NYT Exposes Cheney’s Role in CIA Leak: Cheney Identifies Wilson’s Wife as CIA Operative

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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. [includes rush transcript]

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.”

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

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.


AMY GOODMAN: We continue our conversation with Mel Goodman, former C.I.A. and State Department analyst, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy, author of Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk. Mel Goodman, can you talk about the significance of the prosecutor Fitzpatrick [sic] — Fitzgerald, Patrick Fitzgerald, talking about the — requesting the Niger documents? What is the significance of this?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, that is very significant, because the Niger documents are really forgeries. They’re fabrications. And what should have happened, when you’re dealing with a fabrication that gets into the White House, indeed, gets into the most important message that the President delivers to the country, the State of the Union message, there should have been a counterintelligence investigation. How did this fabrication take place? Who was responsible for it? How did it get to the C.I.A.? How did the C.I.A. transmit this to the White House? How indeed did it get into the President’s message? And this never happened.

Over the weekend, there was a very important UPI article by Martin Walker, a wonderful British journalist, who talked about Fitzgerald having access to an Italian parliamentary investigation. Apparently, this has been known by NATO intelligence sources. The Italians have investigated this document, and apparently, they know something about the forgery.

The fact that the United States has never had the counterintelligence investigation tells me that former agency people could be involved. And I say that because in the 1980s, under the C.I.A. of Bill Casey and Bob Gates, there was serious misuse of intelligence to make the case that the Soviets were involved in the papal plot, the attempt to assassinate the Pope in 1981. I would not be surprised if this was the same kind of covert action in which you had black propaganda used to get the President — to allow the President to say something in the State of the Union that just, indeed, was not accurate. And I think the special prosecutor understands this.

But again, why didn’t the Senate Intelligence Committee look at this? Why didn’t the news media ask the questions of who, what, why, when, how? None of this has been asked, because of their obsession with leaks and sources, that they might lose a source, that Judith Miller had to go to jail. What has happened to freedom of the press? Nonsense, what has happened to the freedom of the press is that it’s being allowed to atrophy, because journalists won’t do their job. So the special prosecutor is doing the job the Senate should have done, the media should have done and the Democrats should have done. I think he’s a hero.

AMY GOODMAN: Mel Goodman, former C.I.A. and State Department analyst, Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy. Can you talk — you mentioned the Iraq Group. Talk about who exactly you’re referring to and what that means?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, the Iraq Group was put together in the White House in 2002 about the same time that Donald Rumsfeld set up a secret shop in the Defense Department called the Office of Special Plans. So, what the Office of Special Plans did was to create the intelligence, sometimes out of whole cloth, that the C.I.A. dismissed, because it just was bad intelligence. So the Office of Special Plans would create this phony intelligence or bogus intelligence. They would pass it to the White House Iraq Group, which was set up by Andy Card, who, of course, is the Chief of Staff to the President. Their job was to write materials for people such as Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney to go to the public to talk about the mushroom cloud, to talk about nuclear reconstitution, to talk about the famous or infamous aluminum tubes that had nothing to do with nuclear weapons at all.

Now, all of this was known to the White House Iraq Group. It was known to Libby. It was known to Rove. It was known to Hadley, Steven Hadley. That’s why I think Hadley might be named in these indictments that should come down tomorrow and Friday. But I think, again, that Fitzgerald understands the misuse of policy in how we went to war. And he’s investigated the White House Iraq Group, which the Senate should have investigated, and presumably he’s looked at the Office of Special Plans, under Douglas Feith, who is now gone, who created a lot of this phony intelligence. Again, lying to go to war, what is worse than this? I cannot think of anything at the White House level, at the presidential level.

AMY GOODMAN: Who are David Wurmser and John Hannah?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, David Wurmser and John Hannah have been involved with Dick Cheney for the past ten years. John Hannah was on Cheney’s staff for a period of time. Wurmser has gone back and forth between the White House, the Defense Department, the State Department. He was affiliated with John Bolton, when Bolton was the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Disarmament. There’s a possibility they could be named, because I’m sure they were feeding a lot of this bogus intelligence to the press and to the White House Iraq Group. And certainly, these were part of Cheney’s apparatchiks, the people who worked in the shadows, who worked in the background to get the story out to the public, to allow people like Condi Rice to say over and over again that we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. And unfortunately, the public bought it, and the press bought it. Certainly the Washington Post editorial staff bought it, and the Congress bought it when they voted in October 2002. Dangerous stuff.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to play for you the Chief of Staff of Colin Powell, when he was Secretary of State, Lawrence Wilkerson, a very controversial speech he gave that’s rocking some of the inner circles. He just gave this speech a little — few days ago.

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON: What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson. Mel Goodman, former C.I.A. analyst, your response?

MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, “cabal” happens to be the right word. This is about four or five people who took the government into their own hands, who didn’t want to discuss policy at the table, because they knew there was some differences within the State Department, within the C.I.A., in the way we were going to war. They knew there were differences about the number of troops that would be needed. And that’s why Paul Wolfowitz and others were so dismissive of professional military officers, such as General Shinseki, who said it’s an inadequate number of troops.

But the question is not the number of troops. That’s, you know, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? It’s about whether we should have gone to war or not. And, of course, we should not have gone to war. This is an illegal and immoral war. And I think when Wilkerson is talking about a cabal, and he’s talking about a dysfunctional government, this is exactly what he was talking about.

Let’s give the C.I.A. a little credit. They did write some analytical pieces that anticipated the kinds of chaos and discontinuity that we’re now seeing in Iraq. The State Department had a policy group set up that talked about the post-Iraqi war situation. But Donald Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, prevented his people, prohibited his people from attending any of these meetings. They didn’t want that. And remember, even the phony national intelligence estimate that the C.I.A. put together in October 2002, this wasn’t asked for by the administration, because they knew there were differences. The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research had serious differences with the conclusions reached by the C.I.A., which were, for the most part, bogus, because there was a point at which the C.I.A. gave up. They were tired of telling truth to power. So the they essentially gave up.

George Tenet said to the President, 'Oh, that's a slam dunk, Mr. President. If you want phony intelligence, I can get it for you.’ And we know that Alan Foley, the C.I.A. officer in charge of negotiating with Bob Joseph, the language, the famous 16 words or infamous 16 words that appeared in the State of the Union speech in January 2003. And, of course, the C.I.A. wrote Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations on the 5th of February, 2003, that had 28 allegations. Every one of those allegations was false. And we know that, because of the work, not only of Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, but we know it now because George Tenet sent out David Kay and Charles Duelfur to Iraq after the war was over, and they made it clear there was nothing out there. There was nothing to be found. They couldn’t even find detritus from 15 year old programs.

So this is what we’re talking about, and I wish Richard Cohen and Jim Hoagland and Nicholas Kristof and John Tierney would read all of the evidence before they worry about protecting leaks and sources. Don’t worry, there will always be leaks, and there will always be sources. But we have to get to the bottom of this, and this is what Patrick Fitzgerald is doing. All credit should go to him.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to former C.I.A. and State Department official, Mel Goodman.

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