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July 22, 2005 PERMALINK
Media Jumps Back Into Scandal
(posted July 22 1 AM ET)

It has been 742 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Lots of CIA Leak coverage this morning to sift through.

1. The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post continue their competition over who can squeeze out the most info about the State Dept. memo that named Valerie Plame Wilson and discussed her alleged role in her husband’s Niger trip.

Wednesday’s WSJ reported that the memo “made clear” that the info was “sensitive and shouldn't be shared.”

Thursday’s W. Post dropped another nugget, that the paragraph about Plame was “marked ‘(S)’ for secret.”

(CBS Evening News and CNN had their own “S is for Secret” stories.)

And on MSNBC last night (video at Crooks and Liars), WSJ’s John Harwood announced that today’s edition reports the entire memo was classified “top secret” and the section about Plame was marked “SNF” for “Secret, No Foreign” meaning, don’t share with any foreign intelligence service.

You may assume that foreign intelligence services are able to read Bob Novak’s column.

2. More evidence of possible perjury charges in last night’s Bloomberg News report. (Raw Story provides some additional context.)

According to Bloomberg, Rove told the special counsel that he first heard Plame’s name from Novak, but Novak “has given a somewhat different version”.

And Cheney’s chief of staff Scooter Libby told the special counsel he first heard it from NBC’s Tim Russert, but Russert says he did not tell Libby her identity.

As government officials charged with protecting classified info, Rove and Libby have clear motive to lie about who told who -- more so than Novak, much more so than Russert.

If Rove and Libby learned of Plame’s identity from a classified source, such as the “top secret” State Dept. memo, and discussed it with journalist, that makes them vulnerable under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

That would not be the case if they learned it from a non-classified source such as a journalist.

(Though in either scenario, discussing it with journalists would be violating SF-312, their classified information nondisclosure agreement.)

3. The NY Times continues to stake its turf as the official White House scribe of the CIA Leak scandal.

Last Friday, it was serving as the mouthpiece for the line that Rove heard about Plame from Novak.

This Friday, it’s explaining the oh-so-innocent motives that Rove and Libby had:

People who have been briefed on the case said that the White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr., were helping to prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been included in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier...

...People who have been briefed on the case discussed the critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose his the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson, but were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address.

LiberalOasis said it last week, and will say it again:

White House officials are unwilling to speak on the record about the scandal, and unwilling to take public questions. The NY Times should not grant them the opportunity to defend themselves with self-serving leaks of selective info.

(UPDATE 7/22/05 6:45 PM ET -- Huffington Post's Lawrence O'Donnell explains the NYT article: "[This] will be Rove and Libby's defense against a possible conspiracy count in the prosecutor's eventual indictment. It is important for Luskin [Rove's lawyer] to get his defense started now because he knows that what one appeals court judge in the case called 'the plot against Wilson' is going to become public when the prosecutor reveals everything he has already revealed only to the judges ... He is trying to set the stage for the day the prosecutor turns over his cards. Rove-Luskin will then call it all 'old news.'")

4. This flurry of fresh media activity will be capped off this morning with a Democratic congressional hearing about the scandal at 10 AM.

Rep. Henry Waxman previews it with his own Daily Kos post.

You should be able to watch it on the C-Span website.

July 21, 2005 PERMALINK
Interest In CIA Leak Scandal Is Growing
(posted July 21 12:30 AM ET)

It has been 741 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

The Dems’ “let’s wait and see” strategy on John Roberts is a timid one, and only has a prayer of working if they insist upon answers to substantive questions and access to his old White House and Justice Dept. documents.

But the timid strategy has one potential upside: less Roberts controversy means less Roberts water cooler chatter means less distraction from the CIA Leak scandal.

The Beltway pundits might tell you (echoing GOP spin) there isn’t any water cooler chatter about the CIA Leak scandal either.

True, there probably wasn’t any two years ago. But evidence shows that’s changing.

A new Pew poll finds 48% of Americans, and 52% of independents, are following the story “very closely” or “fairly closely.”

Not massive, but not bad for a relatively complicated story that’s just gaining momentum.

