Saturday, October 15, 2005

What the Hell....My Thoughts Too UPDATED II

For the most part I haven't blogged much in detail about the whole Plame affair. There's so little really known and yet so much minutia in the analysis. It seems a bit premature. And in the coming days, every line of both of these stories will be analyzed and spun to high heaven.


It is such an important story, I do want to weigh in.

In taking the time to read through the already panned NY Times article on Judy Miller and Plamegate, a few things struck me. There's nothing really new here; more some past speculation being confirmed. And what I have to offer is likely nothing that perhaps hasn't been said before. But here's my take. BTW, everywhere there is emphasis, it's mine:

NY Times Article:

A couple of overall elements scream from the reports in the Times article. The first is that Judy Miller is a pain in the ass, and has been a pain in the ass for some time. She apparently has received special treatment by Times management for some time to the puzzlement of many Times staffers. She's ruthlessly ambitious and the descriptions by her collegues leave me skeptical of her ethics.

Another overall observation is that Judy's report is really a "he said/she said event". Whether it's Judy's version of what Libby said, vice versa, or what the attorneys all said. Someone is lying, and probably both are lying in different areas.

On to some quotes and observations:
And when the prosecutor in the case asked her to explain how "Valerie Flame" appeared in the same notebook she used in interviewing Mr. Libby, Ms. Miller said she "didn't think" she heard it from him. "I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall," she wrote on Friday, recounting her testimony for an article that appears today.
The I-don't-recall "grand jury" mantra by Washington insiders is found throughout both articles. A Pulitizer prize winning journalist with "the newspaper of record", in the prime of her career "could not recall". Over and over again, Judy just doesn't remember, despite having taken notes. Please.

I was a psychotherapist. I used to see 20-30 clients per week, each client over a period of a couple of months. That means I probably met with a couple of hundred different people per year. Yet, right now throughout my fifteen year career, I can recall details of names, places, issues, and outcomes in virtually any of the cases that were regular, known clients (I'm excepting people who came in for one or two sessions).

Judy's denials of remembering just don't pass the smell test.

Regarding initialing seeking a release from Libby to testify (before jail):
Ms. Miller authorized Mr. Abrams [her attorney] to talk to Mr. Libby's lawyer, Joseph A. Tate. The question was whether Mr. Libby really wanted her to testify. Mr. Abrams passed the details of his conversation with Mr. Tate along to Ms. Miller and to Times executives and lawyers, people involved in the internal discussion said.

People present at the meetings said that what they heard about the preliminary negotiations was troubling.

Mr. Abrams told Ms. Miller and the group that Mr. Tate had said she was free to testify. Mr. Abrams said Mr. Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby's grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson's wife.

That raised a potential conflict for Ms. Miller. Did the references in her notes to "Valerie Flame" and "Victoria Wilson" suggest that she would have to contradict Mr. Libby's account of their conversations? Ms. Miller said in an interview that she concluded that Mr. Tate was sending her a message that Mr. Libby did not want her to testify.


In an e-mail message Friday, Mr. Tate called Ms. Miller's interpretation "outrageous."
The reporters are incredibly strained to report "just the facts ma'am". What I get is that Libby said sure, go ahead and testify as long as you don't get me in trouble (in other words, prompting her) knowing full well that what Miller could say would cook him. Miller then had to either a) lie, or b) go to jail.

A classic example of the he said/she said-ness throughout the whole story. Someone is lying. In this instance and because of multiple sources reporting on the meeting, I believe Miller. Libby thought, and everyone else involved in the discussions thought, that by Miller testifying, she's be cooking Libby's goose. So she decided to shut-up and go to jail to protect Libby. More on this conflict:
Once Ms. Miller was issued a subpoena in August 2004 to testify about her conversations with Mr. Libby, she and The Times vowed to fight it. Behind the scenes, however, her lawyer made inquiries to see if Mr. Libby would release her from their confidentiality agreement. Ms. Miller said she decided not to testify in part because she thought that Mr. Libby's lawyer might be signaling to keep her quiet unless she would exonerate his client. The lawyer denies that, and Mr. Libby did not respond to requests for an interview.
Just based on these quotes, it looks to me like Libby is toast. The Times management knows it, the Times staff knows it, the lawyers know it, the reporters know it. And they all got so caught up in protecting the first amendment, a questionable act in this instance, that they are willing to let a significant national leader get away with a felony. If they were truly protecting a first amendment right it would be laudable. In this circumstance it's shameful.

