The National Whig

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Congress: Same Operation, Different Management

Shortly after the pictures from Abu Ghraib hit the scene here in the United States, Senator Ted Kennedy took to the Senate floor to blast it as no different then when Saddam Hussein was running the place. I believe his exact words were some thing like "Abu Ghraib is still the place to torture Iraqis, it's just under different management." Kennedy's remarks might have been better served for his Democrat Party brethren in the House of Representatives.

One of the biggest complaints about the Republicans when they controlled Congress was their arm-twisting-tactics in getting members of their caucus to vote on measures. During the 2002 debate and vote on the Medicare prescription drug benefit, some Republicans complained that they would not have voted for this entitlement had it not been for the manner in which they were treated by the House Republican leadership, particularly Tom Delay. One such instance of arm twisting came when Delay promised one lawmaker that he would support his son in the mid-terms of 2002 if the lawmaker voted for the Medicare bill. The lawmaker said no and his son went down in defeat. And, of course, it was said that this was rampant in the Republican controlled Congress, which was turned into Republican "corruption," which in turn led to a Democrat victory in 2006.

The Democrats came to power in January of 2007 with the promise to the American voter to "clean up the corruption" left behind in the wake of Republican controll. But now, barely three months into their reign over the House, the Democrats have abandoned all efforts to govern the way they promised and adopted the same strategy of the Republicans.

The arm twisting is over the vote for the Iraq Supplemental which is going to cost $124 billion dollars. The President has asked for just $100 billion meaning that there is $24 billion of pork--something that was going to be elliminated under the Democrats. Speaker Pelosi is having a rough go at getting 218 votes for this measure and as such she is turning to some rather harsh tactics. According to The Hill she is threatening to remove members of the Democrat caucus from their committee chairmenships unless they for this measure. "[Pelosi] has been hardest on members of the Appropriations Committee and her fellow Californians who oppose the measure. The Speaker pointedly reminded Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a leading opponent of the bill, that she had appointed her to the Appropriations Committee, three Democratic lawmakers said. The message was simple, the lawmakers said: Pelosi could also remove Lee from the panel." New management indeed.

Now, does this mean that the Democrats are in the wrong for doing this? No, it does not, just as it did not mean that the Republicans were wrong for doing this. But what it does mean is that the Democrats are two-faced when they were harping on the Republicans for doing much of the same. Applying pressure to the members of your caucus is a means to get them to vote for or against a bill. This is nothing new and it is not unethical; it's just business. The individual feeling the pressure has every right in the world to vote how he/she thinks is necessary, but the leadership has the right to apply pressure to the lawmaker. What is underhanded is calling one Party corrupt when doing business this way and then doing the same thing when the other Party is in power. Worse yet, is the gullibility of the American voter when it comes down to the demonization of this method of law making. It seems that every two years American voter is bombarded with cries of corruption, and it seems to never fail to get them worked up.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Scooter Libby is Guilty, and So Too is The Prosecutor

With the conviction on four felony charges of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the American people have been given a glimpse of Washington justice. We have all witnessed the degradation of the criminal justice system to the likes of a political tool to be used to punish those with differing views. In Washington, this means that if you are a Conservative, you better be able to walk on water or else you will be saddled with defending yourself in court to the point of bankruptcy.

Scooter Libby was convicted for basically supplying a Grand Jury with false testimony, which is a felony to be sure, however; he was not providing false testimony in the hopes of covering up a larger crime. The crime that spawned the investigation was never solved by the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. Let us travel back in time to set the table.

In July of 2003, columnist and Conservative pundit Robert Novak wrote a piece that was a type of response to a column written earlier in the month in The New York Times by Joseph Wilson. The piece by Mr. Wilson was a critical piece against the plans to go to war with Iraq by the Bush Administration; it was also a refutation of a line in the 2003 State of the Union address where President Bush made mention of Saddam Hussien's attempts to purchase uranium from Niger. The Iraq-Niger claim was based on intelligence received from Britain, which caused the US intelligence community to seek to corroborate this information. Enter Joseph Wilson.

