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Tilting at Windmills

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January 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE FLEISCHER FILES....So why did Ari Fleischer agree to spill his guts in the Scooter Libby trial in return for immunity from prosecution? Slate's Seth Stevenson reports from the courtroom:

Turns out Fleischer saw a story in the Washington Post suggesting that anyone who revealed Valerie Plame's identity might be subject to the death penalty. And he freaked.

Which just goes to show: sometimes inaccurate reporting has its uses. Monday should be fun.

UPDATE: Swopa corrects the record here. Fleischer may have freaked, he says, but probably not over the prospect of getting the chair.

Kevin Drum 2:08 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (50)

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Get all the latest Libby trial news, legal documents, timelines and other essential materials at:
"The CIA Leak/PlameGate Resource Center."

Posted by: AngryOne on January 27, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

You don't go to trial with the scared deal-makers you want, you go to trial with the scared deal-makers you have.

Posted by: Spirit on January 27, 2007 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Sure explains why Ari left the WH so quickly after Plame/Wilson was outed.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 27, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

The Plameologists, if you will, are in their last throes.

Any intimation to the contrary is hogwash.

Posted by: gregor on January 27, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

"The Plameologists, if you will, are in their last throes."

More like full bloom.

Posted by: Cal Gal on January 27, 2007 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Timmmeh!

You have to admit that it was pure genius to hire this guy as press secretary in the first place.

Posted by: B on January 27, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you are missing the biggest story coming out of the Libby trial, and that is that Dick Cheney committed treason by willfully disclosing or orchestrating the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters for political reasons.

The Democrats in Congress should be using this testimony to draft Articles of Impeachment to bring against Cheney as soon as the Libby trial is over.


FROM THE ARTICLE:

"...a former aide testified Thursday that Cheney personally directed the effort to discredit an administration critic by having calls made to reporters in 2003.

Cheney dictated detailed "talking points" for his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and others on how they could impugn the critic's credibility, said Catherine J. Martin, who was the vice president's top press aide at the time.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 27, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

"The liberal media strikes again."

Posted by: josef on January 27, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Had this stuff been revealed in 2004, Bush would not currently be president.

That is all.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 27, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

Ari always seemed to me to be more of an opportunist than a true believer. Sort of like the technocrats who helped the German trains run on time in the 1940s, but didn’t want to know what was in the box cars.

Having two very young children, I am sure that very large beads of sweat broke out on his overly large forehead when he considered the possibility of jail time and personal bankruptcy that could result from the Plame investigation. This determined rat saved himself.

Posted by: Keith G on January 27, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dick Cheney committed treason by willfully disclosing or orchestrating the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity to reporters for political reasons.

Treason is a very specific charge according to the US Constitution (Article III, Section 3). I think throwing around treason charges without backing erodes the charge.

Betrayed the US? Betrayed his position? Yes, yes.

Committed treason? Be prepared to back up this allegation by naming the enemies to which Cheney gave aid and comfort, and two witnesses to an overt act.

Posted by: Wapiti on January 27, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Plame - was - not - covert.

No - law - was - broken.

Except the laws against misuse of authority for political purposes.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on January 27, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

What about lieing under oath? Is that against the law?

Posted by: Tripp on January 27, 2007 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Wapiti:

In the Scooter Libby trial on Friday, the CIA briefer who was responsible for VP Cheney’s daily briefings warned both Cheney and Libby that leaking Valerie Plame’s identity could cause several agents to be subject to “imprisonment, torture and death”.

The CIA front company that Plame worked for, Brewster-Jennings posed as an energy consulting firm and Plame’s outing could and likely did, cause several CIA agents to die or be nullified in their quest to identify WMDs.

If that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is. As far as two witnesses, just wait for the Libby trial to play out – there will be more than two witnesses soon to Cheney’s treason.

Peace.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 27, 2007 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Why did Ari Fleischer quit this administration?

I've always thought it was because this administration scared the bejeebus out of Ari.

