October 13, 2005
What's really going on in the Wilson/Plame grand jury?By Clarice Feldman
Almost everyone watching the grand jury testimony of Judith Miller, Karl Rove, and Lewis 'Scooter' Libby assumes that the investigation led by Special Prosecutor Peter Fitzgerald now centers on the 'outing' of Valerie Plame. But this is nothing more than an assumption, and misses an important clue about the investigation that is on the public record, but widely ignored.
The press is gleefully intimating that Rove and/or Libby will be indicted and already speculating on the political impact. For many on the left, it is a matter of certainty that they will be, or at least should be, charged with taking vengeance on former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for 'telling truth to power.'
Nobody but insiders sworn to secrecy knows with certainty what the grand jurors are investigating and deliberating, so any analysis is necessarily risky. We can only read the fragmentary data available, and try to piece together a coherent picture that accounts for all the known facts. But some facts have received much more attention than others.
There is some overlooked text of the original subpoena issued to New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who made her second grand jury appearance yesterday:
The time limitation makes sense with regard to the first clause because July 6 was the date of the Wilson NYT op—ed and July 13 the date of the Novak article was sent to his publisher, and the inquiry is whether Libby" outed" Plame to Novak in retaliation for the op ed. The time limitation makes no sense with respect to the second portion of the subpoena.
I think it is likely, given the widely ignored second clause of the subpoena, that Libby, Miller or both offered testimony before the grand jury about a conversation on Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium which pre—dated July 6 (the first date called for in the subpoena). Since this went beyond the subpoena, neither had produced documentary evidence about it. This would account for Miller's earlier failure to produce the reporter's notebook recently submitted in evidence, with much media fanfare. When asked in her first grand jury appearance if she had any documentary evidence about the Iraqi uranium, Miller probably mentioned her notebook, which she had not previously produced (due to the time limitation of the subpoena). So her subsequent appearance before the grand jury possibly relates to the material in the notebook. Although the media has widely reported that the notebook was "discovered" and comparisons have been made to Hillary Clinton's Rose Law Firm billing records, there is no evidence it was ever misplaced.
The U.K. Guardian reported in July of this year that there is still an ongoing federal investigation initiated by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) into the provenance of the forged documents relating to sales of uranium from Niger to Iraq. If this report is true, that federal investigation might explain why there is this provision in the subpoena about Iraqi efforts to buy uranium.
And if the Wilson/Plame grand jury investigation has been expanded to include the forged documents, that would also explain why Judy Miller sat in jail so long. Until the Special Prosecutor agreed to limit his inquiry to her conversations with Libby, she feared she would be forced to give up her sources on Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. Such sources might include people in foreign countries, foreign intelligence services, and/or in our own intelligence services. These people, valuable and confidential informants who need protection, probably had not given her waivers to testify, as Libby did.
This supposition would shed light, as well, on the part of Libby's letter to her in which he urged her to testify, saying he assumed she'd been protecting other sources, and added that this would be one of those cases where testifying would help the source (him).
What is the significance of the forged documents purportedly recording sales of uranium from Niger to Iraq? After all, it turned out the US never relied on them in its assessment of the threat posed to the world by Saddam. Joseph A . Wilson made them a central issue, indicating falsely that the Bush Administration had relied on them, and had done so despite his having reported they were suspect. As the documents weren't in US hands until 10 months after his Mission, the SSCI found this discrepency odd and discredited his testimony:
Since then, Wilson has challenged the Committee's factual findings.
It is important to resolve whether Wilson told Kristoff and Pincus what he told the SSCI.— that he had seen the documents before they were in US possession. If he hadn't, he certainly lied to both the journalists and the Senate, creating an impression that the US had relied on demonstrably false documentation for the war, an impression he made no effort to resolve until July of this year, after this same tale of his was discredited by the SSCI. This was the basis for the rallying cry of the Democrats that Bush lied to bring us into war. A claim based on the story of a proven liar, yet now widely accepted as factual on most of the left and in the mainstream media.
If Wilson had seen those documents before the United States government had them, the question is where, when, and how did he see them? Could he possibly have been involved in the production of these forgeries, or their transmittal to our government? We don't know, of course, but these are the sort of questions that might interest a federal grand jury.
It has struck me as peculiar that such clumsy forgeries were passed from the CIA to the IAEA February 2003, as if we regarded them as plausible evidence of Saddam buying uranium from Niger. In any event, we never did rely on them in making our threat assessment. But handing these documents to the IAEA made it seem as though we had, and thus offered ammunition to the war's critics like Wilson, who argued the case for war was made on faulty grounds.
If this hypothesis is correct, I owe Judy Miller an apology for thinking she was protecting herself when she went to jail. And so will many more people than I, for publishing far worse things about her motives for going to jail. As to Libby, if I'm right, he and his family and the Administration have also been taking a lot of unjustified attacks and have been subjected to even more reprehensible slander. He would be a hero for standing up to them and just doing the right thing without complaint or reproach to his detractors.
When this is over, and it should be soon, it could be a hell of a story.
Clarice Feldman is an attorney in Washington, DC.