|10-29-2005, 11:50 AM||#1|
Ring of Famer
Join Date: Sep 2004
Took one for the team? Who is next? "Official A"? I hope it goes to trial. It would be fun to watch Cheney squirm like an ad for Preparation H.
|10-29-2005, 05:39 PM||#4|
Mo' holla fo' yo' dolla!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: In a bunker in an undisclosed location
Couldn't happen to a more deserving slimebag.
However, no matter how many members of the bush crime family are indicted in the end, I'm afraid George W. Capone will probably just pardon them all.
|11-02-2005, 05:03 AM||#5|
Mo' holla fo' yo' dolla!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: In a bunker in an undisclosed location
Libby's lies are just the tip of the iceberg
DETROIT -- The Italians know the truth and what's really important. Risotto, not Rizzuto, is the big story.
Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, is indicted for lying about his role in outing a covert CIA officer.
Libby shares his nickname with New York Yankees Hall-of-Fame shortstop Phil "The Scooter" Rizzuto. Libby's investment banker father gave him the moniker when he saw the child scrambling in his crib and cracked, "He's a scooter."
Libby is accused of lying big-time to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about his contacts and what he told reporters about the classified identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.
Libby and other White House operatives -- most notably Karl Rove -- sought to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson, who debunked the hoax that Iraq bought enriched uranium from Niger. Risotto-loving Italian journalists have found the complicated grains of evidence linking the propagation of the Niger hoax to the White House and the office of Condoleezza Rice. Her dirty deeds are far more serious than Libby's lies.
Rice sold the lie that resulted in an unnecessary war and the deaths of more than 30,000 Iraqis and 2,000 American soldiers.
The reports in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica read like a blend of a cheap spy novel and the scenario for a new Roberto Benigni film. It has intrigue, greed, double-dealing, deception and ambition. The story bounces from Rome to Niger to Luxembourg to Paris to London to Washington.
Benigni, known for his Academy Award-winning "Life is Beautiful," also directed and acted in hilarious comedies.
The plot and the Italians involved in the great Niger uranium hoax could easily be molded into yet another Benigni comic masterpiece. Like his films, this true caper has mistaken identity, wild consequences, bizarre twists, grotesque characters, powerful manipulators and an overwhelming sense that what's happening is just too incredible to imagine.
Benigni himself gets the choice role, a character with a perfect name for the screenplay, Rocco Martino. He's a former Italian intelligence service operative who was fired for "defects in character." The "happy-go-lucky" Rocco is a charming con artist who's been arrested on racketeering charges in Italy and for passing stolen checks in Germany.
Since being drummed out of his government job, Martino has been doing private espionage work, selling intelligence to the highest bidder. He's based in Luxembourg and does freelance spying for any organization that will pay for his "consulting services." Money, not national allegiance, drives Martino. He likes to brag, "My trade is this: I sell information."
Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe D'Avanzo, investigative reporters for the paper, have masterfully uncovered the details of the hoax that began with Martino looking to make easy money and ended with collusion at the highest levels of the Italian and U.S. governments.
The reporters have learned of a secret meeting at the White House between the head of SISMI, Italy's military intelligence agency, and Condoleezza Rice's then-deputy Stephen Hadley, now the national security adviser. The purpose of the meeting was to revive and peddle the hoax that Saddam Hussein sought to buy uranium from Niger.
On Sept. 9, 2002, Gen. Nicolo Pollari met with Hadley to discuss documents he claimed supported Iraq's uranium buy. Pollari had previously told La Repubblica, "I am director of intelligence and the only person I have spoken to in Washington on an institutional level since September 11 has been the director of the CIA, George Tenet. Obviously, I speak only to him."
Pollari got caught in his lie when the White House confirmed the meeting with Hadley did take place. Pollari was doing an end run around the CIA, because he knew the American intelligence agency recognized the documents as crude forgeries.
Within weeks of the White House meeting in her office, Rice was out at every forum she could find, uttering her classic line, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
Rice coupled the uranium hoax with one of the many lies New York Times reporter Judy Miller got plastered on the front pages of her paper: that Iraq was trying to acquire specialized aluminum tubes needed to refine the uranium into weapons-grade material. Pure crap. Rice and Cheney delighted in propagating Miller's myth. They leaked lies to her.
