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01/12/2007 04:16 PM
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Libby Trial May Show Cheney's Role in Run-Up to War Cary O'Reilly and Holly Rosenkrantz
Fri Jan 12, 1:06 PM ET

Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, may provide ammunition for Democrats looking to attack the White House for its conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Libby, 56, is charged with perjury and obstruction for lying to a grand jury probing the leak of a CIA agent's name. He faces as many as 30 years in prison if convicted. The trial starts on Jan. 16 in Washington.

Defense lawyers say they'll call Cheney as a witness to bolster claims Libby was too busy with security matters to accurately remember events. His testifying is risky for both men. What Cheney recalls may undermine Libby's too-busy defense while exposing the vice president to probes by Congress of how the Bush administration promoted the war, legal experts said.

``Litigation begets litigation,'' said Stanley Brand, a former U.S. House counsel who specializes in representing public officials accused of wrongdoing. ``Every time you haul someone to court, it makes it more likely someone else is going to haul him to court. It's the Martha Stewart problem. Once you're under oath, people can take pot shots at you about what you said.''

Ted Wells, a Paul Weiss Rifkind attorney representing Libby, told U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton during a hearing last month that he plans to call Cheney to the stand. He and co- counsel William Jeffress of Baker Botts did not return telephone calls this week seeking comment.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Ann McBride declined to say whether a subpoena has been received. ``We have cooperated fully with the investigation and will continue to do so,'' McBride said.

Rare Testimony

If Cheney takes the stand, he would be the first sitting vice president to testify in a criminal case in at least 100 years, according to Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential scholar at St. Louis University. Rulings by Walton may limit the scope of Cheney's testimony, though he is likely to discuss events in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the period in which prosecutors say Libby committed perjury and obstruction.

``The suggestion has been that Vice President Cheney's office has really almost created an alternative national security council,'' Goldstein said. ``To that extent, the trial may be indicative in showing how the vice president's office has been involved in the planning and selling of the war.''

Libby was Cheney's closest adviser, having served as the vice president's national security adviser as well as his chief of staff. He worked with Cheney at the Pentagon during the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Not First on Trial

Libby is one of the highest-ranking White House officials ever to be tried, though not the only member of the Bush administration. David Safavian, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget, was sentenced to 18 months in prison in October for lying and obstructing justice during the corruption investigation of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now in prison for fraud.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Zeidenberg, who won a conviction of Safavian, is a working with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the chief prosecutor in the Libby case.

Fitzgerald, normally based in Chicago, would probably handle any cross-examination of Cheney. He ``is the special prosecutor in the Libby case, and he is personally responsible and more involved in that case, than in any of his Chicago cases,'' said Robert Kent, a former federal prosecutor in Fitzgerald's office who left two months ago to join the Baker McKenzie law firm.

Fitzgerald's cases include the prosecution of Conrad Black, the former Hollinger International Inc. chairman charged with looting the company.

Plame's Name

Libby was indicted in October 2005 on charges of lying to investigators and a grand jury probing whether Bush administration officials intentionally revealed the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame to reporters, a violation of federal law.

Plame's name was published by syndicated columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003, after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly accused President George W. Bush of twisting intelligence to justify the Iraq war.

Libby is accused of lying and obstructing the probe. No one has been charged with the leak of Plame's name. In September, ex- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he was the person who first told Novak that Plame was a CIA officer.

Court papers filed in the Libby case portray Cheney as having a central role in events during the period in 2003 that the administration was defending itself against critics of Bush's decision to invade Iraq. Cheney told Libby on June 12, 2003, that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA, according to the indictment. Libby told investigators that he believed Cheney learned it from the agency.

`No Control'

Cheney's testimony may undermine Libby's argument that he was too focused on national security matters by showing, for example, how often he discussed Wilson and Plame with his boss, according to Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor.

``This is Libby's trial,'' she said. ``He's on trial for perjury and false statements, so Cheney is not going to be able to control anything. It's not completely wide open, but there's quite a bit of leeway in questioning him on matters leading up to the disclosure'' of Plame's name.

