Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Truths Exposed In the Libby Trial

Right-wingers are frothing at the mouth over I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's conviction on charges of perjury, falsifying statements to federal investigators, and obstruction of justice. On a local radio show this morning, one I listen to when my clock-radio alarm goes off in the morning before work, all but one of the hosts knows the truth and states it. Only one denier continued to propagate the deceptions Bush apologists have been using to confuse the general public about what this trial was really all about.

This being the Truth Zone, it is my solemn duty to tell the truth whenever lies are told. And lies are being told about the Libby trial, and especially now that guilty verdicts have been handed down. In my previous entry, I went into some detail about the sordid facts of the leak investigation that culminated in Libby's conviction. I will re-iterate those facts, and provide new information gleaned from the Libby trial.

This is what we know: Members of the Bush regime leaked the identity of a covert CIA officer to the press in the Summer of 2003, in retaliation for her husband's calling bullshit on a major lie told by the regime about Iraq in the run-up to the war. They leaked her CIA status not only as a means of revenge for unpleasant truths spoken publicly, but also to intimidate future whistleblowers. Since it is a crime to leak the identity of a CIA officer, the Justice Department was left with no choice but to appoint a prosecutor to investigate the leak; this was done at the behest of the CIA, which knew a crime had been committed.

David Corn of The Nation and Michael Isikoff of Newsweek did their own, journalistic investigation and wrote a book telling what they had learned, titled, "HUBRIS: THE INSIDE STORY OF SPIN, SCANDAL, AND THE SELLING OF THE IRAQ WAR". Among other revelations, Corn and Isikoff describe what it is exactly that Valerie Plame-Wilson did at the CIA. They explain she was NOC (Non-Official Cover, which means her status was unknown to all but those who needed to know). And they also explain who else besides Libby leaked the information to the press.

Karl Rove, for instance, was one of conservative columnist Robert Novak's sources for his July 2003 column, in which he blabbed that former ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. Wilson, you may recall, had been asked to go to the African nation of Niger to confirm for the Bush regime what the CIA and other, more independent officials had already dismissed as unreliable information: allegations that Iraq had tried to acquire a form of uranium, called "yellowcake," from that country. Wilson went in 2002, spoke with the relevant people, and came back having confirmed the exact opposite of what the Bush regime wanted--that no such attempt to acquire uranium had taken place; the French consortium that controlled its former colony's uranium mines practiced the strictest oversight, and the shipping routes' geographic nature made it impossible to sneak large quantities of uranium out of the country (Iraq was accused of trying to purchase 500 tons). Documents allegedly proving an attempted transaction were proven to be crude forgeries, which were drafted with the help of an Italian huckster seeking to make money by peddling false information to Italy's intelligence agency.

Although this highly dubious intel was kept out of speeches in 2002, in January 2003 then undersecretary of state John Bolton (who would go on to become the U.S.'s ambassador to the United Nations) succeeded in getting the false Iraq-Niger allegation inserted into George W. Bush's state of the union address. The invasion and occupation of Iraq commenced about two months later, with the case for war having been strengthened significantly by that lie. Months later, Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed explaining his trip to Niger, revealing the deception behind the White House's drive for war. With no WMD found in Iraq and media criticism publicly embarrassing the regime, a concerted effort to discredit Wilson was launched.

Libby, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, then-White House spokesliar Ari Fleischer and others in the regime leaked his wife's CIA identity to members of the press--including Novak, Time's Matt Cooper and the NYT's Judy Miller. But only Novak used what he had been told to aid and abet the Bush regime in its crime by going to print with what he knew. According to Corn, writing yesterday for The Nation on the Libby verdict:

Libby's account, Fitzgerald charged, was a cover story designed to remove him and the vice president from a leak investigation that was targeting the White House. At the trial, Fitzgerald methodically presented a series of witnesses who testified that weeks before the leak they had told Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA: Marc Grossman, who had been undersecretary of state for policy in 2003; Robert Grenier, a former top CIA official; and Cathie Martin, who had been Cheney's communications director. Craig Schmall, Libby's CIA briefer at the time, testified that Libby had discussed Valerie Wilson with him. Schmall also testified that after the leak occurred, while he was briefing both Cheney and Libby, they asked him what he thought about the leak scandal. Noting that some commentators had dismissed the leak as "no big deal," Schmall explained that he considered it a "grave danger." He explained to Libby and Cheney that foreign intelligence services could now investigate everyone who had come into contact with Valerie Wilson when she had served overseas. "Those people," he said, "innocent or otherwise, could be harassed...tortured or killed

Fitzgerald also called Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, as a witness. Fleischer, who had struck an immunity deal with Fitzgerald in return for his testimony, testified that on July 7, 2003--the day after Joseph Wilson published an op-ed piece accusing the White House of having twisted the prewar intelligence--Libby disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA link to him at lunch and said this information was "hush-hush." The conversation Fleischer recalled, was "odd." (Fleischer also testified that he had leaked information to two reporters about Valerie Wilson--although it was unclear whether he had done anything more than egg on these reporters to discover her CIA connection. Later in the trial, Washington Post reporter testified that Fleischer had disclosed Valerie Wilson's CIA connection to him.)

