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Apr 8, 2006
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   White House Tries to Quell Anger Over Leak Claim
  
By David Stout
    The New York Times

    Friday 07 April 2006

    Washington - The White House tried today to quell the furor over the leaking of sensitive pre-war intelligence on Iraq, as President Bush's spokesman insisted that the president had the authority to declassify and release information "in the public interest" and had never done so for political reasons.

    The spokesman, Scott McClellan, said a decision was made to declassify and release some information to rebut "irresponsible and unfounded accusations" that the administration had manipulated or misused pre-war intelligence to buttress its case for war.

    "That was flat-out false," Mr. McClellan said.

    Mr. McClellan was barraged at a news briefing by questions over assertions by I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, that President Bush authorized him, through Mr. Cheney, in July 2003 to disclose key parts of what was until then a classified pre-war evaluation, or National Intelligence Estimate, on Iraq.

    At the time, the Pentagon had hardly finished basking in the easy military victory when it was caught up in questions over the failure to find deadly unconventional weapons in Iraq - the main rationale for going to war.

    One of the findings in the pre-war intelligence data was that Saddam Hussein was probably seeking fuel for nuclear reactors.

    Mr. McClellan said the Democrats who pounced on Mr. Libby's assertions that Mr. Bush had given him, through the vice president, the authority to talk to a reporter about some material in the intelligence estimate were "engaging in crass politics" in refusing to recognize the distinction between legitimate disclosure of sensitive information in the public interest and the irresponsible leaking of intelligence for political reasons.

    Mr. Libby told a grand jury he discussed the intelligence estimate with Judith Miller, then with The New York Times, on July 8, 2003. Ten days later, the intelligence estimate was formally declassified, a move that Mr. McClellan said again and again was in the public interest and not politically motivated. Mr. McClellan deflected questions on what role, if any, Mr. Bush had in setting the parameters of Mr. Libby's discussion with Ms. Miller.

    Meanwhile, Democrats continued to assail the administration.

    "This is a serious allegation with national security consequences," Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, said today on the Senate floor. "It directly contradicts previous statements made by President Bush, it continues a pattern of misleading by this Bush White House, and it raises somber and troubling questions about the Bush administration's candor with the Congress and the public."

    Mr. Reid said it was time for the president to say whether, in fact, he authorized the disclosure of the pre-war intelligence, as Mr. Libby said he had. "He must tell the American people whether the Bush Oval Office is the place where the buck stops, or the leaks start," Mr. Reid said.

    Mr. McClellan was in the somewhat odd position of not disputing that President Bush was involved in the disclosure of hitherto classified information, while describing any such disclosure as being in the public good.

    Mr. McClellan, who noted that a president has the authority to declassify intelligence, said today that he was "not getting into confirming or denying things, because I'm not commenting at all on matters relating to an ongoing legal proceeding."

    He was alluding to the trial of Mr. Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, on charges that Mr. Libby committed perjury and engaged in obstruction of justice in connection with an inquiry over who unmasked Valerie Wilson, an undercover officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, in the summer of 2003.

    The unmasking occurred shortly after Ms. Wilson's husband, the former diplomat Joseph Wilson, wrote in The New York Times that he doubted reports that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Niger.

    Some Democrats accused the White House at the time of destroying Ms. Wilson's cover to retaliate against her husband, but the White House repeatedly denied the accusations.

    Mr. McClellan was asked today whether the president's own words at the time ("If there's a leak out of this administration, I want to know who it is") and Mr. Libby's recent assertion, contained in a court filing, demonstrated inconsistency, at best.

    Not at all, Mr. McClellan said. "Declassifying information and providing it to the public when it is in the public interest is one thing," he said. "But leaking classified information that could compromise our national security is something that is very serious. And there is a distinction" - a distinction Democrats refuse to see, he said repeatedly.

  -------

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Posted: Apr 8, 2006 6:42am
Apr 6, 2006

Read his other blogs here: Category: News and Politics


Libby: "Bush authorized leaks"

Scooter is back.

Murray Waas:

"Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, according to papers filed in federal court on Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case...read on"

ReddHedd has two posts up about this story. The Left Coaster, the major dude on the "uranium issue" has more.  Andrew Sullivan says: Bush Nailed...Right winger Tom Maguire, looks at it a bit differently.

From his links:

ADMINISTRATION
Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks

By Murray Waas, National Journal
National Journal Group Inc.
Thursday, April 6, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, according to papers filed in federal court on Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.


Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had received "approval from the President through the Vice President" to divulge portions of a National Intelligence Estimate.





I. LewisScooter" LibbySaddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to the court papers. Libby was said to have testified that such presidential authorization to disclose classified information was "unique in his recollection," the court papers further said. " testified to a federal grand jury that he had received "approval from the President through the Vice President" to divulge portions of a National Intelligence Estimate regarding

Libby also testified that an administration lawyer told him that Bush, by authorizing the disclosure of classified information, had in effect declassified the information. Legal experts disagree on whether the president has the authority to declassify information on his own.

The White House had no immediate reaction to the court filing.

Although not reflected in the court papers, two senior government officials said in interviews with National Journal in recent days that Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.

In yet another instance, Libby had claimed that President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.

Bush and Cheney authorized the release of the information regarding the NIE in the summer of 2003, according to court documents, as part of a damage-control effort undertaken only days after former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged in an op-ed in The New York Times that claims by Bush that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger were most likely a hoax.

According to the court papers, "At some point after the publication of the July 6 Op Ed by Mr. Wilson, Vice President Cheney, [Libby's] immediate supervisor, expressed concerns to [Libby] regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife."

Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA officer at the time, and Cheney, Libby, and other Bush administration officials believed that Wilson's allegations could be discredited if it could be shown that Plame had suggested that her husband be sent on the CIA-sponsored mission to Niger.

Two days after Wilson's op-ed, Libby met with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and not only disclosed portions of the NIE, but also Plame's CIA employment and potential role in her husband's trip.

Regarding that meeting, Libby "testified that he was specifically authorized in advance... to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller" because Vice President Cheney believed it to be "very important" to do so, the court papers filed Wednesday said. The New York Sun reported the court filing on its Web site early Thursday.

Libby "further testified that he at first advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE," the court papers said. Libby "testified that the Vice President had advised [Libby] that the President had authorized [Libby] to disclose relevant portions of the NIE."

Additionally, Libby "testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then counsel to the Vice President, whom [Libby] considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document."

Addington succeeded Libby as Cheney's chief of staff after Libby was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 28, 2005 on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice in attempting to conceal his role in outing Plame as an undercover CIA operative.

Four days after the meeting with Miller, on July 12, 2003, Libby spoke again to Miller, and also for the first time with TimeMatthew Cooper, during which Libby spoke to both journalists about Plame's CIA employment and her possible role in sending her husband to Niger. magazine correspondent

Regarding those conversations, Libby understood that the Vice President specifically selected him to "speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson," the court papers said. Libby also testified, Fitzgerald asserted in the court papers, that "at the time of his conversations with Miller and Cooper, he understood that only three people -- the President, the Vice President and [Libby] -- knew that the key judgments of the NIE had been declassified.

"[Libby] testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials-including Cabinet level officials-were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003." It is unclear from the court papers what the January 24, 2003 document might be.

During those very same conversations with the press that day Libby "discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with both Matthew Cooper (for the first time) and Judith Miller (for the third time)," the court papers further said.

Although the special prosecutor's grand jury investigation has not uncovered any evidence that the Vice President encouraged Libby to release information about Plame's covert CIA status, the court papers said that Cheney had "expressed concerns to [Libby] regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife."

Cheney told investigators that he had learned of Plame's employment by the CIA and her potential role in her husband being sent to Niger by then-CIA director George Tenet, according to people familiar with Cheney's interviews with the special prosecutor.

Tenet has told investigators that he had no specific recollection of discussing Plame or her role in her husband's trip with Cheney, according to people with familiar with his statement to investigators.

Two senior government officials said that Tenet did recall, however, that he made inquiries regarding the veracity of the Niger intelligence information as a result of inquires from both Cheney and Libby. As a result of those inquiries, Tenet then had the CIA conduct a new review of its Niger intelligence, and concluded that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had in fact attempted to purchase uranium from Niger or other African nations. Tenet and other CIA officials then informed Cheney, other administration officials, and the congressional intelligence committees of the new findings, the sources said.

Six days after Libby's conversation with Cooper and Miller regarding Plame, on July 18, 2003, the Bush administration formally declassified portions of the NIE on Iraqi weapons programs in an effort to further blunt the damage of Wilson's allegations that the Bush administration misused the faulty Niger intelligence information to make the case to go to war. It is unclear whether the information that Bush and Cheney were said to authorize Libby to disclose was the same information that was formally declassified.

