Lewis “Scooter” Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence, according to an article posted today by the National Journal.
Bombs were dropped everywhere in this story:
Libby implicated Bush, plus at least one other "superior" (in addition to Cheney) as having authorized the illegal disclosure of classified intelligence to unauthorized persons (journalists).
This, in itself, is huge. HUGE.
But there's more:
Leaking Plame's identity and a CIA cover agency (Brewster Jennings) wasn't the only time that the Bush administration officials broke the law by leaking highly classified intelligence in their efforts to wage war on Iraq. Before a federal grand jury:
“Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons,” Waas writes, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.
“Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.
Then Joe Wilson surfaced, charging that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence in order to make a case for war. All of the leaking to journalists (and members of Congress), of cherry-picked, highly classified intelligence worked only as long as no witnesses (firsthand, eye-) came forward to challenge the Bush administration’s assertions. The Bush administration’s leaking of the same old (now-) discredited intelligence was failing to mesmerize journalists who were finally awakening from their long stupor.
To discredit this current annoyance (Joe Wilson) and regain control over the issue, Libby and other Bush administration officials decided to leak another piece of classified information that would, they hoped, send the journalists into a fevered frenzy, thereby hijacking the news cycle for weeks. The Bush administration believed that if they could get the media to believe that Joe Wilson’s wife played a role in the selection of her husband for the Niger mission, their troubles would be delayed, if not over. Never mind that, 1) it wasn’t true - Valerie Plame didn’t authorize her husband’s trip on behalf of the CIA, and 2) even if it had been true, how would that have changed the facts uncovered during Joe Wilson’s investigation?
Why did the Bush administration officials think that the only way that they could defend themselves against charges of lying to Congress and the American people in order to attack and invade Iraq was to leak the identity of a covert operative in the CIA?
Because they have no defense.
Filed under: Libby, Cheney, Plame, Wilson