- February 6: Details of a bottled water contract in Iraq prove that former senior CIA official Kyle "Dusty" Foggo personally, and illegally, benefited from contracts issued to American companies after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Randy Cunningham corruption investigation
For years, CIA officers operating in northern Iraq bought drinking water from a bottling plant there. But after the invasion, Foggo, then a senior logistics officer for the Middle East stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, canceled the contract with the Iraqi firm and ensured that an American firm receive a no-bid contract for providing the water. At least one Baghdad CIA officer complained about the no-bid contract, believing that the deal was unnecessary because safe water was available commercially but he was ignored. Foggo, who shortly thereafter became the third-highest ranking official at the CIA, has deep personal and busines ties with the firm, Archer Logistics. Foggo's corruption is detailed in testimony from former government officials, who are speaking out as part of a wide-ranging federal investigation into Foggo's record of steering contracts to companies controlled by his best friend, San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes. Foggo and Wilkes will soon be indicted on fraud and conspiracy charges.
- AP reporters Katherine Shrader and Allison Hoffman write, "The water contract, while small on the scale of the billions that flowed into Iraq, raises questions about why US taxpayer dollars went to well-connected businessmen rather than Iraqis who could have benefited from a share of postwar reconstruction business. And the case provides a window into the murky world of covert government business arrangements." The Foggo/Wilkes case ties directly into the multiple investigations determining how associates of Republican House member Randy "Duke" Cunningham directed billions of dollars' worth of government contracts to a favored network of national security contractors. Cunningham, a San Diego Republican elected to eight terms in Congress, is currently serving more than eight years in jail for taking at least $2.4 million in bribes. Another defense contractor has pleaded guilty to paying some of them.
- In June 2002, Wilkes created a government contractor called Archer Defense Technologies, which was registered to the address of his flagship, Wilkes Corporation, in Poway, California. The company also used the name Liberty Defense Technologies. At the beginning of 2004, his nephew and apprentice, Joel Combs, formed a new company called Archer Logistics, run out of a small Virginia office. Foggo promptly recommended that the small and untried company receive the CIA water contract, and had little difficulty persuading the purchasing officer in his office to make the deal. Foggo never told the purchasing officer about his personal ties to Combs or Wilkes. At issue is Foggo's refusal to put the contract out for competitive bidding, and his refusal to disclose his personal ties to Wilkes and his various companies. According to government officials, Foggo was not slow to hand over contracts to his friend, Wilkes, and Wilkes's partner and cousin, Combs. Foggo and Wilkes have been close friends since high school. The review of the logistics operations in Iraq did not begin until after Foggo had been tapped by then-CIA Director Porter Goss to be the agency's No. 3 -- the executive director -- who would run the agency's day-to-day operations. Many in the CIA were surprised that Foggo was given such a lofty promotion.
- Like so many others in the Cunningham investigation, Foggo's lavish lifestyle provided clues to his corruption. He and Wilkes often dined at a Washington steakhouse at the foot of Capitol Hill frequented by lobbyists, which caught the attention of a House Intelligence Committee investigator looking into ties between defense contractors and Cunningham. Foggo and Wilkes kept a private wine locker at the restaurant stocked with Cunningham's favorite, an expensive California cabernet.
- Foggo retired from the agency in May 2006 under investigation by five agencies: the FBI, the IRS, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the CIA's inspector general and the US attorney's office in San Diego (that attorney, Carol Lam, was recently fired and replaced by a Bush loyalist -- see related items on this page). Wilkes' business and personal fortunes have also suffered. In the past two months, his wife has filed for divorce, and he has defaulted on a $7.5 million personal mortgage loan. His company, the Wilkes Corporation, defaulted on $12.1 million owed on another note. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle)
- February 6: The Lewis Libby jury continues to hear audio tapes of Libby's grand jury testimony from 2004.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
In the tapes, Libby said he learned about CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson, the wife of former ambassador Wilson, from Dick Cheney during a phone conversation on June 2003. He said he then forgot about it, but learned it again from NBC's Tim Russert on July 12, 2003 Libby said Russert asked him, "Did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA?" Libby added, "And I was a little taken aback by that. I remember being taken aback by it." Libby's grand jury testimony conflicts with testimony at his trial by a former White House press secretary, a former New York Times reporter, a recent vice presidential spokeswoman, a former CIA official and a former State Department undersecretary. (Russert will also contradict Libby in his testimony.) All testified Libby discussed Wilson's wife with them, most of them well before July 12. Libby said in grand jury testimony he did not remember Plame's name or CIA status coming up in any of those conversations, a claim refuted by multiple witnesses.