One former senior government official said that both the president and Cheney, in directing Libby to disclose classified information to defend the administration's case to go to war with Iraq and in formally declassifying portions of the NIE later, were misusing the classification process for political reasons.

The official said that while the administration declassified portions of the NIE that would appear exculpatory to the White House, it insisted that a one-page summary of the NIE which would have suggested that the President mischaracterized other intelligence information to go to war remain classified.

As National Journal recently disclosed, the one-page summary of the NIE told Bush that although "most agencies judge" that an Iraqi procurement of aluminum tubes was "related to a uranium enrichment effort", the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Despite receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

The former senior official said in an interview that he believed that the attempt to conceal the contents of the one-page summary were intertwined with the efforts to declassify portions of the NIE and to leak information to the media regarding Plame: "It was part and parcel of the same effort, but people don't see it in that context yet."

Although the court papers filed Wednesday revealed that Libby had testified that Bush and Cheney had authorized him to disclose details of the NIE, two other senior government officials said in interviews that Libby had asserted that Cheney had more broadly authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq as part of an administration effort to make the case to go to war.

In another instance, Libby had claimed that Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack."

Other former senior government officials said that Bush directed people to assist Woodward in the book's preparation: "There were people on the Seventh Floor [of the CIA] who were told by Tenet to cooperate because the President wanted it done. There were calls to people to by [White House communication director] Dan Bartlett that the President wanted it done, if you were not co-operating. And sometimes the President himself told people that they should co-operate," said one former government official.

It is unclear whether Libby will argue during his upcoming trial that these other authorizations by both the President and Vice President show that he did not engage in misconduct by disclosing Plame's CIA status to reporters, or that he considered these other authorizations giving him broad authority to make other disclosures.

Fitzgerald has apparently avoided questioning Libby, other government officials, and journalists about other potential leaks of classified information to the media, according to attorneys who have represented witnesses to the special prosecutor's probe. Outside legal experts said this might be due to the fact that other authorized leaks might aid Libby's defense, and because Fitzgerald did not want to question reporters about other contacts with Libby because of First Amendment concerns.

In a Feb. 17, 2006 letter to John D. Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote that he believed that disclosures in Woodward's book damaged national security. "According to [Woodward's} account, he was provided information related to sources and methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison services."

Woodward's book contains, for example, a detailed account of a January 25, 2003 briefing that Libby provided to senior White House staff to make the case that Saddam Hussein had aggressive programs underway to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

Two former government officials said in interviews that the account provided sensitive intelligence information that had not been cleared for release. The book referred to intercepts by the National Security Agency of Iraqi officials that purportedly showed that Iraq was engaging in weapons of mass destruction program.

Much of the information presented by Libby at the senior White House staff meeting was later discarded by then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and then-CIA Director George Tenet as unreliable, and would not have either otherwise been made public.

One former senior official said: "They [the leakers] might have tipped people to our eavesdropping capacities, and other serious sources and methods issues. But to what end? The information was never presented to the public because it was bunk in the first place."

In the letter to Negroponte, Sen. Rockefeller complained: "I [previously] wrote both former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet and Acting DCI John McLaughlin seeking to determine what steps were being taken to address the appalling disclosures in [Woodward's book]. The only response that I received was to indicate that the leaks had been authorized by the Administration."

-- Previous coverage of pre-war intelligence and the CIA leak investigation from Murray Waas. Brian Beutler provided research assistance for this report.

************************************************

April 06, 2006

If Libby was "authorized" to leak the classified NIE to selected reporters, by Cheney who allegedly got the OK from Bush, why wasn't the White House response to the Fitzgerald investigation: We authorized this leak?

Why did they act like it was not authorized at all? Why did they deny Libby and Rove's involvement? Why did they spend months obfuscating about who might have been involved?

Why the cover up?

Oh yeah, right. They were worried it would look like they had misled the nation to war, in advance of the 2004 presidential elections. So with the help of those like Pat Roberts, they tried to insulate the president, and blame everything on the CIA, as Murray Waas recently demonstrated.

Posted by Laura at 12:44 PM

Via Raw Story, "The 1,700 year old Gospel of Judas, out today, claims Christ ordered 'betrayal'." Anyone else notice a stunning parallel with another top headline from today's news?

