The CIA filed a motion on Friday opposing Scooter Libby's request for access to the Presidential Daily Briefings (PDBs), citing substantial national security concerns at allowing any of the information contained therein become public. The motion was unsealed on Tuesday, according to the AP (via Forbes).
Gathering the materials sought by I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, would take up to nine months, Marilyn Dorn, a CIA information review officer, said in a sworn statement filed in U.S. District Court.As our Traitorgate readers already know, Fitzgerald opposed Libby's voluminous request as a breathtaking attempt at a graymail defense. (I covered this here and here.)
Dorn said the CIA believes disclosure of the information would damage national security and wants a chance to be heard in court before any material is turned over to Libby, who is charged with lying in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity.
"The defense's requests clearly implicate highly classified, compartmentalized information and potential claims of executive privilege for presidential communications and the deliberative process," Dorn wrote.
"Compartmentalized" information requires a special security clearance, meaning the CIA could not assign just anyone to help gather the material Libby's lawyers want, Dorn said.
Bloomberg reports that it would take the CIA over nine months to compile the full breadth of what Libby requested, and over three months to compile the compromise amount proposed by Judge Reggie Walton, in an order after the last hearing.
It was expected that the CIA would take a hard line about disclosing any of this information, because of the substantial risk for leaks and that the information would become public in a criminal trial with this level of press coverage.
"Referring to the topics ... even in an abstracted or generalized manner presents the same concerns about disclosure of classified information," she wrote. "The very fact that these topics were presented to the president discloses sensitive information concerning U.S. intelligence and policy priorities."That these PDBs deal with the most sensitive information the federal government touches -- and that the PDBs have substantial imapct on the ongoing national security matters with which the President deals on a day-to-day basis -- well, that is a calculation made in a graymail defense strategy, isn't it? If the government simply refuses to hand over the information for national security reasons, then Team Libby will ask for a dismissal.
What Judge Walton will do with this, though, is anyone's guess. I would seriously doubt that he will grant a dismissal motion on this, just based on his pre-emptive attempt at compromise, and I would bet he has some ideas up his judicial robes to cut through the crap on all sides and strike a balance that keeps the trial on track. I hope so, anyway, in the interests of justice. I do think that his pre-emptive maneuver bodes well, but I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself, since I have never practiced before this particular judge and am only relying on hearsay from several attornies who have been before him that he is a no nonsense, tough on crime kinda guy.
As I said, we'll see.
I would argue, strenuously, that the PDBs have no value in terms of whether or not Scooter Libby was honest with the grand jury or investigators, or impeded the investigation in any way. It's a smoke screen for the jury designed to give Scooter an excuse to be a liar, and it won't fly in any event.
Here's hoping the Judge agrees with me. Look for more hearings to be scheduled to argue these matters in the weeks ahead. And for another flurry of motions on this topic as well -- this particular issue is far from over, as it is the last best hope for Libby prior to trial.