Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 11, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

MORE PLAME SPECULATION....I haven't written much in the past few days about the latest developments in the Valerie Plame case, mainly because most of the chatter seems to have morphed from speculative but still interesting conjecture to wild guesswork out of the pages of a John Grisham novel. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying the guesswork is wrong, only that there's no real way to judge its plausibility. Either you believe it or you don't. (On the plus side, it is entertaining.)

That said, here's the latest from Murray Waas:

In two appearances before the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's name, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, did not disclose a crucial conversation that he had with New York Times reporter Judith Miller in June 2003 about the operative, Valerie Plame, according to sources with firsthand knowledge of his sworn testimony.

....Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald apparently learned about the June 23 conversation for the first time just days ago, after attorneys for Miller and The New York Times informed prosecutors that Miller had discovered a set of notes on the conversation.

Let's assume this conversation is actually "crucial," as Waas says. After all, if it's just a random loose end or a bit of extra confirmation for something Fitzgerald already knows, then there's not much point in worrying about it. So let's stipulate that something meaningful is going on here.

If that's the case, it could mean one of two things. Option 1: it's crucial because the conversation in June is a smoking gun that provides Fitzgerald the evidence he needs to hand down indictments. Option 2: the content of the conversation itself isn't important. What's crucial is that no one mentioned it in their previous testimony, and that means Fitzgerald now has a potential perjury rap he can use as leverage to coerce additional testimony out of Libby (or possibly Miller).

Do you see the problem here? Both of these options imply that Fitzgerald doesn't yet have much of a case. Either he needs testimony about the June conversation which he only learned about "days ago" because after two years of investigation it's his best hope of proving that someone leaked Plame's name, or else he needs it in order to browbeat testimony about the leak from someone else. Or worse, it means he's given up on the leak and is trying to construct perjury or obstruction of justice charges that he thinks he can make stick instead.

This is pretty fact-free speculation, so don't take it too seriously. But I sure hope this stuff is just another nail in the coffin, not genuinely crucial testimony. I'd hate to think that after two years Fitzgerald is still struggling to make a case.

UPDATE: The Huffington Post says without attribution that "The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg are working on stories that point to Vice President Dick Cheney as the target of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leaking of CIA operative Valerie Plame's name."

That would definitely count as "another nail in the coffin".....

Kevin Drum 7:49 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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