Well, well, well...can you say concerted effort to discredit Wilson, planned carefully by folks at the White House, executed with precision planning, and...conspiracy? John Dickerson, formerly of Time Magazine, has a doozy of a two-part story on Slate. He lays out the timeline of his involvement in Administration leaks on Joe and Valerie Wilson. And it isn't pretty.
If Fitz was trying to flush something out of the underbrush with his letter to Libby's lawyers, he's gotten a whole brace of fat pigeons with this missive. And if I were representing Karl Rove, I'd be puckering this morning...along with several other Administration officials. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
First of all, Dickerson is snide. You have to like that in a correspondant, don't you? And his detailed narrative suggests a man who takes copious notes or records things to a mini-cassette -- or who just has a great memory for details, which makes for some great reading. Would that everyone involved in this had such a great memory...*cough* Judy *cough*...but I guess we can't expect miracles or anything. (Especially when certain journalists might be protecting their pals or their own asses. Amazing how a real journalist can actually report facts and details and stuff, isn't it?)
Second, how can you not love a reporter who gives a hat tip to FDL for reporting on Traitorgate and catching Dickerson's name in the Libby docu-dump in the first place? Thanks, and back at ya.
Dickerson does a good job of describing the Libby strategy in Part I, and then systematically pokes holes in it through his re-telling of events as he lived them in Part II. And in doing so, Dickerson paints a portrait of an Administration in full-out damage control mode -- willing to throw the CIA and George Tenet under a bus to save the President's butt -- and willing to toss out the name of a covert CIA operative without a thought to the consequences (Rove, Libby, anyone?), hoping to discredit her husband, whose criticisms could not be allowed to gain any more traction with the public, and shut up critics in the CIA who weren't comfortable taking the blame for the President's and other Administration officials' false public statements.
A whole lot of people in the Administration, including the President himself, tossing the CIA out the window...in a coordinated, press-forward effort.
That this was a planned, coordinated effort is obvious in reading Dickerson's two-part piece. And when you read it in concert with everything else we know about the Traitorgate case, you have to think that Fitzgerald is sitting on a whole lot of information we have yet to see. (If you are sensing a Cheshire cat grin on my face, you would be on the mark.)
In this time frame, the President himself cast blame on the CIA for "the 16 words" in the SOTU, and Condi went back to the press cabin on her own to throw the CIA under the bus. At no time did any of these Administration officials reveal that Stephen Hadley had been warned that the Niger yellowcake bit was crap and that the CIA had previously asked that this information be removed from the President's speech in Ohio -- nope, it was blame Joe Wilson full-on damage mode. That lots of people at the CIA were involved in the decision to send Wilson? Nope -- let's just blame the missus and all will be well. Liars.
Here's what I see from reading Dickerson: He spoke with two "senior Administration officials" during his trip to Africa, on two completely separate occasions, but each within an hour of the other's conversation with Dickerson -- both of whom fed him the exact same line on questioning Joe Wilson's credibility and that Dickerson ought to look into who sent Amb. Wilson to Africa in the first place. He finished talking with them around 10:30 am DC time.
During that same time period, Rove contacted Matt Cooper and planted the same seeds -- with one addition, that Joe Wilson's wife was the one who sent him on the trip. (Never mind that this was false, but that's a whole n'other post.) And Scooter Libby served as the confirming source for Cooper on this fact. (Can you say WHIG damage control group? I sure as hell can.)
Dickerson and Cooper spoke around 1:00 pm DC time, and compared notes -- remarkably similar notes, but for the Rove addition of Wilson's wife. Strange how so many people in the Administration scattered across the four corners of the globe -- from DC to far-flung, difficult communication areas on the African continent -- all had the same story line to feed to the press, isn't it? Almost as though there was substantial coordination of message and facts, or something. (Can you say conpiracy? I thought you could.)
Cooper got confirmation on this story about Wilson from Libby, after speaking with Dickerson. (Again, hello WHIG media confirmation circle jerks.)
And, based on what Dickerson writes in Part II, the "senior government officials" with whom he spoke are likely to have testified before the grand jury or at least have been interviewed by investigators -- because he references conversations with them about e-mails he had exchanged on the subject and their testimony, along with Coopers.
At the end of the article, Dickerson leaves us with this quite interesting tidbit:
I came back from the trip harboring a suspicion that only fully made sense when I learned Plame's CIA cover had been blown. It seemed obvious that the people pushing me to look into who sent Wilson knew exactly the answer I'd find. Yet they were really careful not to let the information slip, which suggested that they knew at the time Plame's identity was radioactive.You know, you would be awfully careful not to let a name slip if you knew you'd be committing a felony and treason to do so, wouldn't you?
But, say, you want the name out there in the public domain, and you plant a kernel of "seek and ye shall find" with a journalist that you know will do his job to sniff out a story...and then you can sit back and let someone else reveal the name of the CIA NOC, and pretend your conscience is clear. Except for one thing: if you are the official who set the journalist on the story in the first place, along with a whole lot of other adminsitration officials who are trying to set the same scent trail for the journalistic hounds to follow, then you are, at best, part of a conspiracy to attempt to reveal classified information.
And if, say, one of the members of the conspiracy reveals the name or the identity of that covert CIA operative (you know, by saying something like "Wilson's wife"), then every single member of that conspiracy can be charged as if they all revealed her identity. Because that's what it means to be part of a conspiracy -- you all get tagged with the worst conduct of any one of your members, because you were all working toward the same common goal and purpose -- so long as each member took some step in futherance of the conspiracy, they are all chargeable with the same bad conduct.
In this case, it would be to silence an Administration critic before his words did lasting damage and to bring the CIA to heel before the public learned that the Bush Administration had lied all along about there being any threat from Saddam Hussein and yellowcake, and Condi's big old lying mushroom cloud analogies.
Oh, and those "senior administration officials" who spoke to Dickerson? I sure hope they were fully forthcoming in their interviews with the FBI and their testimony to the grand jury. If not, I'm thinking John Dickerson can expect his subpoena any day...because those officials might be staring down the length of a potential obstruction/perjury/false statements indictment of their own.
Which lends intself to these questions: who might be ripe for the flipping? Who else is Rove willing to throw under the bus to save his sorry ass? And how long does Libby have before the Administration considers him the sacrificial lamb and cuts him loose to the wolves -- and how will he and his family feel about being thrown out like yesterday's stale trash?
Another day, another piece of the puzzle. This time, the pieces come with flashing warning signs: "Beyond this point, there be dragons."
I'm working on some timelines on this, and will try to flesh this out further as time permits today -- but read the Dickerson piece and see if you can spot all the bombshells. It's been an intriguing coupla weeks in the Traitorgate saga, hasn't it? The more I think about it, the more I wonder about Team Libby's release of that letter -- and who might have been the intended recipient of some pretty heavy smoke signals.
(Hat tip to reader narexbyrnes for the link.)