mr. Bush's lawyer is Harriet Miers, the White House Counsel. This is his personal lawyer. In fact, I believe Sharp was hired particularly for this case.


A year later, the real Niger scandal is beginning to surface. Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel report on the central role of the Italian intelligence agency SISMI in distributing the forged documents ...

Italy's military intelligence agency, SISMI, and people close to it, repeatedly tried to shop the bogus Niger uranium story to governments in France, Britain and the United States. That created the illusion that multiple sources were confirming the story.


Sept. 9 - With the White House's public campaign against Iraq in full swing, Nicolo Pollari, head of SISMI, met with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley at the White House. Hadley later took the blame for including the false Niger allegation in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech.

National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones said Thursday that the meeting was a 15-minute courtesy call and that no one could recollect talk about yellowcake.

Note the similarity there to other instances of phony WMD intelligence which were planted with various intelligence agencies in order to create the appearance of multiple and overlapping sources of confirmation.

Take a look at this post by Byron York at the The Corner. First, folks he's talking to agree that the case against Libby looks very strong. Set aside all the blah-blah about whether he should be indicting people for perjury if he couldn't get him on the underlying crime, etc. He went for a perjury and obstruction indictment. And it really looks like he has him. Second, he floats speculation that Tim Russert may have had some definitive record of his conversation with Libby, i.e., audio tapes, rather than simply a different recollection than Libby's.

What is the explanation for this passage in the indictment (page 8, items #22-23 ...

22. On or about July 12, 2003, LIBBY flew with the Vice President and others to and from Norfolk, Virginia, on Air Force Two. On his return trip, LIBBY discused with other officials aboard the plane what Libby should say in response to certain pending media inquiries, including questions from Time reporter Matthew Cooper.

23. On or about July 12, 2003, in the afternoon, LIBBY spoke by telephone to Cooper, who asked whether LIBBY had heard that Wilson's wife was involved in sending Wilson on the trip to Niger. LIBBY confirmed to Cooper, without elaboration or qualification, that he had heard this information too.

Does this not suggest that Libby discussed and planned in advance with others travelling with the Vice President (including possibly the Vice President himself) how he would respond to Cooper's questions about Wilson and his wife? After discussing the matter with colleagues in the Vice President's office he proceeded to speak with Cooper and confirm that it was indeed his understanding that Wilson's wife was a CIA employee.

So he planned what to do in advance with other members of the Vice President's staff. And what they seem to have agreed is that he would confirm Plame's identity, since that is in fact what he proceeded to do.

This afternoon Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV), ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, put out the following statement ...

“It is a terrible day for all Americans when a top White House official is accused of lying and obstructing justice, made all the worse when it’s about a national security matter.

“Revealing the identity of a covert agent is the type of leak that gets people killed. Not only does it end the person’s career, and whatever assignments they may have been working on, it puts that person in grave personal danger as well as their colleagues and all the people they have had contact with over the years.

“These very serious charges go to the heart of whether administration officials misused intelligence by disclosing an undercover CIA agent. They also heighten concerns that the administration engaged in a pattern of misusing intelligence to make the case for going to war with Iraq.

“To date, Congress has completely failed to answer these critical questions. The fact is that at any time the Senate Intelligence Committee pursued a line of questioning that brought us close to the White House, our efforts were thwarted. If my Republican colleagues are not prepared to undertake a full and serious congressional investigation into the potential misuse of intelligence, then I regretfully conclude that we have no choice but to pursue an outside independent investigation. The American people deserve answers and they want the truth.”

“We must send a strong message to all the patriotic Americans in our intelligence agencies who continue to serve their country at great personal risk. Our government and our judicial system will not tolerate those who leak classified information and put the lives of others at risk.”

It's a strong statement. And the Congress has completely failed in its oversight responsibilities in this whole matter. But the question can't be avoided.

If that's all true, why did he and fellow Democrats on the intel committee sign off on last year's report?

Why has he said so little this year about the failure to pursue the promised second phase of the Senate investigation, which was supposed to look into the question of executive branch manipulation of WMD intelligence?

Why has he remained silent in the face of evidence, put before him more than a year ago, that the FBI investigation into the forgeries, which he himself requested, has never been pursued in earnest?

Accountability for the Congress's failure to pursue its oversight responsibilities in this case does not end on the Republican side of the aisle. Nor does it end with Rockefeller. He's the ranking member of the committee, with unique access and power. But he's not the only Democrat on the committee. Why stand up now when they didn't stand up before? The Republicans' behavior at least has the logic of self-interest behind it. That of the Democrats' is inscrutable.

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.