- In the audiotapes, Libby describes Cheney as "upset" over Joseph Wilson's op-ed disputing the administration's claims that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger, and recounted daily briefings with Cheney and other White House officials on how best to discredit Wilson. Libby also said that Karl Rove had been "animated" by a conversation with Robert Novak, in which the conservative columnist told Rove he "had a bad taste in his mouth" about Wilson and was writing a column about him. Novak outed Plame as a covert CIA agent on July 14, 2003, using Rove and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as his two sources. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald says that the "zeal" of Cheney, Libby, and Rove to discredit Wilson and out Plame as a CIA agent disproves Libby's contention that he was too busy with other matters to remember Cheney telling him that Plame was a CIA agent, and that, far from suffering from memory lapses, Libby lied to the FBI and to a grand jury about his role in outing Plame. Though Libby did not tell Novak about Plame, he told other reporters of her CIA status. He also denies remembering a conversation with Robert Grenier, a former CIA agent, about Wilson's trip to Niger. Two weeks ago, Grenier testified that Libby telephoned him out of the blue to ask about a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger, and was so eager to find out that he called back three hours later and pulled Grenier out of a meeting with CIA director George Tenet.
- The prosecution blasts Libby's claims of convenient lapses of memory, using the audiotapes to refute Libby's claims that he forgot Cheney told him about Plame and did not remember knowing about Plame when, as he says, Russert told him again weeks later. He also denies remembering that then-press secretary Ari Fleischer told him about Plame weeks before his conversation with Russert. Instead, Libby claims, not only is his memory faulty, but so is the recollections of all of the prosecution's witnesses. Libby's grand jury testimony stands in direct contradiction of eight prosecution witnesses, including current and former Bush administration officials as well as reporters. Libby's own notes show that he was told by Cheney about the CIA employment of Wilson's wife, more than a month before Plame's CIA identity was publicly revealed. (MSNBC ["Fact File"], AP, Washington Post, MSNBC/Raw Story)
- February 6: Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that there are good reasons for firing seven US attorneys since March, but refuses to tell the committee what those reasons are except that they are somehow "performance-related."
US Attorney firings
(See later items showing that the US attorneys asked to resign all had exemplary performance reviews except for one, Kevin Ryan.) McNulty denies Democrats' assertions that the attorneys were dismissed and replaced for political reasons. McNulty reminds the panel that federal prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the president, and repeats Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's promise to submit the name of every replacement to the Senate for confirmation. "The attorney general's appointment authority has not and will not be used to circumvent the confirmation process," McNulty says. "We never have and never will seek to remove a United States attorney to interfere with an ongoing investigation or prosecution or in retaliation for a prosecution." (As documented in many items in the January 2007 page and in this month's page, McNulty's assertions are difficult to believe.)
- McNulty admits that at least one US attorney, Arkansas's Ed Cummins, was asked to resign in order to make room for Timothy Griffin, whose primary experience comes from being a political aide to Karl Rove. McNulty insists, falsely, that Griffin has more prosecutorial experience than Cummins.
- Democrats are angry that the Justice Department seems to be forcing prosecutors to resign in moves designed to reward Republican allies and to possibly cripple investigations into criminal allegations against current and former Republican lawmakers. Democrats are also angry that the firings are the result of the fact that without their knowledge a little-known provision was slipped into the March 2006 Patriot Act reauthorization letting the attorney general replace prosecutors indefinitely. They now are seeking legislation to give interim appointment authority to District Court judges, with a deadline by which the prosecutor must be confirmed by the Senate. (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post/Raleigh News and Observer)
- February 6: Poland's remote Mazury-Szczytno International Airport, a former military facility located near a Polish intelligence training facility, was in 2002 and 2003 a stopver for numerous CIA "rendition" flights transporting terrorist suspects from Afghanistan to Morocco, Uzbekistan, Guantanamo Bay, and other locations.
