Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Lawyers Report
By DAVID JOHNSTON, RICHARD W. STEVENSON and DOUGLAS JEHL
Published: October 25, 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 - I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.
The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.
Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.
Mr. Libby's notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson's undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent's identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent's undercover status.
I'm less focused on the facts here, that Cheney told Libby. That's almost a given anyway. I'm focused on how this document and more importantly, why it, got out.
Who does this protect?
A couple of thoughts:
1) Judith Miller - Perhaps in an attempt to salvage her job (or even get kicked upstairs...could you imagine the ruckus if she tried to return to her desk?), Miller obtained and provided for the editors at the Times a copy of Libby's notes. Plausible, plus it allows Libby to raise the argument that since Cheney talked about Plame's identity, he could assume it was not covert. Plausible.
2) Dick Cheney - Not the most likely suspect for the leak, but there are reasons to believe it might be him. For one thing, the notes trace the leak back to George Tenet, who is already out of the administration (after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, no less!). Thus, Cheney could lay claim that he was not warned by Tenet that Plame was NOC. Which is kind of silly, since Cheney and Tenet are free to discuss anyone in government and it would become incumbent on the VP to discern whether she was NOC or not prior to disclosing it to Libby, in order to warn him not to tell anyone. I mark this one "not likely". Similarly, President Bush himself could have directed the leak of the notes, for similar reasons. Less likely.
Further on in the story, there's this speculation:
The former (senior intelligence) official said he strongly doubted that the White House learned about Ms. Wilson from Mr. Tenet.My guess? Colin Powell.
3) "Lawyers involved in the case" are cited as the source of the leak, however, that could mean anyone up to Harriet Miers (presumably, as White House Counsel, she is still both a lawyer and involved in the case). However, it is not clear that these are lawyers for the suspects or for the Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. However, Fitzgerald has been unusually circumspect in his prosecution of this case, opting to play his cards close to the vest, so it's not very likely he'd allow this to be leaked. But...
If he is establishing the case that Libby and/or Karl Rove were the source of the leak, and, as rumour suggests, he will name at least one unindicted co-conspirator, and he's seen the effectiveness of the right wing whitewash machine in action, it's conceivable that, in order to get out ahead of the story as it unfolds, he let these notes loose in order to lay down some suppressing fire while he prepares his final document. Sort of an executive summary of the substantiation of his charges. Mark this one "possible".
Interesting footnote: Dick Cheney's bloodline can be traced back to the Battle of Hastings and his ancestor, Ralph de Chesney, Sire of Quesnay.
Meaning he's actually....French!