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Heat Is On for CIA Leak Probe Prosecutor
With his Grand Jury term about to expire, Washington is wondering if Patrick Fitzgerald will indict
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2005-10-17 17:26 (KST)   
With the term of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Grand Jury about to expire in less than two weeks, on Oct. 28, Washington is abuzz with rumors about whether he will bring indictments in his investigation of the exposure of Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity.

Early on, Fitzgerald's investigation focused on the activities of a little known group, the White House Iraq Group. This was the White House group which met weekly in the Situation Room at the White House. The group was created in August 2002 to build the case for a war against Iraq. According to a Washington Post article, the group was "an internal working group, like many formed for priority issues, to make sure each part of the White House was fulfilling its responsibilities." (1) (Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus, "Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence", Washington Post, Sunday, August 10, 2003)

Describing the role of the group, the Wall Street Journal, in a recent article, explained:
"The group...worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion."
Because the group was created to pitch the pretext for invading Iraq, when there were challenges which undermined this story, the group, according to WSJ reporters, "likely would have played a significant role in responding...." (2) (John D. McKinnon, Joe Hagan and Anne Marie Squeo, "Focus of CIA Leak Probe Appears to Widen," Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2005.)

Participants in the White House Iraq Group included Karl Rove, I Lewis Libby, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, James R. Wilkinson, Nicholas E. Calio, Condoleezza Rice, and Stephen J. Hadley.

Most of these White House staff members have been called to testify before Fitzgerald's Grand Jury over the course of his investigation. Soon after he started his investigation, in January 2004, Fitzgerald subpoenaed three sets of documents. Along with two other subpoenas issued in January 2004, Fitzgerald subpoenaed all the documents of the White House Iraq Group during the period from July 6, 2003 to July 30, 2003. (3) (Tom Brune, "Subpoenas for White House", Newsday, March 5, 2004)

One of the other two subpoenas was for the records of Air Force One from July 7 to 12. The other subpoena was for a transcript of the White House press briefing on July 12 in Nigeria, a birthday party held at the White House for former President Ford on July 16, and other records connected with White House contacts with journalists during this period

There is a problem with such subpoenas, however. In recent testimony before the Grand Jury by Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter revealed that she met with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, on June 23, 2002.

This is almost two weeks before an op-ed by Joseph Wilson IV appeared in the New York Times. It was in the July 6, 2003 op-ed that Wilson named himself as the previously anonymous source challenging the White House claims. (4) In his op-ed, Wilson wrote, "What I didn't find in Africa." He followed with the question, "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion of Iraq?" His answer followed:
"Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."
Wilson then recounts how he went to Niger to conduct an investigation which determined that there was no truth to the claim that Iraq was seeking to buy yellowcake from Niger.

While Wilson's identity was supposedly not known by those in the White House making the case for the war in Iraq until after his op-ed appeared in the New York Times, Judith Miller has testified that she met with Libby on June 23, almost two weeks before the op-ed appeared. At this meeting in June, Libby discussed Joe Wilson by name with her, and referred to Wilson's wife and to where Wilson's wife worked. (5) (Judith Miller, "My Four Hours Testifying in the Federal Grand Jury Room", the New York Times, Oct. 16, 2005)

Miller claims she remembers little of what happened during this meeting, aside from the notes she has written in a pad taken during the meeting. The mere fact of the meeting and the fact that both Wilson and his wife were being talked about by Libby to a reporter, establishes that Vice President's Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Libby, was actively engaging Miller in a discussion that targeted both Wilson and his wife as someone that the reporter should be interested in.

