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

Tuesday, October 18, 2005 N and W: Cheney resignation rumors fly (10/18/05)

Sparked by today's Washington Post story that suggests Vice President Cheney's office is involved in the Plame-CIA spy link investigation, government officials and advisers passed around rumors that the vice president might step aside and that President Bush would elevate Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"It's certainly an interesting but I still think highly doubtful scenario," said a Bush insider. "And if that should happen," added the official, "there will undoubtedly be those who believe the whole thing was orchestrated – another brilliant Machiavellian move by the VP."

Said another Bush associate of the rumor, "Yes. This is not good." The rumor spread so fast that some Republicans by late morning were already drawing up reasons why Rice couldn't get the job or run for president in 2008.

"Isn't she pro-choice?" asked a key Senate Republican aide. Many White House insiders, however, said the Post story and reports that the investigation was coming to a close had officials instead more focused on who would be dragged into the affair and if top aides would be indicted and forced to resign.

"Folks on the inside and near inside are holding their breath and wondering what's next," said a Bush adviser. But, he added, they aren't focused on the future of the vice president. "Not that, at least not seriously," he said.

The Raw Story | Cheney aide cooperating with CIA outing probe, sources say

Filed by Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold

A senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney is cooperating with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, sources close to the investigation say.

Individuals familiar with Fitzgerald’s case tell RAW STORY that John Hannah, a senior national security aide on loan to Vice President Dick Cheney from the offices of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton, was named as a target of Fitzgerald’s probe. They say he was told in recent weeks that he could face imminent indictment for his role in leaking Plame-Wilson’s name to reporters unless he cooperated with the investigation.

Others close to the probe say that if Hannah is cooperating with the special prosecutor then he was likely going to be charged as a co-conspirator and may have cut a deal.

Hannah did not return two calls and several emails to his White House address seeking comment.

Fitzgerald’s probe is investigating whether officials in the Bush Administration illegally outed a CIA agent to get back at her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was a critic of the Administration’s faulty intelligence and lead-up to war.

In a July 2003 editorial, Wilson wrote that the Bush administration “twisted” pre-Iraq war intelligence in order to win public support for the Iraq conflict.

Specifically, Wilson called into question the veracity of President Bush’s claim in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq tried to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Africa. Wilson had been sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger a year before and reported that those allegations were unfounded. Bush administration officials said Wilson’s trip was a boondoggle, and was set up by his wife who worked at the CIA on weapons of mass destruction.

Those close to the investigation said in June 2003, Hannah was given orders by higher-ups in Cheney’s office to leak Plame’s covert status and identity in an attempt to muzzle Wilson, who had been a thorn in the side of the administration since May 2003, when he started questioning the administration’s claims that Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S. and its neighbors in the Middle East. The specifics of who issued those orders and what directives were given were not provided.

Hannah had been fingered by Wilson

To many following the case, Hannah’s involvement will not come as a surprise. Wilson pointed to Hannah as a possible leaker in his book, The Politics of Truth.

“In fact, senior advisers close to the president may well have been clever enough to have used others to do the actual leaking, in order to keep their fingerprints off the crime,” Wilson writes.

“John Hannah and David Wurmser, mid-level political appointees in the vice-president’s office, have both been suggested as sources of the leak …Mid-level officials, however, do not leak information without the authority from a higher level,” Wilson notes.

The revelation that Hannah has become a prosecution witness strongly suggests that Fitzgerald is now looking into the motive for outing Plame and how Wilson’s complaints threatened to destroy public support for the war, which the Bush administration worked diligently to win.

Fitzgerald may be looking at a broader conspiracy case of pre-war machinations by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and by the Pentagon’s ultra-secret Office of Net Assessment, the former operating out of Dick Cheney’s office and tasked with “selling” the war in Iraq, and the latter operating out of Defense Under Secretary for Policy, Douglas Feith’s office and tasked with creating a war to “sell,” as some describe.

To spread its message that Saddam Hussein was a nuclear threat, the White House Iraq Group relied heavily on New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who, after meeting with several of the organization’s members in August 2002, wrote an explosive story that many critics of the war believe laid the groundwork for military action against Iraq.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002, for example, Miller wrote a story for the Times quoting anonymous officials who said aluminum tubes found in Iraq were to be used as centrifuges. Her report turned out to be wrong.

Hannah under investigation for role with Chalabi group

Hannah is currently under investigation by U.S. authorities for his alleged activities in an intelligence program run by the controversial Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its leader, Ahmed Chalabi.