News organizations including Bloomberg News asked Walton Jan. 4 to ensure media access to the jury selection process, and to release audio recordings of the proceedings. Walton denied the latter request in a Jan. 9 order and will allow only two journalists in the courtroom. He said the court has taken extraordinary steps to ensure public access.

Other reporters and members of the public can observe the proceedings in a second courtroom that will have live audio and video of the proceedings, he said.

``At no time in the history of this courthouse have such accommodations been provided to the public and the press in a criminal case,'' Walton said in the order.

The case is U.S. vs. Libby, 05-394, U.S. District Court, the District of Columbia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Cary O'Reilly in Washington at [email protected] ; Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at [email protected]

[link to news.yahoo.com]
Persea  (OP)

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01/13/2007 08:21 AM
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[link to www.thepoliticalchase.com]

Scooter Libby trial begins next week

Scooter Libby's trial begins next week (1/16) and it could be a real thorn in President Bush's side especially with Dick Cheney's testimony.

Blomberg : [link to www.bloomberg.com]

The perjury trial of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, may provide ammunition for Democrats looking to attack the White House for its conduct in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Defense lawyers say they'll call Cheney as a witness to bolster claims Libby was too busy with security matters to accurately remember events. His testifying is risky for both men. What Cheney recalls may undermine Libby's too-busy defense while exposing the vice president to probes by Congress of how the Bush administration promoted the war, legal experts said.

Wall Street Journal (sub. req.):

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's success will depend largely on how well he can keep the jury focused on his charge that Mr. Libby "knowingly lied" to federal agents during his probe into the leak of former Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame's identity.

Perjury prosecutions are notably difficult with a high rate of failure. In this case, prosecutors have the added challenge of navigating a minefield of extraneous issues while asking jurors to interpret Mr. Libby's state of mind when he talked to investigators.

The Wall Street Journal is well known for its conservative political stance and bias towards the Bush administration. I recognize my bias against the administration; that notwithstanding I still believe Fitzgerald has a good case against Libby. Libby may not be found guilty on every charge, which is unlikely, but I don't think he stands a chance on beating all charges levied against him.
Persea  (OP)

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01/15/2007 01:08 PM
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At Libby Trial, Power Players Face Uncomfortable Spotlight

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 15, 2007; A01

When Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff goes on trial Tuesday on charges of lying about the disclosure of a CIA officer's identity, members of Washington's government and media elite will be answering some embarrassing questions as well.

I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's case will put on display the secret strategizing of an administration that cherry-picked information to justify war in Iraq and reporters who traded freely in gossip and protected their own interests as they worked on one of the big Washington stories of 2003.

The estimated six-week trial will pit current and former Bush administration officials against one another and, if Cheney is called as expected, will mark the first time that a sitting vice president has testified in a criminal case. It also will force the media into painful territory, with as many as 10 journalists called to testify for or against an official who was, for some of them, a confidential source.

Besides Cheney, the trial is likely to feature government and media luminaries including NBC's Tim Russert, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, columnist Robert D. Novak and Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward.

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity became a popular spectator sport in Washington in the summer of 2004, when reporters were first ordered under threat of jail to reveal their anonymous sources in the administration. In October 2005, Libby was indicted on charges of perjuring himself before a grand jury, making false statements to investigators and obstruction of justice (though he was not one of the leakers to Novak, who first disclosed Plame's identity).

U.S. v. Libby boils down to two drastically different versions of the same events in the spring and summer of 2003. The government alleges that Libby was involved in a concerted White House effort to discredit Plame's husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had publicly accused the Bush administration of twisting information he provided on Iraq's nuclear weapons program. Wilson led a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger a year earlier and found no grounds for claims that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium there.

Eight days after Wilson went public with his claims, Plame's identity as a CIA officer appeared in Novak's column.

