Thursday, February 09, 2006

Murray Waas, in the National Journal:

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by Cheney and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case to go to war with Iraq, according to attorneys familiar with the matter, and to court records.

Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.

Waas writes that Libby's defense team may be paving the way for the same legal strategy that was used to great effect in Oliver North's trial.

Libby's legal strategy in asserting that Cheney and other Bush administration officials authorized activities related to the underlying allegations of criminal conduct leveled against him, without approving of or encouraging him to engage in the specific misconduct, is reminiscent of the defense strategy used by Oliver North, who was a National Security Council official in the Reagan administration.

North, a Marine lieutenant colonel assigned to the National Security Council, implemented the Reagan administration's efforts to covertly send arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held in the Middle East, and to covertly fund and provide military assistance to the Nicaraguan Contras at a time when federal law prohibited such activities. Later, it was discovered that North and other Reagan administration officials had diverted funds they had received from the Iranian arms sales to covertly fund the Contras.

If Libby's defense adopts strategies used by North, it might be in part because the strategies largely worked for North and in part because Libby's defense team has quietly retained John D. Cline, who was a defense attorney for North. Cline, a San-Francisco partner at the Jones Day law firm, has specialized in the use of classified information in defending clients charged with wrongdoing in national security cases.

Among his detractors, Cline is what is known as a "graymail" specialist -- an attorney who, critics say, purposely makes onerous demands on the federal government to disclose classified information in the course of defending his clients, in an effort to force the government to dismiss the charges. Although Cline declined to be interviewed for this story, he has said that the use of classified information is necessary in assuring that defendants are accorded due process and receive fair trials.

I have been finding it more and more difficult to blog about this stuff. It seems like a lot of the time I have to force myself to sit down and write these posts. Every night, I just want to lie on the sofa with my dog and read a book instead of blogging. I haven't been entirely sure why I feel this way, just that writing seems to be so damn hard -- in a physical sense.

Reading Shakespeare's Sister just now, it appears I'm not the only one:

I hate that I feel so totally apathetic about this stuff these days. (Also falling into the apathy category is this WaPo story that reveals the presiding FISA judge was warned that "information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court," and essentially cut a deal with the administration to keep it all hush-hush and shit.) Every day, there are new stories emerging about which I should feel outraged, and yet five years of no accountability is making me weary. How many hundreds incidents of unethical or flatly illegal behavior am I meant to read without having the slightest bloody ability to do a damn thing about it? I blog it, I write my representative and senators, I write to reps and senators in other districts and states, I beg and plead with them to do something, both Dems and Republicans, and I'm lucky if I even get an automated response in return.

And while I'm mad at the Dems for being ineffective, and mad at the GOP for being corrupt motherfuckers who don’t give a shit about what's right as long as they keep winning, I'm mostly mad at the American people who can't be fucking arsed to pay attention, leaving the rest of us to bear the burden of caring, caring, caring on everyone's behalf so they can keep on shopping and watching Wife Swap while our democracy slips away.
Ignorance really must be friggin' bliss, because knowing just makes me tired down to my goddamned bones.

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