According to the WaPo, the only folks known to have been on that July 12, 2003, flight from Norfolk to DC on Air Force II are Cheney, Libby and Catherine Martin. Well, now isn't that interesting?
Barton Gellman has put together one hell of a narrative that raises a whole lot more questions than supplying answers. But in reading through this article, one thing becomes very clear to me -- those questions are going to be asked over and over again until they are answered. Somewhere between Katrina and the Libby indictment on Friday, the last bit of curtain got pulled up.
And an awful lot of the questions are about Dick Cheney. Not just here on this blog and other progressive spots in the blogosphere, but everywhere. And now the WaPo puts him smack dab in the middle of a conversation with Libby and Martin on how to deal with the "mosquitoesque" critic Joe Wilson -- with a sledgehammer just a few hours after the flight.
Defending the war became the animating priority aboard Air Force Two that day. According to his indictment on Friday, Libby "discussed with other officials aboard the plane" how he should respond to "pending media inquiries" about the critic, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Apart from Libby, only press aide Catherine Martin is known to have accompanied Cheney on that flight.Hmmmm...who talked? Martin or Cheney? Or both -- and how does that make you feel, Scootie Poot?
That Saturday afternoon, the indictment states, is when Libby confirmed for Matthew Cooper of Time magazine and disclosed to Judith Miller of the New York Times the classified fact that Wilson's wife, who was known as Valerie Plame, "worked at the CIA." Just over two weeks earlier, after a previous conversation with Cheney, Libby had told Miller more tentatively that Plame "might work at a bureau of the CIA."Well, that is interesting. Why the shift? Because Cheney was suddenly feeling directly threatened, not just the Administration as a whole, and that just can't be allowed to stand unchallenged? Wonder how it feels to be left hanging by the boss that you've served with all you have? Wonder how the others working for the VP are feeling now? Watching your back can get exhausting after a while.
The uranium claims had never been significant to career analysts -- Iraq had plenty already and lacked the means to enrich it. But the allegations proved irresistible to the White House Iraq Group, which devised the war's communications strategy and included Libby among its members. Every layman understood the connection between uranium and the bomb, participants in the group said in interviews at the time, and it was the easiest way for the Bush administration to raise alarms.Oh, hello. Guess the CIA is still unhappy about Dickie trying to pass the buck onto them for intelligence failures. Amazing how that can come back to haunt you, now isn't it?
And then the article really gets good -- raising the whole issue of the Niger documents and the battle between CIA/Tenet and the WHIG whether or not the yellowcake uranium claims should be publicly used in the Presidential speeches, and for what purpose they were being pushed in the first place.
On June 9, the CIA faxed classified accounts of Wilson's assignment "to the personal attention of Libby and another person in the Office of the Vice President." Two or three days later, Grossman told Libby that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and had been involved in planning Wilson's trip. An unidentified "senior officer of the CIA" confirmed Plame's employment for Libby on June 11, and Cheney told Libby the next day which part of the agency employed her.What? And who is this? Could be any number of people trying to twist the knife deeper for Libby to save their own skins: Grossman, Rove, etc. Or it could be Tenet or McLaughlin or someone at CIA trying to pull out the Libby knife and plunge it into Cheney's heart of darkness. It sure is interesting that all the long knives have started coming out publicly now, though, isn't it?
For Libby, according to a senior official who worked with him at the time, "I think this just hit a nerve." By June, he said, "the blind, deaf and dumb had to be aware that something was wrong in Iraq." Uranium was "always a side issue," but it was also "the beginning of the unraveling of the big story . . . calling attention to a huge mistake he was part of. So it's no wonder he took this personally."
A senior intelligence officer who knew of Libby's inquiries about Wilson and Plame said in an interview yesterday, "It didn't occur to anyone that the reason why was so that her name would go out to reporters." That, the official said, is "the lesson you learn from this."
Has the President okayed this -- as a means to distance himself and nudge Cheney out the door?
And all those talking heads that try to minimize this as a nothing case and that Valerie Plame Wilson was a desk jockey with no real classified status? Well, someone at the CIA or the DOJ begs to differ publicly:
Out of view of the public, the CIA took the first steps towards a formal investigation. On July 30, it reported to the Justice Department a possible offense "concerning the unauthorized disclosure of classified information." In August the agency completed an 11-question form detailing the potential damage done. In September, Tenet followed up with a memo raising questions about whether the leakers had violated federal law.Maybe it's just me, but methinks that canard doesn't have so many legs any more.
The last part of the article talks about the prevailing belief in the White House during that period when Ashcroft was running the investigation show that it would go nowhere. It was during that period that Libby gave his two interviews to the FBI, spinning his story that the media fed him the information.
This article is a great read, and will be a review of a lot of this information for regular readers here. But for those in the public who are just now paying attention, there are a lot of bombshells that ought to make everyone sit up and take notice -- whatever their political affiliation.
And that has to be the worst nightmare of the WH political team. Because this story not only has legs, it now has wings and a teflon shell. It's been publicly linked to Dick Cheney, the rationale for war, and whether or not the WH is filled with a bunch of self-serving liars.
Don't know about you, but I'm stocking up on more popcorn.