US torture allegations
The intelligence training facility is suspected of being the home of a secret CIA interrogation and detention facility. During late 2002 and through most of 2003, numerous planes, all of them registered to US companies, flew in and out of the airport, mostly Gulfstreams, medium-sized jets popular with corporate executives. One was a Boeing 737. Polish government vehicles would meet the planes, and then, an hour or two later, they would take off again for their destinations. "Everything was unusual, from beginning to end," says Mariola Przewlocka, who was the airport's manager from 2003 until 2005, when her job was eliminated. "I was told to accept these flights even when the airport was closed." Przewlocka says she assumed the flights had something to do with the intelligence complex at Stare Kiejkuty, about 12 miles away. In November 2005, Poland and Romania were accused by Human Rights Watch of allowing the CIA to operate secret interrogation and detention centers on their territory.
- The Council of Europe mounted an investigation and named Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty to head it. Although Marty had no subpoena powers, his team of investigators used public records, satellite imaging, news accounts and interviews with officials to lay out a strong circumstantial case for what he describes as a "spider's web" of clandestine CIA flights and secret detention centers. However, no formal evidence exists. Marty says that while "there is no formal evidence at this stage of the existence of CIA detention centers in Poland and Romania," he believes that such facilities did exist "based on a careful balance of probabilities, as well as logical deductions from clearly established facts." A parallel report adopted two weeks ago by a special committee of the European Parliament drew similar conclusions. It accused Poland and 10 other EU countries of being complicit in the CIA's practice of "rendition" and other operations in which terrorism suspects were taken to countries where they likely would face torture. At the insistence of parliamentary conservatives in Brussels, the language in the report was softened to acknowledge that there was no hard evidence of CIA detention facilities in Poland. But it went on to "deplore" the Polish government's lack of cooperation with the investigation. It noted the Poles' "contradictory statements and confusion about flight logs...which were first said not to have been retained, then said to have been faxed and destroyed, and finally said to have been saved in an unspecified place."
- Despite official stonewalling, available records and witness testimonies gathered by the committee offer strong evidence of Polish government complicity. The report says that whenever one of the suspected flights was scheduled to land at Szymany, "orders were given directly by the regional border guards...emphasizing that the airport authorities should not approach the aircraft and that military staff and services alone were to handle those aircraft and only to complete the technical arrangements after the landing." The head of Poland's military intelligence agency at the time of the flights, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, acknowledged in December 2006 that CIA flights landed at Szymany, and he was quoted by the Polish Press Agency as saying the CIA had "a special zone" inside Stare Kiejkuty. However, Siemiatkowski denied that any CIA detainees were taken to the intelligence center or that there were secret jails anywhere on Polish soil.
- Przewlocka, the former airport manager, was one of the witnesses who gave evidence in Brussels. She says that landing fees for the mystery flights were paid in cash, often at double or even quadruple the going rate. "The money was brought by a man, a Pole, and it was always cash," she recalls. "The receipts were made out to an American company" whose name she does not recall. She adds that the customs formalities were carried out in secret aboard the plane, a breach of normal procedure for international flights. And she says the landing notification and ground service requirements for the planes also raised suspicions: "First, the notification that such a plane would be coming to Szymany was unusual. Normally, when a plane is coming we receive a fax. But in the case of the Gulfstreams, the notification came from military sources or from the border control and customs authorities in Warsaw. And I was told not to organize full ground service. They said to send everyone home and keep only one technical service worker."
