The Plame Endgame

Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus report in the Sunday Washington Post on Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and the endgame in the investigation into the Valerie Plame case. The meat of the reporting (most of it speculative from lawyers familiar with the case) is excerpted below:

What remains a central mystery in the case is whether special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has accumulated evidence during his two-year investigation that any crime was committed. His investigation has White House aides and congressional Republicans on edge as they await Fitzgerald’s announcement of an indictment or the conclusion of the probe with no charges. The grand jury is scheduled to expire Oct. 28, and lawyers in the case expect Fitzgerald to signal his intentions as early as this week.

…Many lawyers in the case have been skeptical that Fitzgerald has the evidence to prove a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, which is the complicated crime he first set out to investigate, and which requires showing that government officials knew an operative had covert status and intentionally leaked the operative’s identity.

But a new theory about Fitzgerald’s aim has emerged in recent weeks from two lawyers who have had extensive conversations with the prosecutor while representing witnesses in the case. They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy, the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must have had a criminal purpose.

…Conspiracy cases are viewed by criminal prosecutors as simpler to bring than more straightforward criminal charges, but also trickier to sell to juries. “That would arguably be a close call for a prosecutor, but it could be tried,” a veteran Washington criminal attorney with longtime experience in national security cases said yesterday.

Other lawyers in the case surmise Fitzgerald does not have evidence of any crime at all and put Miller in jail simply to get her testimony and finalize the investigation. “Even assuming . . . that somebody decided to answer back a critic, that is politics, not criminal behavior,” said one lawyer in the case. This lawyer said the most benign outcome would be Fitzgerald announcing that he completed a thorough investigation, concluded no crime was committed and would not issue a report.The criminal conspiracy theory seems like a tough sell for any prosecutor. If there are any charges filled, one or more charges of obstruction of justice (or possibly perjury) would seem like the more likely outcome.

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Posted by on October 2, 2005.
Filed under CIA, Valerie Plame.
Tagged with: .
Kevin founded Wizbang in 2003. He still contributes occasionally and handles all the technical and design work for the site.

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  • arb

    Charge Wilson with serial lying and be done with it.

  • BR

    This sentence from the WP article is intriguing;

    “They surmise that Fitzgerald is considering whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated by a group of senior Bush administration officials.”

    Could that group be Plame, her bosses in the CIA, Richard Clarke (NSC), Rand Beers (NSC) and Greg Thielman (INR) ? (Some of them have since retired, but were senior *anti-war* officials in the Bush administration in 2003.)

  • ScottJ

    How does this fit with the DeLay indictment? Has use (and abuse) of the Grand Jury process become just another political tactic? Watch out for the Law of unintended consequences….
    SJ

  • BR

    Yes, but please don’t abolish the grand jury process until one is convened to investigate CIA-DNC-CBSgate :)

  • BR

    This paragraph in today’s WP article by VandeHei and Pincus (himself involved with Plamegate), stinks:

    “He [Wilson] claimed firsthand evidence: At the behest of the CIA, he had flown to Niger in February 2002 to investigate the administration’s assertion that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium in the African nation for use in its nuclear weapons program. Wilson returned unconvinced the assertion was true. However, Bush himself made the charge in his 2003 State of the Union address, prompting Wilson to spread word throughout the government and eventually make public his rebuttal.”

    “Assertion” – No, in the wake of 9/11/01, Italy reported to the US that Iraqi officials had been in Niger in 1999 – presumably after uranium, not goats. Also, the US Navy had found uranium in the seaport of Benin enroute from Niger to Iraq. The WH correctly wanted verification. I’d say the CIA was remiss in not already having investigated earlier. And then, further remiss in sending Wilson of all people, to “investigate” a report his wife called “crazy.” Wilson himself was also in Niger in 1999, then too arranged by his wife. What if he was secretly involved in the uranium deals? It’s like sending the Rosenburgs to investigate the KGB.

  • BR

    “Bush himself made the charge…” – No, the word “Niger” never appeared in his speech. If you don’t believe me, I got this quote from a recent interview of Wilson himself:

    “Ambassador Joseph Wilson: At the time of the State of the Union, I had no idea the President was referring to Niger. Remember, his statement was ‘the British government have [sic] learned that Saddam Hussein recently attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa’. There are four countries in Africa that produce yellowcake, so he could have been speaking about one of the other three. It was only in March when it became apparent that Niger was the country in question that I came to understand that the administration had misstated the facts….”