That's why Libby turned to her to attempt to discredit Wilson, and expose his wife's job with the CIA. Is there a soul on earth who believes Miller's claim that she doesn't recall who told her about "Valerie Flame," as she wrote the name in her notebook? Miller is a disgrace to journalism, a serial liar and a protector of traitors.
Why would the Italian government get so deeply involved in this sordid tale? Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wanted to ingratiate himself with the Bush administration. Gen. Pollari remembered the Niger uranium story and had contacts that helped hatch the hoax.
Back in 1999, spy-for-hire Martino heard the French government was worried that someone or some government was engaged in a "prosperous clandestine trade in uranium." The French controlled the Niger uranium mines and frowned on the business loss. Enter Rocco Martino. He "smelled a business opportunity": helping the French to find out who had been pirating their uranium.
Martino knew that Saddam bought uranium in the '80s. After the Gulf War, United Nations inspectors successfully dismantled Iraq's nuclear program and it was never "reconstituted." Martino figured if he could show Iraq was involved in securing uranium, the story would have a degree of plausibility. There was no evidence to support the story. No problem for the resourceful Rocco. He'd just make it up.
He turned to an old pal with SISMI, Antonio Nucera, looking for help in making some Niger connections. Martino said any contact, any report would do. Nucera put Martino in touch with a source who worked at the Niger embassy in Rome, a 60-year-old woman known as the Signora. The Signora put Martino in touch with Zakaria Yaou Maiga, first counselor at the Niger embassy, a notorious spendthrift who was also looking for quick money.
On New Year's Day, 2001, there was a faked break-in at the embassy. Official Niger government seals and stationery were stolen. Maiga actually broke into his own office. Maiga, Martino and the Signora sat down for a dossier-fabrication party.
Martino brought their work of fiction to Paris and the French intelligence agency gave him a big wad of cash. Nice piece of work. Rocco headed to the Riviera, and the French, easily spotting the scam, threw the documents away.
Twenty-four months later, President George W. Bush cited the fake dossier as evidence that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat. Imagine the howls from Martino, the Signora and Maiga, hearing the leader of the free world using their little caper to lead a nation into war. Hell, they were just looking for a little money.
The forgers did an awful job. Their "memorandum of understanding" between Niger and Iraq was filled with errors that "could be spotted by someone using Google on the Internet."
The order called for 500 tons of uranium, yet Niger can only produce 300 tons in a year. Imagine Saddam putting massive quantities of nuclear materials on a documented shopping list: "Yes, my friend, pick up my uranium, six pitas, two kilos of hummus and eight dozen stuffed grape leaves."
Dates and names were wrong, titles were mixed up. But the ridiculous fraud got an unexpected resurrection on Sept. 11, 2001. Bush and Cheney, desperate for any link between Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, sent out the word to our allies for help. Italy's Berlusconi hastily obliged. Pollari, his new military intelligence chief, wanted to please his boss, who wanted to please his pal Bush. Martino's caper now had legs.
Rocco had also peddled his bogus documents to Britain's M-16 intelligence agency and to some diplomats from African nations. Nigergate was out there for anyone stupid enough to buy it or cynical enough to use it.
Bush and Cheney usually rely on the Fox News Channel and shills like Judy Miller to pimp their propaganda.
But billionaire Berlusconi just uses the media outlets he owns. Three days after his man met with Rice's aide, "Panorama," a weekly magazine Berlusconi owns, published a story claiming Iraq made a big uranium buy. The report noted Iraq's intelligence agency, Mukhabarat, acquired the material though "Nigeria." Niger. Nigeria. What difference does it make, as long as you can pin the rap on Iraq?
Elisabetta Burba, a reporter for "Panorama," received documents that were purported to support the claim. She smelled a rat and would not write a story, but another reporter did. An editor ordered Burba to take the documents to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, and they were immediately cabled to Washington. Who gave the documents to the reporter? Why, of course, Rocco Martino. Think of Benigni smiling, counting the cash.