Pew also notes:

...attention to the Rove story is comparable to interest in past Washington controversies, including the 1997 ethics charges against House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's resignation in 2003 following remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party, and charges in 1991 that then-White House chief of staff John Sununu used military aircraft for personal trips.

But the story has much greater resonance than the recent ethics complaints made against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Note that public pressure from their respective scandals forced both Lott and Sununu from their posts. (Gingrich had to wait one year, when he failed to gain House seats for his party, before he was forced out.)

And of those following the story closely, 58% believe Rove should resign. (That figure is 39% for all respondents, and 45% for all independents – pluralities in both cases.)

We’re also seeing heartland newspapers editorialize about the scandal, another indication of outside-the-Beltway interest.

The Oregonian’s David Sarasohn criticized a White House where “the rules don't apply to Rove.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Eric Mink writes: “Rove works for the people of the United States of America. He has betrayed their trust.”

The Denver Post ed board said: “Given Bush's comments Monday, it sounds as if the administration in 2003 and 2004 was more interested in deflecting controversy than demanding accountability. Rove and Libby should come forward and explain their roles, and the president should stand by his determination to fire anyone who leaked Plame's identity...”

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ed board argues: “President Bush likes to talk about high standards, accountability and personal responsibility. While Bush expects students, school systems and future retirees to toe the line, his friends get an easier deal.”

The Des Moines Register ed board says while calls for Rove to be fired are “premature,” that “for the GOP spin machine to attempt to deflect attention from Rove by unleashing an all-out assault on Wilson is unconscionable.”

The Chicago Tribune’s conservative ed board said: “The administration is losing credibility over the matter of Valerie Plame.”

Finally, the conservative Dallas Morning News ed board tries to spit of the GOP talking points, then starts to gag: “it's not at all clear that Karl Rove or anybody else should be fired over their role in a relatively minor incident. But it is embarrassingly obvious that Bush and his team are engaging in lawyerly evasions that sound, well, Clintonian.”

The Administration’s stonewalling doesn’t appear to be sitting well throughout the nation, and across the political spectrum.

There’s plenty of questions unanswered that the public wants answered, and in turn, plenty of reporting left to do.

QUICK HIT

More Scandal News

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal:

A classified State Department memo that may be pivotal to the CIA leak case made clear that information identifying an agent and her role in her husband's intelligence-gathering mission was sensitive and shouldn't be shared, according to a person familiar with the document.

Today's Washington Post:

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

The relevance: If the White House leakers learned about Plame from a classified source, as opposed to a non-classified source such as a journalist, they are more likely to be vulnerable under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

July 20, 2005 PERMALINK
No Blank Slates
(posted July 20 2:45 AM ET)

It has been 740 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Unless by “corrective action,” you mean trying to change the subject with a primetime Supreme Court announcement that previously was expected next week.

And there is news on the Rove front.

The American Prospect reports that Rove may have withheld key info from prosecutors. And Talking Points Memo posts a letter from 11 former intelligence offers to Congressional leaders schooling right-wingers who are distorting Valerie Plame Wilson’s record.

But the nomination of the blank slate, corporate hack, partisan operative John Roberts to the Supreme Court will dominate the news coverage for the moment.

Democrats ceded Day 1 of the spin war to the Republicans. Big mistake.

The GOP is generating tons of positive coverage and shaping opinion while Dems are merely saying they want to wait and learn more, which does nothing to shape opinion.

In short, they were psyched out once again. Republicans got them worried about seeming knee-jerk, got them to remain quiet, and got them to let Republicans control the coverage.

Having said that, the Dems do appear to be laying down a marker, a smart marker if they hold the nominee to it.

Sen. Chuck Schumer said:

It is vital that Judge Roberts answer a wide range of questions openly, honestly, and fully in the coming months.

His views will affect a generation of Americans and it is his obligation during the nomination process to let the American people know those views...

...The burden is on a nominee to the Supreme Court to prove that he is worthy, not on the Senate to prove he is unworthy.

Roberts’ judicial career is short and his judicial writings thin. Not good enough for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment.

If Roberts can’t explain his judicial philosophy beyond platitudes, and he refuses to give direct answers about his views on how past Supreme Court cases were decided, Dems should band together and filibuster, saying “No Blank Slates.”