This all has me wondering if Ari will drop a bombshell on Monday or if he'll simply try and resort to his usually spokensman tatics? Not that Patrick will entertain one minute of idle talk. But since Patrick allowed for immunity for Ari Fleischer, wouldn't that suggest that Patrick is looking for bigger fish to fry than Libby? After all isn't libby like Ari - simply a Bush foot-soldier.

It looks to me like Libby is the bait and Patrick is out to get the kingpin, Mr. Dick Cheney. Patrick is a Mafia/mob prosecutor appointed by a Republican congessmember, someone that don't like the mob like control of the Whitehouse. Wish we had TV's in courtroom. Can't wait till Cheney takes the stand. It would certainly be interesting to Patrick Fitz's calculated stealth in action. I'm sure Cheney will get nasty, and lose it. Something ugly this way comes.

Posted by: Cheryl on January 27, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Which just goes to show you: Sometimes the death penalty has its uses.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on January 27, 2007 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

What about lieing under oath? Is that against the law?

not if you're a Republican

Posted by: cleek on January 27, 2007 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a little confused - can someone spell this out for me?

The defense thought it could go before the jury and claim Ari sought complete immunity before changing his testimony. This might make him look guilty, or shift the jury's suspicions from Cheney/Libby to Ari, or drown the jury in obfuscations and lies and dissembling with no hope for a discernable truth.

But only if Ari's motives for changing his testimony remain a secret - and there's no reason to believe they will. Once it is known he fears the death penalty, it looks like he had been covering for Cheney/Libby but now fears for his own life and will come clean.

So I have three questions:
1) Why did the defense try this? It seems dumb.
2) Is the defense committed to calling Ari back to the stand now that Fitz has nipped their psych-game?
3) If Ari truly feared for his life, what does this mean in terms of pardon post-trial? Who cares what the penalty is if Bush can pardon people if/when things start to look bad? Is Ari afraid the defense's tactic is to stall, precluding Bush from pardoning everyone?

Posted by: A different Matt on January 27, 2007 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

I remember listening to Mike Savage one night (entertaining but like listening to fingernails on a chalk board....) Mike said that David Letterman should be arrested for treason. Why? Letterman had Al Franken on, who was just reminding listeners that according to harsh laws promulgated by conservatives (when they think it won't apply to them), Karl Rove could be perhaps executed for blowing Valerie Plame's CIA cover. The irony of the hypocrisy uncovered there went right over Mike's hysterical mean old head. (I think he considered Franken himself too far gone or bad to even count for having legal process applied to him, as the person who actually said it.)

I sure hope this trial blows a lot of things wide open, regardless of how truly undercover Plame really was etc. (the endless diversion of the Republican apologist who would be screaming for heads to roll if roles were reversed...)

Posted by: Neil B. on January 27, 2007 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Can you see Ari Fleischer sharing cells with Bubba?

Posted by: TruthProbe on January 27, 2007 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, does that mean the troops at Guantanamo can use innacurate reporting to get info from the terrorists?

Posted by: Frequency Kenneth on January 27, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

FreqK: Yes.

It is a common interrogation tactic to print up a newspaper that is specifically for the eyes of the interrogated. "Look at this. You may as well tell what we already know to save your own neck."

I have no problem with that tactic. Waterboarding and extremes of temperature and tactics that lead to death, I do.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on January 27, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Wasn't Ari the one carrying that memo around during the infamous Air Force One flight? Can't wait for Monday's testimony.

Posted by: pgl on January 27, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Barbara Comstock can't be too happy so far.

Posted by: R.L. on January 27, 2007 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Take some credit: Kevin Drum--you had a cite on firedoglake back on 10/28/05, namely that Patrick Fitzgerald might be contemplating investigating the leak itself.

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 27, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

You don't agree to take immunity, they give it to you and you talk, or go to jail.

Posted by: scout on January 27, 2007 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

True or crap:


PELOSI: He's tried this two times — it's failed twice. I asked him at the White House, 'Mr. President, why do you think this time it's going to work?'

