Just Above Sunset
October 30, 2005 - Tuesday Indictment Rumors, For the Record (and "The Italian Job")

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This is where the CIA leak scandal rumors stood, Tuesday, October 25, 2005, as the sun was setting over the Pacific out here.


Consider it an historic record – and decide who was right and wrong.

Note late the week before, Friday, the 21st, in "Find Law," there was this from the famous John Dean of Watergate fame –


It is difficult to envision Patrick Fitzgerald prosecuting anyone, particularly Vice President Dick Cheney, who believed they were acting for reasons of national security. While hindsight may find their judgment was wrong, and there is no question their tactics were very heavy-handed and dangerous, I am not certain that they were acting from other than what they believed to be reasons of national security. They were selling a war they felt needed to be undertaken.

In short, I cannot imagine any of them being indicted, unless they were acting for reasons other than national security. Because national security is such a gray area of the law, come next week, I can see this entire investigation coming to a remarkable anti-climax, as Fitzgerald closes down his Washington office and returns to Chicago.


But late Tuesday, October 25th, Steve Clemons was reporting this from a an "über-insider source" in "The Washington Note" –


• 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.
• The targets of indictment have already received their letters.
• The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.
• A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.


And on the CBS Evening News there was John Roberts saying this


Lawyers familiar with the case think Wednesday is when special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will make known his decision, and that there will be indictments. Supporters say Rove and the vice president's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, are in legal jeopardy. But they insisted today the two are secondary players, that it was an unidentified Mr. X who actually gave the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame to reporters. Fitzgerald knows who Mr. X is, they say, and if he isn't indicted, there's no way Rove or Libby should be. But charges may not focus on the leak at all. Obstruction of justice or perjury are real possibilities. Did Rove or Libby change statements made under oath? Did they deliberately leave critical facts out of their testimony or did they honestly forget? Some Republicans urged Rove to step down if indicted. Not a happy prospect for president Bush.


No kidding, and not at all helped by the New York Times front page story, upper-right, above the fold, that reported this - it was CIA director George Tenet who originally told Dick Cheney that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked at the CIA. Cheney then passed this along to Scooter Libby, who passed it on to Judith Miller.

Scooter Libby seems to have testified he heard the name from a reporter, but his own notes show otherwise. Oops. Dick told him, and they discussed "press strategy" of all things. And for twenty-eight months Cheney has been saying he knows nothing about this Wilson fellow - never met him, never heard of him, didn't ask him to take any trip, never saw any report. Well, the last two seem to be true. Ah well, he said all these things to the public, not under oath. No crime there. And one sees here that MSNBC correspondent David Shuster reported that Tenet denies he told Cheney anything - he didn't tell Cheney or anyone in Cheney's office about Wilson, nor was he asked about this by investigators two years ago. Tenet is not playing along, or he's ticked that he actually did tell these fools about the woman and then they went and exposed one of his key covert agents. Well, that could be one reason the CIA pressed for this investigation in the first place. Tenet was mad at Cheney?

Well, the rumors were flying. And Kevin Drum here is bothered that the indictments will be sealed: "Steve's source confirms my worst fears: Fitzgerald will be handing down sealed indictments. If that's true, it means we won't be any wiser tomorrow than we are today. All we'll have is some names and some charges, but no evidence."

Oh well.  We all saw how it came out.  John Dean was wrong.



The Italian Connection


This thing will become more important.


All over the wires Tuesday was the Italian connection, reported in the most detail here by Laura Rosen.

What Italian connection?


With Patrick Fitzgerald widely expected to announce indictments in the CIA leak investigation, questions are again being raised about the intelligence scandal that led to the appointment of the special counsel: namely, how the Bush White House obtained false Italian intelligence reports claiming that Iraq had tried to buy uranium "yellowcake" from Niger.

The key documents supposedly proving the Iraqi attempt later turned out to be crude forgeries, created on official stationery stolen from the African nation's Rome embassy. Among the most tantalizing aspects of the debate over the Iraq War is the origin of those fake documents - and the role of the Italian intelligence services in disseminating them.

In an explosive series of articles appearing this week in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, investigative reporters Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d'Avanzo report that Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, known as Sismi, brought the Niger yellowcake story directly to the White House after his insistent overtures had been rejected by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2001 and 2002. Sismi had reported to the CIA on October 15, 2001, that Iraq had sought yellowcake in Niger, a report it also plied on British intelligence, creating an echo that the Niger forgeries themselves purported to amplify before they were exposed as a hoax.


You can click on her link and read it all, in Italian, or read her summary, which has been confirmed as accurate all over the place.