On to Jude....

Judy's Story:

One element that hits you in the face about Judy's telling of the story is the degree to which the administration was/is at war with the CIA. Cute, eh? Fighting a war and a so-called war with two key parts of our side are at each other's throats.

With that, here we go:
It was the first time Mr. Wilson had gone public with his criticisms of the White House. Yet he had already become a focus of significant scrutiny at the highest levels of the Bush administration.
Joe Wilson was on the radar for some time before his wife's outing. He was one of the foot soliders in the war between the administration and the CIA. Does anyone really believe that Mrs. Wilson's name being released was a casual accident? To believe that is to believe that the administration is not good at fighting a propaganda war with other institutions. And we know that's not true. Just ask John Kerry, John McCain and any number of other candidates who have faced Karl Rove and the neocons.
Equally central to my decision [to testify] was Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor. He had declined to confine his questioning to the subject of Mr. Libby. This meant I would have been unable to protect other confidential sources who had provided information - unrelated to Mr. Wilson or his wife - for articles published in The Times. Last month, Mr. Fitzgerald agreed to limit his questioning.
The immediate question I have is what else does she know that she doesn't want to divulge? There is no doubt she was on the inside of the administration, being used as a government mouthpiece. There's also no doubt she is smart, savy and shrewd. She is afraid she might be asked about some larger issues, perhaps like the forged Nigerian uranium papers?

I'm gonna guess that in the intervening eight months that Miller was in jail, Fitzgerald was able to narrow his inquiry with Miller because he either got what he needed or decided he didn't need Miller's testimony. I say this because throughout the article, Miller complains about the misery of her jail time and how Fitzgerald made it clear that he would extend the grand jury to keep her in jail, if need be. Anyone remember the last line in this post? I think it's clear that Miller would have caved eventually anyway.

Miller then goes on regarding a meeting with Libby:
Mr. Libby then proceeded through a lengthy and sharp critique of Mr. Wilson and what Mr. Libby viewed as the C.I.A.'s backpedaling on the intelligence leading to war. According to my notes, he began with a chronology of what he described as credible evidence of Iraq's efforts to procure uranium. As I told Mr. Fitzgerald and the grand jury, Mr. Libby alluded to the existence of two intelligence reports about Iraq's uranium procurement efforts. One report dated from February 2002. The other indicated that Iraq was seeking a broad trade relationship with Niger in 1999, a relationship that he said Niger officials had interpreted as an effort by Iraq to obtain uranium.
It looks to me like someone set up the administration, or at a minimum, took advantage of the administrations' overzealousness. Wilson blew up the yellowcake story in his editorial and drew the wrath of the administration. Who was involved? This will make a pretty good story someday a la JFK conspiracy theories. In my opinion, the forgeries are old and from a different time, picked up by the administration to bolster their claims for the war, and gleefully shot down by the CIA as a part of exposing the administration aggressive use of intelligence to justify the war.
Although I was interested primarily in my area of expertise - chemical and biological weapons - my notes show that Mr. Libby consistently steered our conversation back to the administration's nuclear claims. His main theme echoed that of other senior officials: that contrary to Mr. Wilson's criticism, the administration had had ample reason to be concerned about Iraq's nuclear capabilities based on the regime's history of weapons development, its use of unconventional weapons and fresh intelligence reports.
The administration was fed (or made up) what they needed to believe to please the President's megalomaniacal desire to, for once in Bush's lifetime, clean up his father's blunder (rather than the other way around). The decision to take down Saddam Hussein was made by neocon thinkers during the first Gulf War. There was much anger that Bush I didn't do it. With the election of Bush II, war with Saddam was fait accompli.
Mr. Fitzgerald asked if I could recall discussing the Wilson-Plame connection with other sources. I said I had, though I could not recall any by name or when those conversations occurred.
Ah huh.
I told Mr. Fitzgerald that I was not sure whether Mr. Libby had used this name or whether I just made a mistake in writing it on my own. Another possibility, I said, is that I gave Mr. Libby the wrong name on purpose to see whether he would correct me and confirm her identity.
Her lack of recollection of important details is astounding.

