News and events revolving around the ousting of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What About the Ten Week Gap?

Rep. John Conyers

Going back a couple of years, I wrote two letters on September 29, 2003 about Treasongate. The first was a public letter (pdf) -- to the Department of Justice asking for a Special Prosecutor (I think I was the first Member of Congress to ask, but I have no illusions that my letter forced their hand).

The second (pdf) was not a public letter. It was to Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet. I was troubled by reports that the DOJ was, to put it mildly, being less than responsive to the CIA concerns about the leak. The response I received (pdf), reported way back then by Josh Marshall of Talkingpointsmemo on a Friday night (it is amazing how I always get the most valuable responses to my letters on Friday nights), added some stunning detail to the Justice Department's footdragging. Mr. Marshall reminds us about the story today.

The letter indicates that the Central Intelligence Agency was repeatedly stonewalled by the DOJ and, in fact, couldn’t even get their letters answered or calls returned. Here are some details:

-- On July 24, 2003, a CIA attorney left a phone message for the Chief of the Counterespionage Section of the Department of Justice noting his concern with recent stories apparently exposing the identity of Valerie Plame, an employee of the agency working under cover. There was apparently no response from the Department.

-- On July 30, 2003, the CIA reported to the Criminal Division of the DOJ a possible violation of criminal law concerning the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. There was apparently no response from the Department.

-- The CIA again transmitted their concerns by facsimile on September 5, 2003. There was no response.

-- On September 16, in accordance with the Agency’s standard practice in these matters, the CIA advised the Department that it had completed its own investigation of the matter, provided a memorandum setting forth the results of the investigation and requested that the FBI undertake a criminal investigation of the matter.

-- Finally, on September 29, 2003–sixty-seven days after the initial concerns were expressed by CIA employees–the DOJ responded and advised the CIA that the Counterespionage Division had requested that the FBI initiate an investigation of this matter.

Recently, it was revealed that the White House was given a 12-hour “heads up” from the Department of Justice about the investigation at the request of then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. Media reports gave the White House an even earlier forewarning. This, of course, runs counter to every other prosecution I have followed. Typically, and most recently during the Enron investigation, once it is determined that the White House is in possession of relevant information or documents, an immediate notification is sent to the Counsel’s office and the Counsel’s office, in turn, sends an immediate notification to the White House staff to preserve all documents and records. That didn’t happen here.

Why? And what did the White House do during those 12 hours anyway?
Collectively, these disclosures appear to demonstrate that on at least two separate occasions, DOJ personnel acted to permit delays in the investigation, which may have resulted in the loss or destruction of critical evidence. That is why I, and nine of my Judiciary Committee colleagues, have written today to the Department’s Inspector General asking for an immediate investigation to examine the extent that this course of conduct and other delays by the Department are consistent with standards of prosecutorial conduct and integrity. The letter (via Rawstory) is here.

A final twist: Congressional oversight. The Republican Majority in Congress has been absurdly lax in investigating misdeeds by this White House, including this emerging scandal. Yesterday, the Chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees announced they would be holding hearings on this. It appeared the Congress would begin doing the real work needed on this. Maybe they would look at the Justice Department's footdragging on this.

Then I read the fine print (via DailyKos):

“[Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) spokeswoman Sarah] Little said the Senate committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years.”

First, it was an attack on Joe Wilson. Then, they attacked his wife. Then, they attacked the press for covering the story. Now, it appears the Republican attack machine has set its sights on the prosecutor.


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