Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney and the Niger/Iraq Scandal

I missed an article in Truthout from 10 days ago. For me, given Cheney's inability to accept personal responsibility for anything, and his tendency to blame others for his miscues, the article seems to take on more meaning for me. Jason Leopold, who has written before about the Niger/Iraq scandal and the NSA spying, has some interesting details about Dick Cheney's alleged effort to discredit Joe Wilson:
Hadley had avoided making public comments about the veracity of the Niger documents, going as far as ignoring a written request by IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei to share the intelligence with his agency so his inspectors could verify the claims. Hadley is said to have known the Niger documents were crude forgeries, but pushed the administration to cite it as evidence that Iraq was a nuclear threat, according to the State Department officials, who said they personally told Hadley in a written report that the documents were bogus.

The CIA and State Department officials said that a day after Wilson's March 8, 2003, CNN appearance, they attended a meeting at the Vice President's office chaired by Cheney, and it was there that a decision was made to discredit Wilson. Those who attended the meeting included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted in October for lying to investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice related to his role in the Plame Wilson leak, Hadley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national security adviser, the officials said.

"The way I remember it," the CIA official said about that first meeting he attended in Cheney's office, "is that the vice president was obsessed with Wilson. He called him an 'asshole,' a son-of-a-bitch. He took his comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the progress."

A spokeswoman for Cheney would not comment for this story, saying the investigation into the leak is ongoing. The spokeswoman refused to give her name. Additional calls made to Cheney's office were not returned.

The CIA, State Department and National Security Council officials said that early on they had passed on information about Wilson to Cheney and Libby that purportedly showed Wilson as being a "womanizer" and that he had dabbled in drugs during his youth, allegations that are apparently false, they said.
If these allegations against Cheney are true, it seems par for the course for the Bush Administration and particularly a statement about how Cheney operates. Facts are not important in the Bush Administration; only the administration line is important. When facts get in the way, the messenger is smeared so that the facts are taken out of the discussion. Note that if Leopold's story is true, the vice president was using the powers of the government to spy on Americans with high reputation. If Cheney can do this to high officials, what can he do with ordinary folk?

Here's another excerpt from the same article:
When Kristoff's column was published in the Times, the CIA official said, "a request came in from Cheney that was passed to me that said 'the vice president wants to know whether Joe Wilson went to Niger.' I'm paraphrasing. But that's more or less what I was asked to find out."

In his column, Kristoff Had accused Cheney of allowing the truth about the Niger documents the administration used to build a case for war to go "missing in action." The failure of US armed forces to find any WMDs in Iraq in two months following the start of the war had been blamed on Cheney.

What in the previous months had been a request to gather information that could be used to discredit Wilson now turned into a full-scale effort involving the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, and the State Department to find out how Wilson came to be chosen to investigate the Niger uranium allegations.

"Cheney and Libby made it clear that Wilson had to be shut down," the CIA official said. "This wasn't just about protecting the credibility of the White House. For the vice president, going after Wilson was purely personal, in my opinion."
This is yet another reason why we need proper oversight and legal constitutional authority in our government. Oversight of the NSA may no longer be enough. No official is above the law. It appears, among other things, that Cheney was abusing his office to pursue a personal vendatta.

As for the credibility of the White House, it seems the president and vice president had already managed to damage their own credibility through their own lies and incompetence. Long before Joe Wilson showed up, it was already obvious to anyone who wished to pay attention that there was something very wrong about the case being made for war in Iraq. If the White House were really concerned about credibility, Bush ought to urge Cheney to resign. It would be a step in the right direction.

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