BUSH: Because I told them it had to.

PELOSI: Why didn't you tell them that the other two times?

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on January 27, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

I usually am not eager for revenge, but I would love to see AF sweat it out a bit on the stand, just to wipe that shit-eating, purse-lipped, smarmy expression off his mug.

Posted by: ESaund on January 27, 2007 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Walter E. Wallis: Plame - was - not - covert....No - law - was - broken....Except the laws against misuse of authority for political purposes.

Washington Post, Sunday, September 28, 2003; Page A01 [Emphasis added]:

At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.
The operative's identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush's claim that Iraq had tried to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.
The intentional disclosure of a covert operative's identity is a violation of federal law....
....Administration officials said Tenet sent a memo to the Justice Department raising a series of questions about whether a leaker had broken federal law by disclosing the identity of an undercover officer.

Washington Post, Friday, October 28, 2005, [Fitzgerald speaking]:

...the damage wasn't to one person. It wasn't just Valerie Wilson. It was done to all of us.
And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. Cooper? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?
....Or did they intend to do something else and where are the shades of gray?
And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view....
...So what you were saying is the harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.
I also want to take away from the notion that somehow we should take an obstruction charge less seriously than a leak charge.
This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter. But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important. We need to know the truth. And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.
Got it? If you don't get it, keep watching the trial. I suspect Ari Fleischer's testimony, in addition to Cathie Martin's, will make it very clear...and if not, then soon.

Cheney's lawyers must be sweating bullets.

And with regard to Ari Fleischer, remember the subpoena for the missing press gaggle transcript at the National Hospital in Abuja, Nigeria, July 12?

That transcript is missing from the White House Web site containing transcripts of other press briefings. In a transcript the White House released at the time to Federal News Service, Fleischer discusses Wilson and his CIA report.
Monday ought to be interesting.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 27, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Turns out Fleischer saw a story in the Washington Post suggesting that anyone who revealed Valerie Plame's identity might be subject to the death penalty.

I'll be very disappointed if it turns out this isn't true.

Though why would Cheney be so afraid of being found out? After all, he's already dead.

Posted by: craigie on January 27, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

conservative deflator:

um, Mark Madsen to the contrary (and he is your eventual source for your assertion), Brewster Jennings had no other agents...it was a nominal cover set up for Valerie Wilson only.

http://www.boston.com/business/globe/articles/2003/10/10/apparent_cia_front_didnt_offer_much_cover/

Posted by: Nathan on January 27, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

gregor: "The Plameologists, if you will, are in their last throes."

Just like those pesky Iraqi insurgents.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 27, 2007 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Firedoglake, which has the best overall coverage of the Libby trial bar none, says this is a big exaggeration. Might check some of the latest posts over there for more info.

Posted by: moe99 on January 27, 2007 at 7:33 PM | PERMALINK

Walter E. Wallis: "Plame - was - not - covert. No - law - was - broken."

Oh - yes - she - was.

The - CIA - Director - would - never - have - referred - the - case - to - the - Justice - Department - for- investigation - if - she - wasn't.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on January 27, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Journalist Ron Suskind--as told by a white house aide speaking of the Bush/Cheney White House: That's not how the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
Dick Cheney: "Bottom line is that we had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes."
George W Bush, in response to Nancy Pelosi, who asked, Mr. President, "Why do you think this is going to work?" (the surge/escalation)

Bush: "Because I told them it had to."

Cognitive dissonance, as we say in the business.

Something I came upon, as the administration says we are to train Iraqi forces:

Youtube.com/profile?user=SharingRaw+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted by: cohsider wisely most of the time on January 27, 2007 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing in Nathan's link backs up his grand assertion that "Brewster Jennings had no other agents...it was a nominal cover set up for Valerie Wilson only"

Which rather explains why he didnt quote the relevant portion of the article.