Given Miller's prior role promoting the fraudulent story of Iraq's nuclear capability, and thereby acting as the public relations arm of the White House Iraq Group, Libby's conversation with Miller about the fact that the CIA was not supporting its fraudulent claims, is not surprising. It would seem, on the surface, as if Libby was trying to get Miller's help to shore up the fraudulent claims that the White House Iraq Group was spreading among the press and public. Recounting her limited memory of her conversation with Libby, Miller writes:
"I recall that Mr. Libby was displeased with what he described as 'selective leaking' by the C.I.A. He told me that the agency was engaged in a 'hedging strategy' to protect itself in case no weapons were found in Iraq. 'If we find it, fine, if not, we hedged' is how he described the strategy, my notes show."
Miller describes how Libby conveyed to her Vice President Cheney's displeasure at the activity of the C.I.A. in sending Joseph Wilson to Niger. She writes:
"Mr. Libby said the vice president's office had indeed pressed the Pentagon and the State Department for more information about reports that Iraq had renewed efforts to buy uranium. And Mr. Cheney, he said, had asked about the potential ramifications of such a purchase."
Instead of the CIA providing this information, however, Libby told Miller, "the C.I.A. took it upon itself to try and figure out more' by sending a 'clandestine guy' to Niger to investigate."

According to Miller, during this June 23 meeting with her, Libby indicated that Cheney already knew of Joe Wilson's identity as the person sent to Niger by the C.I.A. and also referred to Wilson's wife as working in the 'bureau'. Miller clarifies that this probably refers to a particular bureau in the C.I.A.

It has taken Fitzgerald almost to the end of the term of the Grand Jury to get this information from Judith Miller. Based on his prior subpoenas and document requests, however, he should have specific information about the workings of the White House Iraq Group and their effort to create and spread a pretext for the war in Iraq, and to discredit critics and those challenging their fraudulent facts and activities.

There are obligations of government officials to present truthful information as part of their government work. Also, as Fitzgerald has been investigating who was involved in the crime of revealing the covert nature of Valerie Plame's identity to the public, those who were part of the White House Iraq Group had an obligation to cooperate with his investigation. That it has taken Fitzgerald until close to the end of the term of the Grand Jury to learn of the June 23, 2003 conversation between Miller and Libby, presents the specter of noncooperation with the investigation, because Libby should have shared this information himself with Fitzgerald's Grand Jury.

There is speculation in Washington that Fitzgerald will probably ask the Grand Jury for indictments in the next week. He doesn't have much time left. Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail because she claimed that she had to honor a promise of confidentiality to Libby. This has meant that information Fitzgerald needed, was withheld for the time Miller was in jail, giving the Special Prosecutor little time to follow up the leads it provides. This is another example of Miller's assistance to the White House Iraq Group.

The world is watching to see what Fitzgerald's investigation will reveal and whether those guilty of crimes will be indicted and punished. Instead of the U.S. press actively conducting its own investigation into the actions of the White House Iraq Group to help unravel the lies and obstructions to this investigation, the press has been waiting for Fitzgerald to bring indictments.

While the revelation of the identity of a covert C.I.A. agent was the event that led to the appointment of the Special Prosecutor, the actions of a group of government officials to create the myth that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction as the basis for the war against Iraq has had very serious consequences for the people of Iraq, of the U.S. and people around the world. The collusion of reporters like Miller with this group has only undermined the watchdog role that the press is needed to assume if government officials will have any reason not to abuse their power.

There has been a serious breakdown of oversight over the government officials who were part of the White House Iraq Group. (6) The world is watching to see if the unbridled power U.S. government officials have assumed in creating the pretext for and then waging the war in Iraq will be allowed to go unchallenged, or if there is an internal mechanism to challenge the breakdown in law and order.
Notes:

1. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0810-01.htm

2.WSJ: "Focus of CIA Leak Probe Appears to Widen"

3. http://justoneminute.typepad.com/main/2004/03/vpw_newsday_on_.html

4. http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0706-02.htm

5. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/16/national/16miller.html

See also:

6. Karl Rove Deserves a Prize

and

The U.S. Government Case for War In Iraq Based on Forgeries and Lies

This article was written for Telepolis. It is reprinted with their permission.
©2005 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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