Leopold: Evidence Suggests White House Conspiracy
Evidence Suggests White House Conspiracy
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Thursday 06 April 2006
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stated in a court filing late Wednesday in the CIA leak case that his investigators have obtained evidence during the course of the two-year-old probe that proves "multiple" White House officials conspired to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a critic of the administration's pre-war Iraq intelligence.
This is the first time the special counsel has acknowledged that White House officials are alleged to have engaged in a coordinated effort to undercut the former ambassador's credibility by disseminating classified intelligence information that would have contradicted Wilson's public statements.
Fitzgerald's court filing was made in response to attorneys representing I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, who was indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators related to his role in the leak. The attorneys are desperately trying to obtain evidence from the government that will prove Libby did not intentionally lie to the grand jury when he was asked how he found out about Plame Wilson and whether he shared that information with the media.
Furthermore, Libby's attorneys have argued that they are entitled to the evidence in order to prove Libby was not engaged in a "plot" to discredit Wilson. However, Fitzgerald says the evidence he has obtained proves there was a coordinated effort by White House officials to discredit Wilson.
Fitzgerald wrote in the filing, "There exist documents, some of which have been provided to defendant and there were conversations in which defendant participated, that reveal a strong desire by many, including multiple people in the White House, to repudiate Mr. Wilson before and after July 14, 2003."
Although Fitzgerald makes it abundantly clear that Libby is not charged with conspiracy, he argues that Libby's suggestion that there was no White House plot to discredit Wilson is ludicrous, given the amount of evidence Fitzgerald has in his possession that suggests otherwise.
"Once again, defendant ignores the fact that he is not charged with participating in any conspiracy, much less one defined as a 'White House-driven plot to punish Mr. Wilson,'" the filing states. "Moreover, given that there is evidence that other White House officials with whom defendant spoke prior to July 14, 2003, discussed Wilson's wife's employment with the press both prior to, and after, July 14, 2003 - which evidence has been shared with defendant - it is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish' Wilson."
Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was an undercover CIA operative whose identity was unmasked to reporters, in what the former ambassador claims was an attack after he penned an op-ed in the New York Times in July 2003 exposing the administration's use of flawed intelligence on the Iraqi nuclear threat.
Fitzgerald did not name the other White House officials who were involved in the effort to undercut Wilson, but sources close to the case said that White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley are the officials who were involved in the alleged plot.
A footnote in the court filing states that Hadley was involved in conversations and meetings at Cheney's office in which White House officials discussed how to respond to Wilson's statement that the administration used bogus intelligence to make a case for war.
Hadley suggested declassifying a portion of the highly sensitive National Intelligence Estimate and leaking it to reporters as a way of responding to Wilson's statements.
"The government is producing to defendant Mr. Hadley's notes of meetings and conversations in which both defendant and Mr. Hadley participated, and in which the potential declassification of the NIE was discussed," the court filing says.
Moreover, Wednesday's court filing lays out for the first time how White House press secretary Scott McClellan came to publicly exonerate Libby and Rove during a press briefing in October 2003, three months after Plame Wilson's identity was unmasked.
The filing suggests that Libby lied about his role in the leak when McClellan asked him about it in October 2003. Libby, with Vice President Cheney's backing, persuaded the press secretary to clear his name during one of his morning press briefings, and prepared notes for him to use.
"Though defendant knew that another White House official had spoken to Novak in advance of Novak's column and that official had learned in advance that Novak would be publishing information about Wilson's wife, defendant did not disclose that fact to other White House officials (including the Vice President) but instead prepared a handwritten statement of what he wished White House Press Secretary McClellan would say to exonerate him:
People have made too much of the
How I described Karl and Libby
I've talked to Libby.
I said it was ridiculous about Karl.
And it is ridiculous about Libby.
Libby was not the source of the Novak story.
And he did not leak classified information."
"As a result of defendant's request, on October 4, 2003, White House Press Secretary McClellan stated that he had spoken to Mr. Libby (as well as Mr. Rove and Elliot Abrams) and "those individuals assured me that they were not involved in this."
McClellan's public statement and the fact that President Bush vowed to fire anyone in his office involved in the leak were motivating factors that led Libby to lie during an interview with FBI investigators in November 2003, Fitzgerald states in the court filing: "Thus, as defendant approached his first FBI interview he knew that the White House had publicly staked its credibility on there being no White House involvement in the leaking of information about Ms. Wilson and that, at defendant's specific request through the Vice President, the White House had publicly proclaimed that defendant was 'not involved in this.'"
Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak invesigation, and will be a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t.