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Posted by H2O Man in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Wed Oct 31st 2007, 10:54 AM
(Note: This is the third part of the Impeach Cheney essay. I appreciate that some DUers are reading, and enjoying, the essay. It does not cover all of the issues that other people correctly note that Cheney should be held responsible for. But it does focus on his violating federal law by misrepresenting the "threat" the US faced from Iraq's WMD programs, and the abuses of power associated with the Plame scandal. -- H2O Man)

{F} The Dogs of War (Part 3)

"On September 14, he appeared on Meet the Press, and host Time Russert grilled him on the administration’s prewar arguments. Cheney once again talked about links between Saddam’s regime and bin Laden, claiming that Iraq’s support for al-Qaeda was ‘clearly official policy.’ He once more cited the Czech report about Mohamed Atta in Prague as though it were still credible. He ignored the dispute over mobile bioweapon labs and insisted without equivocation that the US government had found ‘two of them’ – even though David Kay had told them that was not true."
--Hubris; Isikoff & Corn; page 314

In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward tells about Colin Powell’s concerns that VP Cheney "had the fever" in regard to making a case that Saddam was tied to al Qaeda and to the 9/11 attacks on the United States. When Powell would argue that there was no proof to support these positions, Cheney would respond, "We know." The vice president would quote information provided by the OSP’s Douglas Feith. Powell referred to the OSP as Feith’s "Gestapo office." (page 292)

Isikoff and Corn also note that Cheney and Libby coordinated a White House effort with Feith and Wolfowitz at the Pentagon to make the case that Saddam was connected to al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks on the US. (page 140) The significance of this cannot be overstated: it is central to what former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega has called the administration’s hijacking the country’s emotions, in order to reach a goal that the White House had identified long before the 9/11 attacks.

In October of 2003, Doug Feith had sent the Senate Intelligence Committee a classified report, "Summary of Body of Intelligence on Iraq—al Qaeda Contacts." The report listed 50 incidents that Feith claimed were proof that positive proof of a working relationship between Saddam’s government and Usama bin Laden’s terrorist network.

Two days later, the Weekly Standard published "Case Closed: The US Government’s Secret Memo Detailing Cooperation Between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden," by Stephen Hayes. The article was based entirely on Feith’s classified report. It ended with the claim, "There can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein’s Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to plot against Americans."

Isikoff and Corn note that the Pentagon distanced itself from Feith’s report the day that the Weekly Standard printed Hayes’ article. They noted it was based on raw intelligence, and was not an actual analysis of possible relationships between Iraq and al Qaeda. More, the leak of the classified report was possibly illegal. (page 335)

Despite both the Pentagon and the CIA’s dismissing the Feith report, VP Cheney would refer to it as the "best source of information" in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News, and as "overwhelming evidence" in an NPR interview in the days after the Weekly Standard article appeared. Again, the vice president was involved in a propaganda campaign, coordinating efforts to mislead both the congress and the public, and using "possibly illegal" leaks to the media to accomplish their goal.

{G} Purposeful Lies

"Russert asked, If CIA analysts were to be proven wrong, ‘shouldn’t we have a wholesale investigation into the intelligence failure…’

" ‘What failure?’ Cheney intejected.

" ‘That Saddam had biological, chemical, and is developing a nuclear program,’ Russert replied.

" ‘My guess is in the end they’ll be proven right, Tim’."
--Hubris; Isikoff & Corn; page 314

One of the best examples of the White House’s efforts to mislead the nation about the "threat" posed by Saddam can be found in Hersh’s Chain of Command (pages 212-213) and Bamford’s A Pretext for War (pages 319-320). It involved Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, who had defected to Jordan in 1995. He provided significant information about Iraq’s WMD programs, before being convinced by Saddam to return to Iraq. When Kamel did return, Saddam had him executed.

In August of 2002, Dick Cheney looked into a television camera and told the American public: "We do know, with absolute certainty, that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon. …. We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons …. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including Saddam’s son-in-law. …. (This) should serve as a reminder to all that we often learn more as the results of defectors than we learn from the inspection regime itself."

The problem with Cheney’s claims, as Bamford noted, is that it was the exact opposite of what Kamel had told interrogators. After being questioned by US intelligence, UN inspectors, and Jordanian intelligence, all reports noted the same thing: Kamel had said that Saddam ended all uranium enrichment attempts at the beginning of the first Gulf War, and that "all weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear – were destroyed." (Bamford; page 320)

Further evidence of VP Cheney’s purposeful misrepresentations of the "threat" posed to the US can be found in A Pretext for War, in regard to "unmanned aerial vehicles" which could be used in germ warfare. Cheney took part in presenting information about the UAV threat to select members of congress, with CIA Director Tenet. They told of a fleet of UAVs that were capable of delivering chemical and biological weapons, and of Iraqi software used to produce sophisticated maps of US cities on the east coast.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) would later explain his vote in favor of the administration was due to being convinced by this presentation that there was an immediate threat to this country. "I was looked straight in the face and told that Saddam Hussein had the means of delivering those biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction by unmanned drones, called UAVs, unmanned aerial vehicles. Further, I was looked at straight in the face and told that UAVs could be launched from ships off the Atlantic coast to attack eastern seaboard cities of the United States. …. It was in a highly classified setting in a secure room." (Bamford; 330)

