February 10, 2006
We speak with investigative journalist Murray Waas who reports that
Lewis "Scooter" Libby - Cheney's indicted former chief of staff -
testified he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House
"superiors" to disclose classified information to journalists to defend
the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case
to invade Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
We turn now to the ongoing controversy over the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Three months ago Vice President Cheney's chief of staff Lewis
"Scooter" Libby resigned after being charged with obstruction of
justice, lying to the FBI and committing perjury before a federal grand
jury in connection to the Plame case.
So far Libby is the only White House official to be charged in
the case. He is schedule to go on trial next January - two months after
the mid-term elections.
But newly released court documents raise new questions about the role
of the Vice President in the affair. Investigative journalist Murray
Waas has revealed
in the National Journal that Libby testified before federal grand jury
that he had been "authorized" by 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 in making the case to go to war with Iraq.
Waas bases his article in part on a recent letter written by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's to Libby's attorney.
Fitzgerald writes, "Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had
contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the
National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) ... in the course of his
interaction with reporters in June and July 2003.
Fitzgerald went on to write, "We also note that it is our understanding
that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information
about the NIE to the press by his superiors."
Although Fitzgerald does not identify Cheney by name, sources have told
Waas that Fitzgerald is in fact referring to the Vice President.
- Murray Waas, investigative journalist who writes for a
number of publications. Among them, American Prospect magazine and
Salon.com. He has broken a number of stories on the saga of the outing
of CIA operative Valerie Plame. He maintains a blog at WhateverAlready.blogspot.com.
AMY GOODMAN: I reached Murray Waas yesterday and asked him to outline his expose.
MURRAY WAAS: Well, the story today says that Vice
President Cheney, according to recent court filings, was authorized –
actually authorized and directed "Scooter" Libby to provide classified
information to the press, among the people, Judy Miller of the New York Times,
to make the Bush administration’s case that they hadn’t misused pre-war
intelligence to make the case to go to war with Iraq. So even though
Libby’s not saying Cheney directed him to release the Plame
information, Libby is essentially claiming he was authorized in a
broader way by Cheney to go out and discredit Valerie Plame and Joe
AMY GOODMAN: And this is based on documents you have seen?
MURRAY WAAS: There’s actually a public court filing in
the case, which is correspondence between Pat Fitzgerald, the Special
Prosecutor, and Libby’s attorney, in which Fitzgerald makes reference
to the fact that Libby said that he had been – he had claimed in the
grand jury to have been, quote/unquote, "authorized" – that’s Libby’s
word – by superiors to disclose the classified information. Libby and
Fitzgerald don’t disclose who the superiors are, but I’ve talked to
other people with first-hand knowledge of the matter who say that it
was indeed – Cheney was the key person there.
AMY GOODMAN: And how does this help Libby’s case?
MURRAY WAAS: It’s unclear if it’s going to help Libby’s
case. You know, it’s kind of – some people I’ve talked to have said
that Libby wants to just pressure people – pressure the government to
drop the case by demanding the declassification of documents. And so,
he might not actually even use this defense at trial. So – and there’s
always the possibility that he might think it would create sympathy for
the jury if he was portrayed as a fall-guy, like Oliver North had been
in Iran-Contra, or like other people have to some degree of success
used in national security cases in the past.
AMY GOODMAN: Does this indicate that Vice President Cheney committed a crime?
MURRAY WAAS: No, the Vice President apparently can, or
the President can declassify on their whim. It’s perfectly legal. They
have control of the information. But what I think is of concern to the
average person is while they’re clamping down on leaks, while there’s
been these extraordinary attacks on reporters’ credibility by friends
of the administration, while there’s been unprecedented leak
investigations, when there’s been -- with the example of the N.S.A.
story or whatever – the Attorney General has decided to focus on the
leaker, not the potential misconduct. You have the selective leaking by
the administration to make the case to go to war, to defend themselves
against allegations of wrongdoing after the fact – you know, and after
the war has started. And so, it allows the government, allows the
administration to control the information, you know, which in a
democracy is kind of a dangerous thing. All presidents like to do it,
but we’ve had kind of a perfect storm where it’s easier now than ever
AMY GOODMAN: Murray Waas, can you give us the timetable? How did this play out in June of 2003?
MURRAY WAAS: Well, in June of 2003 – June and July of
2003, Joe Wilson hadn’t publicly made his allegations about Niger yet.
He had talked on background to a columnist for the New York Times, the Washington Post
and some others, but his name hadn’t been out there. And so the Vice
President, "Scooter" Libby, his chief of staff and National Security
Adviser, and other people in the Bush administration, when these
reports came out that a former ambassador traveled to Niger, found that
the allegations of Saddam Hussein attempting to buy uranium from Niger
to build a nuclear weapon were untrue and that the administration had
misrepresented intelligence about it, they started to defend
themselves. Then they became very, very aggressive in trying to
discredit Joe Wilson. It was in that context that Valerie Plame’s name
was leaked, and then a special prosecutor was named, and the chief of
staff to the Vice President, "Scooter" Libby, was later indicted by a
grand jury for supposedly covering up his role in that. But what was
also going on is that they were also defending more broadly or more
generally the allegations being made by Joe Wilson. So what the story
today says is that Cheney, according to what Libby has testified to,
authorized him to leak classified information, that the administration
had not acted badly and used that information to defend them and attack
AMY GOODMAN: And can you explain what the N.I.E. is?
MURRAY WAAS: Yeah, National Intelligence Estimate is an
inter-agency highly classified intelligence assessment. It’s pretty
much controlled by the C.I.A., but it’s, on paper, kind of outside the
C.I.A. The C.I.A. coordinates with the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence
Agency. The State Department has their own intelligence bureau, the
National Security Agency. And they try and come to a consensus, a broad
consensus, about what is the estimate or what is their analysis or
prediction of some major issue. In this case, there was an N.I.E. about
whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And the N.I.E. concluded
that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program and had
biological and chemical weapons. And we’ve since learned the U.S.
inspectors, the ones sent by the C.I.A. to Iraq, have found no evidence
of weapons of mass destruction.
Saddam Hussein actually apparently didn't have any. After the
first Gulf War, he didn’t, you know, start to reinvigorate those
programs, because he just didn’t have the funds. The sanctions were
actually working, in effect, the bombing campaign, the diplomacy. And
Saddam Hussein just didn't have these things. So the N.I.E. was
erroneous. And Libby provided portions of that to Judith Miller, to in
part say, 'Hey, you know, we might not be wrong here,’ and also to
attempt to demonstrate or show that they had been a victim of the
C.I.A. or the National Intelligence Council providing them with the
What that leaves out, though, is that the administration went
beyond what the C.I.A. said, anyway, and the National Intelligence
Estimate was the result of a politicized process, because people in the
intelligence community, some of them, wanted to give the President what
he wanted to hear. There were, you know, a number of people who were
brave and stood up to their superiors in the C.I.A. and elsewhere and
to the administration, but those people didn't rule the day in the end.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Murray Waas, who has just done a major expose in the National Journal
on Cheney authorizing Libby to leak classified information. Does Libby
testifying to this at the grand jury indicate that he's turned on
MURRAY WAAS: No, to the contrary. He's trying to --
he's not saying that Cheney directed him to leak information about
Valerie Plame, which might have been illegal, or even if it was not
considered a crime by the prosecutors, would look like a political
dirty trick. So he's -- he might have -- he's charged with making false
statements to the F.B.I. and grand jury, perjury, obstruction of
justice, and he's lying about his own role and maybe others he worked
with, among them -- it's possible it could be Dick Cheney; we just
don't know -- to put this information out there, you know, that Valerie
Plame worked for the C.I.A. We just don't know whether Libby -- at this
time, whether Libby was acting alone or with others. But he's
definitely not turning on the Vice President, but he's trying to use
the Vice President to say that Cheney knew in a broad way what he was
doing, about his general conduct, in order to have -- to get a more
sympathetic jury and maybe look like part of his behavior was
AMY GOODMAN: Investigative reporter Murray Waas. His piece appears in the National Journal.
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