The whole "he's buying uranium in Africa" thing rests on these documents, forged by the Italian military intelligence service on letterhead they stole from the Niger embassy in Rome.


The government of Silvio Berlusconi was helping out George.  Sure they were crude - wrong names, wrong dates - but they tried.

The problem was they shopped them to our CIA and then our State Department, and both said, "No thanks, these are forgeries."  The IAEA said the same, at the UN, as you recall.  They shopped them to the British government.  Same thing, but Bush got to say in his speech explaining the threat, "the British have learned that?"  He just didn't mention they didn't believe what they had been told.

And the best twist to this all is what was reported in the Tuesday, October 25th article in the Italian paper - on September 9, 2002, this Nicolo Pollari, chief of Italy's military intelligence service, met with Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.  National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones has confirmed the meeting.  Of course now this fellow has been bumped up a notch - he's now Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, not just a lowly deputy.

The big deal?  Hadley apparently bypassed State and the CIA and took the documents to the White House, directly to the National Security Council, chaired by the National Security Advisor then, Condoleezza Rice, with Vice President Cheney on her right at the table.


So Rosen asks the obvious question - "Was the White House convinced that the Niger yellowcake report was nevertheless true because the National Security Council was getting its information directly from the Italian source?"

Well, that would explain a lot.  They never trusted the CIA, as has been widely discussed.  The State Department also had been cut out of all discussion and planning, as diplomacy was scorned and Rumsfeld had the most say on any relations we still had with countries that would still deal with us - Secretary of State Powell had been effectively neutered.  The hawks knew better.  And now they had the REAL scoop on Saddam.

And then Wilson was making sounds that this was all bullshit, and then went public in the New York Times.

Patrick Fitzgerald subpoenaed the source Italian documents, and not in their redacted form with names and dates removed.


Perhaps he's investigating motive here?

These guys didn't want to be caught telling us we all could be dead in a radioactive crater if we didn't take out Saddam and his government right now, using evidence they knew was bullshit, provided by one of our few allies in the endeavor, and, if you are conspiracy-minded, evidence that was created to our specifications.

There was a motive to whack Wilson and his wife.

And maybe they'd find something in Iraq to make it all work out.

Didn't happen.  Had to admit the sixteen words were a mistake

Rosen adds this –


Although Berlusconi's government clearly sought deniability while pushing the Niger uranium claims, the Bush White House went still further by trying to blame its citation of exaggerated and discredited Iraq WMD claims on the CIA, the very same agency that consistently discounted the Niger claims. The White House's war on the CIA and on the Wilsons - the extent of which has been revealed in recent news reports emerging from the Fitzgerald investigation - has always had an excessive and almost hysterical quality. Why was the White House so worked up over Wilson and the Niger hoax, when there was so much evidence that the administration had based its drive for war on claims that were so thoroughly discredited from top to bottom? Why did Wilson and his CIA wife become the primary targets, when Wilson was hardly alone in pointing out that the White House should have known better about the Niger claims?


Rosen suggests this Hadley meeting with the Italian dude and his subsequently trotting back to the White House with "direct evidence" - bypassing the intelligence services of the CIA and State Department - was something no one was supposed to find out.

Wilson may have been coming too close.

Ah, does it matter now?


We're there. We got our war.


Berlusconi is flying in to meet with Bush and the 31st – he's already denied his government has anything to do with this.


But the story won't go away.  The major papers finally picked it up late in the week.  Perhaps George and Silvio shouldn't do the usual joint press conference.


People will ask about this.





The context of all this can be seen in this, Tuesday, from CNN, Poll: Bush would lose an election if held this year


A majority would vote for a Democrat over President Bush if an election were held this year, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

In the latest poll, 55 percent of the respondents said that they would vote for the Democratic candidate if Bush were again running for the presidency this year.

Thirty-nine percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Bush in the hypothetical election...


Things are not going well at the White House.

But then if not Bush, who?

You could ask those on the right, as even they are not too happy with all this. And someone did, polling the web logs on the right, asking who should "rule the world."