- Jaroslaw Jurczenko, the airport's director, denies that flight records had ever been lost for the mysterious landings and provides the investigative reporters from the Chicago Tribune with documentation for seven of the flights in question. However, when matched with Federal Aviation Administration records, each of the seven landings at Szymany corresponds exactly with an unexplained blank in the aircraft's official flight log. For example, one the planes in question, a Gulfstream V with tail number N379P, took off from Washington's Dulles International Airport on July 27, 2003, and flew to Frankfurt, Germany. FAA records next show the plane taking off from Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on July 31, bound for Glasgow, Scotland, and then back to Dulles. How did the Gulfstream get from Frankfurt to Tashkent, and where did it stop during the four days in between? The partial answer is Szymany, where Polish aviation records indicate it landed at 2:58 AM on July 30 after a flight from Afghanistan.
- A more complete flight record is available for a Boeing 737 with tail number N313P. It flew from Tashkent to Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 21, 2003, and then to Szymany on September 22, landing at 9 PM. It stayed on the ground for 57 minutes before taking off for Baneasa Airport in Bucharest, Romania, an airport that, according to the Marty report, "bears all the characteristics of a detainee transfer or drop-off point." It then continued on to Rabat, Morocco, and Guantanamo Bay.
- The registered owners of both planes appear to be CIA front companies. Previous attempts to contact the owners produced a trail of non-existent people at unlikely addresses, or law firms that did not want to discuss the nature of their interest in aviation. Both planes have been involved in rendition cases documented by the Tribune, other media and EU investigators.
- The CIA sometimes uses front companies to charter aircraft from commercial or private owners. A Gulfstream registered to Phillip Morse, a partner in the Boston Red Sox, was used in one rendition that has resulted in the indictment of 25 current and former CIA operatives by an Italian prosecutor.
- Przewlocka, the former airport manager, says that when the mystery planes would land at Szymany, they usually were greeted by two military vans with shaded windows. She says the vehicles had government license plates that local people associated with the intelligence base at Stare Kiejkuty. She recalls that on one occasion, an ambulance came with the vans. On another occasion, a landing was attended by "a lady who said she represented the American Embassy," Przewlocka recalls. "She stood in front of the building and stared at the aircraft. When the two vans went past her on the way out, she turned aside. It was like she didn't want to see them," she says. (Chicago Tribune)
- February 6: Dick Cheney's son-in-law, Philip Perry, was one of the prime lawyers blocking and delaying government investigations into the Department of Homeland Security.
Secrecy of Bush administration
Perry, the husband of Elizabeth Cheney (herself a high-ranking official in the State Department), was, until he left his post at DHS last month to join a private law firm, was, according to testimony today before the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, a highly effective obstacle to any government oversight in his agency. "[Homeland Security] has been one of our persistent access challenges," says Government Accountability Office Comptroller General David Walker. Walker says people from Perry's office have to review documents GAO seeks before they are released and selectively sit in on interviews with department employees. "When you have more lawyers in a meeting than program people, you know you got a problem. Something needs to be done about this," Walker says. "Right now the system is structured to delay, delay, delay." Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner says his investigations have also been hindered. "We're experiencing the same problem," says Skinner, who adds his office is "oftentimes" told who they can interview and that it sometimes takes weeks to get documents. Skinner says that having a supervisor or attorney present when his office interviews an employee "sets a chilling effect" and tells the employee he's presumed not to be a team player.
