Libby Testimony Points Directly to Bush, Cheney


Richard Moore

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    Libby Testimony Points Directly to Bush, Cheney
    By Jason Leopold and Marc Ash
    t r u t h o u t | Report
    Wednesday 07 February 2007

According to trial transcripts obtained by Truthout, former White House staffer 
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified before a grand jury in 2004 that Vice 
President Dick Cheney instructed him to divulge portions of a then-classified 
report to New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Libby testified that Cheney 
said authorization to leak a section of the report had come directly from 
President George W. Bush, the court transcripts state.

The document, titled the National intelligence Estimate, was officially 
declassified on July 18, 2003. However Libby testified before the grand jury in 
March 2004 that he had received instructions from Cheney on July 8, 2003, to 
release portions of the report to Judith Miller.

"The vice president instructed me to go talk to Judith Miller to lay things out 
for her," Libby said, according to court transcripts. Libby added that President
Bush did not know Judith Miller, but authorized Libby to share the NIE with her.
Miller did not publish a story based on the information Libby leaked to her.

Libby testified that the leak of the NIE to Miller was aimed at undermining the 
credibility of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who on July 6, 2003, wrote an 
op-ed for the New York Times accusing the Bush administration of "twisting" 
pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Wilson's stinging rebuke of the administration led
Libby and other White House officials to leak Wilson's wife's covert CIA status 
to reporters one week later.

Libby said, according to the court transcript, that the leak of the NIE on July 
8, 2003, was a closely guarded secret and that only he, Vice President Dick 
Cheney, and President Bush were aware that some of its contents would be leaked.

Libby testified that the White House discussed on a daily basis Wilson's 
accusations that the administration had manipulated pre-war intelligence 
regarding Iraq. Those conversations included President Bush, Libby testified, 
according to the court transcript. Libby testified that his own handwritten 
notes indicate that President Bush wanted him to to speak with reporters and to 
rebut Wilson's charges.

"If the president tells you to talk about a document, it's declassified," Libby 
testified about the why he believed he was authorized to discuss what was then 
still a classified document.

The information that surfaced during Tuesday's court proceedings places 
President Bush at the center of the probe, and once again raises the question of
whether Bush knew in advance the lengths to which senior White House officials 
would go to discredit Wilson. President Bush retained a private attorney when he
was interviewed by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the leak probe three
years ago, but details of the president's interview have yet to be released 

Libby's testimony is backed up by a court document filed by Fitzgerald last 
year, in which the special prosecutor wrote that Libby had testified he was 
authorized by Bush and Cheney to discuss the NIE with Miller.

"Defendant testified that the Vice President advised him that the President had 
authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE," the filing 
further states. "Defendant testified that he brought a brief abstract of the 
NIE's key judgments to the meeting with Miller on July 8. Defendant 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. Defendant testified 
that this July 8th meeting was the only time he recalled in his government 
experience when he disclosed a document to a reporter that was effectively 
declassified by virtue of the President's authorization that it be disclosed. 
Defendant testified that one of the reasons why he met with Miller at a hotel 
was the fact that he was sharing this information with Miller exclusively."

According to the court transcript, Libby claimed that Miller was the first 
journalist to receive details of the NIE. But his story does not appear to be 
accurate. On June 27, 2003, two weeks before Libby met with Miller, the vice 
president's former chief of staff met with Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer 
Prize-winning reporter, and leaked the portion of the NIE that dealt with Iraq's
attempt to acquire uranium from Niger, which was first reported by this reporter
in March 2006. It's unclear whether the leak of the NIE to Woodward - which took
place two weeks after Cheney disclosed to Libby that Wilson's wife worked for 
the CIA and had suggested sending her husband to Niger to look into the uranium 
claims - was authorized.

The Watergate-era journalist wrote in the Washington Post in November 2005 that 
when he met with Libby on June 27, 2003, "Libby discussed the October 2002 
National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, 
mentioned 'yellowcake,' and said there was an effort by the Iraqis to get it 
from Africa. It goes back to February '02. This was the time of Wilson's trip to

The perjury and obstruction of justice charges against Libby stem from when and 
how he discovered that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA and 
whether he leaked her status to reporters. Plame's name was revealed in a 
syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003 - eight days after her 
husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the administration of twisting intelligence to 
justify war with Iraq. Wilson and government prosecutors said the Plame leak was
an act of retaliation against Wilson.

Libby maintains he first learned about Plame from Tim Russert, host of "Meet the
Press." Libby's defense is that he was wrapped up with more pressing issues, 
such as the war in Iraq and national security, and innocently forgot that Cheney
had told him about Plame on numerous occasions in June and July 2003. Libby's 
assertions are undercut by numerous government witnesses and journalists who 
testified that Libby discussed Plame's CIA status with them more than a week 
before he said he was told about her by Russert for the first time.

Last week, a crucial piece of evidence emerged during Libby's trial that also 
appeared to implicate President Bush in the CIA leak case. Yet the seemingly 
explosive development was absent from mainstream news coverage of the trial.

Copies of Cheney's handwritten notes, which were introduced into evidence by 
government prosecutors, show the vice president asserting that Libby was asked -
the notes would appear to indicate - by President Bush to deal with media 
inquiries regarding Wilson's claims. Bush has said publicly that he did not take
part in an effort to counter Wilson and that he had no prior knowledge that 
anyone on his staff was involved in an effort to discredit the war critic.

Cheney's handwritten notes would suggest that Libby was made a scapegoat by the 
White House. Libby attorney Theodore Wells said Cheney wrote "not going to 
protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his head in 
the meat grinder because of incompetence of others": a reference to Libby being 
asked to deal with the media and vociferously rebut Wilson's allegations that 
the Bush administration knowingly "twisted" intelligence to win support for the 
war in Iraq.

However, when Cheney wrote the notes, he had originally written "this Pres." 
before crossing it out and writing "that was" asked. Thus, Cheney's notes would 
have read: "not going to protect one staffer and sacrifice the guy this Pres. 
asked to stick his head in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of 

You can send comments and questions to Jason Leopold or t r u t h o u t 
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