Friday, April 07, 2006

Mainstream Media Get Suckered Again, Coverage of the Leak Scandals Hits New Low

Does the media get it? Listening to the major networks, surfing the net, one would never know that the libby-leak story is all about Iraq and the lies Bushco told to get us there. Bushco has gotten away with reframing yet another debate. So what if Bush could make the illegal legal? So what if Bush can de-classify upon a malicious, vindictive whim? All dictators claim omnipotence but the powers of a dictator do not justify the dictatorship!

The real issues are these:

  • the lies the Bush administration told about Iraq;
  • the draconian measures Bush was willing to "authorize" in order to cover them up!
The timely "outing" of Valerie Plame is clearly one of those measures. Then why are the media following Scott McClellan's red herrings?

According to the Washington Post, Bush authorized Libby to "...disclose highly sensitive intelligence information". The question is not whether but why? The Center for American Progress states flatly that it was an attempt to discredit critics of Bush's rationale for the war against Iraq. If not that —then what? Some background. Wilson had blown holes in Bush's claim that Iraq was trying to buy yellow cake from Niger in order to build a nuke.
I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat

Ambassador Joseph Wilson

This is consistent with the various Downing Street memos themselves compelling if not conclusive evidence that Bush and Blair conspired to wage a war of aggression upon various fraudulent pretexts. It's also consistent with a recent story in the New York Times:

The Reach of War: Leaders; Bush Was Set on Path to War, Memo by British Adviser Says

In July of 2003, Wilson wrote that he had seen no evidence of an Iraq/Niger uranium transaction. His claim was backed up by N.I.E. and the CIA itself which gave "low confidence" to Bushco's uranium claims adding in a report that "...we cannot confirm whether Iraq succeeded in acquiring uranium ore.

Bushies, desperate for a pretext to wage a war upon which they had already decided, embarked upon a campaign to "...fix the intelligence " around a pre-conceived rationale. When this Machiavellian strategy was blown by Wilson, Bushco embarked upon an insidious campaign of retaliation. Thuggery in high places!

It's but the tip of an iceberg but you wouldn't have known that watching TV today. Clearly —the Bush administration cherry-picked intelligence and, according the various Downing Street Memos, engaged in planning campaigns of character assassination for anyone daring to dispute the official cover stories, the various Bush frauds to justify a war of naked aggression against Iraq.

Look at the polls. Most people now believe that Bush deliberately misled the American people about the reasons this nation attacked, invaded, and occupied a sovereign nation. Even Bush admits that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 911 —though Bush passively benefited from the misconception. He may have even encouraged it. The war has now cost hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives —American and Iraqi. The questions remaining today are: why can't the media get it right? When will Bush be held to account?

There is some good coverage to be had. But, generally speaking, you will not find it on network TV which seems to have bought into the Bush campaign to reframe both his role and the debate.Bush is toast. As I had already written, the idea that Bush can make legal crimes he's already committed is absurd on its face! How the media fell for this obvious bunkum, I'll never know.

Media left unanswered questions about NIE disclosure

Summary: Many in the media have simply asserted as fact that President Bush's alleged authorization of the release of key judgments of a classified National Intelligence Estimate is legal, without any discussion of the implications or consequences of such a position. Media Matters has prepared a list of questions arising from the revelation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's claim that Bush did just that -- questions that the simple assertion of the legality of the president's alleged actions doesn't begin to answer.

On April 5, special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald filed court documents alleging that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, testified that Cheney told Libby in July 2003 that President Bush had authorized Libby to disclose the key judgments of a classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). According to Fitzgerald, Libby further testified that "he brought a brief abstract of the NIE's key judgments" to a July 8, 2003, meeting with New York Times reporter Judith Miller and that Libby "understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium." According to Fitzgerald, Libby testified that this disclosure was intended to rebut former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had charged that the Bush administration distorted intelligence about Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program in making the case for war.

In 2005, Libby was indicted for obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements in connection with the Bush administration's alleged disclosure that Wilson's wife -- Valerie Plame -- was a CIA operative.

Immediately following The New York Sun's publication of an April 6 article breaking the story about Libby's testimony, many in the media have simply asserted as fact that what Bush is alleged to have done is legal, without any discussion of the implications or consequences of such a position. Media Matters for America has prepared a partial list of questions arising from the revelation of Libby's claims -- questions that the simple assertion of the legality of the president's alleged actions doesn't begin to answer.

1. Is there a process that the president must go through in order to have national security information declassified? If so, was that process followed? For example, are there any documents that the president must sign or officials that must be contacted before information can be made public? Must the president coordinate with or inform the agency that produced the information?

Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush all signed executive orders pertaining to the declassification of national security information. At least one legal analyst -- Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew P. Napolitano, a former New Jersey state judge -- has argued that Bush "would be violating his own order" if he declassified parts of the NIE without following certain procedures. ...

An update from Greg Palast[the bolding is mine]:

Gangster Government -- A Leaky President Runs Afoul of "Little Rico"

By Greg Palast

It's a crime. No kidding. But the media has it all wrong. As usual, 'Scooter' Libby finally outed 'Mr. Big,' the perpetrator of the heinous disclosure of the name of secret agent Valerie Plame. It was the President of United States himself -- in conspiracy with his Vice-President. Now the pundits are arguing over whether our war-a-holic President had the legal right to leak this national security information. But, that's a fake debate meant to distract you.

OK, let's accept the White House alibi that releasing Plame's identity was no crime. But if that's true, they've committed a bigger crime: Bush and Cheney knowingly withheld vital information from a grand jury investigation, a multimillion dollar inquiry the perps themselves authorized. That's akin to calling in a false fire alarm or calling the cops for a burglary that never happened -- but far, far worse. Let's not forget that in the hunt for the perpetrator of this non-crime, reporter Judith Miller went to jail.

Think about that. While Miller sat in a prison cell, Bush and Cheney were laughing their sick heads off, knowing the grand jury testimony, the special prosecutor's subpoenas and the FBI's terrorizing newsrooms were nothing but fake props in Bush's elaborate charade, Cheney's Big Con.

On February 10, 2004, our not-so-dumb-as-he-sounds President stated, "Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing. ...And if people have got solid information, please come forward with it."

Notice Bush's cleverly crafted words. He says he can't name anyone who leaked this "classified" info -- knowing full well he'd de-classified it. Far from letting Bush off the hook, it worsens the crime. For years, I worked as a government investigator and, let me tell you, Bush and Cheney withholding material information from the grand jury is a felony. Several felonies, actually: abuse of legal process, fraud, racketeering and, that old standby, obstruction of justice.

If you or I had manipulated the legal system this way, we'd be breaking rocks on a chain gang. We wouldn't even get a trial -- most judges would consider this a "fraud upon the court" and send us to the slammer in minutes using the bench's power to administer instant punishment for contempt of the judicial system.

Why'd they do it? The White House junta did the deed for the most evil of motives: to hoodwink the public during the 2004 election campaign, to pretend that evil anti-Bush elements were undermining the Republic, when it was the Bush element itself at the center of the conspiracy. (Notably, elections trickery also motivated Richard Nixon's "plumbers" to break into the Watergate, then the Democratic Party campaign headquarters.)

Let me draft the indictment for you as I would have were I still a government gumshoe:

"Perpetrator Lewis Libby (alias, 'Scooter') contacted Miller; while John Doe 1 contacted perpetrators' shill at the Washington Post, Bob Woodward, in furtherance of a scheme directed by George Bush (alias 'The POTUS') and Dick Cheney (alias, 'The Veep') to release intelligence information fraudulently proffered as 'classified,' and thereinafter, knowingly withheld material evidence from a grand jury empanelled to investigate said disclosure. Furthermore, perpetrator 'The POTUS' made material statements designed to deceive investigators and knowingly misrepresent his state of knowledge of the facts."

Statements aimed at misleading grand jury investigators are hard-time offenses. It doesn't matter that Bush's too-clever little quip was made to the press and not under oath. I've cited press releases and comments in the New York Times in court as evidence of fraud. By not swearing to his disingenuous statement, Bush gets off the perjury hook, but he committed a crime nonetheless, "deliberate concealment."

Here's how the law works (and hopefully, it will). The Bush gang's use of the telephone in this con game constituted wire fraud. Furthermore, while presidents may leak ("declassify") intelligence information, they may not obstruct justice; that is, send a grand jury on a wild goose chase. Under the 'RICO' statute (named after the Edward G. Robinson movie mobster, 'Little Rico'), the combination of these crimes makes the Bush executive branch a "racketeering enterprise."

So, book'm, Dan-o. Time to read The POTUS and The Veep their rights.

After setting their bail (following the impeachments and removals, of course), a judge will have a more intriguing matter to address. The RICO law requires the Feds to seize all "ill-gotten gains" of a racketeering enterprise, even before trial. Usually we're talking fast cars and diamond bling. But in this case, the conspirators' purloined booty includes a stolen election and a fraudulently obtained authorization for war. I see no reason why a judge could not impound the 82d Airborne as "fruits of the fraud " -- lock, stock and gun barrels -- and bring the boys home.

And if justice is to be done we will will also have to run yellow tape across the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- "CRIME SCENE - DO NOT ENTER" -- and return the White House to its rightful owners, the American people, the victims of this gangster government.
BRAVO GREG!!!

A Pattern of Partisan Intelligence Leaks

Knights Ridder reporters say that Bush/Cheney's authorization to Scooter Libby to declassify and divulge classified information about Iraq "fits a pattern of selective leaks of secret intelligence to further the administration's political agenda."

Scott McClellan today tried to justify the Adminstration's actions:
Without specifically acknowledging Bush's actions in the Libby case, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters: "There were irresponsible and unfounded accusations being made against the administration suggesting that we had manipulated or misused that intelligence. We felt it was very much in the public interest that what information could be declassified be reclassified."

McClellan didn't address why administration officials often declassified information that supported their allegations about Iraq but not intelligence that undercut their claims.
Here's a question I'm not seeing answered. If Libby was authorized to disclose newly declassified information to Judith Miller, and if it was all on the up and up, why did Libby, Cheney and Bush let her do 85 days in jail for refusing to say she got the information from Libby?

And, as Digby says, if they wanted to declassify and disclose information favorable to their case for war in Iraq, why didn't they call a press conference? Why did they give it to selected reporters? That's not disclosure to the public, that's a selective leak for partisan purposes.

There's two issues with Fitzgerald's filing. One is the Administration's failure to come clean about dissenting opinions on whether Saddam had WMD's. As Murray Waas reported, there's a one page piece of paper floating around that was given to the President in which doubts were expressed. Greg Sargent explains.

Let's state this as clearly as we can: Wass says there is a piece of paper out there which constitutes hard evidence that Bush withheld critical info from the American public as he made the most critical decision a president can make -- the decision whether to go to war. Jaded DC hands will say, "Old news -- everyone knew there was dissent within the bureaucracy." Fine. But Wass's story says more than that -- he says there's proof of the extent to which Bush knew of that dissent, that he deliberately concealed it from the public, and that Rove thought this fact could "severely damage" Bush's reelection prospects if it surfaced.

The other is whether Bush ordered the declassification of a document specifically for the purpose of discrediting Joseph Wilson (and by extension, his wife, Valerie Plame) to bolster his case for war.

If he declassified information to trash Wilson, that's a big problem.
While the MSM seems largely to have missed the boat, the web and blogoshere have yielded some interesting comments.

One of the most lucid descriptions of how Bush/Cheney abused the power of the Oval Office to make legal what is by rights and common sense a vindicative, malicious crime:
Bush would never, never take a fall for anyone, probably not even his own mother. Or I should say for sure not his own mother, because he obviously has a lot of unresolved issues with her.

Bush stepped in because he was forced to by Libby's court filings. He knew this day would come but he also knew he was untouchable.

When Libby leaked the name of a CIA operative he released classified information, which would be a crime, if he acted on his own authority, as most of us believed. But now we find out that he was not acting on his own authority, he was acting under instructions from Cheney and Bush and thus, as it turns out, he did nothing illegal.

That is, until he lied, presumably to save the butts of Cheney and Bush. If Libby would have simply went before the grand jury and told the truth, the saga would have ended then and there and the public would have known the truth before the last Presidential election.

—Evelyn Pringle, Bush and Cheney Get Over On Fitzgerald, OpEdNews

Here's a concise compilation of comments from the SoCal Law Blog (Southern Calfornia Law Blogs)
The Washington Post, Apr. 7, 2006, “Bush Authorized Secrets’ Release, Libby Testified.”) Other links of note:

  1. The DOJ has posted the court filing where the prosecutor describes Libby’s testimony here. At page 23, the prosecutor states: “As to the meeting on July8, defendant testified that he was specificallyauthorized in advance of the meeting to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller on that occasion because it was thought that the NIE was “pretty definitive” against what Ambassador Wilson had said and that the Vice President thought that it was “very important” for the key judgments of the NIE to come out. Defendant further testified that he at first advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE. Defendant testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE. Defendant testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom defendant considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document.”

  2. Anti-Strib points out that the hysteria over this issue is “a reflection on the way anti-Bush animus has fed into the adversarial culture of post-Watergate journalism in America.

  3. Think Progress thinks he caught Scott McCellan in a slip-up on the timing of the declassification of the NIE.

  4. Howard Kurtz concludes: “On that score, Bush is probably safe from having to fire himself, despite Scooter Libby’s accusation yesterday that the president, through Dick Cheney, had authorized him to feed classified CIA data to Judy Miller. The reason: It’s legal for the president to declassify something that otherwise would remain super-secret. Politically, it’s a mess.”

  5. The Existentialist Cowboy concludes: “Wake up, folks! It doesn’t get any more evil than that. The act is dastardly, impeachable, prosecutable, morally reprehensible, despicable!”

  6. Talk Left thinks the disclosure is part of a bigger pattern.

'Toons by Dante Lee; use only with permission

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