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Some Plame Notes

Various things (noted elsewhere) suggest that the Plame inquiry should be coming to a conclusion soon. Joe Wilson told me the other day that he had a lot of confidence in US Attorney Fitzgerald and the FBI guy who was heading up that end of things. He also said that, in his opinion, it might well be impossible to prove the sort of intent that's necessary for a criminal charge and we won't see anything filed. Since, obviously, no one's more riled up about this than Wilson, I think that means no fair crying foul if Fitzgerald wins up not indicting anyone.

UPDATE: More on this from William Kaminsky who spoke to Wilson later the same day.

August 1, 2004 | Permalink

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» Meeting Joe Wilson (Part 1 of 2) from Too Many Worlds
[Part 1: His thoughts on the Sandy Berger imbroglio and the future of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury probe into his wife's outing as an officer of the CIA's Clandestine Service. Part 2: His thoughts on the official US [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 1, 2004 8:20:37 PM

» Meeting Joe Wilson (Part 1 of 2) from Too Many Worlds
[Part 1: His thoughts on the Sandy Berger imbroglio and the future of Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's grand jury probe into his wife's outing as an officer of the CIA's Clandestine Service. Part 2: His thoughts on the official US [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 1, 2004 10:37:34 PM

Comments

Excuse me? "Intent" is an issue here? And if so, wouldn't it just be the basis for adding conspiracy to the basic charge or not?

I wish I had Wilson's confidence in the govt Attorney. The table is set for Scooter and Karl to get a pass on this, due to Plame being "outed" (according to them) years earlier. The stakes are too high for them to lose or even give ground on this, and they have shown that they will stop at nothing.

Posted by: Alan | Aug 1, 2004 7:53:15 PM

Alan,

It is also just possible that Joe Wilson accused the White House of "intentionally" outing his wife as "punishment" and "warning" without any evidence for his own political purposes. Now, he is trying to save face.

Posted by: hanke | Aug 1, 2004 8:12:02 PM

I also talked with Wilson during DNC week, and if I may be permitted a moment of shameless self-promotion, on my blog here

http://williamkaminsky.typepad.com/too_many_worlds/2004/07/meeting_joe_wil.html

I walk through the relevant legal statutes that justify Wilson's pessimism about winning convictions at the felony level.

Also, I relate Wilson's interesting speculation that the long-running FBI investigation into whether Sandy Berger criminally mishandled classified documents was publicized in order to send a warning shot: If the Fitzgerald probe ends up indicting prominant Republican operatives (especially if only misdemeanor charges of "disclosure of classified infomation" because they don't think they can win felony charges or the big brass ring of a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act), then they'll go after prominent Democrats.

Posted by: Bill | Aug 1, 2004 8:18:43 PM

Matt, c'mon! Give these entries at least a cursory look-over! You meant 'foul if Fitzgerald,' I'm assuming.

Hanke: Nice baseless speculation. It's also 'possible' that Scooter Libby is an evil android powered by the terrified screams of small children, but you don't see me go around posting that, do you?

Posted by: djangone | Aug 1, 2004 8:22:18 PM

Scooter appears to be a target in another investigation. This UPI article details an investigation into Feith's special Iraq analysis group and their illegal meetings with Scooter. Apparently, these meetings were illegal because the CIA and others (the DIA?) weren't informed about them.

washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040729-081130-3601r.htm

Posted by: Abigail | Aug 1, 2004 8:29:31 PM

djangone,

My point was that Joe Wilson made a mini-career of "baseless speculation." He had no way of knowing the White House, Rove, et al., had anything to do with the "outing" or that it was retrobution, yet he made the charge in order to damage the President.

He also claimed Bush was "lying" when he said that Saddam was trying to buy YellowCake. Now, a year later, he is saying all he ever meant was that Niger hadn't SOLD Yellowcake to Iraq (which is a charge Bush never made).

What bothers me about so many of these debates is the willingness to throw all facts to the side that don't support one's conclusion. It is a serious matter to charge someone with a crime. While Joe Wilson can do that with impunity, a US Attorney cannot. That is why I doubt that Sandy Berger will be charged even though he has admitted far more elements of a crime than any Bush administration member has.

