The hole in the "oil spot" strategy for Iraq.

A mostly political Weblog.
Nov. 14 2005 3:46 AM

The Hole in the "Oil Spot" Strategy

Plus--You Can't Shut Anyone Up Anymore.

(Continued from Page 11)

Q--If He's So Dumb, Why Isn't He Rich? A--Maybe He Is: A week ago the question of the day, after the NYT reported that Libby's notes show him learning the secret of Mrs. Wilson from Vice-President Cheney, was

Would Libby really have been dumb enough to contradict his own notes (which the prosecutor has had from the start) under oath?

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We now think we know the answer to that question, which is that Libby wasn't dumb enough to contradict his own notes. Instead he was dumb enough to avoid contradicting his notes by concocting a wildly implausible story about how he forgot what was in his notes! That story is non-believable on its face, whether Tim Russert testifies or not. ... Who would take such an idiotic risk before a much-feared special prosecutor? One answer: Someone who knows he'll be protected in the end. Someone who knows, for example, that he'll be pardoned. Maybe even someone who had represented a client  who'd been pardoned in similarly controversial circumstances. It's easier to be a highwire daredevil when you know you have a safety net. (Just like Hillary Clinton's risky Arkansas futures trades! It's been argued that she certainly acted like a trader who knew any big downside losses would be covered.) ... 

[You also suggested  that NYT Cheney story might fall apart--ed. It didn't. But it didn't hold up all that well either. Johnston, Stevenson and Jehl led with a sentence beginning:

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney .... [Emph. added]

According to Fitzgerald's indictment, however, Libby seems to have "first" learned of Plame from a "senior officer of the CIA" a day or so before he learned it from Cheney. This is another non-trivial difference. If Libby found out on his own before he talked to Cheney, it looks a lot less like Cheney giving marching orders to a subordinate (the Oh-my-God implication of the Times piece) and more like Libby off on a mission, possibly self-propelled. 10:26 P.M. link

Really, Who Did Kill Chandra Levy? I know that's the paradigmatic frivolous pre-9/11 question. You show you are a scandal-obsessed, sheep-like media-consuming dilettante by even remembering it, let alone asking it. But shouldn't we have an answer by now? [There's a story in the Globe tab--ed. It's not much help] 10:07 P.M.

No small lie: Some emailers assume that I think it's excessively technical for special prosecutor Fitzgerald to charge Cheney ex-aide Scooter Libby with perjury just because Libby seemingly claimed under oath to have forgotten about Joseph Wilson's CIA wife when he talked with NBC's Tim Russert (whether or not Russert actually told him about Wilson's wife). I don't think it's a trivial charge.

Think of it this way: What if (hypothetically) Libby learns from a classified briefing in mid-2003 that Joseph Wilson's wife works at the CIA. But instead of just leaking this information to reporters, he goes around talking to lots of reporters until he finds one--call him Sam--who knows something about it. Then he goes around talking to lots of other reporters, telling them, "Sam's heard that Wilson's wife works at the CIA. I don't know if that's true or not. I don't even know if Wilson has a wife! But that's what Sam and the other reporters are saying." The end result is that Wilson's wife's CIA employment eventually comes out in the press.

Would Libby be guilty (morally and legally) of "outing" Plame to the same extent (whatever that is) that he'd be guilty if he'd just leaked her name and CIA connection directly? I'm not a criminal lawyer, but I'd guess yes, if his actions were intended to out her, and motivated by his prior, classified knowledge of her CIA job.

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