Morning Report 11/4/05Why Libby Fell On His Sword


Demo aide’s theory: Scooter lied to delay Fitzgerald probe, saving 2004 election for Bush



Thrown off the track: Fitzgerald

The press may have gotten played by the Bush regime to an even greater extent than we thought.

A theory advanced by Dennis Kelleher, a top aide to Maryland Democratic senator Barbara Mikulski, focuses on the question of Scooter Libby‘s motives for his alleged lies to prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald.

While we’re waiting for Karl Rove to fall, Kelleher zooms in on the reason Libby told Fitzgerald that it was reporters who revealed Valerie Plame‘s identity and job to him.

Basically, this theory argues that Libby knowingly fell on his sword, thus throwing Fitzgerald off the track and in pursuit of the reporters, so that any Plamegate indictments would be delayed until after the November 2004 election, thus ensuring that Dick Cheney could continue as U.S. CEO.

Obstruction of justice? A small price for Cheney’s top aide to pay, in exchange for the whole regime’s re-election. Maybe Libby ought to just plead guilty so that there will be enough time left in the current administration’s reign for Cheney to instruct George W. Bush to pardon Scooter. Then Bush could pin a friggin’ medal on him. George Tenet got one. So did Jerry Bremer. Why not Libby?

Writing yesterday on, Kelleher, a litigator before becoming Mikulski’s legislative director, persuasively pins something else on Cheney’s deposed top aide:

I. Lewis Libby, as assistant to the president, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney and assistant to the vice president for National Security Affairs, was indisputably one of the most powerful officials in the administration. By all accounts, he is a savvy, experienced and careful lawyer who sweated the details and was prudently risk-averse and wily in the ways of dealing with the media.

He has now resigned in disgrace and is charged with the crimes of obstructing justice by lying to the FBI and the grand jury. Prosecutor Fitzgerald has charged him with these crimes for allegedly falsely testifying that he learned of a CIA agent’s identity from reporters rather than from the vice president and other senior administration officials.

If Libby lied, why would he? The prosecutor unknowingly answered that question at his press conference. He said [that] if the reporters testified when they were issued subpoenas in August 2004, “we would have been here [holding a press conference] in October 2004 instead of October 2005.”

October 2004 was a mere month before the presidential election on Nov. 2, 2004. Amazingly, in all the timelines of the leak investigations, there is no mention of the presidential election in November 2004 or that the basis for the war in Iraq was a key issue in that election.

Whether the charges in the indictment are true and whether Libby or anyone else is ever convicted, such a press conference on the eve of the presidential election in October 2004 would have dramatically affected that election. The reason that press conference was not held in October of 2004 is because the prosecutor had to waste a year fighting all the way to the Supreme Court to get information from reporters.

Reporters should by all means fight prosecutors’ requests. It does no one any good for the press to become an arm of government (as if that isn’t already mostly the case, unfortunately).

But among the next questions are these: What did Judy Miller know, and when did she know it? Too bad she’s probably already written her last story for the New York Times. We were just getting really interested in her body of work. What about her ties to the neocons like Iraq warhawk Laurie Mylroie, with whom Miller wrote a book about Iraq years ago?

Miller likes to portray herself as following in the footsteps of journalists like her fellow New Yorker, John Peter Zenger, wielding her pen as a mighty sword in defense of press freedom and truth and all that.

But we know from those phony WMD stories — go back to the bloody good autopsy of her work by Slate‘s Jack Shafer — that she’s a dupe. And the Times‘ undue influence on other mainstream mediameisters made her a particularly dangerous dupe, as I noted in September 2004:

If you recall, Judith Miller’s “wretched reporting” (as Slate‘s Jack Shafer termed it) trumpeted CIA stooge Ahmed Chalabi‘s WMD tales in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Considering that many of America’s middle-management media muckamucks (especially the TV tyros) blindly follow the Times’ news judgment in deciding what’s “important,” you have to give some props to the [New York] Times for convincing the populace to support our unilateral invasion of Iraq.

Put yourself in a crime investigator’s shoes, probing the issues of means, opportunity, and motive. People still have plenty of questions for Miller. But the only question about Miller is whether she was a willing and witting dupe. If she was, then her motive for fighting off Fitzgerald’s subpoenas was as pure as the driven slush. But her timing, as far as the Bush regime was concerned, was impeccable.