Friday, July 22, 2005

Who Gets The Top Bunk?

The noose tightens around Turd Blossom's extra chins:

Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.

Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.

It'll be interesting to see how quickly and thoroughly this buries the Roberts nomination. The Dems can definitely afford to punt on that for now, and milk this puppy for all it's worth.

After all, it's what the Republicans did the entire Clinton administration.

The varying accounts of conversations between Rove, Libby and reporters come as new details emerge about a classified State Department memorandum that's also at the center of Fitzgerald's probe.

A memo by the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research included Plame's name in a paragraph marked ``(S)'' for ``Secret,'' a designation that indicated to anyone who read it that the information was classified, the Washington Post reported yesterday.

State Department Memo

The memo, prepared July 7, 2003, for Secretary of State Colin Powell, is a focus of Fitzgerald's interest, according to individuals who have testified before the grand jury and attorneys familiar with the case.

The three-page document said that Wilson had been recommended for a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa by his wife, who worked on the CIA's counter-proliferations desk.

Bush had said in his State of the Union message in January 2003 that Iraq was trying to purchase nuclear materials in Africa. Days after Wilson's article -- in which he said there was no basis to conclude that Iraq was trying to buy nuclear material in Africa and that the administration had exaggerated the evidence -- the White House acknowledged that the Africa assertion shouldn't have been included in the speech.

The memo summarizing the Plame-Wilson connection was provided to Powell as he left with Bush on a five-day trip to Africa. Fitzgerald is exploring whether other White House officials on the trip may have gained access to the memo and shared its contents with officials back in Washington. Rove and Libby didn't accompany Bush to Africa.

One key to the inquiry is when White House aides knew of Wilson's connection to Plame and whether they learned about it through this memo or other classified information.

Remember all the pre-war ministrations from the Bush toadies to "connect the dots", that the preponderance of circumstantial evidence allowed for a certain amount of intuition to be used in arriving to a given conclusion? Well, we'll see if the steno pool wakes up and start connecting those dots, or if they get bogged down in memo minutiae and derail the narrative.

It's very simple: Karl Rove (and likely others, including Libby) used classified information to engage in an effort to discredit a critic of the Bush administration's reasoning and plans for going to war in Iraq. To suppose that neither Bush nor Cheney knew anything of this conspiracy of subordinates is to acknowledge an unconscionable level of incompetence and disconnectedness; to admit that they knew is to invite -- wait for it -- chimpeachment.

Because when you get right down to it, there's no way any previous president would have allowed this to go on for this long -- two years running -- and there's certainly no way any previous Congress would have allowed him to get away with two straight years of stonewalling and disassembling. But the only way this administration is ever really going to come clean about anything is if they're forced to -- and at that point, the whole fa├žade will finally start to crumble.

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