Saturday, October 29, 2005

Libby Guilty of Being Inarticulate

My conclusion after having eaten, slept, and reread parts of the indictment is

Libby is only guilty of being inarticulate in his statements to investigators and the Grand Jury.

Libby knew that Wilson's wife was CIA. He also knew it was protected information. He got this information from official sources.

If you're someone who knows classified information, and Libby certainly knew a lot of it over the period of time he was doing his job, you are very aware that you must be extremely careful when speaking with people who are not authorized to know, especially when conversations often involve the very subject to which the classified information applies.

Unofficial and Official data compartmentalization

Different people may have different ways of dealing with this. It is not unreasonable to assume that one method would be to compartmentalize the data in your brain by pretending to yourself you don't know certain details. You 'forget' them so you can't accidentally confirm information to someone else. It doesn't mean you really 'forget' them, you just tell yourself you've forgotten them so they stay in your head and don't come out your mouth.

And this compartmentalization would be dependent on your source for the information. Data from official sources goes one place, data from unofficial sources goes in another. You neither confirm, nor deny, nor pass on to others data that you learned from an official source. You, in essence, 'forget' that information.

The first time Libby 'learned' this information

So this was what Libby was doing and he explained it horribly. He would be surprised at Russert's knowledge of Wilson's wife's employment by CIA because Libby didn't 'know' that information. It's not that he lied about not really really knowing it. He didn't know it in the context of his conversation with a person who was not authorized to know it. In essence, this was the first time Libby heard it...from an unofficial source.

Libby couldn't simply say 'I heard that too' like he did later with Cooper. Because this was the first time the unofficial gossip that 'Mrs. Wilson works for CIA' had reached him from an unofficial source so he could not honestly say he had already heard it because that would be crossing the barrier in his mind between official and unofficial sources.

Libby's testimony to investigators and the Grand Jury

Reading Libby's statements to investigators and the Grand Jury in that light shows that he did not lie to them, he simply did not explain his method for keeping classified data to himself thoroughly enough.

For example:
"I was very clear to say reporters are telling us that because in my mind I
still didn't know it as a fact. I thought I was – all I had was this information
that was coming in from the reporters."

And that information coming in from reporters was the only information he could acknowledge. That was the only fact he could know publically.


What Libby testified re Russert conversation:
". . . . And then he said, you know, did you know that this -- excuse me, did you know that Ambassador Wilson's wife works at the CIA? And I was a little taken aback by that. I remember being taken aback by it. And I said -- he may have said a little more but that was -- he said that. And I said, no, I don't know that. And I said, no, I don't know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said, because at that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known, and I thought this is something that he was telling me that I was first learning. "

Again, if Libby's method to guard himself from revealing classified info from official sources was that he had to forget what he knew so he wouldn't actually confirm classified info, then this is not saying he (Libby) didn't know. It is saying that in his mind he would not recall what he knew officially, he would purposefully block it.

Libby is guilty of being inarticulate!

All those conversations with reporters

As for the timing and identity of who first told Libby unofficially that 'Mrs. Wilson worked for the CIA' the testimony is murky. There's no way for sure to know from the testimony we've seen.


Russert claiming he never spoke about Wilson's wife is he said/she said. It's also possible Libby misremembered and he actually heard it first from Miller. Possible that Russert misremembered. Possible that Libby is confusing Russert with an as yet unnamed reporter who has never come forward. Lots of reasonable doubt here.

'I heard that too'

And for the Cooper conversation, late in the process, read what the indictment says Libby said about it and what Cooper said. They are essentially the same. I don't see a problem there. 'I heard that too' is not confirmation, doesn't reveal where Libby heard it, and gives no information as to its veracity or even whether Libby believes it. And by that time Libby had heard it from another reporter. And because Libby had heard it from other unofficial source(s) it is a true statement. Fitz is wrong here.

(Not to mention reporters are incorrect when they consider 'I heard that too' as a confirming source, like Novak did with Rove. It is not. May explain why a lot of nonsense is reported. 'But I got my two sources!')


The Miller conversation in June with some clandestine guy doesn't mean much. In July it's not clear from Miller's testimony what Libby said anyway. And nothing is really clear about what Judy said to Libby.

So what we're really left with is...

The basis for all the charges is that Libby misled the prosecutor by claiming he heard the information first from reporters, not from official sources.

