Okay, if we are to take Libby’s court filings and conversations with Fitzgerald at face value, what do we have? For easy reference, I have given the relevant timeline (July 5-8, 2003) below the fold.

On July 6, 2003 Ambassador Joseph Wilson published his editorial in the New York Times. On July 8, 2003 Scooter Libby met with Judith Miller in the St. Regis Hotel and disclosed Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee. He also disclosed classified information from the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that the Vice-President “thought…was ‘pretty definitive’ against what Ambassador Wilson had said and…that it was ‘very important’ for the key judgments of the NIE to come out.

In the past, the Vice-President has stated that he had the authority to authorize declassifications. But, according to Fitzgerald, Libby testified:

“at first” he rebuffed Mr. Cheney’s suggestion to release the information because the estimate was classified. However, according to the vice presidential aide, Mr. Cheney subsequently said he got permission for the release directly from Mr. Bush.

Assuming this is true, and I’m not suggesting it is, how likely is it that Bush was informed of an intention to burn Valerie Plame Wilson?

If Libby was unwilling to disclose information from the NIE without higher authority than Cheney’s, how likely is it that he would disclose the identity of Non-Official Cover CIA officer without express authority?

To determine that likelihood, let’s review some facts. On May 29, 2003 Libby requested information from Undersecretary of State Mark Grossman about Joe Wilson. On June 9, 2003 the CIA faxe[d] documents to the attention of Libby and one other person in the Office of the Vice President. The faxed documents do not give Wilson’s name: Libby and others add “Wilson” and “Joe Wilson” by hand. On June 11, 2003 Libby ask[ed] a senior officer of the CIA about the origin and circumstances of Wilson’s trip. He is advised by the CIA officer that Wilson’s wife works at the CIA and is believed to be responsible for sending Wilson on the trip. On June 11 or 12, 2003 Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman t[old] Libby that “Joe Wilson’s wife works for the CIA”, and that State Department personnel are saying that Wilson’s wife was involved in the planning of the trip. On June 12, 2003 “Vice President Dick Cheney t[old] Libby that Wilson’s wife works for the CIA’s counter-proliferation division. Libby understands the information to have come from the CIA.” Sometime between June 12 and June 15th, an unknown administration official told Bob Woodward about Valerie Plame. On June 20, 2003 Woodward interviews an administration official (perhaps Stephen Hadley) and has a reference to Wilson’s wife in his notes. On June 23, Libby met with Judith Miller and mentioned the possibility that Wilson’s wife might work in the CIA. On July 7, 2003 (the day after Wilson published his editorial) Libby had lunch with Ari Fleischer and told him about Valerie Plame.

Given these facts, how relevant is it whether or not Libby received express authority to leak classified information about the NIE to Judith Miller on July 8th? I’d say it is a total distraction.

First of all, the matter is completely irrelevant to Libby’s defense. He is charged with lying to FBI agents and the Grand Jury, not with disclosing classified information. Secondly, it’s clear that the administration began leaking information about Valerie Plame three weeks before the July 8 meeting. And those leaks did not involve the information from the NIE that the Vice-President supposedly thought would provide a defense against Wilson’s allegations.

Whatever Bush knew, and whatever Bush authorized, he would have had to make the decision to authorize the leaking of classified information nearly a month before the July 8 meeting for Libby to use it as an excuse.

July 5

  • A male senior administration official tells Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus that Joseph Wilson‘s mission to Africa originated within the CIA’s clandestine service after Vice President Dick Cheney
    aides raised questions during a briefing. “It was not orchestrated by
    the vice president,” the official says. Also according to the official,
    the trip was reported in a routine way, and the report did not mention
    Wilson’s name and did not say anything about forgeries. (WaPo)

Wilson’s op-ed published

July 6

  • The New York Times publishes an Op-Ed article by Joseph Wilson titled What I Didn’t Find in Africa, criticizing Bush’s remarks on Iraq yellowcake purchase in Niger as relying on forged documents. He states the CIA provided this intelligence to the White House prior to the SOTU in Jan ’03.
Wilson also appears on Meet the Press, interviewed by Andrea Mitchell, and is quoted on the record about the trip in an article by Richard Leiby and Walter Pincus in the Washington Post.
  • In response, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage calls INR director Carl Ford

    at home, seeking explanation and background on the Wilson-Niger claims.
    Armitage asks Ford to forward this information to Secretary of State Colin Powell. (AP, NYT, WaPo)