The defense says that neither Libby nor the White House sought to retaliate against Wilson and that Libby misspoke to investigators looking into the disclosure because he was overwhelmed by a crush of national security and other matters. He has said he had no motive to lie about the details or timing of conversations he had with reporters.

The case has largely played out in below-the-radar court hearings as prosecutors and defense lawyers have mapped the boundaries of the trial. Despite speculation at cocktail parties and in law-firm lunchrooms that Bush would pardon Libby to avoid the spectacle of a trial, the date has arrived.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton and lawyers for both sides will begin selecting 12 jurors along with alternates Tuesday. It is not expected to be an easy task, given the heavy publicity and the involvement of two institutions -- the government and the news media -- low in the public's esteem. Preparing for strong feelings from some D.C. residents, Walton has assembled 100 prospective jurors and has a pool of 100 more standing by.

Walton has also girded for intense media coverage, last week issuing unusually strict orders that bar attorneys from commenting publicly during the trial.

Fitzgerald's probe focused on a tense time in Washington, starting in May 2003, when the administration sought to defend its invasion of Iraq even as U.S. troops failed to find weapons of mass destruction, which the administration had cited as one of the main reasons for deposing Saddam Hussein. That month, reporters began writing about anonymous accusations from Wilson that Bush had sold the war to the American public using intelligence Wilson had found to be groundless. Wilson went public with his accusations during the first week of July.

On July 14, Novak published a column identifying Wilson's wife, Plame, as a CIA employee who helped arrange her husband's trip to investigate the Iraq claim. He cited two administration sources.

The government alleges that before Novak's column appeared, Libby set out to discredit and silence Wilson after Cheney shared his irritation about Wilson's claims and Plame's role at the CIA. Libby asked State Department and CIA officials for more information about Wilson's mission and Plame, prosecutors say, then shared Plame's role with a New York Times reporter, Judith Miller. At the time, Miller was trying to defend her own reporting, which had asserted evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"It is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish' Wilson," Fitzgerald wrote in a court filing last year.

Later, when a leak investigation was opened, prosecutors allege that Libby lied to FBI agents, telling them that he had learned about Plame from Russert in a telephone call on July 10 or 11 and that he had passed along that information as unconfirmed gossip to two other reporters.

The plainspoken Russert will be a star government witness. He has told Fitzgerald that Libby fabricated parts of a conversation with him. He has said that when he spoke with Libby in mid-July, Plame never came up as Libby complained that MSNBC host Chris Matthews had an antiwar slant.

Russert has said he did not know about Plame until he read Novak's column. A source familiar with the case says his version will be corroborated by testimony from NBC News's former president, Neal Shapiro. Russert told Shapiro about Libby's complaint soon after the call, the source said, saying nothing about Plame.

Miller also will be a key, if hostile, government witness. She chose to go to jail for 85 days rather than reveal her conversations with Libby. After details of her reporting methods were revealed in Fitzgerald's probe, she was assailed by media critics and eventually left the Times.

Another crucial set of witnesses is the eight people who worked in the administration with Libby, who collectively describe him as meticulous about details and keen to obtain and spread information about Wilson and Plame before his July 10 call to Russert.

Randall D. Eliason, a former chief of public corruption cases in the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the evidence appears to make it difficult for Libby to claim forgetfulness. "You have the vice president cutting out a section of the newspaper, circling it and saying, 'Let's find out about this.' You don't rise to the level of being the vice president's chief of staff by letting that kind of thing slip your mind."

The defense contends that Libby forgot how he learned Plame's identity and misspoke when questioned twice by the FBI and twice by a grand jury about his conversations with reporters. He insists that there was no cabal to "get" Wilson and that Cheney wanted him only to rebut what he saw as inaccuracies by Wilson. That Novak first learned about Plame from Richard L. Armitage, then deputy secretary of state and a skeptic of the war, proves there was no conspiracy, the defense maintains.

"Mr. Libby will counter by showing that when he spoke to the FBI and the grand jury, he knew that he was not a source for the public disclosure of Ms. Wilson's employment," his defense lawyers wrote in a recent filing.

