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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Plame Game, ready for names.

Plame, Cheney, Libby, Rove, Wilson, Fitzgerald, Hadley...With all these names and more, we have a major Washington scandal ready to mass destruct.

This scandal will be very scary to many of the names involved, just in time for Halloween. The Justice Department investigation is nearly complete and soon the front pages will be playing the Plame Game.

Miller, Bush, McClellan, Tenet, Novak, Fleischer, Cooper...The naming of names will start and what we probably are going to find is a conspiracy to defraud the country. For those not paying attention to "Plamegate," or somehow think that this is a nonsense blame game, you might be in for a surprise.

The one name I have yet to use, Hussein, plays only a small role.

The synopsis of the scandal begins with the desire to have a war on Iraq. So it is all connected into the White House. Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be the late focus. He ran a "task force" called the Iraq Group to search for evidence that Saddam Hussein had or was seeking WMDs, particularily nukes. Cheney later was publicly the greatest advocate for a case of Saddam and nuclear ambitions.

It has been known that the White House wanted an Iraq War even prior to winning the 2000 election. There was the group called Project for a New American Century (PNAC) going back to 1998 that urged then President Clinton to attack Iraq. Many from PNAC moved on to the White House, they are known as neoconservatives. According to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill the subject of an Iraq War came up in the very first cabinet meeting. This past year the Downing Street Memos were revealed also confirming the White House desire for an Iraq War prior to 9/11.

When George Bush gave his 2002 State of the Union speech it was heavy with accusations against Saddam Hussein and his threat to the United States. In what is now called the "16 words" Bush proclaimed, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

How did Bush know this? It was written into the speech from intelligence information that came from the Vice-Presidents office. This information collected by the Iraq Group was gleaned from CIA information that the CIA was highly doubtful about. CIA Director George Tenet has taken the blame for those 16 words, but Stephen Hadley assistant to Cheney left it in the speech.

There were two reasons that the CIA didn't think the statement was true. First the "forged documents" that made it appear that Saddam had made a deal with Niger to obtain uranium yellow cake. The document mysteriously turned up at the US embassy in Italy, and were dismissed easily as forgeries on investigation.

The second reason involved the names of the heart of the story. After the 16 words were spoken by Bush, former ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote in the New York Times that those words were wrong. He knew so because he had been to Niger to investigate the yellowcake rumor two years before. He did this on behalf of the CIA and returned to say that there was no evidence that Saddam had sought the uranium.

It turns out he was working for Dick Cheney, but indirectly. The vice-president had been actively interested in the CIAs investigations of any Hussein and WMD connection. Joe Wilson's information filtered up and over to Cheney, but not regarded with interest because it didn't make the case for WMDs, except to at least Cheney.

Wilson's article riled the White House as Wilson pinpointed the false statements and false premise that the White House was using to sell the war to the American public. Soon the White House began a whisper attack on Wilson, using reporters. They tried to make it look like Wilson had gone to Niger because of orders from his wife. They spoke her name to several reporters, but she was CIA and considered undercover by the agency. The CIA then had no choice but to investigate any damage done to their operations by outing an agent and also requested a Justice Department investigation as required.

Wilson's wife, the now famous Valerie Plame it turns out did not send her husband Joe to Niger. She had merely suggested him as a possible person to go. Managers above her made the decision as Wilson was indeed a good likely candidate because he had been there before.

Political columnist Robert Novak was the first to name Plame and begin this whole name game. Others that were told her name but did not go public with the information were Walter Pincus from the Washington Post, Tim Russert host of Meet the Press, Time Magazine's Matt Cooper, and The New York Time's Judith Miller.

Initially the Justice Department headed by John Ashcroft called the White House and told them of the investigation and to assemble all information pertaining to this "outing." White House Council Alberto Gonzalez took this call on a Friday, but told White House staffers beginning with Chief of Staff Andrew Card to start on Monday, leaving a time gap. Later in the investigation Ashcroft recused himself and the investigation was turned over to a Chicago prosecuter Patrick Fitzgerald.

The direction of the investigation has been revealed in part from those who have testified before Fitzgerald's grand jury. All the reporters have had to face the problem of revealing their sources, which reporters just don't do, and the freedom of speech issue. They needed some sort of permission to speak to the grand jury from their source(s). Two reporters at first refused to testify. Matt Cooper, who was ready to go to jail rather than testify, got last minute consent from his source through Matt and his source's attorneys.

Judith Miller was an interesting story in itself. She was outspoken in her refusal to reveal her source(s?) citing the First Amendment and her newspaper The New York Times backed her up. Fitzgerald had her put in jail for refusing to testify, withholding evidence. She eventually spent 85 days in jail. finally her source gave her formal permission that Miller says was neccesary, it was a bit confusing. She did testify, but also her notebook from the time in question was suddenly found. Strangly written was Valerie's name except surnamed Flame and her fake identity mixed up as well. Miller claims she could not remember who told her the information written that day.

Miller was the reporter that wrote extensively about the Iraq War and the search for WMDs in Iraq during and after the fall of Baghdad. She was embedded with a search team. She also wrote many of the pre-war claims the Bush Administration used to sell the war detailing intelligence which later proved false. Her coverage turned out to so inaccurate that The NY Times printed a "mea culpa" apologizing for getting the WMD story wrong.

Who told Miller and the other reporters the name of Wilson's wife? Several White House officials have been named as some reporters have written post-testimony stories about their source. One is Cheney's top aide "Scooter" Libby. The other is George Bush's top brain Karl Rove. As the "man behind the throne" or "Bush's Brain" Rove is an important figure to the president.

At one point in the investigation Bush was asked by a reporter if it was found that anyone in the White House was involved whether that person(s) would be fired. Bush replied in the affirmative. Later he re-parsed his words and said only if they broke the law. Also earlier Scott McLellan at his press briefing said that Rove and Libby had spoken to him and McLellan said they weren't involved. After some of the stories came out with Rove and Libby's names in them, McLellan stonewalled the press in some lively Q&A and refused to comment about his earlier remarks. Suddenly, he wouldn't comment in an ongoing investigation. The White House is now only repeating this mantra.

What is the prosecutor thinking of using as charges in this investigation? The first and most serious is revealing the name of a covert agent, a law not used since it went into effect in this past decade. Another charge is possibly involving espionage, or revealing government secrets. And all those that testified before the grand jury may have to face perjury if they lied in court to cover up knowledge or obstruction of justice. Karl Rove has appeared on four different occasions, which brings suspicious attention to what his role might be. One must also wonder if the whole thing gets wrapped up into a large conspiracy to fabricate the Iraq War WMD issue.

This is where we stand, now waiting to see who might be indicted. We also wonder how deep this goes. Is President Bush involved? Did he either order some sort of retaliation against Joseph Wilson involving his wife's CIA status, or have knowledge of the "outing?" Bush was interviewed by Fitgerald, but not under oath. The same questions apply to Dick Cheney. He seems likely to have been involved with his close interest in an Iraq War. Do either of them have "plausible deniability?" Karl Rove and Scooter Libby most certainly seem targets as they talked to reporters.

Fitzgerald has a reputation of being a good, hard working, non-partisan prosecutor. Those of us who have known all along that this administration is corrupt are awaiting what names Fitzgerald names in this Plame Game. Halloween 2005 will never be the same to those names.

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