Dems also have to make clear why it is sensible to distrust a blank slate:

Because the conservative movement wants to pack the Court with those biased for corporations and against workers, for fringe fundamentalists and against supporters of personal freedom.

And Roberts appeals to the Corporate wing and the Dobson wing of the GOP.

Much of his career has been spent representing corporations in a private law firm. And Jay Sekulow, who heads the Pat Robertson-backed ACLW, had put Roberts in his top 3 picks.

GOPers have successfully gotten the NY Times and W. Post to print that Roberts is not a “movement conservative.” This is a joke.

How is someone who is a protégé of William Rehnquist and Ken Starr not a movement conserative?

But let’s get beyond labels and look at some specifics.

In one opinion, Roberts indicated that he thinks it’s unconstitutional for our elected representatives to protect endangered species from extinction, and our air and water from pollution.

Roberts supported Dick Cheney’s efforts to keep his energy task force records, detailing his coordination with corporations, secret from the public.

As a corporate lawyer, Roberts persuaded the Supreme Court to deny Americans With Disabilities Act protections to those are fired after developing carpal tunnel syndrome from their job.

As Deputy Solicitor General in the first Bush Administration, he authored briefs supporting the reversal of Roe, and supporting the denial of funds to family planning organizations that offer legal abortion-related services.

(Roberts weaseled out of his record on reproductive freedom during his federal appeals courts hearing, saying “Roe ... is the settled law of the land ... There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.” That’s meaningless. You have to apply precedent as a lower court judge. It says nothing about what he would do on the Supreme Court.)

You get the flavor. (More detailed PDF reports are available from People For The American Way and Alliance For Justice.)

Let’s end on this delightful note, from a Legal Times profile back in Feb.:

...those who know Roberts say he, unlike Souter, is a reliable conservative who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action...

..."He is as conservative as you can get," one friend puts it.

In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.

Dems should not let him get away with mere "stealth appeal."

They should make it clear to the public why those answers matter and rally support, now, for a “No Blank Slates” principle.

They should demand unambiguous answers to the issues at hand.

And if they don’t get satisfactory answers, they should filibuster.

July 19, 2005 PERMALINK
739 Days
(posted July 19 12:45 AM ET)

It has been 739 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

See yesterday's post below for more on SF-312. LiberalOasis will return to regular posting tomorrow.

July 18, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted July 18 12:45 AM ET)

It has been 738 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

What does that mean?

Check out this exchange from NBC’s Meet The Press between host Tim Russert and GOP Chairman (and former Rove deputy) Ken Mehlman:

RUSSERT: When one is given classified clearance, they are asked to sign an oath, and they are given a briefing book with form. Standard Form 312, it's called.

And if you read this briefing book, it says this:

"Before...confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of [the] SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not...confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure."

So by confirming a story from Robert Novak or sharing information with Matt Cooper, no matter where it came from, if, in fact, it was classified information, without seeking to determine whether it was declassified, it is an unauthorized disclosure.

MEHLMAN: Well, you're making an assumption that it's classified information.

In fact, what the story on Friday, you pointed out, shows, and what earlier stories have shown is that this information at least came to Mr. Rove from journalists, not from a classified source.

Much of the talk to date, rightly, has been about who in the White House committed a crime by uncovering Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity and damaging our national security.

And while many of us are pontificating about that now, in the end, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald and the grand jury have the final say whether anyone will be indicted for the crime.

But SF 312, also known as the “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement,” is separate from the criminal investigation.

It’s about proper behavior for government employees with high security clearances such as Rove (who is paid with taxpayer dollars to coordinate the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, among other things. He is not paid merely to be a political hack.)

Rove’s defenders, when they’re not avoiding the issue by going after Wilson’s husband, try to argue Rove wouldn’t have violated the specifics of the Intelligence Identities Protections Act if he got his info from a non-classified source (like a journalist) or if Valerie Wilson was not stationed overseas within 5 years of the leak.

Now, these arguments can be, and have been, knocked down in a number of ways. But for moment, assume them to be true.

Under SF 312, it doesn’t matter.