According to a Newsweek article, a memo written for the Iraq National Congress (INC) raised questions regarding Cheney’s role in the build up to the war in Iraq. During the lead up to the war, Newsweek asserts, the INC was providing intelligence on the now discredited Iraqi WMD program through Hannah and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.

“A June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a U.S. Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, as one of two ‘U.S. governmental recipients’ for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, ‘defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed’; the info was then reported to, among others, ‘appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies.’ The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a “principal point of contact” for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number.”

“…Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, were the two Cheney employees,’ We believe that Hannah was the major player in this,’ one federal law-enforcement officer told the magazine.

According to the Washington Post, Libby discussed Wilson's wife with at least two reporters before her identity became public.

Newsview: Leak Shines Light on White House - Yahoo! News


Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's CIA-leak inquiry is focusing attention on what long has been a Bush White House tactic: slash-and-burn assaults on its critics, particularly those opposed to the president's Iraq war policies.

If top officials are indicted, it could seriously erode the administration's credibility and prove yet another embarrassment to President Bush on the larger issue of how he and his national security team marshaled information — much of it later shown to be inaccurate — to support their case for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

The grand jury is concluding a 22-month investigation of whether administration officials illegally leaked information disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA officer, Valerie Plame, in an effort to discredit her husband, former diplomat and war critic Joseph Wilson.

Anxiety at the White House increased after Bush adviser Karl Rove's fourth appearance last week before Fitzgerald's grand jury, and with a New York Times reporter's firsthand account of her dealings with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide.

Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, the Bush administration's public diplomacy chief and a longtime Bush confidante, said, however, that the White House was not distracted by the investigation. "It's not something that's affecting the daily business of the White House," Hughes said in a taped interview aired Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. "It's business as usual."

The piece by reporter Judith Miller also fueled speculation that Fitzgerald was seeking to determine whether Cheney played a role in a campaign to discredit Wilson.

"The grand jury investigation has the possibility of really shining a light on the credibility of the administration, how officials tried to undermine those who were criticizing them and how they then covered up that attempt," said American University political scientist James Thurber.

"The question of whether the vice president was involved, we'll probably never know. But it was pretty close to him," said Thurber. He questioned whether Rove and Libby would have operated "on their own" in discussing Wilson's wife with reporters.

White House officials have had quiet discussions about what to do if any Bush aides are charged. There is a general expectation that a staffer would resign if indicted.

Wilson had written a newspaper essay, published July 6, 2003, that sought to undermine the administration's earlier claims that Iraq had sought to buy uranium "yellowcake" from Niger to help it build nuclear bombs.

It came at a particularly difficult time for the president and his aides. The war clearly was not going well, despite Bush's "mission accomplished" speech two months earlier. And Bush was already reeling from criticism over mentioning the African yellowcake connection — which turned out to be based on faulty British intelligence — in his State of the Union address.

While the president and his top aides refuse to comment now on the investigation, or on any issues surrounding the unfounded Iraq-African uranium claim, they weren't so tightlipped in July 2003.

During a presidential trip to Africa just days after Wilson's article appeared, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice — now the secretary of state — spent nearly an hour with reporters on Air Force One trying to put blame for the faulty State of the Union conclusions on the CIA and its then-director, George Tenet.

Bush was also talkative then. "I gave a speech to the nation that was cleared by the intelligence services," he told reporters during a stop in Uganda.

Some analysts suggest that any administration plot to undermine Wilson privately only mirrored Bush and Rice's open efforts to undermine Tenet on the same subject.

"This is an administration that was trying to play hardball at every level," said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution. "And that's what they were doing with Wilson. And he of course was playing hardball, too. It was an ugly back and forth."

Plame was named by columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003, as a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction. Novak wrote that "two senior administration officials" had told him that Plame had suggested her husband, a former ambassador, be sent to Niger in 2002 to check out reports that Saddam Hussein was shopping for uranium.

The reports had no basis in fact, something Wilson reported back to a Bush administration that ignored his conclusions, Wilson later wrote.

In her account in Sunday editions of The New York Times, Miller, who spent 85 days in jail before agreeing to speak to the grand jury, wrote that Fitzgerald asked her questions about Cheney. "He asked, for example, if Mr. Libby ever indicated whether Mr. Cheney had approved of his interviews with me or was aware of them," she wrote.

Such a question could suggest the prosecutor was investigating whether Cheney was part of a conspiracy to discredit Plame and Wilson.