Libby's attorneys have said they plan to call Cheney as a witness, presumably to help establish that Libby was indeed engulfed by national security matters and had no motive to lie. It is a bold move, because Cheney would be questioned by prosecutors. Lawyers around town say they would pay for a seat in court when Fitzgerald, one of the best trial prosecutors in the country, cross-examines the vice president, a sharp-tongued debater.

Another key witness for the defense will be Woodward, who after the bulk of the probe was over told Fitzgerald that, a month before Novak's column appeared, he learned of Plame's CIA role from an offhand comment Armitage made while Woodward was interviewing him for a book. He has said he interviewed Libby soon thereafter and cannot rule out the possibility that he talked to Libby about Plame's identity.

That could buttress Libby's claim that Plame's identity was already known by reporters, so there was no reason for him to lie about discussing it with them.

Woodward apologized in November 2005 for not telling his editor about the crucial information, saying he did not want to be drawn into a case in which some colleagues had been threatened with jail for protecting their sources.

Charles Tobin, who heads the media law practice for Holland & Knight, said that the case already has had serious consequences for journalists by forcing them to reveal their sources and that it will continue to hurt newsgathering.

"There's certainly going to be a hesitation among sources as they see this trial unfold and watch what happens with Libby," Tobin said. "Will they have conversations with reporters if they think those conversations can be used to prosecute them?"

[link to www.washingtonpost.com]
Anonymous Coward
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01/15/2007 09:17 PM
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maybe this will be the 'crux' needed to get him out of office

with him gone, Mr.B can be worked on to be removed
Anonymous Coward
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01/15/2007 09:17 PM
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maybe this will be the 'crux' needed to get him out of office

with him gone, Mr.B can be worked on to be removed

and don't "assume' it will be Condi nor Pelosi as a temporary in the presidency position
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01/15/2007 10:07 PM
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Persea  (OP)

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01/28/2007 08:46 AM
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[link to www.antiwar.com]

January 27, 2007
Window Into Pre-War Planning

by Gordon Prather
It is obvious from their stories that most of the "reporters" covering the trial of Lewis Libby – charged with perjury and obstruction of justice – have either never bothered to read the five count indictment [.pdf] or are too stupid to comprehend what they have read.

Jason Leopold is a notable exception.

In a column written on the eve of the trial Leopold noted that -

"A list of potential witnesses released by Libby's defense attorneys and Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor trying the case, reads like a who's who of pre-war Iraq planning. It not only may offer the first on-the-record account of the details that led to the leak of the CIA officer, but may also provide a window in which to see how the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to make a case for war - a war that has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 US soldiers and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians."

Wow! White House manipulation of intelligence to make a case for war?

"Many of the officials identified as potential witnesses were members of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), which came together in August 2002 to publicize the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. WHIG was founded by Bush's chief of staff Andrew Card and operated out of the vice president's office. The WHIG was not only responsible for selling the Iraq War, but it took great pains to discredit anyone who openly disagreed with the official Iraq War story."

Great Zot! WHIG was responsible for discrediting anyone – in and out of government – who openly disagreed with the Bush-Cheney-Rice plan to invade and occupy Iraq?

Well, in late 2001, the Italian Military Intelligence and Security Service had informed the CIA that the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican had reportedly attempted on a visit to Niger to arrange the purchase of "yellowcake" – a mixture of natural uranium oxides.

Vice President Cheney immediately asked the CIA to substantiate the report.

So, in February 2002, the CIA sent former Ambassador Joseph Wilson to Niger to look into it. Wilson's oral report to CIA officials upon his return resulted in the CIA characterization of the Italian report as being "of questionable credibility."

That was also the conclusion of the State Department's independent assessment of March 1, 2002, entitled "Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq is Unlikely [.pdf]."