- DHS is the subject of a recent report that focused on what it calls a "litany of staff misconduct" at Homeland Security, including "immigration officials demanding sex in exchange for visas, airport screeners stealing money from tourists' luggage, federal air marshals smuggling drugs, and employees from various DHS agencies committing sex crimes -- including indecent exposure and distributing child pornography." Perry personally obstructed efforts to further investigate these and other potentially criminal instances of misconduct at DHS. (Buzzflash [multiple sources])
- February 6: As proof of how serious Bush was with his State of the Union call for more funding for renewable energy sources, Bush says he will slash funding for research for Colorado's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Bush's economic policies
In his January 2007 speech, Bush called for a 20% cut in gasoline use by 2017, to be made possible in part by increasing the use of renewable fuels. Bush's recent budget proposal also slashes the Energy Department's renewable research budget, but adds more spending for fossil fuel and nuclear development. The Colorado laboratory is the nation's primary research facility for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- Democrats are aghast at Bush's perfidy. "Where is the balance in this budget, and where is the dedication to energy independence?" asks House member Mark Udall. "The president needs to walk his talk, and if he will not, I will work with the new Congress to increase funding for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. Energy independence is so critical to our national security, our energy security and our economy that we cannot afford to shortchange programs that will move us forward." Democratic senator Ken Salazar recalls that he toured the lab with Bush less than a year ago; he is disappointed in Bush's gutting of research funding. Democrats are expected to radically revamp Bush's budget proposals. During Bush's visit to the lab in 2006, he touted renewable energy research, but dodged questions about employee layoffs caused by his budget cuts. (AP/KMGH-TV)
- February 6: Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson writes that the Bush administration's privatization of war is a "public scandal."
Iraq war and occupation
Jackson writes, "They guard US officials. They patrol the Green Zone, the US headquarters in Iraq. They supply the food, the oil, clean the barracks and fix the machines. They aren't US soldiers; they are private contractors. The Bush administration has privatized war. The second-biggest army in Iraq consists of armed security forces supplied by private contractors. They act above the law -- and with unclear lines of authority. They work abroad, so they are largely beyond the reach of US law. On contract from the US government, they are beyond the reach of Iraqi law, as established in an order issued by the US Authority there before turning power over to the Iraqi government. When the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandals were revealed, private security forces and interrogators were at the center of it. But none was held accountable." The British have three times the amount of mercenaries in Iraq than it has soldiers. Jackson writes, "Contractors claim to provide savings and efficiency because of the benefits of competition. In fact, the GAO suggests, in most areas, the contractors have little competition. Sole-source, no-bid contracts are the rule, not the exception. The contractors -- as we saw in the bribing of Rep. Duke Cunningham and the other scandals of the DeLay Congress -- spend millions wining, dining and rewarding the legislators who provide them with their immensely profitable contracts." He concludes, "If privatization doesn't produce savings and offers such scope for abuse, why has it continued to grow? Part of the reason is simply the animus for government by modern day conservatives. Part of it is political grandstanding. President Clinton, for example, boasted that he had cut the size of the federal bureaucracy -- even as those cuts were feeding a cancerous growth of contracting out vital services. The problem now is that the government lacks the capacity to control its contractors -- and has begun contracting out that oversight. The Congress has begun a great debate about our policy in Iraq. But it is vital that they investigate -- as Sen. Joe Biden and Rep. Henry Waxman have promised -- the privatization of war. This must be brought under control before the Congress finds itself -- like the Roman Senate at the end of the Roman Republic -- faced with mercenary armies that are out of control." (Chicago Sun-Times)
- February 6: The Arkansas Times's Max Brantley says that Bush's Justice Department is offering nothing but "lame excuses" for its decision to fire, or require the resignations, of up to a dozen US attorneys, including Little Rock's Bud Cummins.
US Attorney firings
Brantley believes that Cummin's removal may be because Cummins "was investigating a case of Republican corruption in Missouri. Or maybe it was just that Karl Rove wanted his eager former lieutenant and poltical hatchet man, the hungry Tim Griffin, in a high-profile, high-paying job in Little Rock as a platform to do mischief with Democrats or simply to build a base for a future political run. ...The current Justice Department lie is that the Bush administration has no intention of bypassing the normal Senate confirmation process. If that's so, why then did they bypass the confirmation process? And when, pray tell, do they intend to submit to the confirmation process? We'd like talk to Griffin about all this. But he apparently gets his public relations advice from Mike Huckabee." (Arkansas Times)
- February 6: Eric Boehlart, writing for the media watchdog site Media Matters, reminds readers that had it not been for Patrick Fitzgerald's aggressive investigation of the Plame leak and his charges against Lewis Libby, it is highly unlikely that the media would have ever reported on the affair, and instead allowed it, like so many other legally and ethically questionable activities inside the White House, to fade away into news oblivion.
