Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Why did it take two and one half years for Robert Novak to disclose details of his co-operation with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald?

In contast to Novak, virtually all of the other journalists who have testified before the federal grand jury in the CIA leak case wrote or talked publicly about their cooperation usually within days of their testimony.

Novak himself writes in his column for tomorrow morning: "Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has informed my attorneys that after two and one half years, his investigation of the CIA leak case concerning matters directly relating to me has concluded. That [finally] frees me to reveal my role in the federal inquiry...."

Unlike the other journalists that had testified simply as witnesses, federal investigators working the case had concerns that Novak may have worked with Rove to devise a cover story to protect Rove, as I first reported in May. If Rove had been charged by the grand jury, Novak would have been a crucial witness against Rove. And Novak himself was reportedly under suspicion by the prosecutor. But when the special prosecutor informed Rove that he would not bring charges against him, it was unlikely that Novak would ever be a witness in the CIA leak case. Thus, Fitzgerald informed the columnist that he not have to remain silent any longer.

Here is part of what I wrote about all of this way back in May:

On September 29, 2003, three days after it became known that the CIA had asked the Justice Department to investigate who leaked the name of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame, columnist Robert Novak telephoned White House senior adviser Karl Rove to assure Rove that he would protect him from being harmed by the investigation, according to people with firsthand knowledge of the federal grand jury testimony of both men.

Suspicious that Rove and Novak might have devised a cover story during that conversation to protect Rove, federal investigators briefed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft on the matter in the early stages of the investigation in fall 2003, according to officials with direct knowledge of those briefings...

Sources said that Ashcroft received a special briefing on the highly sensitive issue of the September 29 conversation between Novak and Rove because of the concerns of federal investigators that a well-known journalist might have been involved in an effort to not only protect a source but also work in tandem with the president's chief political adviser to stymie the FBI.

Rove testified to the grand jury that during his telephone call with Novak, the columnist said words to the effect: "You are not going to get burned" and "I don't give up my sources," according to people familiar with his testimony. Rove had been one of the "two senior administration" officials who had been sources for the July 14, 2003, column in which Novak outed Plame as an "agency operative." Rove and Novak had talked about Plame on July 9, five days before Novak's column was published.

Rove also told the grand jury, according to sources, that in the September 29 conversation, Novak referred to a 1992 incident in which Rove had been fired from the Texas arm of President George H.W. Bush's re-election effort; Rove lost his job because the Bush campaign believed that he had been the source for a Novak column that criticized the campaign's internal workings.

Rove told the grand jury that during the September 29 call, Novak said he would make sure that nothing similar would happen to Rove in the CIA-Plame leak probe. Rove has testified that he recalled Novak saying something like, "I'm not going to let that happen to you again," according to those familiar with the testimony. Rove told the grand jury that the inference he took away from the conversation was that Novak would say that Rove was not a source of information for the column about Plame. Rove further testified that he believed he might not have been the source because when Novak mentioned to Rove that Plame worked for the CIA, Rove simply responded that he had heard the same information.

Asked during his grand jury appearance his reaction to the telephone call, Rove characterized it as a "curious conversation" and didn't know what to make of it, according to people familiar with his testimony...

To read the rest of that story, click here.
Robert Novak finally speaks. Even though his column has not yet been published or posted, John Amato has obtained it in its entirety.

I will have more soon...
Bush administration reversal this morning on Guantanamo. Some early details from a Washington Post account:

The Bush administration, in an apparent policy reversal sparked by a recent Supreme Court ruling, said today it will extend the guarantees of humane treatment specified by the Geneva Conventions to detainees in the war-on-terror.

In a memo released by the Pentagon this morning, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, citing the Supreme Court's decision, ordered all Pentagon personnel to "adhere to these standards" and to "promptly review" all policies and practices "to ensure that they comply with the standards" of the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3.

Since 2001, the administration has argued that the Geneva Conventions would be respected as a matter of policy but that they did not apply by law. The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, rejected that view.

White House spokesman Tony Snow confirmed the new approach, according to wire service reports, saying that while detainees have been treated humanely, "we want to get it right. . . . It's not really a reversal of policy." Snow called the Supreme Court decision "complex."

But in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Steven Bradbury, acting assistant attorney general, stated that the court has indeed "imposed another baseline standard . . . that we must now interpret and mplement."

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon provided any immediate details as to what would be done differently or how the decision would effect the controversial policies on interrogation, which have provoked an international outcry as well as considerable domestic controversy.

Click here to read the full article. And click here to read a more authoritative and detailed article in the New York Times.

Monday, July 10, 2006

One billion and counting and still going strong!... Of course those are not McDonald's numbers, but then of course McDonald's ordinarily just makes one feel lethargic and sick for part of your day. The consequences aren't usually as permanent.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rep. Peter Hoekstra , the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on Fox Sunday:

"Some people within the intelligence community brought to my attention some programs they believed we had not been briefed on. They were right. We asked by codename about some of those programs. We have now been briefed on those programs.

"But I wanted to reinforce to the President and to the executive branch and the intelligence community how important and by law that they keep the legislative branch informed about what they are doing."

John A'mato has the video. (More importantly John also has some Thelonious Monk up on his blog tonight. Before he was a famous blogger, John played sax for Duran Duran.)

In the meantime, the public has no idea what were the programs that were hidden from them and Congress. At least the congressional intelligence committees now know.

Update, 5:18 A.M., Monday morning (up too early): Tom MaGuire had some interesting ideas about all of this. A conservative blogger who is always intelligent and civil even when he sharply disagrees with you. Here is his take.