I find it fascinating that Scooter Libby learned of Valerie Plame’s name from former Islamabad Station Chief Robert Grenier. Grenier was our lead Agency guy for the invasion of Afghanistan. He then came home and helped the CIA’s Iraq Issue Group plan the invasion of Iraq. After that, he assumed the position of CIA Counterterrorist Center chief. And, according to Vince Cannistraro, he was fired for having morals:

Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough — it’s that he wasn’t with the program. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”

Mr Grenier also opposed “excessive” interrogation, such as strapping suspects to boards and submerging them in water, Mr Cannistraro said.

Cannistraro chimes in on intelligence issues all the time. I don’t grant him a lot of credibility. If Grenier was fired over the prisons, I suspect it was because the Eastern European gulags were leaked to reporter Dana Priest of the Washington Post. Presumably, Grenier was either overseeing those prisons, or sending prisoners there. If he had qualms about it and voiced them, he may have been presumed guilty of leaking and removed from his position. But things are becoming a little more complicated now and I wonder if he might not have been fired for a different reason entirely…

Two top CIA officials will bolster prosecutors’ charge that Vice President Cheney’s chief aide lied to them, court papers show.

Prosecutors say disgraced Cheney chief of staff Lewis (Scooter) Libby learned CIA spy Valerie Plame’s identity from, among others, agency officials who will be called to testify at his trial for perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice.

The U.S. alleges he learned about Plame from one of the CIA officials when he went after dirt on her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson shattered a pillar of President Bush’s rationale for war – that Iraq was seeking to build a nuclear weapon.

Both CIA officials – including a top architect of the 2003 Iraq invasion – discussed Plame with Libby a month before columnist Robert Novak blew her cover in July 2003, prosecutors charge.

…subsequent documents allege Libby asked top CIA official Robert Grenier on June 11 why the agency sent Wilson to Niger to see if Iraq tried to buy uranium. Grenier replied that Plame was an agent and “believed responsible” for arranging her husband’s trip.

The other official was Craig Schmall, a CIA briefer whom Libby complained to about the Wilson trip on June 14, court files allege.

The June 11-14, 2003 dates come one day after the famous June 10 INR memo that identified Valerie Plame as the wife of Wilson and overlaps with the window within which a senior administration official (probably Hadley or Armitage) told Bob Woodward about her. I wonder when Libby first discovered that Robert Grenier had ratted him out? Could that discovery have had anything to do with Grenier getting fired?

Personally, I would have fired Grenier for a different reason. He evidently gave Libby faulty information which led to the whole smear campaign in the first place.

Libby asked top CIA official Robert Grenier on June 11 why the agency sent Wilson to Niger to see if Iraq tried to buy uranium. Grenier replied that Plame was an agent and “believed responsible” for arranging her husband’s trip.

As is turned out, she was not responsible for sending her husband on the trip. And so it made no sense to leak that information to the press. How did it all play out? On June 11, Libby was told that Wilson’s wife was responsible for the trip. On June 12, Walter Pincus published CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data. According to the Libby Indictment (.pdf), Libby was a source for Pincus’s article and participated in office discussions on how to respond to Pincus’s inquiries into Wilson’s trip. You can see what they settled on from Pincus’s lede.

…the CIA did not pass on the detailed results of its (Wilson’s) investigation to the White House or other government agencies, the officials said.

The CIA’s failure to share what it knew, which has not been disclosed previously, was one of a number of steps in the Bush administration that helped keep the uranium story alive until the eve of the war in Iraq, when the United Nations’ chief nuclear inspector told the Security Council that the claim was based on fabricated evidence.

It wasn’t until after Wilson went public that the administration came back to Pincus and changed their story.

This Washington Post reporter (Pincus) spoke the next day (July 12, 2003) to an administration official, who talked on the condition of anonymity, and was told in substance “that the White House had not paid attention to the former ambassador’s CIA-sponsored trip to Niger because it was set up as a boondoggle by his wife, an analyst with the agency working on weapons of mass destruction,” as reported in an Oct. 14 article.

But Pincus didn’t believe this source.

Pincus never wrote about Valerie Plame — in part, he says, because he already knew a fair amount about the origins of Wilson’s trip from various sources, including some in the CIA. He did not think it was true that Plame had arranged the trip; and even if that were so, he thought, it had little bearing on the merits or lack thereof of Wilson’s report. After Novak’s column ran, he says, “I talked to the agency people, and they said it wasn’t true.”

If Libby hadn’t gotten erroneous information from Grenier (and others) about the genesis of Wilson’s trip they never would have tried to use the whole boondoggle argument and he never would have been forced to engage in a massive cover-up. As long as Grenier was presumed to be on board and playing along in the cover-up, they were happy to give him plum jobs. Perhaps they changed their minds about his future usefulness when they discovered he had turned state’s witness?

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