the Pres

Posted on Saturday 24 November 2007

Bush’s Plame-gate Cover-up

In early fall 2003, George W. Bush joined in what appears to have been a criminal cover-up to conceal the role of his White House in exposing the classified identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. That is the logical conclusion one would draw from a new statement by then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan when it is put into a mosaic with previously known evidence.

McClellan says President Bush was one of five high-ranking officials who caused McClellan to lie to the public in clearing Bush’s political adviser Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis Libby of any responsibility for the leak of Plame’s employment as an undercover intelligence officer.

“The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” McClellan said. “So I stood at the White House briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

“There was one problem. It was not true.

“I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the Vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the President himself.” McClellan’s comments were part of a press release from his publisher regarding McClellan’s memoir, which is scheduled to reach the book stores next April.

Though the press release didn’t add more details about Bush’s role, earlier evidence already had implicated Bush in the outing of Plame after her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had gone public in July 2003, disclosing that Bush had used false information to frighten the American people about Iraq’s alleged nuclear program.

There are two "gates" in the Bush story – Plamegate and Nigergate – sometimes lumped as Treasongate. I suppose one could level a charge of "Obsession" at those of us who just can’t seem to stop writing about these two scandals. On the other hand, they collectively represent what we suspect to be a conscious manipulation of the American people that cost billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and destroyed the reputation of our country in the eyes of the world. It’s the biggest deal there is. What is alledged is simple. The Bush Administration trumped up a war with Iraq based of forged documents – documents they knew to be false. When this was exposed, they released the exposer’s wife’s identity to the Press to discount him. Then they lied about being responsible for the leak [and the original deception].

We know the documents were forged. We know that the government knew they were forged. We know the Administration leaked Valerie Plame’s name. The only thing we don’t know for sure is that the President was involved and was lying when he talked about it. Scott McClellan now provides a missing piece. McClellan’s book may outright say that the President was involved. We’ll have to see exactly what he says.

The case took another serious turn in September when CIA officials, angered by the damage done to Plame’s spy network, struck back. They lodged a complaint with the Justice Department that the leaks may have amounted to an illegal exposure of a CIA officer. But the initial investigation was under the control of Attorney General John Ashcroft, considered a right-wing Bush loyalist. So, the President and other White House officials confidently denied any knowledge of the leak. Bush even vowed to fire anyone who had leaked the classified material. “The President has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration,” McClellan said on Sept. 29, 2003. “If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration.” Bush personally announced his determination to get to the bottom of the matter. “If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is,” Bush said on Sept. 30. “I want to know the truth. If anybody has got any information inside our administration or outside our administration, it would be helpful if they came forward with the information so we can find out whether or not these allegations are true.”

Yet, even as Bush was professing his curiosity and calling for anyone with information to step forward, he was withholding the fact that he had authorized the declassification of some secrets about the Niger uranium issue and had ordered Cheney to arrange for those secrets to be given to reporters. In other words, though Bush knew a great deal about how the anti-Wilson scheme got started – since he was involved in starting it – he uttered misleading public statements to conceal the White House role. Also, since the various conspirators knew that Bush already was in the know, they would have read his comments as a signal to lie, which is what they did. In early October, press secretary McClellan said he could report that political adviser Karl Rove and National Security Council aide Elliott Abrams were not involved in the Plame leak.

That comment riled Libby, who feared that he was being hung out to dry. Libby went to his boss, Dick Cheney, and complained that “they’re trying to set me up; they want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Libby’s lawyer Theodore Wells later said. Cheney scribbled down his feelings in a note to press secretary McClellan: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy  the Pres  that was asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of incompetence of others.” In the note, Cheney initially was ascribing Libby’s sacrifice to Bush but apparently thought better of it, crossing out “the Pres” and putting the clause in a passive tense. On Oct. 4, 2003, McClellan added Libby to the list of officials who have “assured me that they were not involved in this.”

So, Libby had a motive to lie to the FBI when he was first interviewed about the case. He had gone to the mat with his boss to get his name cleared in the press, meaning it would make little sense to then admit involvement to FBI investigators. “The White House had staked its credibility on there being no White House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson,” a federal court filing later noted. For his part, Libby began claiming that he had first learned about Plame’s CIA identity from NBC’s Washington bureau chief Tim Russert after Wilson had gone public.

This White House cover-up might have worked, except in late 2003, Ashcroft recused himself because of a conflict of interest, and Deputy Attorney General James Comey picked Patrick Fitzgerald – the U.S. Attorney in Chicago – to serve as special prosecutor.

I don’t think that sticking with this story is an Obsession, I think it’s Patriotism. We already know so much about this that damns the Administration that it’s inconceivable that the President didn’t know what was going on. His closest advisors were in the White House Iraq Group tasked with selling the war. We know that the DOD had an Office of Special Plans that fabricated ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. We know that damning [and false] stories about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were released to reporters by the Administration. We know that the intelligence was cherry-picked for anything that could be used to foment a war.

It’s not like we need much more to know absolutely that the Administration actively pulled off a massive hoax in order to get us involved in a very destructive war. What we need is someone to pick up the ball and prosecute the crime for what it was. Right now, there’s little hope of a Special Prosecutor from the DOJ. The DOJ has been "infiltrated" by the Administration, then devastated by scandals of its own. Congress has hearing-ed us to death, but has so far tiptoed around the big issue, the one raised by Scott McClellan’s revelation that the President was directly involved. So those of us "Obsessed" will keep the noise level high. The issue is way too big to sweep under the rug. Someday, this will end up in a courtroom.

emptywheel, John Dean, and others caution us to not be taken in by a new book "blurb." Scott McClellan’s book may not be the smoking gun. I say, "this gun is already smoking" and "damn the torpedos, full steam ahead"… 

    November 24, 2007 | 1:55 PM

    This post has made my ‘holiday’ weekend special. Many thanks/ will be back asap.
    In the meantime, here’s a nicely written piece on Britain’s v. of Joseph Wilson, RIP.
    Busy JULY, I’d say, that 2003…

    November 24, 2007 | 3:01 PM
    November 26, 2007 | 6:00 AM

    Please check out Larry Johnson’s latest entry on his site about a Colonel that worked closely with Gen. Petraeus if you have a few minutes, thanks.

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