Depending on what Fitzgerald knows from others, Judy may or may not be in jeopardy. I don't for a minute believe her lack of recollection. On the other hand, I'm not sure I disbelieve what she is saying. I think her lies are lies of ommission.

These stories lend considerable credence to the recently speculated idea that Fitzgerald is dealing with issues beyond the release of Valerie Plame's name. I have no doubt that there is plenty of law-breaking for him to grasp....if he can find the evidence.

For this I'm hopeful. The justice system generally works. Fitzgerald and the grand jury are the only people in the world who have the picture of the whole elephant, not just a piece of it. I'm going to trust that they find the evidence they need of any wrongdoing.

Here's hoping they do.

In the meantime, Miller should resign and skulk away to a multi-million dollar book deal where, in good time, she can reveal what she is not currently revealing. Well... at least that's what the promos will say when the book comes out. And the NY Times needs to replace Bill Keller and take a serious look at it's mission.

UPDATED: I notice this as well and just forgot to include it. From David Corn:
There is something else odd about her July 8, 2003 discussion with Libby. When the subject turned to Wilson, Libby asked Miller that he be identified in any story she would write as a "former Hill staffer." Previously the two had agreed that Miller would refer to Libby as a "senior administration official." Now Miller agreed that she would ID him as a "former Hill staffer." (Libby had once worked on Capitol Hill.) She assumed, she writes, that "Libby did not want the White House to be seen as attacking Mr. Wilson." But this shows the dishonest game that reporters can play. Technically, Libby was a former Hill staffer, but he was talking to Miller--and trying to undermine Wilson's account--as a White House official. Calling Libby a "former Hill staffer" in print would have been highly misleading. (Miller never did write a piece on Wilson.) Is this how the Times plays ball? This small slice of Miller's piece deserves a response from executive editor Bill Keller.
As response my ass. Miller should be fired and Keller should be resigned.

Also, having given some further thought, Judy omissions seem larger. Besides Judy's "I don't recall" defense, there's also those other sources that Judy didn't want to expose. She tries to pooh-pooh it as irrelevant, but you gotta wonder. I'm guessing that those other unnamed sources are why she went to jail (Rove, Cheney?). If Libby's her least damning testimony, it means Fitzgerald may have missed a great opportunity. That is, unless he didn't need Judy's testimony anymore....

UPDATE II: This is apparently old news, but new to me:
Mr. Fitzgerald also focused on the letter's closing lines. "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning," Mr. Libby wrote. "They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them."

How did I interpret that? Mr. Fitzgerald asked.

In answer, I told the grand jury about my last encounter with Mr. Libby. It came in August 2003, shortly after I attended a conference on national security issues held in Aspen, Colo. After the conference, I traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyo. At a rodeo one afternoon, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat and sunglasses approached me. He asked me how the Aspen conference had gone. I had no idea who he was.

"Judy," he said. "It's Scooter Libby."
This is the final paragraph in Judy's story in the Times. It was a very odd way to end her story. No explanation. No context. Nothing more. He knew she was there on a conference although she says she didn't recognize him.

But what's really interesting is that Cheney lives in Jackson Hole and was vacationing there at the time of this connection with Libby.



At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just stopped over from Americablog. Your take on this story is pretty interesting. I also find her memory lapses troubling and unbelievable. She was a Pulitzer prize winning journalist whose expertise was Biological and Chemical weapons and she can't remember important details like who leaked her the name she wrote in her notes for a story she would have loved to do to discredit the CIA? My eight year daughter comes up with better responses when caught lying.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The reporters are incredibly strained to report "just the facts ma'am". What I get is that Libby said sure, go ahead and testify as long as you don't get me in trouble (in other words, prompting her) knowing full well that what Miller could say would cook him. Miller then had to either a) lie, or b) go to jail."

What about option c) tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may? Why could not Miller do that unless she is protecting herself?

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Greyhair said...

Yeah, I thought of c) later.

It's instructive that it never came to mind when I was writing the post. That tells you how sure I feel that Judster is in the pocket of the administration, and is an unethical skank.


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