"The answer was no," Miller wrote.

While Bush vowed as recently as July to fire anyone on his staff found to have committed a crime in the CIA-leak matter, he has since completely clammed up.

"I've made it very clear to the press that I'm not going to discuss the investigation," Bush said Monday when asked by a reporter whether he would remove an aide under indictment. "There's a serious investigation. I'm not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation."


EDITOR'S NOTE — Tom Raum has covered Washington for The Associated Press since 1973, including five presidencies.

Senior White House Officials Face Prospect of Life in Prison for Outing of CIA Agent Plame Unless They Testify for Prosecution - Yahoo! News

To: National Desk

Contact: Ilene Proctor, 310-271-5857, for, Web:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ --, a large coalition of organizations and citizens dedicated to honest government, has done an analysis of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and its probable effect on the sentencing of any senior White House official convicted in the Valerie Plame affair. By going after Wilson and his wife, those officials apparently committed serious crimes which they then compounded by obstructing justice and committing and suborning perjury. As a result, they have virtually ensured that, if convicted, they could receive a sentence up to life in federal prison under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are used to compute sentences based on severity offense levels. The higher the level, the greater the sentence, and federal courts routinely follow the Guidelines in the vast majority of cases.

The best case scenario for those involved would be a conviction of only a single count of perjury or obstruction of justice, either of which carries a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. Under the Guidelines, that would probably result in the maximum sentence because both charges have a base offense level of 14, and those convicted will most probably receive enhancements of 3 levels for substantial interference with the administration of justice, 6 levels for victimizing a government employee and family member, 2 levels for abuse of the public trust, and 4 levels for being a leader. These total 29 levels, which equals 87-108 months in federal prison under the Guidelines, far above the five-year statutory maximum, so the final sentence will be five years.

However, federal prosecutors rarely issue one-count indictments, but rather charge every possible violation. In the instant case, it is highly likely that Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald will throw the book at them, by charging conspiracy and violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of l982 ("IIPA") (50 U.S.C., section 421), each carrying a maximum sentence of ten years, conspiracy and violation of the Espionage Act (18 U.S.C. 793), each carrying ten years, and multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice, each carrying five years. Moreover, because there was an agreement among many people in this case, there will most probably also be an overarching conspiracy charge to violate multiple statutes. It is significant that the IIPA mandates that any sentence under the Act be imposed "consecutively" to any other sentence in the indictment. Id. at section 421(d).

The Federal Sentencing Guidelines reflect the seriousness of a conviction under the IIPA by setting a base offense level of 30 for disclosure "by a person with, or who had access to, classified information identifying a covert agent." In the case of White House officials, the same enhancements mentioned above will be added to that base level, for a total of 42 levels, which requires a LIFE sentence. Of course, since the IIPA only allows for a maximum sentence of ten years, that life sentence could be imposed only by a conviction on multiple counts, such as conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice, running consecutively to the IIPA sentence.

Why will these officials receive such a heavy sentence? Well, because the Guidelines are very specific about adding enhancements based on conduct of a defendant. In this case, there will surely be a 6 level enhancement under section 3A1.2(b) because "the victim was a government employee or member of the immediate family of a government employee and the offense of conviction was motivated by such status...." Both Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson clearly meet this definition of a victim since their lives have been risked and they have suffered severe emotional harm.

In addition, because an official such as Karl Rove or Scooter Libby would obviously be considered "an organizer or leader" of the criminal conduct under section 3B1.1, he would receive another enhancement of 4 levels. Moreover, all the defendants' conduct constitutes "an abuse of the public trust" as set forth in section 3B1.3, which would add another 2 levels.

Furthermore, because of the "willing obstruction and impeding of the administration of justice during the investigation" by Rove and those he controls, including the Republican National Committee, the White House Press Spokesman, and GOP leaders, they will receive another enhancement of 2 levels under section 3C1.1.

Finally, because of the grievous harm to our country and the "potential disruption of governmental function," the sentencing court, even if the guidelines were not so severe, would most certainly find, under section 5K2.0(a)(1)(A), aggravating circumstances sufficient to warrant an upward departure from the guidelines.