But Libby did hear the (unofficial) information first from reporters. The official information was locked away.


Why was Libby so inarticulate? I surmise because of all his years of dealing with classified information, his method of compartmentalization of data is almost subconscious. It is a habit.

Note: Edited for clarity.


Syl said...

It's like being an actor. You know the whole script, who is who, and all the events that take place throughout the movie/play.

But in any one scene you are in, you forget everything you know in the script that the character would not know at this point and react to others around you accordingly.

You, in essence, forget, on purpose, and believe, while you're acting, that you do not know the rest of the script.

It's not that hard to do. Our brains seem to handle this type of compartmentalization quite well. Harder, I imagine, to explain.

terrye said...


I work for a health care agency and thanks to the byzantine privacy laws I have found myself in similar situations. I got in trouble once for answering a question with a "yes" over the phone within earshot of someone other than the patient.

Think about that, they called me while I was at a patient's home and asked me a question about another patient and when I answerd it I got a reminder that a breach of privacy had taken place.

If they had just left me the hell alone..

and that is sort of the situation I think Libby found himself in. He was afraid to answer and afraid not to and so he did the ol himhaw dance.

I feel sorry for him. If that liar Joe Wilson had just told the truth himself, none of this would have happened.

Syl said...

Terrye, I disagree that Libby was afraid to answer.

He answered. His answer was simply misunderstood.

Libby was separating the official from the unofficial. He, in his conversations, is blocking out the rest of the script, just like an actor, and reacting accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Fitz's questions are unclear as well and some of the exchanges have a "who's on first" quality.

Libby: And I said, no, I don't know that intentionally because I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said, because at that point in time I did not recall that I had ever known:

In the context of the whole quote it might be claimed that Libby was referring to non classified sources.

I didn't want him to take anything I was saying as in any way confirming what he said

Clearly implies to me that he did know about Val and Joe and was deliberately holding back from Russert. There is no point to that statement other than to describe presenting Russert with a "false" impression.

Syl said...


Exactly. If Libby acted surprised (and was, actually, surprised that he was receiving that info from a non-official source) there is no way that Russert could assume the info was being confirmed by Libby.

Libby was protecting it.

David Thomson said...

The bottom line is this: Scooter Libby had no reason to lie! We therefore must consider him to be either a pathological liar---or someone unlikely to remember the relatively minor fact that Valerie Plame is employed by the CIA. This might be something special in the boondocks, but not in Washington, DC. Such a person is a dime a dozen.

Peter UK said...

It is about time to recognise that Plame was a nobody,a lowly employee of the CIA.To outsiders the CIA might be a "Wow" moment to insiders,merely a shrug of the shoulders.
It is very probable that Plame had no significance to Libby when he first heard/learned about her,there was no reason to remember,people in his position meet and hear of thousands like Plame.
Plame only gained significance to him later when talking to reporters,he might even have thought,"Where have I heard that name before?"
Even if there were notes to refer to,in all probabilty he would not have bothered to consult them,if he could lay hands on them easily,it wouldn't have been a post it note on his desk,that is for sure.
The truth is Plame has only become significant in retrospect,how often do we forget things that were not important at the time?

Charlie Martin said...

As I've mentioned before, nearly 30 years ago I was also working covertly; non-official cover and the whole thing. One day one of my friends who didn't work there said to me, casually, "Do you work for NATO or the CIA?"

I was rather proud of myself; while I'm sure someone watching the pupils of my eyes would have seen the twitch, I answered immediately somethng to the effect of "who, me? Are you nuts? They're never let me work for them."

Now, I've got to say that the site, while "covert", was about as covert as a thunderstorm; you don't hide a steerable antenna the size of a football pitch, and while the site had a scientific cover, it was guarded in a way that I've never seen at a university. Plus, it was out in the country, and a lot of the people in the area worked there.

The point here is that Libby, presented with the same kind of question, answered with some coverup: "yeah, I've heard that from other reporters." Russert, who is hardly a disinterested party, and unquestionably has things he'd rather not be questioned about, doesn't remember that Libby said this. And CIA, asked by Novak if Plame is an Agency employee, says "yes, but we'd rather you not mention it" --- instead of "yes, and the Director will be calling momentarily to tell you not to publish it" --- or what the appropriate agency would have said if asked about me, ie, "who?

I think I'm with David on this one: what this tells us is that the state of the federal law is such that a prosecutor with an ego involvement can eventually find something on which to indict.

