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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Was the Bush "declassification" a leak coverup?

I just ran across this tonight in John Dean's weekly column at Findlaw, and, looking at the Fitzgerald filing, it offers an alternate timing of events around the President "declassifying" elements of the NIE which points in a very different possible direction for the Fitzgerald investigation.

When Libby raised the problem of discussing the NIE with Miller because of its classified status, the filing reports that Libby "testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized" Libby to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. (Emphasis added.)

The word "later" here, in the filing, is crucially ambiguous: Did the President authorize Libby's actions before Libby actually revealed the classified information to Miller, or afterward? The distinction may make a large difference in Libby's defense: If the authorization was retroactive, then Libby initially revealed classified information without permission to do so; thus, he would have reason to lie.

John Dean does not push this reverse sequence as the absolute truth, and
there's nothing giving this anymore validity that the current mainstream interpretation, but it does offer an interesting alternative sequence of events.

In this version, Libby REALLY leaked classified information to Miller on the 8th, and then, afterward, the Vice President realizing the mistake, got the president to declassify the previously leaked materials to fudge the illegality of Libby's leak. Now, if this is true, this would mean that the retroactive declassification by the President was, in many senses, a knowing effort by Cheney or Bush(or both) to cover up Scooter Libby's illegal leaks to Judy Miller.

And, suddenly, we're looking at a previously unknown conspiracy, involving posthumously declassifying classified materials, designed to protect Scooter Libby. That may explain why Libby has been so loyal to Cheney in refusing a plea deal and facing trial and significant jail time. Libby is just paying back loyalty to the man who tried to save him.

Now, that's interesting.


  • I think you may have hit the nail on the head with this explanation.

    Didn't Cheney and Bush speak to Fitzgerald together. I remember thinking that was odd at the time.

    If Bush knew that he was declassifying info retroactivley to protect Libby's leak at the direction of Cheney - that is one big fat comspiracy.

    We shall now see if Bush or Cheney were really in charge. Bush's only way out is to come forward and say that he did not declassify until July 18, 2003. This would effectivley throw Cheney and Libby under the Bus to save himself.

    If Bush does not do this he is toast.

    McClellan did his best not to get pinned down today at the presser but he and Bush can't outrun this timeline question.

    By Blogger left-over, at 11:01 PM  

  • One more thing. How long was Judy Miller in jail - protecting her source of "declassified" information?

    By Blogger left-over, at 11:05 PM  

  • That IS an interesting take.

    I saw Tony Snow on FOX blathering about how this was entirely legal.

    That alone convinces me that there is fire behind this thick smoke.

    By Blogger historymike, at 11:38 PM  

  • Left over,

    they spoke to the 9-11 commission together, but spoke to Fitzgerald seperately. Bush spoke with Fitz "not under oath" and I think Cheney did the same. And I thought the careful wording around the timeline of declassification supported this as well.

    And the Judy Miller in jail question is a pretty good one. I didn't keep up with that saga as closely as some so I don't know enough to write that that was necessarily tied in.

    and historymike, what are you doing watching Fox? Waiting for the Cheney response?


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 7:12 AM  

  • Funny, no denial from the white house on anything. Seems to me if they are being accused of something they didn't do they would step up and quick.

    You may be right, but I don't see bush or cheney sticking their necks out just to cover for Libby. And I don't see Libby as someone who would be that careless with classified info. Seems more like something put together by cheney because he saw their causes for war possibly being destroyed.

    By Blogger pissed off patricia, at 8:53 AM  

  • Yeah, I'd buy that. I'm not selling this as THE answer at this point, just as a possibility. But that Libby Cheney relationship is weird.

    There is some reason to suspect that Libby has been offered a plea deal and refused it to go to a trial that's really a flip of a coin.

    And Libby may not have thought that Miller would crack with first amendment protections and him identified as a "former hill staffer."

    And, you're right, the premeditated Cheney conspiracy is the most logical choice, I'm just finding this an intriguing avenue right now.


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 1:33 PM  

  • The line I've read in the NY Post, and a GOP mouthpiece spoke on Bill Maher last night is that it's not a leak if the Prez does it. We'll see if they can brainstorm a better rationalization soon.

    No comment from them, though, on W's repeated comments about getting to the bottom of this and taking appropriate action.

    By Blogger NYC Educator, at 7:45 PM  

  • Yeah, that's one of the muddle points that's being applied. It's a tactic the Repubs commonly use.

    The real issue is whether Bush et al was cherry picking intelligence to manipulate war support. Manipulating, misleading, lying.

    What the Repubs do is pick one fine technical point and try to draw the argument to that. Like when Cheney shot a man in the face, they managed to reduce the argument to whther he released the information properly, not that he shot a man in the face.

    It's a very effective tactic because those that disagree want to argue, so they just choose the least damaging element to argue about.


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 8:53 PM  

  • If Bush knew that he was declassifying info retroactivley to protect Libby's leak at the direction of Cheney - that is one big fat comspiracy.

    Mike, sorry for the delay...little blogged out yesterday.

    I think that this would actually be a bit more than a conspiracy. Declassifying information without oversight, and not for "official" reasons, is against policy and (if I remember correctly) may in itself be illegal. So new charges would be forthcoming...for Bush.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:54 AM  

  • I don't know, I still haven't seen anything solid to back this up, but it's out there.

    And regardless of details on Bush's side of the declassification, if Libby broke the law leaking, and then Bush and Cheney were involved in a coverup, we're looking conspiracy to obstruct justice and all other sorts of nasty charges. Real Crimes.


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 2:01 PM  

  • Very interesting. And it would also mean that Bush was aware of the illegal leak, since Cheney apparently sought authority from him to "declassify" the info. BTW interesting that the GOP is defending the leak to Judy Miller as a simple declassification -- I don't think I've ever heard of a government official giving out propertly declassified info under an assumed identiy ("former Hill staffer...")

    By Blogger JReid, at 10:59 PM  

  • By Blogger yanmaneee, at 10:55 PM  

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