Significantly, the White House conspirators will not receive any sentence reductions for acceptance of responsibility since that does not apply to persons who obstruct an investigation. Indeed, the only hope for them under the Guidelines appears to be a quick decision to cooperate with the Special Prosecutor, and that does not mean merely meeting with the FBI and testifying before the grand jury. Instead, it means saving their own skin by implicating and testifying against fish bigger than they are, and that means George Bush and Dick Cheney. The days of Watergate are over where corrupt officials only receive a few years in prison for their official misconduct. Now, Fitzgerald and the Sentencing Guidelines control the lives of Rove and company, unless one of the potential defendants jumps ship very soon. Clearly, the only guarantee for Rove and his conspirators to limit their prison time is complete cooperation before indictment. But if their past decisions are any indication, the conspirators will go down with the ship, believing until the end that George Bush will pardon them for their crimes, which he may not be willing to do if he too is indicted or wants to maintain a legacy better than Richard Nixon.

New York Daily News - Home - Cheney may be target of probe


WASHINGTON - A special prosecutor's intensifying focus into who outed a CIA spy has raised questions whether Vice President Cheney himself is involved, knowledgeable sources confirmed yesterday.
At least one source and one reporter who have testified in the probe said U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is pursuing Cheney's role in the Valerie Plame affair.

In addition, at least six current and former Cheney staffers - most members of the White House Iraq Group - have testified before the grand jury, including the vice president's top honcho, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, and two top Cheney national security lieutenants.

Cheney's name has come up amid indications Fitzgerald may be edging closer to a blockbuster conspiracy charge - with help from a secret snitch.

"They have got a senior cooperating witness - someone who is giving them all of that," a source who has been questioned in the leak probe told the Daily News yesterday.

Cheney was questioned last year byprosecutors and has hired a private attorney, former colleague Terrence O'Donnell, who declined to comment when contacted by The News.

Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride only offered the standard canned response that her boss is cooperating.

Libby and President Bush's political mastermind Karl Rove remain the focus of the probe into whether Plame's cover was blown in a scheme to embarrass her husband, ex-Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who debunked claims that Iraq tried to buy nuclear materials in Niger.

Libby is often described as "Cheney's Cheney," a loyal and discreet lieutenant who shares his boss's hard-line philosophy and bareknuckle attitude toward political enemies of the Bush administration.

Cheney and Libby spend hours together in the course of a day, which causes sources who know both men very well to assert that any attempts to discredit Wilson would almost certainly have been known to the vice president.

"Scooter wouldn't be freelancing on this without Cheney's knowledge," a source told the Daily News. "It was probably some off-the-cuff thing: 'This guy [Wilson] could be a problem.'"

The News reported in July that Libby was "totally obsessed with Wilson."

Whether that obsession amounts to criminal misconduct will be decided by Fitzgerald - but if Libby is indicted or implicated in wrongdoing, Cheney's reputation will suffer as well.

Originally published on October 18, 2005

Cheney's Office Is A Focus in Leak Case

Sources Cite Role Of Feud With CIA

By Jim VandeHei and Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 18, 2005; A01

As the investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name hurtles to an apparent conclusion, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has zeroed in on the role of Vice President Cheney's office, according to lawyers familiar with the case and government officials. The prosecutor has assembled evidence that suggests Cheney's long-standing tensions with the CIA contributed to the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame.

In grand jury sessions, including with New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Fitzgerald has pressed witnesses on what Cheney may have known about the effort to push back against ex-diplomat and Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson IV, including the leak of his wife's position at the CIA, Miller and others said. But Fitzgerald has focused more on the role of Cheney's top aides, including Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, lawyers involved in the case said.

One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe about efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the National Security Council to obtain information about Wilson's trip as long as two months before Plame was unmasked in July 2003, according to a person familiar with the account.

It is not clear whether Fitzgerald plans to charge anyone inside the Bush administration with a crime. But with the case reaching a climax -- administration officials are braced for possible indictments as early as this week-- it is increasingly clear that Cheney and his aides have been deeply enmeshed in events surrounding the Plame affair from the outset.

It was a request by Cheney for more CIA information that, unknown to him, started a chain of events that led to Wilson's mission three years ago. His staff pressed the CIA for information about it one year later. And it was Libby who talked about Wilson's wife with at least two reporters before her identity became public, according to evidence Fitzgerald has amassed and which parties close to the case have acknowledged.

Lawyers in the case said Fitzgerald has focused extensively on whether behind-the-scenes efforts by the vice president's aides and other senior Bush aides were part of a criminal campaign to punish Wilson in part by unmasking his wife.

