Dover Bitch

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What did Condi know and when?

If Monday's news on Raw Story and this Oct. 18 story by the Washington Post are correct, then Condoleezza Rice may be knee deep in Plamegate.

First off, let's look at the timeline and what Rice said about her knowledge of Joe Wilson's trip to Niger.

Rice told a "press gaggle" on July 11, 2003 that she learned about Wilson's trip on a TV show "about a month ago," a claim she repeated two days later while talking to CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer on "Late Edition."

Presumably, she was referring to her appearance on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" on June 8. She also appeared that day on NBC's "Meet The Press" and CBS' "Face The Nation," but on neither of those programs was any reference made to Wilson's trip (although Rice was grilled on the removal of the "16 Words" from the State of the Union). Stephanopoulos asked her for her reaction to Nicholas Kristof's May 6 column in the New York Times, which mentioned Wilson's trip, though not his name.

But the Washington Post reported the following on Oct. 18, 2005 (emphasis mine):

One former CIA official told prosecutors early in the probe about efforts by Cheney's office and his allies at the National Security Council to obtain information about Wilson's trip as long as two months before Plame was unmasked in July 2003, according to a person familiar with the account.

If this report is correct, not only is it clear that there were people in the White House in May 2003 who were aware of Joe Wilson and the problem he represented for the administration, but some of them were in the NSC.

Now, it's possible that Rice was not one of the NSC members who was digging up dirt on Wilson. But how likely is it that the National Security Advisor, one of 11 principle members of the NSC, not to mention one of nine members of the White House Iraq Group, would have no idea what NSC members were doing in concert with the Vice President?

As Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Rice was tasked with "determining the agenda, ensuring that necessary papers are prepared, and recording NSC actions," as well as calling meetings of the NSC Principals Committee and steering its agenda. Are we really to believe she learned about Wilson's trip weeks later than other NSC members, a month after Kristof's column and, even then, only from Stephanopoulos? And if so, should a National Security Advisor be that unaware of the actions of the other NSC members?

In any event, Raw Story reported Monday that Rice was told about Valerie Plame in June:

Those close to the investigation say that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been told that David Wurmser, then a Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney on loan from the office of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs John Bolton, met with Cheney and his chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby in June 2003 and told Libby that Plame set up the Wilson trip. He asserted that it was a boondoggle, the sources said.

Libby then shared the information with Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, the sources said. Wurmser also passed on the same information about Wilson to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, they added.

While it remains unclear if this information reached Rice before her June 8 appearance on "This Week," if she did discuss Plame with Wurmser that month, then what message was she trying to deliver to the press on July 11? (emphasis mine)

DR. RICE: The IAEA reported it I believe in March. But I will tell you that, for instance, on Ambassador Wilson's going out to Niger, I learned of that when I was sitting on whatever TV show it was, because that mission was not known to anybody in the White House. And you should ask the Agency at what level it was known in the Agency.

Q When was that TV show, when you learned about it?

DR. RICE: A month ago, about a month ago.

Q Can I ask you about something else?

DR. RICE: Yes. Are you sure you're through with this?

Did the press do Rice a huge favor by changing the subject?

If there was no concerted effort to smear Wilson, why did Rice bring his name into the discussion? They were talking about the IAEA. Why did she suggest that reporters dig around to find out what the Agency knew about Wilson's trip? Remember, she had already discussed the "boondoggle set up by his wife." Also remember, this was just three days before Robert Novak published his column outing Plame.

Rice may be pleading ignorance throughout this entire investigation -- and it might work -- but it sure looks like it's getting harder to prove.

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that Cheney learned about Plame and then told Libby, which seems to conflict with Raw Story's report that Wurmser told Cheney and Libby simultaneously. It could just be that Wurmser told Cheney first. It does not contradict Raw Story's report that Wurmser told Rice. Hopefully the facts will all come out soon. It certainly doesn't look like a good development for either Cheney or Libby.

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