The results are amusing:


15) Paul Wolfowitz: Former US Deputy Secretary of Defense. World Bank President (4)
15) Arnold Schwarzenegger: Governor of California (4)
15) Rush Limbaugh: Talk radio host (4)
15) Junichiro Koizumi: Prime Minister of Japan (4)
15) Christopher Hitchens: Pundit (4)
15) Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft (4)
15) Tommy Franks: Former US General (4)
15) Dick Cheney: US Vice President (4)
15) George W. Bush: US President (4)
15) Tony Blair: British Prime Minister (4)
12) Donald Rumsfeld: US Secretary of Defense (5)
12) Václav Havel: Former President of Czechoslovakia (5)
12) Pope Benedict XVI: Pope (5)
10) Mark Steyn: Pundit (6)
10) Victor Davis Hanson: Pundit (6)
7) Thomas Sowell: Pundit (7)
7) Antonin Scalia: US Supreme Court Justice (7)
7) Ann Coulter: Pundit (7)
4) Natan Sharansky: Soviet dissident, former Israeli cabinet member (8)
4) Rudy Giuliani: Former Mayor of New York City (8)
4) Milton Friedman: Economist (8)
2) Margaret Thatcher: Former British Prime Minister (10)
2) John Howard: Australian Prime Minister (10)
1) Condoleezza Rice: US Secretary of State (14)


Note Bush is in the middle of the list, with Cheney. It is odd that Václav Havel is there, as he's a friend of Bill Clinton and a fan of the late Frank Zappa.


And Margaret Thatcher just turned eighty she's probably not up to ruling the world.

This was, by the way, inspired by a BBC poll that gave these results on the question of who should rule the world.


1 - Nelson Mandela
2 - Bill Clinton
3 - Dalai Lama
4 - Noam Chomsky
5 - Alan Greenspan
6 - Bill Gates
7 - Steve Jobs
8 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu
9 - Richard Branson
10 - George Soros
11 - Kofi Annan


Bill Gates on both lists? Yipes!

Well, the president was probably hoping hoping John Dean was right and Patrick Fitzgerald was going to fold up his tent and go back to Chicago, indicting no one and saying nothing at all. 

But it was too late.

Bruce Bartlett in TOWNHALL, the news service of the right, has this to say:


The truth that is now dawning on many movement conservatives is that George W. Bush is not one of them and never has been. They were allies for a long time, to be sure, and conservatives used Bush just as he used them. But it now appears that they are headed for divorce. And as with all divorces, the ultimate cause was not the final incident, but the buildup of grievances over a long period that one day could no longer be overlooked, contained or smoothed over.

... George W. Bush has never demonstrated any interest in shrinking the size of government. And on many occasions, he has increased government significantly. Yet if there is anything that defines conservatism in America, it is hostility to government expansion. The idea of big government conservatism, a term often used to describe Bush's philosophy, is a contradiction in terms.

Conservative intellectuals have known this for a long time, but looked the other way for various reasons. Some thought the war on terror trumped every other issue. If a few billion dollars had to be wasted to buy the votes needed to win the war, then so be it, many conservatives have argued. Others say that Bush never ran as a conservative in the first place, so there is no betrayal here, only a failure by conservatives to see what he has been all along.


As Ryan Lizza, the senior editor of The National Review explains it here


... the real split ... is between conservatives who worship Bush and those who worship conservatism. One camp believes in the infallibility of the president. The other camp believes the evidence before them.

... In 2001, conservatives were deeply frustrated by low-level Bush heresies like the education bill. Then, September 11 silenced all dissent. In 2002, things got worse: An enormous agriculture bill, steel tariffs, a bloated budget, and a campaign finance bill that Bush once argued was unconstitutional. (Bartlett goes so far as to say Bush "violated his oath of office" by signing it.) Then, the Iraq war silenced all dissent. Next came the Medicare prescription-drug bill, which simultaneously funneled money to the pharmaceutical industry, expanded government more than any entitlement since LBJ, and violated the traditions, if not rules, of the House when the vote on the bill was held open for nearly three hours while conservative Republicans were bullied into reversing their no votes.

Absent a new war or domestic enemy like Kerry, Bush was suddenly exposed to the whole world, including the conservative movement, as a less-than-great president. Social Security reform fizzled. Bush signed an outrageously pork-laden transportation bill. He vacationed while New Orleans drowned.


And so on and so forth.

Patrick Fitzgerald folding up his tent and going back to Chicago, indicting no one and saying nothing at all, if it has happened, wouldn't have fixed any of this.

Tuesday, October 25 -

Good News: Iraq's Constitution Adopted by Voters
Bad News: US death toll in Iraq reaches 2,000
Sad News: Rosa Parks dies at 92 in her Detroit home

On the last item, this


Okay, sure, you can admire Rosa Parks for sparking an idealistic, peaceful movement for racial equality if you want to. Mostly, we like her because she was pissed. Anger is an important part of successful activism and it's rare that it's so legitimately righteous. Activists these days tend to make statements by voluntarily putting themselves in positions that lack dignity - giant puppet costumes; Michael Moore films; Crawford, Texas - here's the woman who made history by keeping hers.


There's not a lot of dignity going around these days.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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