In a move people involved in the case read as a sign that the end is near, Fitzgerald's spokesman yesterday told the Associated Press that the prosecutor planned to announce his conclusions in Washington, where the grand jury has been meeting, instead of Chicago, where the prosecutor is based. Some lawyers close to the case cited courthouse talk that Fitzgerald might announce his findings as early as tomorrow, though hard evidence about his intentions and timing remained elusive.

In the course of the investigation, Fitzgerald has been exposed to the intense, behind-the-scenes fight between Cheney's office and the CIA over prewar intelligence and the vice president's central role in compiling and then defending the intelligence used to justify the war. Miller, in a first-person account Sunday in the Times, recalled that Libby complained in a June 23, 2003, meeting in his office that the CIA was engaged in "selective leaking" and a "hedging strategy" that would make the agency look equally prescient whether or not weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

The special prosecutor has personally interviewed numerous officials from the CIA, White House and State Department. In the process, he and his investigative team have talked to a number of Cheney aides, including Mary Matalin, his former strategist; Catherine Martin, his former communications adviser; and Jennifer Millerwise, his former spokeswoman. In the case of Millerwise, she talked with the prosecutor more than two years ago but never appeared before the grand jury, according to a person familiar with her situation.

Starting in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the vice president was at the forefront of a White House campaign to convince Congress and the American public that invading Iraq was central to defeating terrorists worldwide. Cheney, a longtime proponent of toppling Saddam Hussein, led the White House effort to build the case that Iraq was an imminent threat because it possessed a dangerous arsenal of weapons.

Before the war, he traveled to CIA headquarters for briefings, an unusual move that some critics interpreted as an effort to pressure intelligence officials into supporting his view of the evidence. After the war, when critics started questioning whether the White House relied on faulty information to justify war, Cheney and Libby were central to the effort to defend the intelligence and discredit the naysayers in Congress and elsewhere.

Administration officials acknowledge that Cheney was immersed in Iraq intelligence, and pressed aides repeatedly for information on weapons programs. He regularly requested follow-up information from the CIA and others when a piece of intelligence caught his eye. Wilson's trip, for example, was triggered by a question Cheney asked during a regular morning intelligence briefing. He had received a Defense Intelligence Agency report alleging Iraq had sought uranium from Niger and wanted to know what else the CIA may have known. Cheney's office was not told ahead of time about the Wilson mission to investigate the claim.

In the Bush White House, Cheney typically has operated secretly, relying on advice from a tight circle of longtime advisers, including Libby; David Addington, his counsel; and his wife, Lynne, and two children, including Liz, a top State Department official. But a former Cheney aide, who requested anonymity, said it is "implausible" that Cheney himself was involved in the leaking of Plame's name because he rarely, if ever, involved himself in press strategy.

One fact apparently critical to Fitzgerald's inquiry is when Libby learned about Plame and her CIA employment. Information that has emerged so far leaves this issue murky. A former CIA official told investigators that Cheney's office was seeking information about Wilson in May 2003, but it's not certain that officials with the vice president learned of the Plame connection then.

Miller, in her account, said Libby raised the issue of Plame in the June 23, 2003, meeting, describing her as a CIA employee and asserting that she had arranged the trip to Niger. Earlier that month, Libby discussed Wilson's trip with The Washington Post but never mentioned his wife.

Senior administration officials said there was a document circulated at the State Department -- before Libby talked to Miller -- that mentioned Plame. It was drafted in June as an administrative letter and addressed to then-Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, who was acting secretary at the time since Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard L. Armitage were out of the country.

As a former State Department official involved in the process recalled it, Grossman wanted the letter as background for a meeting at the White House, where the discussion was focused on then growing criticism of Bush's inclusion in his January State of the Union speech of the allegation that Hussein had been seeking uranium from Niger.

The letter to Grossman discussed the reasons the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) did not believe the intelligence, which originated from foreign sources, was accurate. It had a paragraph near the beginning, marked "(S)," meaning it was classified secret, describing a meeting at the CIA in February 2002, attended by another INR analyst, where Plame introduced her husband as the person who was to go to Niger.

Attached to the letter were the notes from the INR analyst who had attended the session, but they were written well after the event occurred and contained mistakes about who was there and what was said, according to a former intelligence official who reviewed the document in the summer of 2003.

Grossman has refused to answer questions about the letter, and it is not clear whether he talked about it at the White House meeting he was said to have attended, according to the former State official.

Fitzgerald has questioned several witnesses from the CIA and State Department before the grand jury about the INR memo, according to lawyers familiar with the case.