Berlusconi denies his government played any role in peddling the hoax, and says he opposed the invasion of Iraq. Funny, he never mentioned that before.
Rice welcomed the great Nigergate lie into the White House. Libby lied trying to cover up the caper. Risotto is the major league criminal. Rizzuto is just a bush leaguer.
|11-04-2005, 07:46 PM||#6|
Mo' holla fo' yo' dolla!
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: In a bunker in an undisclosed location
John W. Dean: A Cheney-Libby conspiracy, or worse? Reading between the lines of the Libby indictment
In my last column, I tried to deflate expectations a bit about the likely consequences of the work of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald; to bring them down to the realistic level at which he was likely to proceed. I warned, for instance, that there might not be any indictments, and Fitzgerald might close up shop as the last days of the grand jury's term elapsed. And I was certain he would only indict if he had a patently clear case.
Now, however, one indictment has been issued -- naming Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby as the defendant, and charging false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice. If the indictment is to be believed, the case against Libby is, indeed, a clear one.
Having read the indictment against Libby, I am inclined to believe more will be issued. In fact, I will be stunned if no one else is indicted.
Indeed, when one studies the indictment, and carefully reads the transcript of the press conference, it appears Libby's saga may be only Act Two in a three-act play. And in my view, the person who should be tossing and turning at night, in anticipation of the last act, is the Vice President of the United States, Richard B. Cheney.
The Indictment: Invoking the Espionage Act Unnecessarily
Typically, federal criminal indictments are absolutely bare bones. Just enough to inform a defendant of the charges against him.
For example, the United States Attorney's Manual, which Fitzgerald said he was following, notes that under the Sixth Amendment an accused must "be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation." And Rule 7(c)(1) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires that, "The indictment . . . be a plain, concise and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged." That is all.
Federal prosecutors excel at these "plain, concise and definite" statement indictments - drawing on form books and institutional experience in drafting them. Thus, the typical federal indictment is the quintessence of pith: as short and to the point as the circumstances will permit.
Again, Libby is charged with having perjured himself, made false statements, and obstructed justice by lying to FBI agents and the grand jury. A bare-bones indictment would address only these alleged crimes.
But this indictment went much further - delving into a statute under which Libby is not charged.
Count One, paragraph 1(b) is particularly revealing. Its first sentence establishes that Libby had security clearances giving him access to classified information. Then 1(b) goes on to state: "As a person with such clearances, LIBBY was obligated by applicable laws and regulations, including Title 18, United States Code, Section 793, and Executive Order 12958 (as modified by Executive Order13292), not to disclose classified information to persons not authorized to receive such information, and otherwise to exercise proper care to safeguard classified information against unauthorized disclosure." (The section also goes on to stress that Libby executed, on January 23, 2001, an agreement indicating understanding that he was receiving classified information, the disclosure of which could bring penalties.)
What is Title 18, United States Code, Section 793? It's the Espionage Act -- a broad, longstanding part of the criminal code.
The Espionage Act criminalizes, among other things, the willful - or grossly negligent -- communication of national-defense related information that "the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation." It also criminalizes conspiring to violate this anti-disclosure provision.
But Libby isn't charged with espionage. He's charged with lying to our government and thereby obstructing justice. So what's going on? Why is Fitzgerald referencing the Espionage Act?
The press conference added some clarity on this point.
Libby's Obstruction Has Blocked An Espionage Act Charge
The Special Counsel was asked, "If Mr. Libby had testified truthfully, would he be being charged in this crime today?" His response was more oblique than most.
In answering, he pointed out that "if national defense information which is involved because [of Plame's] affiliation with the CIA, whether or not she was covert, was classified, if that was intentionally transmitted, that would violate the statute known as Section 793, which is the Espionage Act." (Emphasis added). (As noted above, gross negligence would also suffice.)
But, as Fitzgerald also noted at his press conference, great care needs to be taken in applying the Espionage Act: "So there are people," he said, "who argue that you should never use that statute because it would become like the [British] Official Secrets Act. I don't buy that theory, but I do know you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute."