Nevertheless, that intelligence "of questionable credibility" found its way into the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate of Iraq's WMD programs, hurriedly constructed during the summer of 2002 to provide a fig leaf for those Congresspersons inclined to authorize Bush's intended invasion of Iraq.

Bush even included that and other intelligence "of questionable credibility" in his 2003 State of the Union message.

But, by then, Saddam Hussein had acquiesced to UN Security Council Resolution 1441 and had allowed IAEA inspectors unfettered access to Iraq.

Director General ElBaradei had reported there was "no indication" Iraq had attempted to import uranium or to import aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment.

Aluminum tubes?

Well, yes. WHIG had also managed to get into the NIE other intelligence of questionable credibility, namely that Saddam had attempted to import thousands of aluminum tubes, which, according to National Security Advisor Condi Rice were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs ... centrifuge programs."

But an internationally recognized expert on uranium-enrichment, David Albright, had publicly questioned – on technical grounds – the suitability of such aluminum-tubes for centrifuges as early as September 2002.

And had continued to question it.

Consequently, according to Leopold, National Security Council and CIA officials told him Cheney had visited CIA headquarters and asked several CIA officials "to dig up dirt on Albright," and to put together a dossier that would discredit his work that could be distributed to the media.

Someone also seems to have ordered dirt dug up on former UN Inspector Scott Ritter. And on Chairman of the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission Hans Blix. And on IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei.

And, of course, on Joseph C. Wilson, IV.

Fast forward to the eve of Bush's war of aggression against Iraq.

Wilson, without revealing his mission to Niger a year earlier, had been ‘making waves.' In a March 2, 2003, interview with CNN, Wilson said

"The underlying objective, as I see it – the more I look at this – is less and less disarmament, and it really has little to do with terrorism, because everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and occupy Iraq is going to spawn a new generation of terrorists."

David Albright was interviewed on that same CNN segment and made similar comments.

Two months later, Nicholas Kristof dropped this bombshell

"Consider the now-disproved claims by President Bush and Colin Powell that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger so it could build nuclear weapons. As Seymour Hersh noted in The New Yorker, the claims were based on documents that had been forged so amateurishly that they should never have been taken seriously.

"I'm told by a person involved in the Niger caper that more than a year ago the vice president's office asked for an investigation of the uranium deal, so a former U.S. ambassador to Africa was dispatched to Niger. In February 2002, according to someone present at the meetings, that envoy reported to the C.I.A. and State Department that the information was unequivocally wrong and that the documents had been forged."

Vice president's office? Well, that tore it. Quit digging up dirt on Albright, Ritter, Blix and ElBaradei. Shift target. Find out who that former Ambassador was. Dig up dirt on him! Discredit him!

Who was it? Joe Wilson? The guy who's been questioning our motives on TV?

Result? A Top Secret memo [.pdf] prepared for Under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman, who was, according to the Libby indictment, responding to a request from Scooter Libby for an explication of Wilson's mission to Niger and the consequences thereof.

"In a February 19, 2002 meeting, convened by Valerie Wilson, a CIA WMD manager and the wife of Joe Wilson, he previewed his plans and the rationale for going to Niger…

"The Niger allegations were included but did not figure prominently in the 90-page October 2002 NIE on 'Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.'

"The major point of contention in differing judgments about the likelihood of Iraqi nuclear weapons program reconstitution efforts centered on the CIA's assessment that Iraq was bent on acquiring aluminum tubes to produce parts for a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant."

Niger allegations? Didn't figure prominently? But aluminum tube allegations did?

So what "intelligence of questionable credibility" in the Top Secret NIE was Libby revealing to reporters to discredit Wilson? And on whose instructions?

And why was Libby blowing Valerie Wilson's cover to anyone – in or out of government – who would listen? And on whose instructions?

And why did he then lie about what he said and did?

Perhaps that's why in January 2004, Fitzgerald issued subpoenas for all notes, email and attendance records of the White House Iraq Group, which, as you will recall, operated out of the vice president's office.

Find this article at:
[link to www.antiwar.com]