Posted by: hanke | Aug 1, 2004 8:38:47 PM

hanke:

it's just possible that reality and you were separated at birth, never to be reunited.

Posted by: ahem | Aug 1, 2004 8:44:52 PM

Ahem,

I must be nice to be so superior that it is not necessary to actual make and support an argument.

Posted by: hanke | Aug 1, 2004 8:49:21 PM

If a public report is issued, which since these are grand jury proceedings, may not happen;
And if Rove and Libby are implicated as putting Plame's name out there, but intent can't be proven, so they remain in place;

All those right and moderate bloggers who professed outrage at the initial story, not to mention any names (Drezner,Tacitus,Moe Lane) will I suspect be able to overcome any ethical qualms and declare this an administration that brought "honor and dignity back to the White House"

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 1, 2004 8:56:38 PM

Bob,

I'll assume that is a serious question, and give a serious answer. I think we, both Republicans and Democrats, are too willing to assume the worst, and turn all matter of political actions into strict liability crimes.

As to Rove, et al., specifically, I think it would depend on the findings. The real question here is whether Administration personnel knowingly outed a CIA employee that they knew was undercover in order to punish Joe Wilson and send a message to wistleblowers, as he publically and repeatedly alleged. I don't think it is a big deal if the Administration didn't know she was undercover and/or if the information was merely provided in the context of explaining why someone who had publically stated a position against Iraq intervention was sent to gather evidence to support intervention. This is especially true since Ms. Plame was well known in Washington, so the arguments she was "outed" as a little suspect.

For the same reason, I think that Sandy Berger should not be charged unless there is evidence he tried to destroy or modify originals/ or tried to sneak some documents into the archives. I don't buy that, given his experience, he didn't realize he was techically breaking the law, but I believe that a prosecutor should not bring charges unless there is evidence of intent to do harm. And, from what I know, I don't think there was in either case.

Posted by: hanke | Aug 1, 2004 9:15:03 PM

Um, hanke, you may remember that it was "two senior administration officials" [current] who went to the press accusing two Bush administration officials of outing her.

OH, and there was that little part about it appearing in robert novak's column.

But, maybe it WAS all just a dream....

Posted by: Atrios | Aug 1, 2004 9:17:49 PM

Atrios,

Read my post. How does your response prove (1) that the administration officials "knew" she was undercover, or (2) that the disclosure was not to "punish" Joe Wilson, but to show why a partisan was chosen to go to Niger.

Regardless, it is a slender reed to now fall back on 2 unnamed "senior administration officials." I suspect that if it was so clear, there would be indictments all ready.

As to Novak, he can and has defended himself.

Posted by: hanke | Aug 1, 2004 9:33:50 PM

hanke, i don't see why it is important to prove whether or not the disclosure was done to "punish" wilson. it's still illegal either way.

Posted by: Olaf glad and big | Aug 1, 2004 9:53:48 PM

Olaf,

My post assumed that Justice decided no crime had been committed. There has been extensive posting on numerous sites about this, coming to various conclusion. I am not here to make a judgment on that. The question I was answering was whether, in spite of there being no crime, did Rove, et al., do something wrong. In that context, I do think it the reason matters. Just as I think, even though there is far more evidence of a "technical" violation by Sandy Berger, intent to cause harm is relevant there also.

Posted by: hanke | Aug 1, 2004 10:00:20 PM

Hanke,
Equating the Berger case with the Plame case just ain't gonna fly. Nice try.

There is, to put a little qualification on it, massivehugegargantuan difference between something an official may/may not have done after leaving office and something a current Administration may/may not have done while in office. Call me sentimental, but the holding of office involves more of a public trust than the cv bullet-point of having held an office.

Posted by: djangone | Aug 1, 2004 10:37:38 PM

First of all, this:

This is especially true since Ms. Plame was well known in Washington, so the arguments she was "outed" as a little suspect.

...is a Republican talking point with no basis in fact. I have yet to see any real evidence that anyone knew Plame was a CIA agent. This is all about trying to spin a falsehood into the public consciousness through repetition.

Meanwhile:

I don't think it is a big deal ... if the information was merely provided in the context of explaining why someone who had publically stated a position against Iraq intervention was sent to gather evidence to support intervention.