But that's not the only revelation to come out of the trial. As Corn writes, "Matt Cooper testified Libby had confirmed for him the leak about Valerie Wilson he had received from Karl Rove." So Rove was, contrary to right-wing liars' defense of all people and things pertaining to the Shrub, just one of many sources for the leak. In fact, the trial revealed that he had vetted the Noval column just days prior to its publication. But the uncovering of the truth doesn't stop there. From the Nation column:

It was a powerful case. All these witnesses--except Russert--said they had spoken to Libby about Wilson's wife prior to the leak. Three said they had provided Libby information about her. (And Libby had conceded that Cheney had done so, too.) Libby, though, had told the FBI and the grand jury he had known nothing concrete about her at the time of the leak. And his explanation was convoluted: yes, Cheney had told him that Valerie Wilson worked at the CIA; but he had forgotten that the vice president had done so; he then heard about her from Russert and believed this was the first time he was learning about her. This defense--I knew, I forgot, I learned it anew and was surprised--was implausible.

These revelations open a small window into the workings of a diseased regime bent on war, and bent on revenge against anyone who publicly embarrassed Bush & Co. by telling the truth in a public forum. But they don't end there, as Corn concludes his piece:

The trial was not a satisfying end to the leak case. Fitzgerald's mission was not to discover the whole truth of the saga and reveal all to the public (as he pointed out when speaking to reporters today). He was on the hunt for a crime--and for criminals. He ultimately concluded he could not prosecute the leakers--Rove, Libby, and then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage--for having disclosed information regarding Valerie Wilson. (The law prohibiting government officials from intentionally revealing information about clandestine intelligence officials requires a prosecutor to prove the leaker knew the officer was undercover.) So his criminal investigation focused on whether Libby lied. (He also investigated Rove for having possibly lied to the grand jury but ultimately decided not to indict him.) Consequently, only information from his investigation related to the Libby cover-up became public. What else Fitzgerald uncovered remains a secret. And per the rules governing criminal cases, it will stay a secret, he told reporters.

After the verdict was delivered, only one juror, Denis Collins, a Washington Post reporter in the 1980s, spoke to the press. He noted that jurors more than once asked, Why was Libby here, not Rove, not someone else? "Where are these other guys?" he said. The jurors were convinced, he noted, that Libby was guilty as charged (on four of the counts). But the jurors also believed he had been ordered by Cheney to talk to reporters as part of the White House's spin operation. In other words, some White House wrongdoers or conspirators (if not conspirators in the strict legal definition of the word) had gotten off. But there was nothing the jurors could do about this, he said: "It was not a question of who we could punish about going to Iraq." What about the prospect of a presidential pardon? one reporter asked Collins. Will you feel cheated if Bush pardons him? No, Collins replied: "He's been pilloried. We found him guilty." (Conservatives have already started a campaign for a Libby pardon.)

Unless Libby sings in exchange for a lighter sentence, unlikely given that his lawyers are pushing for a new trial and an appeal should that effort fail (with a likely pardon by Bush waiting in the wings should it become necessary), Fitzgerald cannot use what evidence he has to go after Cheney, Rove and the others; Fleischer cut a deal to avoid prosecution, so he is essentially untouchable as well. Libby will not spend enough time in prison, if any, and so will have no reason to blab to Fitzgerald to save his own skin from a potential thirty-year sentence. So the investigation into who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame-Wilson's CIA status is over, with only one man's criminal conviction and a sense that justice was not truly served. The primary criminals got away with their crimes, because Congress will not initiate impeachment proceedings or launch its own, official investigation of the leak.

These are the unfortunate truths exposed by the Libby trial and its verdict: Not only were there multiple efforts within the Bush regime to punish Joe Wilson for telling the truth about a major lie that led to war by leaking his wife's CIA identity, the people responsible will not be prosecuted and the one man who took the fall will likely not see any significant time in prison. Nor will Congress do anything about it, unless the public forces it to. This is what America has come to, good readers. Next entry, I debunk the primary excuses given for not impeaching Bush and Cheney in my effort to join in pressuring Congress to do its job.

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