July 7

  • The White House retracts the Niger allegation, which is its
    sole admission to date of a flaw in the case for war, which was built
    on charges of an illegal Iraqi arsenal that has not been found.
  • White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
    states at a press gaggle that the Vice President had not requested
    Wilson’s trip, had not been aware of it, and had not seen the results. (White House)
  • After being called at home, State Department’s then-intelligence chief, Carl Ford gets the INR
    to work on providing Powell the requested information and the June 10
    memo, either because he remembers the memo, or Armitage does. (Bloomberg)

  • The State Department’s June 10 INR memo is located and copied. It says Joseph Wilson
    had been approved for the Niger trip by mid-level CIA officials on the
    recommendation of his wife, a counter-proliferation expert at the CIA. (Bloomberg)
  • Robert Novak places a call to Ari Fleischer
    according to White House phone logs. It is not clear whether Fleischer
    returned the call, and Fleischer has refused to comment. (Bloomberg)
  • Evening – Bush leaves for his trip to Africa.
  • Carl Ford orders the copy of the original memo, along with the
    analyst’s notes about that meeting, be sent to Powell. Ordinarily, the
    memo would have been transmitted directly to Powell over the State
    Department’s secure communications lines. But because Powell was
    traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One, the memo is transmitted via the White House operations center. (LA Times)
  • Colin Powell is seen walking around Air Force One with the INR memo (NYT). Powell circulated the memo among those traveling with him in the front section of Air Force One (LA Times). Press Secretary Ari Fleischer at some point during the flight sees the memo (Bloomberg).

On or before July 8

  • “People at the CIA” tell Andrea Mitchell
    that “high-level people at the CIA did not really know that it was
    false, never even looked at Joe Wilson’s verbal report or notes from
    that report, didn’t even know that it was he who had made this report,
    because he was sent over by some of the covert operatives in the CIA at
    a very low level, not, in fact, tasked by the vice president.” (Capital
A Reuters reporter is fed a similar story: “A U.S. intelligence
official said Wilson was sent to investigate the Niger reports by
mid-level CIA officers, not by top-level Bush administration officials.
There is no record of his report being flagged to top level officials,
the intelligence official said.” (Josh Marshall)

July 8

  • White House officials assemble a briefing book, which they fax to the Bush entourage in Africa in order to allow Condoleezza Rice

    to prepare on the long flight home to D.C for appearances on the Sunday
    talks shows upon her return from Africa. This briefing book was
    primarily prepared by her National Security Council staff. It contains
    classified information — perhaps including all or part of the memo from
    State. The entire binder is labeled TOP SECRET. (Newsweek)

  • Scooter Libby meets with New York Times reporter Judith Miller over a two-hour breakfast the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C., and discusses CIA operative Valerie Plame (Libby Indictment p. 7, NYT).
    Libby will testify that the purpose of the meeting is to disclose
    information from the NIE to Miller, and that the disclosure was
    authorized by his superiors (OSC letter, p. 6).

  • Novak calls Karl Rove at the White House, ostensibly about a story on the promotion of Frances Fragos Townsend. Mr. Novak turns to the subject of Ms. Wilson, identifying her by the name Valerie Wilson. Novak claims to Mr. Rove that he knows that Joseph Wilson had been sent on the trip to Niger at the urging of Ms. Wilson. (NYT)
Rove responds by saying “Oh, you know about it.” (Townhall)
In Rove’s version of events he responds by saying “I heard that, too.” (WaPo)
  • Late AfternoonRobert Novak talks to a nominative stranger (a friend of Wilson) who approaches him on the way to taping Crossfire,
    that he believes that Wilson’s wife had something to do with Wilson’s
    appointment to investigate the yellowcake claim in Africa.

My friend, without revealing that he knew me, asked
Novak about the Uranium controversy. It was a minor problem, Novak
replied, and opined that the administration should have dealt with it
weeks before. My friend then asked Novak what he thought about me, and
Novak answered: “Wilson’s an asshole. The CIA sent him. His wife,
Valerie [Plame], works for the CIA. She’s a weapons of mass destruction
specialist. She sent him.”
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