If you're ever called before a Federal Grand Jury or asked to talk to an FBI agent, I think the only thing you can safely do is refuse to talk at all. They can only jail you for contempt while the grand jury is in session; they can jail you for a slip for 30 years.

Syl said...

Well, I think some people here didn't read the article. No problem.

But I disagree on Fitzgerald just looking for something, anything, and whoopie he can indict for purjury and obstruction. Yay.

He couldn't get through Libby statements to determine motive. Fitz I think misunderstood what Libby was saying and Libby fumbled his explanation. It's a possible defense strategy...have no idea if a jury would go for it.

However, what Fitz was looking at was disseminating classified info. It didn't seem he could pass the high bar for the IIPA and it does sound as if the Espionage Act requires a high bar too vis-a-vis first amendment rights.

But if Fitz can't drill down to the act of 'outing' because he thinks someone's testimony is so 'utterly false' that he can't even determine motive, then what's he supposed to do? drop it? Justice isn't served that way either.

Obstructing an investigation is not finding a lesser crime because you couldn't prosecute a greater one. It is not being able to determine the facts of the underlying crime because your witness has obstructed your view.

BTW, Charlie. I think it was after the Cold War ended that the CIA changed its methods of 'classifying' its employees. Before that point nobody worked at the CIA. It was all denied. Now it's perfectly legal to identify someone as CIA if their status is not classified.

vnjagvet said...

Over thirty years ago, I was a young attorney working for a labor law firm in Atlanta. We represented a business which had the contract to clean the Miami Airport. It employed a largely part-time janitorial staff that the Laborer's Union was trying to organize.

The Laborer's Union was then allegedly a corrupt organization with suspected ties to organized crime. One of its business agents was found in Biscayne bay with concrete overshoes shortly after its unsuccesful campaign to organize my client's employees. An investigation ensued by the Federal Strike Force.

During the campaign, I was asked by my firm to meet at local counsel
s office in Miami with an individual who had a letter to deliver to one of my colleagues. I met wit h him and the meeting was uneventful.It turned out that he was the gentleman found in Biscayne Bay.

Somehow, the Strike Force found out about our meeting, and subpoenaed me to appear for an interview. My firm hired a noted criminal attorney in Miami to arrange for my appearance. I understood that this was to be an "informal chat" with the U.S. Attorney leading the Strike Force. I was encouraged by my firm to cooperate with the Strike Force.

When I got to the appointed place, I was ushered into a room with an American Flag, a desk behind which the U.S. Attorney was sitting, a witness chair and a court reporter.

I was put under oath, and asked to sit down. After I answered preliminary questions I was handed a document and asked to sign it. It was a waiver of immunity and advice that I was entitled to counsel.

Having been a prosecutor myself in the Army, I well knew what that was all about, politely declined to sign the document, declared the session over, and hightailed it out of there.

I never looked back, and never heard from the Strike Force again.

I have often wondered what would have happened had I not had prosecutorial experience. I think now I know, having read the Libby indictment. Clarice, commenting on Just One Minute on the Libby matter has made this point yesterday and today.

Charlie Martin said...

Sorry, Syl, I didn't mean to imply I thought it was illegal for CIA to confirm Plame's CIA employment to Novak. I'm just pointing out that if it were classified, they wouldn't have said "yes, but we'd prefer you not to publish it." That's what they say about open employees. If it had been considered all that sensitive, I understand the general procedure is for the DCI or DDI to call the journalist and "impress upon them" the serious nature of the issue, and i'm sure Novak would have gone along. (As much of an ass as I think Novak is, I can't believe he would reveal something like that after being told it was really sensitive.)

But if the CIA's public information office was willing to do an employment verification for a national columnist, how sensitive could it have been?

Until I see soemthing that makes me really think Plame was at least as covert as my football-field antenna, I'm not buying it.

Rick Ballard said...

There are a number of hinky details involving the CIA in this. I can understand Plame's nepotistic instinct - that's run of the mill. I don't understand the CIA taking a verbal report from Wilson and I really don't understand the lack of a signed Non-disclosure Agreement. Given the CIA's habit of classifying phone books, I don't understand why the whole Plame/Wilson operation did not have at least a low level classification. I also don't understand why journos don't press Wilson for a tiny bit more background on his knowledge of the uranium mining industry in Niger. His "experience" appears to derive from his stint in Gabon - dealing with the same consortium (COGEMA) that operates mines both in Gabon and Niger and has interlocking directorate and ownership links with Paribas, TotalFinaElf and PowerCorp. I also find curious the presses lack of interest in Wilson's current endeavors as a Saudi funded jabberwock.

