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2005-11-01

Cheney Taps Torture Memo Author to Replace Scooter Libby

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On Monday, Vice President Dick Cheney appointed his legal counsel, David Addington, to be his new chief of staff following the resignation of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Addington once wrote the war on terorrism has rendered the Geneva Conventions "obsolete." We speak with investigative reporter Murray Waas and hear former Ambassador Joseph Wilson speak out on the outing of his wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame. [includes rush transcript]

Former ambassador Joseph Wilson on Monday gave his version of events into who leaked the identity of his wife, CIA operative, Valerie Plame–and eventually led to a White House staff member being indicted for crimes committed in the office for the first time in 130 years. In July 2003, Wilson published an opinion piece in The New York Times saying that on a CIA-funded trip to Africa in 2002, he was unable to substantiate claims that Niger helped supply nuclear materials to Iraq. Despite his findings, President Bush included the claim in his State of the Union address in January 2003. Shortly after Wilson’s newspaper article was published, his wife’s identity as a CIA operative was leaked to the media. This is what Wilson had to say yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

  • Joseph Wilson: "There remain two questions on the table: why and who put the words in the address and who ultimately will be held responsible for having compromised the identity of a CIA operative and essentially compromising the national security of this country."

So far, the investigation into the CIA leak has lead to the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby was indicted on Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements. He resigned following the indictments. President Bush’s chief advisor Karl Rove has so far escaped indictment for his role in the leak. He remains under investigation. Back in August of 2003, Wilson first fingered Rove saying "At the end of the day, it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." In his address yesterday, Wilson repeated his view that Rove should be fired.

  • Joseph Wilson: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t believe Mr. Rove should be permitted to resign. I believe that this is a firing offence. To be so cavalier in the handling of the secrets of this great nation really is an abuse of the public trust."

While Karl Rove remains in the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney has appointed his legal counsel, David Addington, to replace Scooter Libby. Cheney also appointed John Hannah, who had served on his national security staff since March 2001, as assistant to the vice president for national security affairs. Libby had held both positions. Addington was referred to by job title in the indictment of Libby on Friday, and appears likely to be called as a witness should Libby’s case go to trial.

  • Murray Waas, investigative journalist and one of the leading reporters in the CIA leak case. He co-authored an article in the National Journal on Sunday about David Addington. I spoke with him at his home in Washington DC

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is what Wilson had to say yesterday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

JOSEPH WILSON: There remain two questions on the table. Why and who put the sixteen words in the State of the Union address, and who ultimately will be held responsible for having compromised the identity of a C.I.A. operative and essentially compromising the national security of this country?

AMY GOODMAN: So far the investigation into the C.I.A. leak has led to the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Libby was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements. He resigned following the indictments. President Bush’s Chief Advisor, Karl Rove, has so far escaped indictment for his role in the leak. He remains, though, under investigation. Back in August 2003, Wilson first fingered Rove, saying, quote, "At the end of the day it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs." In his address yesterday Wilson repeated his view Rove should be fired.

JOSEPH WILSON: I’ll say it again. I don’t believe Mr. Rove should be permitted to resign. I believe that this is a firing offense. To be so cavalier in the handling of the secrets of this great nation really is an abuse of the public trust.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Ambassador Joseph Wilson. While Karl Rove remains in the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney has appointed his legal counsel, David Addington, to replace Scooter Libby. Cheney also appointed John Hannah, who served on his national security staff since March 2001 as assistant to the Vice President for national security affairs. Libby had held both positions. Addington was referred to — by the job title in the indictment of Libby on Friday and appears likely to be called as a witness should Libby’s case go to trial. On Monday, I spoke with investigative journalist Murray Waas, one of the leading investigative reporters in the C.I.A. leak case. He co-authored an article in the National Journal Sunday about David Addington.

MURRAY WAAS: David Addington is one of the Vice President’s closest aides. Lewis Libby was a guy with unprecedented authority and power. Lewis Libby was one of the most powerful staff assistants to a vice president, who in himself was perhaps the most powerful vice president in the country’s history. So Lewis Libby had the positions of not only being the Chief of Staff to the Vice President before his resignation following his indictment on Friday, but he’s also the President’s National Security Advisor, and he also had the title of being special assistant to the President. The third one was kind of symbolic in the sense of — to show that his loyalty was also to the President, that he didn’t just serve the Vice President. It was a unified White House. So David Addington worked under Lewis Libby. Libby was his mentor, but David Addington was the counsel to the Vice President of the United States. And so today — yesterday, the Vice President named his successor — the successor to Lewis Libby as Chief of Staff, and that appointment is going to be David Addington.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about who David Addington is?

