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Bush Authorized Libby NIE Release to Press


From left to right:  Stephen Hadley, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney, George Bush. 

The latest filing in the Libby case is a doozy, according to the NYSun this morning.  If Libby was being truthful in his testimony about this, and if Cheney wasn’t misleading him in his assertion that President Bush authorized Libby to leak selected portions of the NIE to the press (specifically Judy Miller), then I think we’ve discovered a very good reason for Fitz to have met with the President’s attorney just prior to Libby’s indictment.

But that’s the least of the revelation’s implications:

A former White House aide under indictment for obstructing a leak probe, I. Lewis Libby, testified to a grand jury that he gave information from a closely-guarded "National Intelligence Estimate" on Iraq to a New York Times reporter in 2003 with the specific permission of President Bush, according to a new court filing from the special prosecutor in the case.

The court papers from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, do not suggest that Mr. Bush violated any law or rule. However, the new disclosure could be awkward for the president because it places him, for the first time, directly in a chain of events that led to a meeting where prosecutors contend the identity of a CIA employee, Valerie Plame, was provided to a reporter.

Which begs the question, what sort of follow-up permission may have been sought from President Bush when Libby’s first disclosure to Judy Miller of the selective release of parts of the NIE didn’t bear fruit in the attempt to discredit Wilson and undercut the Administration’s critics? Or was the permission to out Valerie Plame Wilson already an implicit part of the effort? How intimately involved in all of this was Dick Cheney?

In a court filing late Wednesday responding to requests from Mr. Libby’s attorneys for government records that might aid his defense, Mr. Fitzgerald shed new light on Mr. Libby’s claims that he was authorized to provide sensitive information to the Times reporter, Judith Miller, at a meeting on July 8, 2003.

"Defendant testified that he was specifically authorized in advance of the meeting to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller on that occasion because it was thought that the NIE was ‘pretty definitive’ against what Ambassador Wilson had said and that the vice president thought that it was ‘very important’ for the key judgments of the NIE to come out," Mr. Fitzgerald wrote.

Mr. Libby is said to have testified that "at first" he rebuffed Mr. Cheney’s suggestion to release the information because the estimate was classified. However, according to the vice presidential aide, Mr. Cheney subsequently said he got permission for the release directly from Mr. Bush. "Defendant testified that the vice president later advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE," the prosecution filing said.

If you were Pat Fitzgerald, wouldn’t you want to check directly with George Bush’s lawyer to see if Cheney were telling the truth to Libby at that point — or if he was taking things into his own hands and giving the color of permission from the President that Bush had not, in fact, given with regard to the selective leaking of the NIE? I sure would.

And it sure does bring the interview with Fox News after Dick Cheney shot the old man in the face into a sharper focus, doesn’t it?

In an interview with Fox News in February, Mr. Cheney, who has a reputation for secrecy, acknowledged that he has sometimes pressed for the official release of classified records.

"I’ve certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions," he said.

Asked if he had ever "unilaterally" declassified material, Mr. Cheney replied, "I don’t want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president."

Talk about things that make you go "hmmmmm."

The whole Sun article is an intriguing read, and thankfully there is a pdf attached of the actual government filing (Pacer was being very uncooperative for me this morning — thank you to reader libopinion for pointing out the pdf.  Much appreciated!)  While I take a read through the whole filing, I thought everyone would like a read of the Sun article. 

And while you are at it — take a peek at this from Jeralyn regarding the Insight Mag article on who "Official One" might be.  This article has "Babs Comstock plant" written all over it, but the question is, why? 

I’m with Jeralyn on this — what does Team Libby have in store for Armitage and Powell in terms of payback?  You know they have something in pocket, or they wouldn’t bring them up.  Which leads me to believe that Mark Grossman has been cooperating a whole lot more than we initially suspected — and isn’t that and interesting possibility, considering his prior usefulness to the whole neocon cabal?  (And it is Insight Mag, so keep your salt at the ready.  Read it with some big grains at hand, considering their likely source on a lot of this was Babs.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com