I don't believe that either of the Wilson's were acting solely as agents of the Democratic Party.

Syl said...

"Until I see soemthing that makes me really think Plame was at least as covert as my football-field antenna, I'm not buying it."

Not buying what?

The covert/sensitive issue is all a part of the damage assessment. Her status was classified. The referral was sent to justice and it might just have languished there.

Except someone leaked it to Andrea Mitchell. And then the MSM screamed for an investigation.

So it went to Fitz and the damage assessment became sealed evidence in the investigation.

Fitz would be looking for evidence, motive, opportunity, all those good things, within the constraints of his investigation whatever the damage assessment had.

It might mitigate sentencing or something at trial, I don't know.

And it seemed to have helped convince judges hogan and tatel that getting libby, russert, and cooper to testify was necessary.

As to the actual damage assessment, we'll never know the contents. Woodward said according to a source in the CIA it didn't amount to much.

And of course Valery wouldn't be sent on an undercover assignment again.

I'm getting sleepy. My typing has gotten atrocious...spending more time correcting typos than writing words.

Syl said...


Not only hinky details, weird coinkydinks.

(1)It just so happens that Wilson didn't sign an NDA so he was free to write his op-ed.

(2)It just so happens that the report of Wilson's trip was just tacked on to the end of something else and they didn't even put his name on it and it wasn't given to Cheney.

When the administration wanted to push back, they didn't even have a report handy to use to refute 'what he found in Africa'.

(3)This may not be CIA, but the stranger on the street Novak talked to about his article who turned out to be a friend of Wilson's and called Wilson to give him a heads up.

(4)Wilson alerted the CIA that Novak would be getting in touch re the article. Yet the CIA confirmed her.

(5)Even if the stranger meant nothing or Wilson hadn't called to warn he was coming, the fellow who 'forgot' to check her status was part of Val's group

Syl said...

Hinky details and weird coinkydinks?


terrye said...


I smell a rat. I think it was a set up from the get go.

And Libby got nailed. I think the guy made mistakes, forgot details and through it all tried to do his job.

I hope he beats this thing because it has already done enough damage to enough people.

And if he does not beat it, I hope Bush pardons him.

If Clinton can pardon Rich I fail to see why Libby should have to pay for this for years.

Charlie Martin said...

Syl --- exactly --- it's the weird coninkidinks I don't buy. Plame's status wasn't sufficiently classified to stop an employment verification, but was sufficiently classified to spawn an inquiry? Na-uh. All those things you mention? Curious indeed.

Once again, the difference between real life and fiction is that fiction has to be believable ... but the only narrative that hangs together and preserves the illusion of verisimilitude is coming around to there being a concerted effort by more than one mid-level employee of the CIA to go outside of channels to reverse the President's foreign policy, directly affect the election, and damage the sitting administration.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

I agree with Clarice Feldmans assessment of this scenario: "It is plausible". Not necessarily what happened, but believable enough to get the schnook off if he gets a good lawyer.

gumshoe said...

seems to me the lack of confirmation
of Plame's NOC status
is *still* part of the narrative.

i was unaware her employment
at CIA was confirmed to Novak by
phone by a member of her(CPD?)
working group (per syl 's post above):

"(5)Even if the stranger meant nothing or Wilson hadn't called to warn he was coming, the fellow who 'forgot' to check her status was part of Val's group"
-3:11 PM

confirmation/source of that?

"I also find curious the presses lack of interest in Wilson's current endeavors as a Saudi funded jabberwock." - Rick B


Peter UK said...

Would somebody please answer a question for me,is it legal for the CIA to operate in the US.?
Was Plame resident in the US at the time she was allegedly outed?

Rick Ballard said...


Hey - you're the detective.

MEI - Wilson

Saudi backing

gumshoe said...


Hey - you're the detective."

somebody tells you they have info... ask for links.


not sure
where i was falling down on the job.

since my original post to you ,
i had read briefly about Wilson/MEI.
the Mowbray column at TownHall is interesting.
greasy,but interesting.

thanks for the links.