Springing a Leak

Now there seems to be even more hot water in Cheney’s boiler room

While Patrick Fitzgerald's indictment follows the Byzantine finagling between Scooter Libby and various Washington reporters to make the overall charge he engaged in obstruction of justice, lied, and committed perjury in his grand jury testimony, the overall picture that emerges is of the vice president's office as a boiler room, with Dick Cheney's flunkies concocting a story to smear Joe Wilson by outing his wife's undercover employment by the CIA.

In preparing for trial, Fitzgerald will doubtlessly uncover more and more of Cheney's machinations, and it seems possible that one superseding indictment will follow another. The prosecutor's witnesses could easily include other members of the vice president's staff, as well as current national security adviser Stephen Hadley, Karl Rove, and others. And among his witnesses might very well be Cheney himself. That is, if he does not become a target.

The vice president runs foreign policy for Bush. Cheney is the most prominent political figure in the Bush administration with experience directing a war. He was George H.W. Bush's secretary of defense during the first Gulf war. He has years of business dealings in the region as CEO of Halliburton, a major logistics contractor for the Pentagon in both Gulf wars. Cheney is thoroughly adept in Congress, having been a House member from Wyoming for years, and he knows the White House inside out as a former White House aide.

Bush, on the other hand, has never been in war and never run a military operation before the current war. He is totally inexperienced in foreign policy and knows little about Congress or the functioning of government. Neither he nor his father was remotely attuned to New Right ideology, let alone the ideas of the neoconservatives. Bush's entry into right-wing politics comes through the Christian Right, where he found Jesus in his fight against drinking.

Cheney's office is the data base for neocon ideological thinking piped in from the American Enterprise Institute. It was Cheney on 9-11 who took over control of the country—an unconstitutional act, some say—when the president was unable to keep his phone connections with the White House bunker. Cheney issued the shoot-down orders to protect Washington.


Too hot to handle

The Bush administration has always insisted it did not know the uranium documents sent it from Italian intelligence were forgeries. But La Repubblica, the Italian newspaper, last Tuesday revealed that the documents came from Nicolo Pollari, head of that nation's military intelligence service. The paper said Pollari met secretly on September 9, 2002, with Hadley, at the time the deputy security adviser. A month later, forged papers were cabled to Washington from the U.S. embassy in Rome. They had been delivered to the embassy by an Italian reporter. Last week a spokesman for the National Security Council told reporters that the meeting between Hadley and Pollari amounted to no more than a 15-minute courtesy call. The spokesman then made this waffling statement: "The subject of Iraq's supposed uranium deal with Niger is not believed to have come up." He added, "No one present has any recollection of yellowcake being discussed." The CIA had repeatedly warned Hadley that the uranium story was dubious. George Tenet, then head of the CIA, even called Hadley and told him to watch out for the suspicious story. Pollari reportedly also worked his ties within the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, run by Doug Feith, Rumsfeld's neocon in residence. The Italian military security chief also met with Harold Rhode, Michael Ledeen, and Larry Franklin of that office. Franklin subsequently pled guilty to passing information about U.S. policy on Iran to Israel, through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

It's Dick Cheney who has pumped out the Bush line on foreign policy, much of which has been just plain wrong. Here, with the assistance of the Center for American Progress's excellent research, are a few of Cheney's more startling statements:

Links between Iraq and Al Qaeda:Cheney on September 14, 2003: "There was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s."

However, the Los Angeles Times on November 4, 2002, reported Europe's top investigator saying, "We have found no evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda . . . we have found no serious connections whatsoever." The New York Times reported on June 27, 2003: "The chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations Security Council to track Al Qaeda told reporters . . . that his five-member team had found no evidence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein's administration."

Cheney on September 9, 2004: "[Saddam Hussein] provided safe harbor and sanctuary . . . for Al Qaeda."

However, the final 9-11 Commission report in 2004 said there was no evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda "ever developed a collaborative operational relationship."

Weapons of mass destruction: Cheney on August 26, 2002: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

But on October 2, 2003, David Kay, the Bush administration's weapons inspector, said, "Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled [chemical weapons] program after 1991 . . . Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced—if not entirely destroyed—during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of U.N. sanctions, and U.N. inspections."

Cheney on October 3, 2003: "If we had had that information and ignored it, if we'd been told, as we were, by the intelligence community that he was capable of producing a nuclear weapon within a year if he could acquire fissile material and ignored it . . . we would have been derelict in our duties and responsibilities."

In fact, the U.N. had reported on September 8, 2003, that Iraq was not capable of pursuing a nuclear weapons program after 1991 and that there was no sign of active weaponization activities in Iraq.

Iraq and 9-11: Cheney on September 14, 2003: "With respect to 9-11, of course, we've had the story that's been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohammed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack . . . "

But California congressman Henry Waxman has noted that this meeting probably didn't happen and that Cheney knew it. Waxman's report said: "Czech intelligence officials were skeptical about the report; U.S. intelligence had contradictory evidence, such as records indicating Atta was in Virginia at the time of the meeting; and the CIA and FBI had concluded the meeting probably didn't occur.''


Additional reporting: Ali Syed and Isabel Huacuja

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