NYT Exposes Cheney's Role in CIA Leak: Cheney Identifies Wilson's Wife as CIA Operative
We speak to former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman on the latest development in the CIA leak case. The New York Times is reporting today that Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis Scooter Libby first learned the identity of the CIA operative from his boss – Dick Cheney.
Lawyers involved in the case say the two discussed the CIA operative – Valerie Plame – on June 12, 2003 – weeks before her undercover status was outed in the press. Plame is the wife of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has accused the White House outing his wife because he had publicly criticized the Iraq war.
Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Libby and Cheney also appears to run counter to Libby’s testimony to a federal grand jury that he first learned about Plame from reporters. According to the Times, the notes do not show that Cheney knew the name of Wilson’s wife. But they do show that Cheney did know, and told Libby she was employed by the CIA and that she may have helped arrange her husband’s trip to Niger. The notes also indicate Cheney had gotten his information about Plame from George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Wilson.
The grand jury is expected to decide whether to bring charges in the case by Friday, when their term expires. Reports have indicated both Libby and President Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove face the possibility of indictment.
At a cabinet meeting at the White House Monday, President Bush said, "This is a very serious investigation." While the case is focused on the outing of an undercover operative, it centers on the administration’s justification for the invasion of Iraq. The mainstream media is now focusing again on the faulty claims of weapons of mass destruction. In an article in the Los Angeles Times, Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff at the State Department for three years writes "Some of the most important decisions about U.S. national security -- including vital decisions about postwar Iraq -- were made by a secretive, little-known cabal. It was made up of a very small group of people led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld."
Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project. He is the author of the book: "Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk."
AMY GOODMAN: We're joined now by a former CIA and State Department analyst, Mel Goodman. He's a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center's National Security Project. He's the author of the book, Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk. Welcome to Democracy Now!
MELVIN GOODMAN: Thank you, Amy. Good to be with you this morning.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, can you respond to this latest revelation, that it was the Vice President who told Scooter Libby about Joseph Wilson's wife?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, my first reaction is, “Wow, this is big!” From the first day I was convinced that Dick Cheney was the center of this covert action to lead the country into war, because this is what this is about: the misuse and the secret use of intelligence. It's about that more than it is leaks and sources and even Valerie Plame's identity. It's about how we went to war.
Dick Cheney, I thought, would obtain some kind of plausible denial, because this was run like a CIA covert action. But now he's lost his denial, if he was indeed the source of Valerie Plame's name to Lewis Libby, who then went forward with Karl Rove to give this name to at least five or six journalists and, of course, it was Robert Novak who did the administration's work for it. He was what some people would call the useful idiot, who then ran the Valerie Plame name in his column. But this is now in the White House.
And once, frankly, you had Lewis Libby implicated -- Lewis Libby is just an apparatchik. As an old Soviet analyst, the Libby type is quite recognizable. And you knew that he had to have some sponsorship or endorsement, or he was galvanized in some way by, indeed, his patron. And, of course, his patron was Dick Cheney.
The question is, to what degree was Karl Rove keeping the President witting of this? My guess is that the President was protected. And I think for the President to say that this is a serious charge is very important, because if you read the editorial pages of the New York Times today, the op-ed page particularly, Nicholas Kristof and John Tierney, they don't even know it's serious yet. And if you read the Washington Post op-ed pages, Richard Cohen and Jim Hoagland, they don't understand it's serious, because they think it's about leaks and sources. It's about war. It’s about lying to go to war. I cannot imagine what could be a more serious charge than misusing intelligence data and evidence to go to war. But this is what we're dealing with.
And this is what Patrick Fitzgerald, who is the hero in all of this, understands. He knows it's more than leaks and sources. So what Patrick Fitzgerald has had to do is the work that should have been done by the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is what the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts from Kansas, should have been doing.
To what degree was a forgery or a fabrication used in the case to go to war? And we know there was a forgery used in the President's State of the Union message in January 2003. The Senate wouldn't look at this. The Democratic Party wouldn't look at this evidence. The print media has dismissed it. But thank goodness for Patrick Fitzgerald, who is a tough, hard-nosed independent prosecutor, special prosecutor, who to me behaves like a junkyard dog, which is what you want from someone at this level. And I think he's going to get to the bottom of this. I'm very confident of that.
So there will be indictments, I am sure. I think these are short odds on Lewis Libby and Karl Rove. No doubt about that. I think there's a possibility that Steven Hadley, as a member of the White House Iraqi group, could also be indicted. And I would be not be surprised, even though this would be a long shot, but if I'm playing with house money, Amy, and I'll make it your house money, I would say that Dick Cheney could be an un-indicted co-conspirator, because I think he was at the center of all of this.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Mel Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst, speaking to us from Washington, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, Director of the Center's National Security Project, author of Bush League Diplomacy. We'll come back with him in a minute.