Lewis Libby perjury trial
Boehlert writes, "Fitzgerald has consistently shown more interest -- and determination -- in uncovering the facts of the Plame scandal than most Beltway journalists, including the often somnambulant DC newsroom of the New York Times. Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid DC press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men -- not journalists -- who were running down leads, asking tough questions and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House. It's true that Fitzgerald's team had subpoena power that no journalist could match. But reporters in this case had a trump card of their own: inside information. Sadly, most journalists remained mum about the coveted and often damning facts, dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House's obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame. So as the facts of the White House cover-up now tumble out into open court, it's important to remember that if it hadn't been for Fitzgerald's work, there's little doubt the Plame story would have simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to."
- Boehlert, calling the Plame debacle "Watergate in reverse," writes, "Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case. And that's why the Plame investigation then, and the Libby perjury trial now, so perfectly capture what went wrong with the timorous press corps during the Bush years as it routinely walked away from its responsibility of holding people in power accountable and ferreting out the facts."
- Boehlert doesn't go so far as to accuse reporters of actively colluding with the White House's smear campaign against Wilson (with the notable exception of conservative columnist Robert Novak), but he says that most reporters likely decided that, since it was unlikely the leak investigation would go anywhere, it wasn't worth pursuing. Boehlert says Libby apparently made the same judgment, confidently lying to the FBI in 2003 because he never believed anyone would bother investigating the matter. He writes, "So if the leakers weren't going to be found out, what was the point of reporters going public with their information and angering a then-popular White House that had already established a habit for making life professionally unpleasant for reporters who pressed too hard? Reporters all over Washington, DC, were more than willing to drop the story and look away. So instead, it fell to Fitzgerald to do the watchdog work traditionally overseen by the press corps."
- While the press is now covering the Libby trial, in the years between the leak and the trial, the press took a different tack -- either ignoring it, decrying it as unworthy of attention, or describing it as too confusing for reporters and their readers to follow. And sometimes, they just lied. Boehlert gives a plethora of examples. On July 12, 2005, ABC's Nightline reported, "For two years, it's been unknown who told reporters the identity of Valerie Plame." Boehlert calls that contention "silly," saying it took him about three days in the fall of 2003 to figure out Libby was the likely culprit. More to the point, he lists an array of Washington reporters who had enough inside information to either "unwrap" the Plame case or "at least advance" some elements of the story. Those reporters include Novak; NBC's Tim Russert, Andrea Mitchell, and David Gregory; MSNBC's Chris Matthews; Time's Matthew Cooper, along with Michael Duffy, John Dickerson, and Viveca Novak; the New York Times' Judith Miller, and the Washington Post's Bob Woodward. "They could have, but none of them did," Boehlert writes. "Instead, at times there was an unspoken race away from the Bush scandal, a collective retreat that's likely unprecedented in modern-day Beltway journalism."
- Indeed, many reporters, including some who had inside information about the Plame leak, spent their time cheerleading for the Bush administration and lambasting the Fitzgerald prosecution. The Times's Nicholas Kristof, whose May 2003 column first revealed the fact that Joseph Wilson had journeyed to Niger to uncover the facts about the claim that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium from Niger, warned readers and prosecutors alike not to "exaggerate" the leaking of Plame's identity, and claimed, falsely, that White House officials probably didn't know of her covert status. Newsweek went even farther, claiming that the leaking of Plame's identity did no real harm and asserting of the White House, "It is much more likely they believed that they were somehow safeguarding the republic." Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen dismissed the criminal investigation as banal and trivial, writing, "The best thing Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington, return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals." Fellow Post columnist Michael Kinsley agreed, wondering whether the "whole prosecution is nuts." Slate's Jacob Weisberg accused Fitzgerald of filing "creative crap charges" against Libby and, perhaps, other Bush administration officials.
