Scooter Libby has been caught in a very serious lie about the source of his knowledge that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA agent. He apparently testified before the grand jury that his source had been a journalist.
However, the New York Times now reports that his source was his boss, Vice President Cheney.
From this jaw-dropping article that will certainly lead in the Times tomorrow:
I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.
The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson’s husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration’s handling of intelligence about IraqÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nuclear program to justify the war.
Lawyers said the notes show that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.
Mr. Libby’s notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson’s undercover status or that her identity was classified. Disclosing a covert agent’s identity can be a crime, but only if the person who discloses it knows the agent’s undercover status.
It would not be illegal for either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby, both of whom are presumably cleared to know the government’s deepest secrets, to discuss a C.I.A. officer or her link to a critic of the administration. But any effort by Mr. Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Mr. Cheney could be considered by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the case, to be an illegal effort to impede the inquiry.
This is amazing information. You may ask why?
First of all, this means that Vice President Cheney has known all along that he was Scooter Libby’s source — and whether Libby had license from him or not to try and slaughter the reputation of Joe Wilson — CHENEY KNEW.
The entire charade of President Bush stating that he wanted to get to the bottom of who leaked Plame’s name — and who was involved — is no longer believable at any level. Cheney would not have failed to disclose this to Bush, and Bush played along as if none of his staff were involved. They confessed nothing — accepted no responsibilty — until forced by Fitzgerald.
According to Scooter Libby’s notes, George Tenet was the source for the information about Valerie Wilson lining up the trip — so to speak — for her husband, but did not necessarily include the information that she was a covert operative.
This is where things get interesting. Although Fitzgerald may not need to establish this connection, it seems increasingly plausible to TWN that Tenet and Cheney had some kind of exchange regarding Joe and Valerie Wilson. Cheney then passed off the information to Libby along with a few expletives about Wilson, implying that the @#$%@%er should be done in.
The question is how did Libby then churn up more info on Wilson without other parts of the “untrusted” bureaucracy spitting in his face or reporting his sins?
My hunch is that he went to trusted spear-carriers for Vice President Cheney — the office and staff of Under Secretary of State John Bolton. Fred Fleitz, Bolton’s chief of staff, maintained his CIA WINPAC portfolio and access as an active duty CIA staff member while he operated as Bolton’s “acting” chief of staff. We know that Fleitz was a key part of the intelligence cherry-picking/stove-piping operation when it came to both the intel and policy response to various global WMD concerns — in North Korea, Libya, Iran, and Iraq.
We also know that David Wurmser and John Hannah, who have both apparently cooperated after threats of legal action (i.e., time behind bars) with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald worked both for John Bolton’s operation and the Vice President’s office.
I recently consulted with a number of senior State Department officials about the level of interaction between Vice President Cheney’s office and John Bolton’s office — and was informed that there was “intense” exchange between them, constant. One said that “Bolton and his team were operatives of Vice President Cheney inside the State Department establishment — there to subvert Armitage and Powell wherever they could, and if not subvert, then there to spy on the them and report back.
TWN knows nothing more than what it speculates to be a plausible scenario. Tonight, I consulted with three senior State Department officials, one currently at the State Department and two who are now outside the Department. All three of them agreed that the scenario I have described about Fleitz being the source of information about Plame’s covert WINPAC role — and this information then passing from Fleitz and/or Bolton to Scooter Libby “is not unbelievable.”
Patrick Fitzgerald does not need to prove that Fleitz and Bolton added to the information that Libby had from Vice President Cheney. It’s not part of the case if Fitzgerald is focusing narrowly on discrepancies and untruthfulness in Libby’s testimony — or focusing on the act then of spreading these rumors about Plame to non-cleared members of the media.
But TWN hopes that those in the know will join me at Starbucks at Connecticut & R Streets and fill in the holes that Fitzgerald does not fill.
For now, we can know that the Vice President of the United States was neck-deep in this affair and knew it ALL along.
Fascinating and deeply, deeply disturbing.
— Steve Clemons