Why was the White House so nervous in the summer of 2003 about the CIA's reporting on alleged Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger to build a nuclear bomb? That's the big question that runs through the many little details that have emerged in the perjury trial of Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The trial record suggests a simple answer: The White House was worried that the CIA would reveal that it had been pressured in 2002 and early 2003 to support administration claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and that in the Niger case, the CIA had tried hard to resist this pressure. The machinations of Cheney, Libby and others were an attempt to weave an alternative narrative that blamed the
The bottom line? (CIA's Iraq mission manager Robert) Grenier was asked in court last week to explain the White House's 2003 machinations. Here's what he said: "I think they were trying to avoid blame for not providing [the truth] about whether or not Iraq had attempted to buy uranium." Let me say it again: This trial is about a cover-up that failed.(Bold is mine.)
NBC's Brian Williams explains the difficulty in covering one of their own:
While we can't change the fact that some of our own people have been mentioned in (and are essential to) the Libby case, we're currently going over how to cover, for example, Tim Russert's day on the stand. We are trying to avoid having a correspondent who reports TO Tim... have to report ON Tim. As you know, Tim's been unable to discuss the case with us on the air, in order to avoid influencing the outcome. There are several ways to remedy any coverage problems, and our aim is to cover it straight as we've tried to do throughout the trial thus far. We'll keep you posted on what we decide, and you'll of course see the coverage when it airs.
How does Judith Miller escape this week? Here's Booman Tribune's take:
It's a cruel irony for Judy that all the thanks she gets for obstructing this investigation for over a year is to be destroyed by the people she set out to protect. I love it.
Let this be a lesson to anyone that does business with the Bush administration. I don't care if you are Karzai, Maliki, Lieberman, or Judy Miller...there is no profit in it. They will destroy your reputation quicker than you can say Colin Powell or George Tenet.
Hat tip to The Hindsight Factor.
We'll leave the last word on the Libby trial this week to Nicholas Lemann writing in The New Yorker:
The Libby trial reveals a White House that thought its problems were with people who could not be counted on to confirm its suspicions, like Ambassador Wilson. It should have worried less about those who would speak truth to power, and worried more that power is no longer trusted to speak truth.
Hat tip to Ernie the Attorney