What's really going on in the Wilson/Plame grand jury?

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:

...on August 12 and August 14, grand jury subpoenas were issued to Judith Miller, seeking documents and testimony related to conversations between her and a specified government official 'occurring from on or about July 6, 2003, to on or about July 13, 2003, . . . concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description as the wife of Ambassador Wilson) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.' [emphasis added] 


The subpoena requires her to testify about two things: conversations between Libby and Miller (from July 6 to July 13) about Wilson/Plame or about Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium. The topic of conversations about "Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium" almost certainly relates to the Niger Mission of Joseph Wilson and to the forged documents relating to Iraqi efforts to obtain African uranium. The grand jury has apparently taken up the subject of the forged documents which were the basis for Wilson's claim that the Bush Administration relied on non—credible evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

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: 

When the former ambassador spoke to Committee staff, his description of his findings differed from the DO intelligence report and his account of information provided to him by the CIA differed from the CIA officials' accounts in some respects. First, the former ambassador described his findings to Committee staff as more directly related to Iraq and, specifically, as refuting both the possibility that Niger could have sold uranium to Iraq and that Iraq approached Niger to purchase uranium. The intelligence report described how the structure of Niger's uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to sell uranium to rouge nations, and noted that Nigerien officials denied knowledge of any deals to sell uranium to any rogue states, but did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium. Second, the former ambassador said that he discussed with his CIA contacts which names and signatures should have appeared on any documentation of a legitimate uranium transaction. In fact, the intelligence report made no mention of the alleged Iraq—Niger uranium deal or signatures that should have appeared on any documentation of such a deal. The only mention of Iraq in the report pertained to the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and former Prime Minister Mayaki. Third, the former ambassador noted that his CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq—Niger uranium transaction and that the source of the information was the [redacted] intelligence service. The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information and, noted that there were no "documents" circulating in the IC at the time of the former ambassador's trip, only intelligence reports from [redacted] intelligence regarding an alleged Iraq—Niger uranium deal. Meeting notes and other correspondence show that details of the reporting were discussed at the February 19, 2002 meeting, but none of the meeting participants recall telling the former ambassador the source of the report [redacted].

The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article ("CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid," June 12, 2003) which said, "among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because `the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong" when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports. The former ambassador said that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were "forged." He also said he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself. The former ambassador reiterated that he had been able to collect the names of the government officials which should have been on the documents.

Since then, Wilson has challenged the Committee's factual findings.  
Wilson is now claiming that Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post both misreported what he said when they wrote he'd told them that he had seen the forged documents.

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.

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:

...on August 12 and August 14, grand jury subpoenas were issued to Judith Miller, seeking documents and testimony related to conversations between her and a specified government official 'occurring from on or about July 6, 2003, to on or about July 13, 2003, . . . concerning Valerie Plame Wilson (whether referred to by name or by description as the wife of Ambassador Wilson) or concerning Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium.' [emphasis added] 


The subpoena requires her to testify about two things: conversations between Libby and Miller (from July 6 to July 13) about Wilson/Plame or about Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium. The topic of conversations about "Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium" almost certainly relates to the Niger Mission of Joseph Wilson and to the forged documents relating to Iraqi efforts to obtain African uranium. The grand jury has apparently taken up the subject of the forged documents which were the basis for Wilson's claim that the Bush Administration relied on non—credible evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

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: 

When the former ambassador spoke to Committee staff, his description of his findings differed from the DO intelligence report and his account of information provided to him by the CIA differed from the CIA officials' accounts in some respects. First, the former ambassador described his findings to Committee staff as more directly related to Iraq and, specifically, as refuting both the possibility that Niger could have sold uranium to Iraq and that Iraq approached Niger to purchase uranium. The intelligence report described how the structure of Niger's uranium mines would make it difficult, if not impossible, for Niger to sell uranium to rouge nations, and noted that Nigerien officials denied knowledge of any deals to sell uranium to any rogue states, but did not refute the possibility that Iraq had approached Niger to purchase uranium. Second, the former ambassador said that he discussed with his CIA contacts which names and signatures should have appeared on any documentation of a legitimate uranium transaction. In fact, the intelligence report made no mention of the alleged Iraq—Niger uranium deal or signatures that should have appeared on any documentation of such a deal. The only mention of Iraq in the report pertained to the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and former Prime Minister Mayaki. Third, the former ambassador noted that his CIA contacts told him there were documents pertaining to the alleged Iraq—Niger uranium transaction and that the source of the information was the [redacted] intelligence service. The DO reports officer told Committee staff that he did not provide the former ambassador with any information about the source or details of the original reporting as it would have required sharing classified information and, noted that there were no "documents" circulating in the IC at the time of the former ambassador's trip, only intelligence reports from [redacted] intelligence regarding an alleged Iraq—Niger uranium deal. Meeting notes and other correspondence show that details of the reporting were discussed at the February 19, 2002 meeting, but none of the meeting participants recall telling the former ambassador the source of the report [redacted].

The former ambassador also told Committee staff that he was the source of a Washington Post article ("CIA Did Not Share Doubt on Iraq Data; Bush Used Report of Uranium Bid," June 12, 2003) which said, "among the Envoy's conclusions was that the documents may have been forged because `the dates were wrong and the names were wrong." Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the "dates were wrong and the names were wrong" when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports. The former ambassador said that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter when he said he concluded the documents were "forged." He also said he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself. The former ambassador reiterated that he had been able to collect the names of the government officials which should have been on the documents.

Since then, Wilson has challenged the Committee's factual findings.  
Wilson is now claiming that Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post both misreported what he said when they wrote he'd told them that he had seen the forged documents.

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.