No. If they knowingly burned a CIA agent in order to protect their political hides, that would have been just as wrong as if they did it in order to retaliate. (And if they didn't know that she was undercover, they were still *reckless* as to her safety and to national security in general, which is also very wrong. Although I find it highly doubtful that the White House and the OVP could have had no idea about whether a CIA agent was undercover.)

Posted by: JP | Aug 1, 2004 11:00:02 PM

Hanke, to follow up on JP's second point, there is not a single shred of evidence that the appointment of Wilson was for "partian purposes." Even if Plame had pulled every string at her disposal to get Wilson the job, that would prove - at best - that she was guilty of nepotism. But is anyone arguing that Wilson was unqualified for the job? Or that his findings were erroneous? No.

Again, even if Plame got Wilson the job, it simply does not follow that Wilson's report was partisan. I have not seen any evidence, whatsoever, to suggest that Plame and Wilson were "partisan" prior to the administration screwing them over.

Aside from Wilson's experience in both parties' administrations and his campaign donations to candidates of both parties, Wilson's personal experience with Saddam Hussein would suggest that, if anything, Wilson would bend over backwards to have the guy taken out.

No, there was no good reason to leak the name. Regardless of criminal charges, Bush's administration engaged in sleazy, gutter tactics against two people who have literally put their lives at risk for America's benefit.

Posted by: space | Aug 1, 2004 11:59:11 PM

He also claimed Bush was "lying" when he said that Saddam was trying to buy YellowCake. Now, a year later, he is saying all he ever meant was that Niger hadn't SOLD Yellowcake to Iraq (which is a charge Bush never made).

Wilson's original claim was that there was no evidence of Iraq seeking uranium, more importantly that Niger had not sold and could not sell any uranium to Iraq, and that Bush's claim was therefore misleading and likely baseless. This has been borne out by subsequent revelations.

How does your response prove (1) that the administration officials "knew" she was undercover, or (2) that the disclosure was not to "punish" Joe Wilson, but to show why a partisan was chosen to go to Niger.

(1) They are the executive branch; they knew she was a CIA agent, so it would have probably occurred to them to look into her a little, and if they didn't, well, I suppose they could be detached enough for it to slip by them. (2) It would be stupid for them to have done this to demonstrate nepotism (though of course possible) and not to punish Wilson. I actually suspect that it is the case. But it's not really important whether the motive was very or only somewhat sinister.

Posted by: EH | Aug 2, 2004 12:01:12 AM

Even if that particular statute doesn't apply for the sake of argument here, it is still illegal to leak classified information. Plame's identity and job are classified.
This is a lesser charge, but still indictable.
In any case, Joe Wilson doesn't know a thing about where Fritz is. Newsweek said today that Powell testified before grand jury regarding what he told Bush on AF1 on a trip to Africa a day after Wilson's NYT piece is published. Newsweek's sources speculate that Bush might be involved in outing Plame to Rove or someone. Fritz wouldn't be going to this extent (getting Powells' testimony), if he had already determined that there was no serious case.

Posted by: ecoast | Aug 2, 2004 1:05:47 AM

I must be nice to be so superior that it is not necessary to actual make and support an argument.

It helps to be grammatical, as well. Frankly, Mr Hanky, not much good can come from arguing with someone who is quite obviously pulling things out of his ass.

Regardless, it is a slender reed to now fall back on 2 unnamed "senior administration officials." I suspect that if it was so clear, there would be indictments all ready.

'Stonewall' is not just a famous gay bar. It's a modus operandi.

Posted by: ahem | Aug 2, 2004 9:10:30 AM

This is a depressing assessment, another sign that they really can get away with anything. The reason the witnesses have been recalled may be related to an obstruction investigation (Martha knows all about this). If Fitz can’t get them for the crime he may try to nail them for the cover-up. Or maybe it is just to be certain that the investigation covers all bases. Who knows.

Posted by: ohno | Aug 2, 2004 10:04:28 AM

Morning all,

Just this one note on the Plame matter.

1. If all that is needed to prove criminal activity are allegations by unnamed sources, then Berger would be charged already (since he has been identified by name by employees at the archives). Clearly, more is needed than that, which is why we have investigations and which is why I said that it was a slender reed to go back to one article allegedly quoting "senior administration sources." As a legal matter, such evidence is hearsay within hearsay.