Posted by: heavy on January 27, 2007 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

A company like Brewster Jennings could be used in a thousand ways to back up the cover story of agency operatives, providing credentials, or a letter, or a business reference, or sponsoring gatherings of some kind.

Outing it might have endangered dozens of people and wrecked as many more programs.

Posted by: cld on January 27, 2007 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK

I will have my pound of Fleischer. Is dearly bought.

Posted by: neomole on January 27, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously Walter knows more than the CIA director.

Posted by: merlallen on January 28, 2007 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

Nathan:

If Valerie Plame had been outed by a Democrat, would you be arguing the same way? Set aside your blind partisanship for a second and ask yourself whether outing a CIA agent who is working to identify movements of materials to build WMDs while we are in the middle of a so-called "war on terror" is a smart move? See my point? What Cheney, Bush and Libby did to Valerie Plame/Wilson and her husband was an unconscionable abuse of power and put American lives in grave danger. This is clearly a high crime and impeachment is the only Constitutional remedy.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 28, 2007 at 7:31 AM | PERMALINK

Armitage.
Nuff said.

Oh for the days of calling the special prosecutor "out of control" and "On a mission to destroy a president."

Only a Democrat can actually be caught ON TAPE lying under oath and get away with it.

Against Republicans it is the "seriousness of the charge."

Ari worried about the death pentalty when Wilson outed his own wife? Do you know how stupid that sounds Kevin?

Posted by: Orwell on January 28, 2007 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, Nathan? Revealing Plame and Brewster Jennings would also have been likely to reveal any *sources* Plame had. You know, people she'd talked to who knew things about WMDs?

Now think about Plame's sources. Anyone who knew something about WMDs that she so much as had lunch with is at best suspect and at worst dead.

Now think about other people who might want to talk to us about WMDs. Plame was revealed over an op-ed. Who in their right mind would talk to one of her former colleagues if they could be revealed so easily?

Posted by: mwg on January 28, 2007 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

Orwell: Ari worried about the death pentalty when Wilson outed his own wife? Do you know how stupid that sounds Kevin.

Do you know how stupid your remarks sound... that Joe Wilson outed his wife? Nah, that would require the acceptance of something other than a partisan talking point.

Nathan: um, Mark Madsen to the contrary (and he is your eventual source for your assertion), Brewster Jennings had no other agents...it was a nominal cover set up for Valerie Wilson only.

How do you of all people know?

Read what a former CIA agent who trained with Valerie said. Jim Marcinkowski was a covert CIA agent who spied in Central America in the 1980s. Like all recruits, he was sent to the agency’s top-secret training facility in Virginia known simply as “the farm.” That's where he met Valerie P. From CBSNews 60 Minutes, Oct. 30, 2005:

In recent years, she told people she worked at an energy consulting firm called “Brewster-Jennings & Associates.” ...
...Even though the business directory Dun & Bradstreet had a listing for the firm in a Boston office building, Brewster-Jennings & Associates was a CIA fiction, created to provide cover for agents like Valerie Plame.
The problem, says Marcinkowski, is that exposing Brewster-Jennings could lead foreign intelligence agencies to other spies. “There is a possibility that there were other agents that would use that same kind of a cover. So they may have been using Brewster-Jennings just like her.”
Valerie Plame was also exposed as a “NOC,” an agent working under non-official cover. That means she wasn’t attached to a U.S. Embassy or any other government agency when she worked overseas, which would have provided her protection if she was caught spying. In other words, she had no diplomatic immunity.
Working overseas as an NOC, without official cover, was a dangerous assignment, says Marcinkowski. “With diplomatic immunity, the worst that can happen is you get kicked out of the country. You don't have that kind of a protection when you're a NOC. You're out there, what they would call naked.”
“Out there” like Hugh Redmond, a NOC who was caught spying in Shanghai in 1951 and died after 19 years in a Chinese prison. To this day, the CIA denies he was an agent.
But Novak and the WH leakers took away the CIA's ability to keep national security secrets safe. Bah!

