This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Friday, February 10, 2006

Curiouser and Curiouser

Some very odd happenings today on the Libby front. Yesterday the blogosphere was alive with the "Libby has flipped" meme after the publication of Murray Waas' National Journal article which actually said nothing of the sort. But it was evidently worrisome enough to Team Libby that they felt it necessary to make a statement today, and the nature of that statement reveals some very weird goings-on behind the scenes.

Ever since the Oceans of Motions were released last week, those of us who make it a practice to slog through this shit knew that Libby was claiming Cheney authorized him to release information regarding the National Intelligence Estimate to Judy Miller 10 days before it was declassified in order to shore up BushCo.'s sagging case for war. Reddhedd noted it, and so did Emptywheel.

But Fitzgerald's redacted affidavit and his letter of Jan. 23 refer to the testimony Libby has been giving all along to the effect that he was entitled to leak this information because Cheney told him to. It's probably just a reflection of the internal logic BushCo. has been cruising on for a long time, it isn't related to any "new defense strategy" concocted by Libby's lawyers nor is it anything Libby has testified to for well over a year (Libby's last appearance before the grand jury was in 2004).

If anything, it's just a testament to Dick Cheney's arrogance. I'm sure he believes he's entitled to do whatever he damn well pleases with classified information, as his imperious treatment of Valerie Plame indicates.

But be that as it may, a commenter over at Tom MaGuire's named Clarice provided a helpful quotation from a new press release that came out today from one of Libby's lawyers, William Jeffres, stating that:
There is no truth at all to the story that Mr. Libby's lawyers have advised the Court or the Special Counsel that he will raise a defense based on authorization by superiors. Indeed, there has never been any conference call between Mr. Libby's defense lawyers and Judge Walton. We do not know who reporters are relying on as sources for this story, but any such persons are neither knowledgeable nor authorized to speak for Mr. Libby's defense team.
In the comments, emptywheel asked where this came from, and Clarice responded that she should contact Barbara Comstock, "Libby's press contact," and volunteered to help them get in touch with each other.

Barbara Comstock isn't "Libby's press contact." She's head of his defense fund, which essentially seems to be covering Libby's legal defense bills so that they can use his case to protect the other neocons for whom Libby is acting as a firewall.

As we noted yesterday, one of Libby's other attorneys is John Cline, a greymail specialist. And as immanentize writes in our comments, this may be an indication that there is a struggle going on within the Libby defense squad, between those who see their job as defending Libby and those who want to protect those he's standing in front of:
[Cline] is a very hard working attorney who works with one of the nation's great criminal defense attorneys, Nancy Hollander. He is tireless in his pursuit of paper and broke the Wen Ho Lee case on the government's own record (as is often the case in these matters) More high profile and lazier attorneys would have let Wen Ho Lee take a serious rap. His experience as a US Attorney certainly taught him a tremendous amount about the pressures, real and imagined that defendants face. He is honest, like Fitz is honest which always makes for the best prosecutions.

What I see in this exchange is a little litigation strategy power struggle. Will it be full-bore grey mail -- which would mean that Libby would have to, in the end, be willing to implicate his "bosses" in many ways (Rove Cheney, Hadley?). What I mean by that is that grey mail forces the inspection, if not the production, of documents and leads which the prosecutor might not yet have. In the end, the prosecution might not be able to use the stuff in court, but the point of grey mail is generally to turn attention to other/bigger fish. Think the Noriega trial and the attempts to drag the CIA and former Reagan officials into the defense in Florida.

The other defense strategy seems to be a "protect everyone" strategy -- sort of a stalling tactic that does not focus on saving Libby's ass as much as it is to delay until a pardon is politically possible (December 2008) without any information being developed beyond Libby. This is a risky defense strategy for Libby because it is not really a pro-Libby/proactive defense. It is a wink and a nod action.
So essentially, the defense that is designed purely to help Libby -- the greymail one -- is by its very nature going to make Cheney et. al. extremely nervous by bringing their actions under scrutiny by both Fitzgerald and the judge. And even though the disclosure of this NIE information doesn't really do that, the people paying Libby's bills are quickly trying to scotch any notion that higher ups could be implicated.

Barbara Comstock, of course, is in charge of Libby's defense fund, not Libby's press contact office. So this suggests that the Neocon moneybags didn't like yesterday's big news. Maybe they've even jettisoned the greymail strategy (note, this statement came over Jeffress' signature, the guy who, in addition to being the Nixon lawyer on the team, is also the guy who shares a board room with Bush consligliere James Baker III. It didn't come from Cline, the greymail specialist.) for fear it would tax Cheney's always-fragile heart.
Don't really see that anything that Comstock and Jeffress are trying to do actually helps Scooter.

(graphic by Eric)