    Interestingly, Pincus (the same author as this current WP article), back on June 12, 2003 also quoted the famous 16 words, with better grammar and slightly different wording, but still no mention of Niger:

    “…the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

  • BR

    “spread word throughout the government – No, there were only a few calls by Wilson, as reported by PINCUS on 6/12/03 (same author as today’s WP article), three weeks before Wilson’s 7/6/03 op-ed in which he outed himself as the CIA envoy and a month before Novak’s first piece naming Plame as Wilson’s CIA wife:

    “When the British government published an intelligence document on Iraq in September 2002 claiming that Baghdad had ‘sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,’ the former ambassador called the CIA officers who sent him to Niger and was told they were looking into new information about the claim, sources said. The former envoy later called the CIA and State Department after Bush’s State of the Union speech and was told “not to worry,” according to one U.S. official.”

    ****
    That pre-Plamegate 6/12/03 article by WP’s Walter Pincus is quite interesting with respect to his sources: “senior administration officials.” From their anti-Bush tone, they certainly were not Rove or Libby. Another source, “a former government official,” is likely Wilson, since Pincus also describes him as “ambassador” further down in the article, but worded it so that one might assume the “former govt official” is a different person. Another anti-Bush source, “senior CIA analyst,” is likely Plame herself or one of her bosses.

  • Pug

    Has use (and abuse) of the Grand Jury process become just another political tactic?

    Did you miss the ’90′s or something? Or is it only political when they go after guys you like?

  • http://www.mcgeheezone.com/weblog/ McGehee

    Riiiiiiiiiiight, Pug. Because all that perjury, suborning perjury, abuse of power, trying to deny a citizen her day in court — that was all about sex and the only possible reason to pursue it would have been politics. Certainly not any sense of justice.

    It’s not as if there was ever a crime committed, serious enough for the perp to be disbarred or anything.

    No Pug, I think you’re the one who missed the ’90s.

  • jpm100

    Something stinks. From this report:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20051002/ts_nm/bush_leak_dc

    she only relented when she cut a deal to restrict her testimony to only Libby. Which means most likely there’s someone else. This smells.

  • BR

    Agreed, Jpm100. Perhaps the MSM’s “reporting” of a deal limiting Miller’s testimony about her sources to Libby only, is really their wishful thinking. They don’t want it known that this story is really about the CIA’s political leaking and the MSM’s complicity.

    Fitzgerald had no need to cut deals with her; he could have extended the GJ’s term after October and she’d still be in jail. (Hee, a bird in jail is better than two in the bush – at least until the bird starts singing.)

    Who knows, maybe Miller needed to get home to feed the dog, since her husband had gone on a Mediterranean cruise.

  • BR

    Btw, here’s a pictorial example of how the MSM continues to beat the anti-war, anti-democracy, anti-US drum: Expose of SF Chronicle by zombietime.com: Anatomy of a Photograph.

  • AnonymousDrivel

    RE: BR’s post (October 2, 2005 11:19 PM)

    Yes, BR, the Zombietime entry is one of the finest examples of media bias I’ve ever seen. I read it about two weeks ago and it still sticks in my head… it has staying power.

    Since this type of visual coverage typically goes unchallenged, is it any wonder that we grow more cynical of the message machine? That blog entry should get an award for both its pointedly direct exposé as well as its power. It would appear that even the updates are enlightening in that The Chronicle reportedly asked the blog’s author to include a link to the paper’s perspective – a request Zombietime honored. In contrast The Chronicle did not offer and has not yet presented the reciprocal link to Zombietime’s analysis. Gee, I wonder why?

    Even in its attempt to clarify the record, The Chronicle fails to present the-ever-so-readily-available source (via link) so that everyone may interpret the coverage themselves, wholly and conveniently. The error of omission is an error nonetheless, and this coming from a professional institution ever so eager to “correct” the perceived errors by someone else.

    So, do I, like you BR, trust anything that the press presents regarding Plame/Wilson? Not a chance. I didn’t trust them much two weeks ago. I trust them less now.

  • BR

    Hi, AD! Yes, that update at zombietime.com warms the cockles of my heart :) And its blog author/photographer deserves a medal. Not only did he doubly expose the SF Chronicle, he also shone the light on the real news of who was behind that “grassroots” demonstration. With more on-the-ground exposures like that, I bet future organizers won’t show themselves in plain sight so easily.