In the attempt to solidify this jewel of information provided by the British Intelligence, the CIA, along with other components of the US intelligence community, devised a plan to send an envoy to Niger to glean more details about this tip. The trip was made, the information was gathered and the envoy returned and gave a report to both the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee. The envoy was Joseph Wilson and his being appointed as the envoy to Niger was of great interest to the Bush Administration once his New York Times column came out. The basis of Wilson's column, What I Didn't Find in Africa, was that the Bush Administration "exaggerate[d] the Iraqi threat." Spurred by President Bush's use of a British "white paper" explaining the Iraq-Niger incident in the State of the Union address of 2003, Wilson went to every news outlet he could get on to explain that the President was not being forthcoming with the American people about Iraq, particularly the attempted purchase of uranium from Niger. Somewhere during this media blitz, it was uttered that Wilson was sent by or at the behest of the Vice President's office. Once this assertion was made, Robert Novak disclosed that it was, in fact, Wilson's wife, an employee of the CIA, who recommended that he be chosen as the fact-finding-envoy. In the process, Novak also disclosed his wife's name: Valerie Plame. The disclosure of her name sent a firestorm through the corridores of Washington wanting to know who leaked her name to Novak and why because it was claimed that "Valerie Plame" was a cover name given to her by the CIA, meaning that it is classified information whose disclosure is a crime. The immediate assumption glommed on by the news media--and fed by Wilson--was that the Bush Administration had outed her to get back at Wilson for coming out against the Iraq war. This caused the Justice Department to appoint an Independent Counsel--Patrick Fitzgerald--and begin an investigation into the leaking of Plame's name that lasted two years before there was an indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The indictment, though, was not for leaking Plame's name to Novak, but for giving false statements before a Grand Jury. And now, Libby must fight a conviction via the appeals process.

Pretty open and shut case, except for one problem: the investigation never indicted anyone for the leaking of Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak. But if you listen to the news media inside Washington, not only was Libby convicted for the leak, but he is also the "tip of the iceburg" into a more sinister plot by the Administration to manipulate the Iraq intelligence and destroy any detractors. The only problem with this is that none of it is true. Libby, nor anyone close to Vice President Cheney or President Bush, i.e. Karl Rove, leaked Plame's name, nor did anyone manipulate the intelligence that led the United States into Iraq.

To prove this, it is important to look at the motive for leaking Plame's name as explained by Wilson. Wilson claims that his wife's name was leaked as retribution for his New York Times column voicing opposition to going to war with Iraq and concern for manipulating intelligence to garner support for the war, in particular that Iraq-Niger uranium purchase. Wilson, in his column, says that upon entering Niger to investigate "I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place." This was also the sentiment of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) before Wilson left for Niger. But Wilson's statement in his column and the essence of the trip do not match. The trip was to find out if Iraq had attempted to purchase uranium from Niger, the assertion of the British Intelligence report that started all of this. Wilson found that no purchase took place according to his column, but his statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee told a different story. The Senate Intelligence Committee found that Wilson did discover that the Nigerian Prime Minister met with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations," though whether or not this meant selling uranium to Iraq was not confirmed. The Senate Intell Committee also found that the INR and the CIA did not find anything new in Wilson's report that he submitted upon returning from Niger. INR determined that Wilson had found what their analysts had surmised before the trip. The CIA found it interesting that his report mentioned the Nigerian Prime Minister's meeting with an Iraqi delegation. One more piece of the puzzle is that British Intelligence, to this day, stands by their assertions that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger.

With the motive to punish Wilson having been debunked by his own testimony to the Senate Intell Committee, the next question is was there a crime? Was it a crime to disclose the name "Valerie Plame"? Almost two years after the Novak column that started this whole drama, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wrote a column for National Review Online explaining that Valerie Plame had been outed prior to July of 2003 and the source of the outing was the CIA itself. In this column, Mr. McCarthy explains that during the course of the special prosecutor's investigation members of the press filed a friend-of-the-court brief in response to two journalists being brought before the Grand Jury to testify about who their anonymous sources were. McCarthy wrote, "The thrust of the brief was that reporters should not be held in contempt or forced to reveal their sources in the Plame investigation. Why? Because, the media organizations confidently asserted, no crime had been committed." He also mentions that the brief explained that Plame's identity had been disclosed in the mid-1990s when an undercover CIA agent was forced to tell the Russians. "Thus, the media's purpose in highlighting this incident is blatant: If Plame was outed to the former Soviet Union a decade ago, there can have been little, if anything, left of actual intelligence value in her 'every operation, every relationship, every network' by the time anyone spoke with Novak."