- All of those examples are from 2005, some before and some after Libby's indictment. But just a few months ago, in October 2006, the Post's David Broder dismissed the entire affair as "overblown" and a "tempest in a teapot," and actually called on journalists to apologize to senior adviser Karl Rove for suggesting he was part of the campaign to leak Plame's identity. Broder made the astonishing demand knowing for a fact that Rove did indeed play a central role in the leaking. In recent weeks, Cohen dismissed the Libby trial as "silly," while Kinsley, now at Time, suggested that Libby, by leaking to reporters, was "a martyr of press freedom." Author and blogger Marcy Wheeler recently wrote in her new book Anatomy of Deceit that it seems as if the media were "making the case that the press should retain exclusive judgment on the behavior of politicians, with no role for the courts." Boehlert adds, "Unfortunately, the press has shown it's no longer up to fulfilling that important role."
- Many journalists involved in the Plame affair remained silent about their own involvement in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, choosing by their silence to bolster Bush's re-election chances instead of telling what they knew of the affair and letting the public decide if it should impact their votes. Time's Matthew Cooper fought Fitzgerald's subpoena to testify beginning in mid-2003. Only in the summer of 2005 did Cooper agree to testify, and sought a waiver from Rove allowing him to reveal Rove as his source for Plame's covert identity. Boehlert writes, "Of course, Cooper could have asked for that same waiver in 2004, which would have significantly quickened the pace of the investigation. But Cooper did not, according to a Los Angeles Times report, because 'Time editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year.'" Blogger Steve Soto observed, "Time magazine's editors knew that Matt Cooper had a huge story on their hands about Rove's involvement and the lengths the White House went to in order to discredit an opponent, but they sat on the story until after the election for fear of becoming part of a story that might affect the election." Instead, their decision affected the election -- in favor of Bush. When Fitzgerald indicted Libby on October 29, 2005, he noted that his two-year investigation could have been over a year earlier if reporters had cooperated. "We would have been here in October 2004 instead of October 2005," he said. Of course, that would not have been a good story for the Bush re-election campaign.
- NBC's Russert also chose to keep his mouth shut and protect the Bush administration until after the election. Russert had first-hand knowledge of key disputes regarding the Libby investigation. Boehlert writes, "Instead, Russert -- host of Meet the Press, which at the time enjoyed a very close working relationship with Libby's boss, Cheney -- chose to remain silent regarding central facts." Russert had cooperated with Fitzgerald in the summer of 2004, testifying about a July 2003 conversation he had had with Libby. Libby's own testimony was far different from Russert's: Libby blamed Russert for giving him the information about Plame's identity. The contradiction became the centerpiece of the Fitzgerald indictments. NBC released a statement after Russert's testimony that stressed he never received a leak from Libby and that Russert did not give Libby any information about Plame. All true. But neither Russert nor NBC revealed that Russert did not discuss Plame at all with Libby. That item would have shown up Libby to have lied to the FBI and the grand jury. Russert withheld his knowledge of Libby's duplicity for over a year, long after the 2004 presidential elections were history.
- Perhaps the most egregrious display of partisan sniping came from the Post's Bob Woodward. Although Woodward played only a small part in the Plame case, he withheld his knowledge of Libby's involvement in the Plame outing for years, from the public, his own editors, and from Fitzgerald. And during that time, he called Fitzgerald's prosecution "disgraceful," called Fitzgerald a "junkyard prosecutor," and opined that the leak had caused the CIA no harm. Woodward even predicted that when "all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great." What Woodward failed to tell anyone was that he himself had received a leak about Plame in 2003. Instead of revealing the leak, Woodward sat on the story and disparaged both Fitzgerald and the entire investigation for over two years. Woodward undoubtedly knew that if a reporter of his stature had come forward, the effect on the Bush campaign, and on the White House, would have been politically devastating. He chose to keep his mouth shut and berate Fitzgerald instead.
- Boehlert concludes, "Regardless of the outcome from the Libby perjury case, the trial itself will be remembered for pulling back the curtain on the Bush White House as it frantically tried to cover up its intentional effort to mislead the nation to war. Sadly, the trial will also serve as a touchstone for how the Beltway press corps completely lost its way during the Bush years and became afraid of the facts -- and the consequences of reporting them." (Media Matters [multiple sources])