2. As for stonewalling, Bush has promised full cooperation, has met personally with the prosecutor, and refused to invoke any type of privilege on behalf of either himself of his administration. How is that stonewalling?

3. Finally, I think this situation is now governed by the Clinton/Monica precedent. There was no doubt Clinton violated the law and lied; a federal judge so found and he was disbarred. But, the issue that Democrats raised at that time was whether it should matter whether he lied about sex, etc.

I would argue that it similarly matters here whether, (a) as has been widely reported, Plame's identity was well-known in Washington (so that this was, at most, a technical violation and she was not put at risk by the disclosure) and (b) whether the disclosure was to send a "chilling message to whistleblowers" as alleged publically and repeated by Joe Wilson (and numerous Democrats) or, alternatively, whether it was to answer the logical question of why the Administration did not take seriously Joe Wilson's alleged denial that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. Of course, since Joe Wilson is now claiming he never said that Iraq hadn't sought uranium from Niger (but merely that no uranium had been sold, a claim Bush never made), it appears that he was saying listen to me, I have great credibility since the Administration chose me to investigate this, and then trash the Administration for failing to listen to him (allegedly because it didn't like his conclusions). In the grand sceme of things, without a real "victim" or evidence that the Administration was trying to hide that it had ignored legitimate warnings by Joe Wilson, I don't think this is the kind of "technical" violation that the Statute was intended to reach.

Posted by: Hanky | Aug 2, 2004 10:17:11 AM

As for stonewalling, Bush has promised full cooperation, has met personally with the prosecutor, and refused to invoke any type of privilege on behalf of either himself of his administration. How is that stonewalling?

and you have access to the full transcript of that meeting ?

Posted by: cleek | Aug 2, 2004 11:02:48 AM

Cleek,

No, nor do I have a transcript of the Grand Jury proceedings which gave rise to this entire thread. And, as Sid Blumenthal demonstrated, it is possible to lie about what happened before a grand jury and even brag about it after the fact.

However, as Bill Clinton learned, eventually lies come home to roost. If Bush was stupid enough to lie to the investigators, then I believe he will be similarly caught.

My point, though, remains the same. He has not publically claimed any privileges, and, the Secretary of State has testified. That sounds like cooperation to me.

Posted by: Hanky | Aug 2, 2004 11:34:15 AM

2. As for stonewalling, Bush has promised full cooperation, has met personally with the prosecutor, and refused to invoke any type of privilege on behalf of either himself of his administration. How is that stonewalling?

The stonewall was prior to the referral to Fitzgerald, remember the many months when the president was saying the equivalent of, "these things happen?" Please recall also that the referral to DOJ was made and round filed for weeks before sufficient pressure was applied to begin an investigation. Even still the WH counsel vetted all the outgoing information for “relevancy.” Ashcroft was then the hands on manager of the investigation, as the fox guarding the chicken coop Ashcroft did have uncharacteristic attack of conscience causing the eventual appointment of Fitzgerald.

I would argue that it similarly matters here whether, (a) as has been widely reported, Plame's identity was well-known in Washington (so that this was, at most, a technical violation and she was not put at risk by the disclosure)

This assertion has been repeated in the talking points echo chamber for so long that it has become truth without foundation. Just because Rush screams a version on the air for six months doesn’t make it true, however widely it has been circulated. Find a link that supports this version. Logically if it were true, why would the CIA have sent the matter out for criminal investigation and then dogged DOJ until it was done?

(b) whether the disclosure was to send a "chilling message to whistleblowers" as alleged publically and repeated by Joe Wilson (and numerous Democrats) or, alternatively, whether it was to answer the logical question of why the Administration did not take seriously Joe Wilson's alleged denial that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger.

You have confused motive with intent. The intent was to disclose the CIA operative’s name, the motive for that crime is in dispute. Motive does not normally mitigate a crime. Does it matter if the man killed his wife because he didn’t like the dinner she prepared or because he was cheating and wanted her gone?


Posted by: ohno | Aug 2, 2004 11:37:14 AM

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