Libby Trial Shows Cheney Provided Aid-and-Comfort to Enemies of the United States

The Libby Trial has already provided the insights required to recreate the story and motivation behind the leak of Valerie Plame's identity and the coverup. If Cheney testifies, allowing Patrick FitzGerald to cross-examine on the issue of credibility (already raised by the Defense when it voir dire'd the jury), Cheney will be found either to have perjured himself before or at the trial. (Technically, since he was not under oath before the trial, his 'perjury' crime, like Martha Stewart's, will be lying to federal agents, but that is only a small part of what the Libby Trial reveals.)

We always suspected, but now have sworn testimony from inside the Veep's office, that combating the Wilsons was a major preoccupation. Cheney has a top security clearance and would be authorized to receive information from the CIA that Valerie Plame was an undercover counterproliferation operative. Cheney was also authorized, by Bush, to declassify top-secret information.

It is not clear (to me) whether such authorization means that anything Cheney says is putatively declassified, or whether he can declassify only by going through the CIA's process. Although that distinction is critical in determining whether Cheney committed a crime by revealing Plame's identity, it is really not so important in deciding whether Dick Cheney has provided aid-and-comfort to the enemies of the United States.

Whether he properly declassified or not, Cheney decided to out an undercover CIA agent for no counterveiling national gain, but rather to continue the public misperception he created of the basis for the Iraq War, and to exact domestic political vengeance. Wilson's NY Times op-ed would be impugned by claiming that Wilson's wife, not Cheney, sent him to Niger to investigate the "16-words" prior to their insertion in the State-of-the-Union, and that Cheney did not find out the results of Wilson's trip. For that, Cheney compromised a counterproliferation operation of the United States.

Whether Rove, Libby (Bartlett, Armitage, ? others) committed a crime by telling reporters about Valerie Plame's identity depends on whether Cheney told them she was an undercover agent, and whether Cheney had, in fact, declassified that information. But, there can be no question that Cheney's use of that information, properly declassified or not, is an impeachable offense.

Cheney wrote "one staffer should not be sacrificed (emphasis supplied) to protect another". What was Cheney thinking about when he used the word "sacrifice"? If they had done nothing wrong with respect to leaking Valerie Plame's identity, as they continue to assert, what is there for which anyone had to have been "sacrificed" at all?

"Sacrifice" would only have meaning if, in fact, Cheney (and perhaps Rove and Libby) leaked Valerie Plame's identity knowing that to do so would give aid-and-comfort to our enemies. Karl Rove called Chris Matthews immediately after the Novak article to declare that Plame was "fair game". Thus, "sacrifice" was not required to protect them from the embarrassment of trying to manipulate the news, there was already proof that that is exactly what they were doing. "Sacrifice" could only have been required to protect a deeper truth.

There was a point in this pathetic affair that someone who knew that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent conveyed that information to another who was not entitled to know. The likely conveyor was Dick Cheney, because the CIA was entitled to tell Cheney and Cheney claims he was given authority by Bush to declassify.

That brings us back to Cheney's use of the word "sacrifice". It would have been relatively simple for Rove (or Libby) to assert that Cheney never told them that Valerie Plame was undercover at the CIA, and thus they had committed no crime because they did not knowingly convey classified information. But, that leaves Cheney exposed for having declassified Valerie Plame's status, and thus compromising her operation, for a personal political vendetta (which, of course, is exactly what he did do).

The rest of the story can then be constructed. Libby, Rove and others transmitted the information to at least 6 reporters on the "hush-hush" hoping perhaps that that background would result in a different slant to the news stories about the 16 words. When they did not, rightwing curmudgeon Novak published the information (I believe with CIA begging him not to), and they were then surprised by the CIA's decision to investigate the leak, perhaps as payback to Cheney for demeaning CIA's professionalism and demanding pre-ordained results.

Together, then, they created the story that Rove and Libby had heard Plame's name from reporters (both Rove and Libby gave that story) believing they had constructed the perfect circle. The problem with a circle is that once it breaks, everything unravels.

Bush will pardon them all. But, he cannot protect Cheney from impeachment.