You know what makes the outing of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative so egregious especially today? The current situation with Iran:

Valerie's identity was exposed by Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and others in Bush Administration in the summer of 2003 while she was doing undercover work to monitor, detect, and interdict nuclear technology going to Iran.  Larisa Alexandrovna broke the story on Raw Story in February 2006.  David Shuster confirmed the report on Hardball on 2 May 2006:
While the heart of the CIA leak investigation is the Bush administration`s aggressive defense of the WMD case for war in Iraq, there is new evidence now the defense may have undermined intelligence efforts on Iran.The key player in the CIA leak story is Valerie Wilson, a CIA operative whose identity was outed by White House officials. As MSNBC first reporter yesterday, Wilson was not just undercover but, according to intelligence sources, was part of an effort three years ago [in 2003] to monitor the proliferation of nuclear weapons material into Iran.
So, the Republicans want to whine about inadequate intelligence on Iran's nuclear program while holding fund raisers for Scooter Libby, one of the men implicated in the leak of Valerie's classified identity?  Excuse me? The leak did more than ruin Val's ability to continue working as an undercover CIA officer.  The leak destroyed a U.S. intelligence program to collect information about Iran's efforts to get nuclear weapons material.
More at the link...

I am sick to death of know-nothings who minimize or blatantly lie about Plame's covert status and discount the serious damage done by Bush WH leakers. As Fitzgerald said, "...compromising national security information is a very serious matter."

This Repub presidency knows little about "[restoring] decency and integrity to the Oval Office," a promise that Dick Cheney proffered of George W. Bush during his GOP acceptance speech in 2000.

What a joke.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 28, 2007 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Apollo 13:

The right-wing noise machine has been spreading so much disinformation and misinformation about the Valerie Plame affair that knuckleheads like Orwell believe all of these lies about Wilson outing his own wife or that he lied to undercut the Iraq war effort, etc. All manner of stupid, unfounded lies are out there. This is a good example of how the right-wing controlled media
can manipulate the truth and get gullible ying-yangs like Orwell to buy into it.

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 28, 2007 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

So true, TCD. But we're not gonna let them get away with spreading propaganda and misinformation.

Monday is going to be interesting. Check in at firedoglake.com for insights into Fleischer's "Queen for a Day" immunity.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 28, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Obviously Walter knows more than the CIA director.

Posted by: merlallen on January 28, 2007 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

Who ya' gonna believe...? Egbert or those dirty hippies from the CIA.

Posted by: SPROCKET on January 28, 2007 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

Man, I hope for the Bush WH that nothing important transpires when Ari hits the stand.

Imagine if Bush took a big plunge in his poll numbers!

OK, I can't keep a straight face anymore. He he he he.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 28, 2007 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

Apollo 123:

Good advice. I will be scanning firedoglake.com on Monday. See ya there!

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 28, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Imagine if Bush took a big plunge in his poll numbers!"

We kid, but nothing seems to make a difference to these gangsters. They are always in a panic, whether they are winning or losing. And obfuscation is their middle name—even if the preznit can't say it.

Posted by: Kenji on January 28, 2007 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Apollo 13 >"...I am sick to death of know-nothings who minimize or blatantly lie about Plame's covert status and discount the serious damage done..."

They know EXACTLY that which they do & why. These are NOT "know-nothings" but paid (in one of many ways) stooges that hate. They are shallow shells of beings, propped up by their evil emotions & little else. Should their emotional escapades be short circuited, they would shrivel up and blow away like the dust they are made of.

DO NOT give them the benefit of any doubts as their carefully crafted nightmare comes crashing down around our ears. Healing the wounds they have created needs our energy focus.

The Temple of Doom is collapsing onto itself. Beware the flying debris.

"Liars are usually easily discredited; it's the truth-tellers who need to be destroyed." - Joshua Marshall

Posted by: daCascadian on January 29, 2007 at 2:12 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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