His further example was also revealing. "Let's not presume that Mr. Libby is guilty. But let's assume, for the moment, that the allegations in the indictment are true. If that is true, you cannot figure out the right judgment to make, whether or not you should charge someone with a serious national security crime or walk away from it or recommend any other course of action, if you don't know the truth.... If he had told the truth, we would have made the judgment based upon those facts...." (Emphases added.)
Finally, he added. "We have not charged him with [that] crime. I'm not making an allegation that he violated [the Espionage Act]. What I'm simply saying is one of the harms in obstruction is that you don't have a clear view of what should be done. And that's why people ought to walk in, go into the grand jury, you're going to take an oath, tell us the who, what, when, where and why -- straight." (Emphasis added)
In short, because Libby has lied, and apparently stuck to his lie, Fitzgerald is unable to build a case against him or anyone else under Section 793, a provision which he is willing to invoke, albeit with care.
And who is most vulnerable under the Espionage Act? Dick Cheney - as I will explain.
Libby Is The Firewall Protecting Vice President Cheney
The Libby indictment asserts that "[o]n or about June 12, 2003 Libby was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson's wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. Libby understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA."
In short, Cheney provided the classified information to Libby - who then told the press. Anyone who works in national security matters knows that the Counterproliferation Division is part of the Directorate of Operations -- the covert side of the CIA, where most everything and everyone are classified.
According to Fitzgerald, Libby admits he learned the information from Cheney at the time specified in the indictment. But, according to Fitzgerald, Libby also maintained - in speaking to both FBI agents and the grand jury - that Cheney's disclosure played no role whatsoever in Libby's disclosure to the media.
Or as Fitzgerald noted at his press conference, Libby said, "he had learned from the vice president earlier in June 2003 information about Wilson's wife, but he had forgotten it, and that when he learned the information from [the reporter] Mr. [Tim] Russert during this phone call he learned it as if it were new."
So, in Fitzgerald's words, Libby's story was that when Libby "passed the information on to reporters Cooper and Miller late in the week, he passed it on thinking it was just information he received from reporters; that he told reporters that, in fact, he didn't even know if it were true. He was just passing gossip from one reporter to another at the long end of a chain of phone calls."
This story is, of course, a lie, but it was a clever one on Libby's part.
It protects Cheney because it suggests that Cheney's disclosure to Libby was causally separate from Libby's later, potentially Espionage-Act-violating disclosure to the press. Thus, it also denies any possible conspiracy between Cheney and Libby.
And it protects Libby himself - by suggesting that since he believed he was getting information from reporters, not indirectly from the CIA, he may not have had have the state of mind necessary to violate the Espionage Act.
Thus, from the outset of the investigation, Libby has been Dick Cheney's firewall. And it appears that Fitzgerald is actively trying to penetrate that firewall.
What Is Likely To Occur Next?
It has been reported that Libby's attorney tried to work out a plea deal. But Fitzgerald insisted on jail time, so Libby refused to make a deal. It appears that only Libby, in addition to Cheney, knows what Cheney knew, and when he knew, and why he knew, and what he did with his knowledge.
Fitzgerald has clearly thrown a stacked indictment at Libby, laying it on him as heavy as the law and propriety permits. He has taken one continuous false statement, out of several hours of interrogation, and made it into a five-count indictment. It appears he is trying to flip Libby - that is, to get him to testify against Cheney -- and not without good reason. Cheney is the big fish in this case.
Will Libby flip? Unlikely. Neither Cheney nor Libby (I believe) will be so foolish as to crack a deal. And Libby probably (and no doubt correctly) assumes that Cheney - a former boss with whom he has a close relationship -- will (at the right time and place) help Libby out, either with a pardon or financially, if necessary. Libby's goal, meanwhile, will be to stall going to trial as long as possible, so as not to hurt Republicans' showing in the 2006 elections.
So if Libby can take the heat for a time, he and his former boss (and friend) may get through this. But should Republicans lose control of the Senate (where they are blocking all oversight of this administration), I predict Cheney will resign "for health reasons."
John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the President.
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