In State of Denial, Bob Woodward notes that Senator Carl Levin had attempted to get parts of the administration’s case for war declassified, so that the public would know they were being mislead. But the White House refused to allow the information to be declassified. "He complained about ‘all of the shadings, exaggerations, and hype’ about WMD by Bush and Cheney and sait it ‘showed the most willful and purposeful intent’ to create a deception." (page 416)

{H} Fair Game

"Madness! Madness! Outrageous! …What is this case about? Is it about something bigger? There is a cloud over the vice president …… We didn’t put that cloud there. That cloud’s there because the defendant obstructed justice. That cloud is something you just can’t pretend isn’t there. …Don’t you think the FBI and the grand jury and the American people are entitled to straight answers?"
--Patrick Fitzgerald; Closing statement in Libby trial; February 20, 2007

In early 2002, VP Dick Cheney requested information from the CIA on a report that Iraq had attempted to purchase yellow cake uranium from Niger. The CIA would request that former Ambassador Joseph Wilson investigate the reported incident. Wilson had gone on a similar mission for the CIA in 1999.

Wilson went to Niger, and found that the rumor was untrue. He reported this to two CIA officials in March. More, there were reports by the American ambassador and by a four-star Marine Corps General that reached the same conclusion as Wilson had. Thus, the CIA, the State Department, and Military Intelligence had all, within a period of weeks, concluded that there was no truth to the reported attempt by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger. (Wilson; page 2)

Though the OVP would later claim this issue was not important to Dick Cheney, and that he had forgotten it soon after asking a CIA briefer about it, there is substantial evidence that this is not true. A senate intelligence report noted it was considered a "high priority" issue; more, in early March, Cheney asked the CIA briefer for an update. It is unclear when Cheney first learned about Wilson’s findings, the two other reports, or about Wilson’s 1999 investigation.

Despite warnings by the CIA that the yellow cake information was weak at best, and its being removed from a fall ’02 presidential speech, it would be included in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech.

On May 29, 2003, Walter Pincus wrote about the disputed information in the Washington Post. The article caused concern in the Office of the Vice President, and Cheney and Libby began to investigate Joseph Wilson.

On July 6, the NY Times published an op-ed by Joseph Wilson, titled "What I Didn’t Find in Africa." On July 14, columnist Robert Novak exposed Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative.

The scandal that unfolded is long and complicated. The State Department’s Counterespionage Unit referred the case to the FBI, which conducted an investigation from September to December, 2003. After that, the FBI coordinated efforts with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who headed a federal grand jury investigation. Much of that investigation focused on people other than Vice President Cheney. This included examining the roles played by individuals such as Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

What is known about Cheney’s role in the scandal comes from the trial of Scooter Libby. Isikoff and Corn write: "Determined to protect Dick Cheney, Libby had told a convoluted story under oath: I knew; I forgot; I learned it again from journalists, not from the vice president." (page 408) Libby’s attempts to protect Cheney had led to the most serious felony charge that he was convicted of – obstruction of justice.

Still, the pre-trial documents and trial testimony showed that VP Cheney was obsessed with Wilson. Libby told the grand jury that Cheney and he discussed Wilson numerous times per day following the NY Times op-ed. Fitzgerald produced a copy of the op-ed, with notations from Cheney that indicated the "talking points" he wanted the WHIG to use to discredit Wilson.

Cheney told Libby about Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, who worked at the CIA. As the Wilson op-ed exposed the weakness of the "16 words" and mushroom cloud threats, Dick Cheney instructed Libby, "Let’s get everything out." Libby would meet with Judith Miller, and reveal parts of a classified National Intelligence Estimate, and tell her about Plame’s CIA employment.

Libby also shared Plame’s identity with others in the administration, such as Ari Fleischer, and discuss her with at least one other journalist, Matt Cooper. When the CIA filed a notice of a possible criminal violation with the Justice Department, there were attempts by administration officials to distance themselves from the scandal. Eventually, only Libby would be indicted, tried, and convicted for his role in the scandal.

{I} Justice delayed is justice denied

"I am very disappointed with the verdict. I am saddened for Scooter and his family. As I have said before, Scooter has served our nation tirelessly and with great distinction through many years of public service.

"Since his legal team has announced that he is seeking a new trial and, if necessary, pursuing an appeal, I plan to have no further comment on the merits of this matter until these proceedings are concluded."
--Vice President’s Statement on Libby Verdict; March 6, 2007.

All of the documents needed to impeach and convict VP Dick Cheney on the two criminal charges of misleading the congress and public on the "threat" posed by Iraq are already on record. There is no need for so much as a single further subpoena.

Numerous democrats from the House of Representatives have requested that the Justice Department release material from the FBI and grand jury investigation of the Plame scandal. They are seeking the information about the roles played by Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald does not have the authority to release the information to congress, and the Justice Department has ignored each and every request from congress.

The information that the Justice Department wants to keep from congress contains what was learned about VP Cheney’s role. In fact, it includes the information from Mr. Fitzgerald’s June 4, 2004 interviews with President Bush and VP Cheney. It includes all of the evidence of abuses of power by a vice president who narrowly escaped criminal charges, but who can – and should – be held accountable by the congress.

There is one way for congress to access the "pot of gold" from the Plame scandal investigation. This can be accomplished by beginning the process of impeachment. In that context, the law is clear, and the federal courts would order the administration to release the information detailing VP Cheney’s role in the Plame scandal to Congress.

The nation is entitled to the truth.

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