MURRAY WAAS: Well, there’s — he worked — he’s a guy who’s been involved in politics for a long time. He has an intelligence background. He was Chief Counsel — he was a counsel to the House Intelligence Committee and also had been a counsel to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It should be noted that’s how he and Dick Cheney became friends. Dick Cheney had been in the House of Representatives in the 1980s. Addington had been the counsel to the committee. The two got to know each other. Dick Cheney then became the Secretary of Defense during the first President Bush — first President Bush’s administration. David Addington came as not only counsel to Cheney at the Defense Department, but also as special assistant. So the relationship between Cheney and Addington is very close. But Cheney, Libby, Addington, the three of them is kind of three people who have been very close politically, personally know each other, share common goals.

AMY GOODMAN: So what does it mean with the indictment of Libby and Libby resigning that he has stuck within this inner circle, who Addington has been in terms of known for secrecy, even being a part of perhaps the whole leak circle?

MURRAY WAAS: Well, Addington, Cheney and Libby share a philosophical viewpoint that the executive branch, the presidency had been weakened by Watergate and Iran-Contra, Vietnam, whatever, and it was time for the executives to reassert themselves, time for a stronger presidency. And they also believe that the executive was not exercising enough prerogatives regarding release of information, that the executive didn’t have to turn over information to Congress, doesn’t have to make certain things public. In their view, all three of them, they want to reassert what they think is a power that’s been taken away.

The secrecy issue is kind of extraordinary, the degree to which they take it. We talked to, for the story that I wrote in the National Journal, my colleagues spoke to a guy named Bruce Fein, who was a senior official in the Reagan administration’s Justice Department. And his name is Bruce Fein. And he said, "We’ve never" — he’s a conservative. He said, ’We’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve never seen the secrecy, we’ve never seen the executive privilege claims, the holding back of information.’ What makes that notable is that Bruce Fein, who’s now an attorney in private practice, he was severely criticized himself by members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, and also by advocacy groups for, himself, expanding executive authority regarding secrecy.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, Addington, on this issue of secrecy, the reports from — being the one to advise Cheney not to hand over information about which energy companies he was meeting with and energy policy to the 9/11 Commission, doing battle with the commission, talk about that.

MURRAY WAAS: He was a point man on all those things, withholding information from the 9/11 Commission, withholding Enron information from Congress. He was one of the authors of a memo. He withheld stuff that he, himself, wrote, which has kind of an irony to it. The interesting thing that you pointed out was that there’s an extraordinary irony here. I mean, here’s a guy — here’s a vice president obsessed with secrecy , must reassert executive authority to keep things secret to withhold information from Congress and the public. Here’s his Chief of Staff who was supposed to implement that, who now resigned on Friday after his five-count felony indictment, Lewis Libby. And then finally with Libby’s resignation you have Addington coming in to take Libby’s place, so all three of them are involved in this. Addington is the point man. Addington is the kind of action officer, whatever you want to call it, the most activist — or the person implementing this philosophy of great secrecy. But he’s doing it on the behest of the Vice President, and he’s doing it having worked with Lewis Libby.

Well, it turns out that the indictment charges, they leaked the most sensitive and important national security secret that there is. That’s the name of a covert C.I.A. operative and the leak of that particular information not only put this C.I.A. officer, Valerie Plame, at risk, it put other people at the C.I.A. at risk. It put sources and assets at risk for people both on the right and left. And, you know, we want a war on terrorism or whatever where we can at least obtain the information, where we can protect covert assets or whatever. Here was a legitimate secret. Here was something that people, conservatives and the people on the right, would be the most upset about. And despite holding back what others were saying innocuous pieces of information from Congress or things that were embarrassing and saying they wanted to reassert this authority on secrecy and privilege and stuff, most people didn’t even think it was a reassertion, because it was a radical new interpretation of executive privilege.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Murray Waas, investigative reporter — his piece appears at NationalJournal.com — speaking about the new appointment to replace Scooter Libby by Vice President Cheney of David Addington.

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