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Thursday, March 08, 2007

McIlheran Watch: The hits--and by hits, I mean untruths--keep coming about Libby

by folkbum

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps Patrick McIlheran will grow to regret that he decided to blog about the Scooter Libby trial and verdict this week. For starters, of course, there was "an error"--his words--from Tuesday. (The Brawler seems unwilling to give McIlheran the benefit of the doubt enough to call it "an error," even with the "sarcasm quotes" that McIlheran seems so "fond" of.)

Even after he corrected the "error," many falsehoods remained in that post of his--the most falsest of them being the notion that Scooter Libby didn't do any leaking. I will quote from an email he sent me* about what lies, exactly, Libby was convicted for telling (the "he" is Libby):
He didn’t lie to cover up leaking Plame’s name since he didn’t leak Plame’s name. He wasn’t the source of the leak.
This assumes that there was one "the leak," the one to Robert Novak, a leak we now know to be perpetrated by Richard Armitage and Karl Rove. That leak prompted Novak's writing of this op-ed on July 14, 2003. And, no, Scooter Libby had nothing to do with that.

So a more accurate iteration of McIlheran's sentence might be,
Libby didn’t lie to cover up leaking Plame’s name to Novak since he didn’t leak Plame’s name to Novak. He wasn’t the source of the leak to Novak.
And if that were that, there'd be no problem. McIlheran would be telling the truth and we could call it a day. But Novak was not the only reporter leaked to, and Armitage and Rove were not the only leakers. So his email to me--as well as his assertion Tuesday that "Libby isn't the guy who gave away Plame's identity to the press"--is patently false.

Does McIlheran forget why Judy Miller went to jail? It's because she wanted to keep secret what she would eventually testify to:
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller testified in the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial today that in a private meeting on June 23, 2003, at the Old Executive Office Building, Libby told her that Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for "the bureau."

"I quickly understood he was referring to the CIA," Miller said, believing that Libby, the then chief of staff to Vice President Cheney who is charged with lying to investigators about when and how he first learned of Plame, was referring to the agency's nonproliferation bureau. Miller gained fame two years ago when she was ordered to jail for refusing to reveal who told her that war critic Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Her testimony directly contradicts Libby's assertion that he first heard about Wilson's wife from NBC's Tim Russert nearly two weeks later. Russert, who is also expected to be called to testify, has flatly disputed Libby's account.
"Two weeks later" would have been just before Novak's op-ed, but Libby knew, and was blabbing to Miller about it, long before Novak published it. In other words, Libby leaked, to the press, in direct contravention of what McIlheran may believe or write on his blog.

Today, though, there's more. This time, he outsources the lies to others. He starts by quoting some genius at Townhall, complaining about how someone may option the Wilsons' story for a film:
“According to a Senate inquiry,” Tyrrell writes of Valerie Plame’s husband, “this mellifluous gasbag lied about findings regarding the Iraqis' pursuit of uranium in Niger. He lied when he suggested that he went on a mission there at the request of the vice president. And again he lied when he claimed that his report on Niger was circulated at the highest levels of government. In all three lies he got caught. Yet, he has emerged as a liberal icon. That sounds like a Hollywood movie to me.”
This is one of the oldest of the Plamegate lies, that Joe Wilson's original July 6, 2003, op-ed was somehow itself predicated on lies. You can read Wilson's op-ed for yourself, and see if any of the things this Tyrrell says is true.

Take the "went on a mission there at the request of the vice president" line. Read what Wilson actually wrote, and see if you can find where he says that Cheney sent him:
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report. While I never saw the report, I was told that it referred to a memorandum of agreement that documented the sale of uranium yellowcake--a form of lightly processed ore--by Niger to Iraq in the late 1990's. The agency officials asked if I would travel to Niger to check out the story so they could provide a response to the vice president's office.
You'll notice in there, too, that he was going to find out about a particular report--a report that, indeed, the same "Senate inquiry" called bogus. (You can read the Senate Select Intelligence Committee's findings on this massive web page, and numbers 12-26 are about Niger. You can see that the Senate did not call Joe Wilson a liar, or even suggest that he was misleading. It says the CIA interpreted his intelligence differently than he did in his report. But the documents he went to learn about are still referred to as "forged.")

This Tyrell writes that Wilson "lied when he claimed that his report on Niger was circulated at the highest levels of government." Again, here's what Wilson wrote:
Though I did not file a written report, there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission. The documents should include the ambassador's report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a C.I.A. report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.
If the CIA didn't follow the procedure Wilson expected them to follow, he can't be accountable for that, can he? Where is the lie?

Among the evidence that came out at the Libby trial was that talking points like these were developed by the Vice President's office the day after Wilson's op-ed ran in the New York Times, and you can, in fact, see the .pdf of the talking points Cheney's secretary typed up for everyone to use. And now, almost four years later, those talking points, developed by Cheney and Libby specifically to discredit Joe Wilson, keep popping up, and people just don't even bother to check whether they accurately reflect what Wilson really wrote.

McIlheran also cites such paragons of moral authority as Jonah Goldberg (who blames Wilson himself for outing his wife, which was the whole point of my debunking on Tuesday) and Bill Bennet. Bennet, in particular, makes the laughable assertion that we should subpoena journalists for "revealing" the already-public SWIFT program, for example. Sigh.

So . . . there you go. McIlheran really needed to pick a different topic this week. Sure, it was the big news. But he doesn't help his side by spreading these kinds of long-debunked lies.

* In general, my email policy is that anything you write to me is off the record and won't be published out of concern for your privacy, unless you tell me otherwise. In this case, though, those two sentences comprised the most concise statement of McIlheran's Libby theory I could find, and were not different from his published comments.

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