    If the MSM continues to be bypassed by honest citizen observers, they’ll have to shape up or become extinct. We’re told that two objects cannot occupy the same space; I suppose if they do, the weaker one will disappear. MSM beware!

  • BR

    Hi, AD! Yes, that update at zombietime.com warms the cockles of my heart :) And its blog author/photographer deserves a medal. Not only did he doubly expose the SF Chronicle, he also shone the light on the real news of who was behind that “grassroots” demonstration. With more on-the-ground exposures like that, I bet future organizers won’t show themselves in plain sight so easily.

    If the MSM continues to be bypassed by honest citizen observers, they’ll have to shape up or become extinct. We’re told that two objects cannot occupy the same space; I suppose if they do, the weaker one will disappear. MSM beware!

  • BR

    :) Excuse the double post!

  • BR

    Late-night thoughts about falling trees…

    “It is fall now.… Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them.”

    [From Libby's 9/15/05 letter to Miller, pg 2. Full letter, here.]

    How odd to be so personal in a serious letter and circumstance, to use such flowery, almost biblical or koranic speech. The mention of fall, and trees and biology lesson on roots seems so out of place… sounds like metaphor or code. The tree reference reminds one of McCord’s 12/21/72 warning to the WH during Watergate:

    “…If Helms goes, and if the WG [Watergate] operation is laid at the CIA’s feet, where it does not belong, every tree in the forest will fall. It will be a scorched desert. The whole matter is at the precipice right now. Just pass the message that if they want it to blow, they are on exactly the right course….”

    Ironically, a division of the CIA was up to their necks in Watergate, but McCord was fiercely loyal to then-CIA Director Helms, who was about to be fired by Nixon. As soon as Helms was fired, McCord carried out the threat and wrote to Judge Sirica that the Plumbers’ guilty plea had been coerced. Then all the (wrong) trees began to fall.

    The attempted setup of Watergate II, again by the CIA with MSM collusion, has so far royally backfired with CBSgate and Plamegate. Let’s see who will be the falling trees.

    “Turning” – who is it this time? Last time it was Dean.
    “Turn in clusters” – what, a whole group?
    “Their roots connect them” – CIA roots?
    Like the CIA/NSC staffer who used to work with Plame?
    David Corn knows his name.
    The same David Corn who first outed Plame
    as a secret agent in this game!
    Sheesh, when everything begins to rhyme
    It must be my bed time!

  • BR

    Days later… no new thread on Plame at wizbang yet… am I the only one interested in Plamegate? :)

    10/8/05: Latest on Plamegate via DrudgeReport.com:

    Newsweek 10/17/05 edition, by Isikoff: “CIA Leak: Karl Rove and the Case of the Missing E-mail”.

    It’s about the “I didn’t take the bait” e-mail by Rove to Hadley, after Cooper’s call. This is actually old news. (Over two months ago, I even giggled at the Triple Cross, after reading about the e-mail on the net. More, there, the Trojan Horse comment.)

    And now Isikoff thinks he has a scoop?! Trying to resurrect the left’s hopes for Watergate II, with a “missing e-mail”! Ha! I hope Rove tape-recorded all his conversations with Cooper, et al.

    Tape recordings will trump reporters’ self-serving super-duper-deep-deep-background-secret “notes” of conversations. What irony that would be – finally, a WH taping system that works! A new century, and Watergate reversed :)

  • BR

    10/7/05 Reuters re Judith Miller “discovering” earlier notes of June 03.

    “Times reporter Judith Miller discovered the notes — about a June 2003 conversation she had with Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby — after her testimony before the grand jury last week, the sources said on Friday.”

    So, she is offering up notes which reportedly go beyond the narrow set of dates in the grand jury subpoenas seeking documents and testimony related to conversations between her [Judith Miller] and the specified government official “occurring from on or about July 6, 2003, to on or about July 13, 2003, . . . concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description as the wife of Ambassador Wilson) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.” [Pg 6, U.S. Court of Appeals decision Feb 15, 2005.]

    Without knowing whether the “discovered” notes would be detrimental to anyone beyond Miller herself, I have a general question. How can such June notes be verified? Carbon dating? Lie-detector hooked up to the notes? Question to the notes: Do you solemnly swear… you contain the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and that you were written/typed on the date at the top? Lift all fingerprints from said notes? :) I know, this is silly. I don’t understand how any reporter notes can be valid evidence in a court. Maybe in a newspaper which would print Jayson Blair’s trusted notes, but surely not in a court.