Another source of interest dispelling Plame's covert status is herself. In 1999 Plame donated $1000 to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign. In doing so she disclosed a CIA front company and that she was working as an "analyst" for this company on an FEC document that everyone must fill out when donating to a political campaign. The Washington Post covered this in October of 2003, just three months after the Novak column. "FEC rules require donors to list their employment. Plame used her married name, Valerie E. Wilson, and listed her employment as an "analyst" with Brewster-Jennings & Associates. The document establishes that Plame has worked undercover within the past five years. The time frame is one of the standards used in making determinations about whether a disclosure is a criminal violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act." Now it is said that she used her married name, Wilson, but it is also noted that she said she had worked in an undercover status within the last five years prior to 1999 when the donation to Gore was made. This time frame would be 1994-1999, the same time frame that Mr. McCarthy says, in his column, that her cover name was disclosed to the Russians. This means that by the time Novak would have heard her cover name, she would not have been under a covert status, meaning there was no disclosure of classified material.

Despite there being no motive to leak Valerie Plame's name to Novak and the question of whether doing so was illegal, there still remains the question of who told Novak? Let's take at face value that leaking her name was illegal, the specail prosecutor has not found out who the perpetrator was, or has he? During the course of Patrick Fitzgerald's inverstigation, he questioned administration officials who were close to the White House. He questioned Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor. He, of course, questioned Scooter Libby, the Vice President's chief of staff. Over the course of the investigation, it became clear that Rove was a prized catch with the hopes that Libby would possibly give up Vice President Cheney. As it turned out, all Fitzgerald could get is Libby, but not for leaking Plame's name, rather, for obstructing justice and providing false statements to the Grand Jury. Fitzgerald came away from two years of investigating empty handed when it came to indicting some one for leaking covert material. The only problem with this is that Fitzgerald did know who leaked Plame's name and he knew early in the investigation.

Newsweek magazine investigative journalist Michael Isikoff uncovered who the leaker was in September of 2006, about six months before Libby's court case was to begin. In his disclosure of the leaker, he discribed the person as "not a partisan gunslinger" and "a well-known gossip." The leaker was Richard Armitage, deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell and a well known Iraq war critic within the Bush Administration. The story goes something like this: After the July column of Robert Novak, he had been refusing to name his source although he was giving hints as to who it was. (The not-a-partisan-gunslinger comment is actuall Novak's discription.) During Novak's dropping of these little hints, Armitgae finally had an epiphany that the source for Novak was himself. He contacted Powell and explained his concern and the two then contacted State Department legal adviser William Howard Taft IV. Taft then contacted the Justice Department and explained "that Armitage had information relevant to the [Plame]case." Investigators made arrangements to interview Armitage and he told them that he had passed the name on to Novak. Novak had met with Armitage on July 8, 2003 which was six days before his infamous column. The ominous aspect of the Armitage portion of this is that Fitzgerald investigated him and knew that he had disclosed Plame's name to Novak and Bob Woodward before him. The reason why nothing was brought up against Armitage is because Fitzgerald "found no evidence that Armitage knew of Plame's covert CIA status." At this point the case should have been dropped because the purpose of the special prosecutor was to find out who told Novak Plame's name. Armitage was person, but he could not be indicted, according to Fitzgerald, because he did not know about Plame's covert status. Instead he continued to drag out the case and harrass Rove and Libby all the while knowing that they were not the perpetrators. Eventually the investigation ended with an indictment of Libby and his conviction before a court jury.

This is a great example of prosecutor maleficence. Fitzgerald, having been given a media surrounded case, got caught up in the spotlight and wanted to deliver as a primary character in a tragic play. President Bush should pardon Libby, immediately, and Fitzgerald should have his law licence revoked as he clearly has no respect for the very trade he practices.

1) Wilson's column:

2) Wilson is a liar editoral:

3) Senate Intell Committee report explaining Wilson's trip to Niger:
(Pertinent information is on pages 36-47)

4) Isikoff identifies Armitage as leaker:

5) Christopher Hitchens explains Senate Inell Committee's report:

6) Andrew McCarthy says there was no crime:

7) Valeria Plame identifies herself after political donation: