Monday, March 13, 2006

Intelligence: Juridics: Cheney's right-arm Scooter Libby upsets Bush Administration by digging into White House CIA records

Irve Lewis Libby, Jr, former top aid to Vice President Dick Cheney, seems to have been set up as the fall-guy in the supposedly-illegal outing of a Kerry-spy in the CIA, Valerie Plame. Libby was set up either by the Adminstration he worked for, or by the prosecutor chasing a will-o'the-wisp hallucinated in his over-reaching desire to bag and scalp a nabob Republican. But Scooter Libby is in fite-back mode these days.

President's Men - Scooter [1]

Libby is charged with lying to the FBI and a grand jury during an investigation into who disclosed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to news reporters in 2003 after her husband accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Now, I for one don't find much culpablity in outing the spy, as she and her husband Joe Wilson, together constituted something like a two-person cell at work in the CIA against the Administration. Valerie got Joe the contract job that sent him to Niger to try to trace down the yellow-cake uranium which the Admin thawt mite be on the market there for purchase by al-Queda. Val and Joe put the Kerry agenda before the policy of the government, while they functioned as paid-employees therefof. They were Clintonite leftovers trying to obstruct the successor government from within. This is she whom Libby, nicknamed "Scooter," allegedly outed.

What it comes down to, is simply that Scooter Libby was framed by the prosecutor (who was really after Cheney), and then Libby either did or did not try to cover up any possible involvement on his part in the outing, by lieing to the Grand Jury, or not.

Now, the former aid to the VP is fiting like hell to prevent being further shanghaied. His latest move has been to attempt to defend himself by subpoena-ing a raft of official CIA briefing documents addressed to the Prez and to which he, his VP, and their closest staff had to have access on a day by day basis.

Libby sought access to nearly a year's worth of intelligence briefs to prove he was preoccupied with national-security matters at the time and thus could not accurately remember his conversations with reporters and government officials.

Only those officials who prepare the reports have enough security clearance to handle the task ... and the task could take months because information would have to be reassembled from many different sources.

Even a more narrowly targeted request proposed by the judge would require three months to assemble... .

In a response filed later on Tuesday, Libby's lawyers said a judge might conclude the agency was engaged in "unjustified foot-dragging."

Nevertheless, they said they were willing to narrow their request to the briefs Libby saw during the weeks he discussed Wilson with reporters and officials, and the days when he was queried by investigators, roughly 46 days in all.

They also scaled back the range of documents they wished to see and proposed limits on where they could view the material.

The lawyers said they need to see the documents to refresh Libby's memory and mount a convincing defense.

Libby's trial is scheduled to begin in January 2007.

The irony here is that the attempt to expose the Valerie Plame cell operating out of the CIA has posed the possiblity of a truckload of classified info entering the court record, perhaps outing even more CIA operatives and analysts.

But apparently that's not so unusual these days, as a FoxNews report three days back, tells us "Report: CIA Agents' Cover Blown on Internet" (Mar12,2k6), saying "many" CIA agents have been exposed to public knowledge and thereby placed in danger from the nation's enemies.

...[I]n the age of the Internet, it has become increasingly difficult to shield undercover CIA agents from having their covers blown. Anyone who qualifies for a subscription to one of the online services that compile public information can learn the names, addresses and even some assignments of clandestine employees of the agency, the paper reported.

CIA Director Porter Goss is reportedly "horrified" about what appears to be a serious matter of security for CIA agents. Agency spokeswoman Jennifer Dyck is quoted in the paper as saying: "Cover is a complex issue that is more complex in the Internet age. ... There are things that worked previously that no longer work."

Valerie Plame, on the other hand, was not on a dangerous assignment; she was behind a desk; and she herself yapped in her circle of friends and political fellow-travellers about her employment by the CIA.

On Mar8,2k6, Associated Press suggested an impasse may have been reached in the Libby case.

"...[T]he CIA indicat[ed] to a federal judge that it probably would fight efforts to release highly classified intelligence briefings.

In court filings yesterday, the CIA and attorneys for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby illustrated the difficulties that Judge Reggie B. Walton of U.S. District Court faces in balancing national security against a defendant's right to a fair trial.

Marilyn Dorn, a CIA information-review officer, said that national security would be imperiled if the President's Daily Brief - a summary of intelligence gathered on threats against the United States - is turned over for Libby's defense against perjury and obstruction charges in the CIA leak investigation.

By Mar11.2k6, however, a compromise was decreed.
A federal judge ruled Friday that former vice-presidential Chief of Staff Lewis Libby be given limited access to presidential security briefing transcripts to assist him in his defense against perjury charges in the CIA leak case. Libby claims that he was so busy with security matters around the time of the leak that he simply forget his conversation with reporters about the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame.

US DC District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton addressed security concerns voiced by the CIA about potential release of the secret top-level briefings by saying that the agency only needed to provide redacted versions of the material - "tables of contents" or topic indexes of the documents "sufficient...for the defendant to refresh his recollection to adequately accomplish the objectives of his defense."

The Court has painstakingly endeavored to ensure that the defendant is provided with the information he truly needs to prepare his defense based upon what he has represented through counsel will be his theory of why he should not be held culpable for the offenses charged in the indictment. It is based upon this assessment that the Court has concluded that the topic areas of the documents used to brief the defendant during his morning intelligence briefings and the subjects areas of documents that contain the inquiries the defendant made during these briefings are material to the preparation of the defense and thus discoverable under Rule 16. Accordingly, and consistent with this opinion, the Court will require the government to produce either (1) redacted versions of those documents with the defendant being provided what in effect is a table of contents for each set of documents or separate topic overviews of the subject matter contained in those documents and (2) the topic areas of any documents reflecting the inquiries made by the defendant for additional information during his morning intelligence briefings.
[More info on this episode from AP via Yahoo News]
So, as of Mar11,2k6, Libby had achieved a partial victory, for the time being.

It remains to say a word regarding the Mother of All Mischief, in this case. Here's what Doug Payton, Blogger News Network had to say about Our Gal Val (Mar13,2k6):

John Credson, a Chicago Tribune reporter, has a very revealing article on the "revealing" of Valerie Plame. Turns out, as has been noted in the past, that her cover, such as it was, was paper thin even by CIA standards. While the Brewster-Jennings cover was rather light in hindsight, her use of a US embassy as an official address was a dead giveaway in foresight, according to CIA vets. The kicker is that her obvious tie to the government preceded the attempt to pass her off as a disinterested private-sector consultant, not to mention that later on she had a parking spot at Langley. [Before citing the next matter, allow me to interject an explanatory note derived from William Safire: the term "NOC" = "non-official cover" — that is, an informant or agent operating without the diplomatic protection, or cover, of employment by the US government"(William Safire). Without further ado - Politicarp]:
Genuine NOCs, a CIA veteran said, "never use an official address.

"If she had [a diplomatic] address, her whole cover's completely phony. I used to run NOCs. I was in an embassy. I'd go out and meet them, clandestine meetings. I'd pay them cash to run assets or take trips. I'd give them a big bundle of cash. But they could never use an embassy address, ever."

Another CIA veteran with 20 years of service agreed that "the key is the [embassy] address. That is completely unacceptable for an NOC. She wasn't an NOC, period."

After Plame was transferred back to CIA headquarters in the mid-1990s, she continued to pass herself off as a private energy consultant. But the first CIA veteran noted: "You never let a true NOC go into an official facility. You don't drive into headquarters with your car, ever."

A senior U.S. intelligence official, who like the others quoted in this article spoke on condition of anonymity, noted that Plame "may not be alone in that category, so I don't want to suggest she was the only one. But it would be a fair assumption that a true-blue NOC is not someone who has a headquarters job at any point or an embassy job at any point."

Things are looking better for Scooter Libby.
Somehow I don't think the Judges and the Prosecutors will pause for a judicious reflection on the misbehaviour of the Plame-Wilson combine in their reckless pursuit of their Kerryite megalomania. - Politicarp

Previously in this series:

President's Men - Tom [1] (Mar14,2k6)

President's Men - Karl [1] (Jul31,2k5)

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