You get a whiff of something that may be classified, regardless of where you got it from, regardless of what your intentions are, you have to check it out with the CIA and make sure it’s not classified before you go blabbing about it.

If that nondisclosure agreement is violated, as Rep. Henry Waxman’s PDF fact sheet explains, “Under [Executive Order 12958] the White House has an affirmative obligation to investigate and take remedial action separate and apart from any ongoing criminal investigation.”

He also notes, “There is no evidence that the White House complied with these requirements.”

Mehlman’s response to Russert’s questions is telling.

He is unable to answer forthrightly. He has no choice but to lie.

He said, “you're making an assumption that it's classified information.” That is not an assumption. That is fact.

Not only is it a fact that Plame Wilson was covert at the time of the leak, regardless of when her last overseas assignment was.

(Though note that Time Magazine reports: “A U.S. official told TIME that Plame was indeed considered covert for the purposes of the Intelligence Identities Protection law.”)

But the story Rove was peddling – that Plame Wilson had a role in sending her husband to Niger to check out if Saddam was getting nuke materials there – was also info that came from a classified memo.

Mehlman continued with an irrelevant argument: “this information at least came to Mr. Rove from journalists, not from a classified source.”

The whole point of Russert bringing up SF 312 was under that nondisclosure agreement, it doesn’t matter where Rove got the info. He was obligated to make sure it wasn’t classified.

He was, at the barest minimum, being negligent in his handling of sensitive national security information, which is a violation of SF 312.

Now “remedial action” can mean a lot of things.

But common sense would dictate that a careless handling of classified info warrants a revoking of one’s security clearance.

And using classified info for political payback warrants dismissal.

Why hasn’t the White House begun its own investigation to determine if Rove or others violated SF 312 and deserve remedial action, as is required?

Ken Mehlman can’t answer that question.

Which means: keep asking.

QUICK HIT

Keep An Eye Out...

...for a accelerated announcement of a Supreme Court nominee, in order to change the subject.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

The Stakeholder: Rep. Waxman finds Rove may have "violated his obligations under his 'Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement'" and "Under the executive order, the White House has an affirmative obligation to investigate and take remedial action separate and apart from any ongoing criminal investigation." (Click for PDF of Waxman fact sheet)

Huffington Post's Susan Rice: "Rove cannot be trusted to handle sensitive national security information responsibly. As any competent official with a security clearance knows, you don’t go around talking publicly or casually about who works at the CIA. The identities of CIA personnel need to be treated with discretion, whether or not they are covert agents, not least because they offer potentially attractive targets for terrorists."

David Corn: De-Spinning the Save-Rove Spin

Think Progress: GOP can't keep Rove's story straight

AmericaBlog, Eschaton, Radamisto and Informed Comment on a 2nd leak scandal, connected to the London bombings

TalkLeft: Where Does Ari Fleischer Fit In?

Mark A.R. Kleiman: "The elements of a crime under the [Intelligence Identities Protection Act] are extremely demanding ... But Rove's conduct certainly meets the far less demanding elements of the Espionage Act ... I'd say it's virtually certain that Rove committed one or more felonies, highly probable that he will be indicted, and more likely than not that he will be convicted." (via Political Animal)

Think Progress: In 2000, Rove Called For Gore To Come Clean Over Ethical Issues

Editor & Publisher's William Jackson: "[Judith Miller] may have both received the information on Plame from a high official, who was trying to smear Wilson, and spread it as a 'carrier' to another one. Or maybe she already knew what Plame's job was, as her government beat was WMD. If this scenario is close to the reality of what happened, her 'cover' is likely to be blown if and when the special prosecutor releases the information from those crucial redacted eight pages of court documents that persuaded one judge after another to hold her in contempt in the first place."

TPMCafe's Larry Johnson: "The misinformation being spread in the media about the Plame affair is alarming and damaging to the longterm security interests of the United States. Republicans' talking points are trying to savage Joe Wilson and, by implication, his wife, Valerie Plame as liars. That is the truly big lie."

Whatever Already: Novak talked to prosecutors, may have coordinated testimony with Rove in advance (via Eschaton)

**************

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July 29, 2002
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