Posted by Laura at 12:20 PM

Check out Marc Perelman's piece on Iran war chatter:

"In recent months I have grown increasingly concerned that the administration has been giving thought to a heavy dose of air strikes against Iran's nuclear sector without giving enough weight to the possible ramifications of such action," said Wayne White, a former deputy director at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. White, who worked in the bureau's Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia, left government in early 2005 and is now an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute.

Several experts and former officials interviewed by the Forward pointed to Vice President Dick Cheney as one of the key figures who has concluded that the ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring Iran before the United Nations Security Council and eventually slap the Islamic regime with sanctions will come to naught, forcing Washington to resort to force to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Meantime, Iranian dissident Mohsen Sazegara, who Jeet Heer and I profiled last year, analyzes Iran's path to democracy here.
Posted by Laura at 11:18 AM

NY Sun: "Bush Authorized Leak to Times."

...The new disclosure could be awkward for the president because it places him, for the first time, directly in a chain of events that led to a meeting where prosecutors contend the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was provided to a reporter...

"Defendant testified that he was specifically authorized in advance of the meeting to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller on that occasion because it was thought that the NIE was pretty definitive' against what Ambassador Wilson had said and that the vice president thought that it was 'very important' for the key judgments of the NIE to come out," Mr. Fitzgerald wrote.

Mr. Libby is said to have testified that "at first" he rebuffed Mr. Cheney's suggestion to release the information because the estimate was classified. However, according to the vice presidential aide, Mr. Cheney subsequently said he got permission for the release directly from Mr. Bush. "Defendant testified that the vice president later advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE," the prosecution filing said.

Reading the same court documents overnight, reader JL writes, "Heads-up: there is some big news, it seems to me, in Fitzgerald's latest filings in the Libby case. Waas is going to go nuts. Among other things, Cheney wanted Libby to disclose the NIE to Miller, Libby had classification concerns, Cheney went to Bush, yes that Bush, and got approval for Libby to disclose the NIE to Miller and - check this out - Libby went to Addington for advice and got his opinion that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document. Wow. I'm not even through Fitzgerald's filing yet. There are other interesting bits, including previously unreported details about Cheney's seemingly rather
extensive role in directing how Libby was to respond to Wilson in July 2003, including about that July 12 trip on the plane that the WaPo reported on and then withdrew.

"But the Bush thing strikes me as big news - along with the fact that Libby need Addington's opinion on declassificaiton and that appears to be all he got. So did Bush authorize Libby to disclose classified information?"

Furthermore, blogger eRiposte writes, "...The NY Sun is reporting that Libby had permission from Cheney and Bush to leak portions of the key judgments of the NIE because it bolstered the uranium claim. But as I have discussed before, the key judgments of the NIE specifically excluded the uranium claim. This is very interesting in terms of its implications. Ive discussed this further here."

Here, via the Smoking Gun, is Fitzgerald's latest filing.

Update: Here's Murray Waas' piece in National Journal from this morning on the same filings. Furthermore, Waas reports, Cheney broadly directed Libby to leak classified information to a bunch of journalists, on multiple occasions, to make the White House's political case for war:

Although not reflected in the court papers, two senior government officials said in interviews with National Journal in recent days that Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.

In yet another instance, Libby had claimed that President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.

Talk about the politicization of intelligence. Remember how many times Bush and Cheney have indicated they can't brief Congress on certain things for fear it'll leak? Uh huh.

More:

One former senior government official said that both the president and Cheney, in directing Libby to disclose classified information to defend the administration's case to go to war with Iraq and in formally declassifying portions of the NIE later, were misusing the classification process for political reasons.

The official said that while the administration declassified portions of the NIE that would appear exculpatory to the White House, it insisted that a one-page summary of the NIE which would have suggested that the President mischaracterized other intelligence information to go to war remain classified.

Let's just review. Senate Intel committee chair Pat Roberts says the American people don't deserve a real review of the administration's use and abuse of pre-war intelligence, because the Dems are trying to make a political issue of it. But it turns out the White House treated the most classified intelligence as political footballs, to be leaked like a sieve when it might serve their political and PR cause. And that was directed from the very top. So, do we get to investigate the lack of an investigation?

Update II: Reader SS sends these quotes along:

"I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action." [Bush Remarks: Chicago, Illinois, 9/30/03]

"The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people
in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." [White House Briefing, 9/29/03]

Uh huh.
Posted by Laura at 10:04 AM


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