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Monday, October 03, 2005

Wheels Within Wheels

The leak of the Miller/Libby letters still raises a lot of questions about where they came from, how they got into the hands of journalists, and the motives of the leakers. I swapped many emails this weekend with the best Traitorgate cryptologist on the web, emptywheel, to whom the bulk of the following observations must be credited. Alas emptywheel had to address real-world tasks today and didn't have time to post about it, but deserves mad props nonetheless.

There are three letters involved: a letter from Scooter Libby to Judith Miller dated September 15, 2005; a letter from Libby's attorney Joseph Tate to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald dated September 16, 2005; and a letter from Floyd Abrams, Miller's attorney back to Tate dated September 29, 2005.

According to both Swopa and emptywheel, the PDF file was up on the New York Times website by 4:30 am ET, attached to an article by David Johnston and Doug Jehl. The same documents appeared at 11:14 am on Powerline in whatever fucking timezone THEY are in, so they were either leaked to them somewhat later, or Humbert Hinderaker couldn't be bothered to tear himself away from the Pamela Anderson soft core porn for at least six hours and forty-four minutes.

(And let's be very clear about this. Emptywheel would never use an epithet so base and childish as Humbert Hinderaker. That would be TBogg.)

There is some question as to whether the PDF actually appeared with the Johnston/Jehl NYT article when it first went up on the NYT website. When Editor and Publisher initially viewed the story, the letters may not have been attached. In the E&P writeup they comment that "The text of the entire letter, which was mailed to Miller's attorney, Robert Bennett, has not been printed in the Times or elsewhere."

Which certainly fuels the speculation that odd things are happening within the NYT news division itself, no? Arthur Sulzberger only thinks he's the most powerful man at the Times. We know it's the webmaster.

Libby's letter--at least the version on NYT--was faxed (see total page count on page 2), but was not on letterhead (and I don't care what people say--at this level, people are always going to write on letterhead).

Tate's letter appears to be an original, on letterhead.

And Abrams is some kind of copy or fax, because it is off-kilter and the heading is cropped. I'd say this is a copy and not a fax because it is so far off kilter (it looks as if it might have been stapled behind something else, and someone made a copy without taking out the staples). The Powerline version of Abrams' letter is the same, off-kilter and cropped letterhead.

This would suggest these letters came from Tate's office (original of Tate's, a draft from Libby, copy of Abrams). Although it could have come from Bennett's office (since he got to see Libby's letter before Judy did and would have had plenty of time to receive Tate's original from the 16th). Given that Bennett seems to be representing the NYT first, I think this is possible.

I guess I'm getting closer to believing they came from Tate's office. But not from Tate. I don't think they do Libby any favors. And they get the news out there that Judy did have reason to doubt the waiver.

Would there be someone in Tate's office who was so indiscreet as to leak these?
This jibes with previous notions about how the news of Miller's release came out. The story was broken by the Philadelphia Inquirer on Thursday, September 29 and many speculated at the time that the leak must've come from Tate's firm, which is headquartered in Philadelphia. Initially Tate himself had no comment, which indicates that Judy's release took him by surprise, but after an hour and a half he was chattering like a magpie.

Fitzgerald kept Judy on on ice the night before her testimony, under a marshal's watch, and probably did not want the attendant publicity that a leak would cause for fear her story would go all warbly. So the question remains -- who benefited from the three ring circus that ensued?

One thought -- Libby was the DC office managing partner for Tate's firm, Dechert LLP, before he went to work for Cheney. If there was someone in the firm with old axes to grind with the prickly Scooter, they could definitely be open to manipulation by those who saw it in their interest to stall Fitzgerald's indictments (say, until they could stack the Supreme Court with people friendly to their upcoming legal plight).

Update: It has also been suggested that the Power Tools could've simply taken the documents from Times website. This can be neither confirmed nor denied.