Snow and Fielding: Brothers in Spin

Sunday, July 15, 2007 at 06:41 PM

For an administration that came to power mocking President Clinton's "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is," semantics, the Bush II White House has been an absolute joke. The latest punch lines were delivered by, once again, Tony Snow in a recent press conference, and by the President's Counsel, the one and only Fred Fielding.

Snow's gem was his response to a question in his 7/9/07 conference:
Q John Conyers is writing a letter to the White House seeking White House testimony on the Libby pardons.

MR. SNOW: Yes.

Q What is the White House response to that?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, what's interesting about the letter is two admissions within the letter itself. One is, I recognize the clemency powers of presidential prerogative. And the second is, that he calls to waive executive privilege, seeming to imply that you've got executive privilege, as well.

So we received the letter just a couple minutes before we came over here. The Office of Legal Counsel has not had a full opportunity to review it, but those two things did come jumping out. They seem to concede what we think are the principal elements, which is that the President does have a clemency power and he also has executive privilege that covers the conversations and the deliberations that go behind communications with the President.

That's a hell of an admission from Conyers, huh? Recognizing that the President has clemency power, and the concept of executive privilege. That's especially astounding since no one ever denied those things. What Tony Snowjob did not address was the substance of the Conyers letter:
While I recognize that the clemency power is a presidential prerogative, your decision to commute...Libby's sentence has...commentators suggesting that this act may have had the effect of removing any further incentive that Mr. Libby may have had to provide more complete information about the leak of information about Valerie Wilson's work...and the role that your Vice President and you yourself may have played in that leak.

When President Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich stirred its own controversy...Clinton took the forthright step of waiving Executive Privilege and permitting some of his closest aides to testify [follows with examples of which Clinton aides testified and to what]

... It is in this spirit that I call on you too to waive Executive Privilege and provide the relevant documents and testimony of any relevant aides regarding the decision to commute Mr. Libby's sentence.

In Snow's defense, the Conyers letter arrived just before the press conference. But isn't it funny how he had time to distill the part that made a good talking point, but not the part that really took the Prez to task and backed it up with reference to the Rich pardon, which has long been a cause celebre for the far right mouthpieces.

Then there's Fielding, who responded to a letter from both John Conyers and Pat Leahy about the White House claim of executive privilege concerning the whole decision to fire some US Attorneys. If you read just Fielding's letter, you'd swear that Conyers & Leahy were trying to steal the very essence of the executive branch.

Here's Fielding's 7/9/07 letter in relevant part:

We are aware of no authority by which a congressional committee may "direct" the executive to undertake the task of creating and providing an extensive description of every document covered by an assertion of executive privilege. Given the descriptions of the materials in question that have already been provided, this demand is unreasonable because it represents a substantial incursion into Presidential prerogatives and...would impose a burden of very significant proportions.

...

One final observation underscores the preordained futility of any White House compliance with this demand. When your letter states that your Committees "will take the necessary steps to rule on [the President's] privilege claims and appropriately enforce our subpoenas" and that the Committees will enforce their subpoenas [w]hether or not [they] have the benefit of the information" (emphasis added in original), only one conclusion is evident: the Committees have already prejudged the question, regardless of any privilege log.

So Fielding's insistent that Conyers & Leahy are being really draconian, demanding things they have no right to demand, and, even worse, wouldn't change their course of action even if the poor beleaguered White House were to cave in and surrender it's precious rights.

But that isn't even close to what Conyers & Leahy said in their letter to Fielding:

...You refuse to produce even a single [responsive document] (to the subpoenas) based on a blanket Executive Privilege claim. ...If he [the President] is unwilling to withdraw these [privilege] claims, we call on you to provide more specific information to facilitate ruling on those claims and our consideration of appropriate action to enforce our subpoenas.

....your blanket assertion of executive privilege belies any good faith attempt to determine where privilege truly does and does not apply. A serious assertion of privilege would include an attempt to demonstrate to the Committees which documents, and which parts of those documents, are covered by any privilege that may apply.

...privilege logs have been provided by the White House in previous Administrations, and this Justice Department has provided similar logs in this very matter which have been used to help resolve disputes about the production of documents.

...

Whether or not we have the benefit of the information we have directed you to provide by July 9, we will take the necessary steps to rule on your privilege claims and appropriately enforce our subpoenas backed by the full force of law.

The difference from Feeling's description is astounding. Conyers & Leahy ask only for a privilege log that will allow a neutral observer, such as a court hearing the dispute between congress and the White House, to determine exactly which communications do and do not fall within the claimed privilege. In law, this is standard. One party claims privilege as a defense to producing information, the other party asks for a log of each specific document/conversation and the grounds for the privilege, and if the log makes it seem that any of the documents/conversations might not be privileged, they ask the court to review the specifics and make a determination on the privileged status.

I know of no reason why this same procedure would not apply to executive privilege.

Feeling's indignation that "the Committees have already prejudged the question, regardless of any privilege log" is nonsense. He's misinterpreting their letter, I suspect deliberately, in a way that justifies the refusal to provide a privilege log.

According to Fielding, they said they were going to enforce those subpoenas no matter what the poor White House did, so why should the poor White House do anything? What Conyers & Leahy actually say is "Whether or not we have the benefit of the information we have directed you to provide by July 9, we will take the necessary steps to rule on your privilege claims and appropriately enforce our subpoenas backed by the full force of law." Fielding completely ignores the "take the necessary steps to rule on your privilege claims," which Conyers & Leahy have every right to do. And he leaves out the concept of "appropriately" enforcing the subpoenas.

In other words, Conyers & Leahy say they want an objective determination of what is and isn't covered by the privilege, and intend to enforce their subpoenas to obtain any information not covered by the privilege. Which is exactly what the law allows and common sense requires (and Fielding wants to avoid publicizing).

I don't want to get into detail on it, but Snow, of course, also managed to deliberately misconstrue the Conyers/Leahy letter in his discussion of it in the same 7/9/07 press conference. Probably just pure coincidence that Snow and Fielding reached the same far fetched interpretation which allowed them to do what they wanted to do--stonewall.

Comments

"In Snow's defense, the Conyers letter arrived just before the press conference. But isn't it funny how he had time to distill the part that made a good talking point, but not the part that really took the Prez to task and backed it up with reference to the Rich pardon, which has long been a cause celebre for the far right mouthpieces."

I don't see that Snow made any mistatement. He affirmed that he couldn't discuss all the letter, due to issues which might need legal explanations, but those two points weren't in doubt, and which you have to admit are stipulated, as Snow says.

In addition, if it was some sort of partisan tactic to criticize Clinton's pardon prerogatives and his Executive Privilege, why is it now okay to do so to Bush? Revenge? Is that what Democrats are all about? Well, that and losing in Iraq. Oh, oh and establishing an infringement of political speech, if on the radio. Oh, oh and subpoena to dig for impeachment revenge witchhunts. And funding the Iraq war ...

Visitor: "I don't see that Snow made any mistatement."

Who said there was a misstatement? Snow was simpy deflecting attention away from the content of the letter by dwelling on the mind-numbingly obvious.

Visitor: "In addition, if it was some sort of partisan tactic to criticize Clinton's pardon prerogatives and his Executive Privilege, why is it now okay to do so to Bush?"

What article are you reading? I see no such accusation here. Clinton's pardon is mentioned because he dealt with the issue in a much more open way.

I understand your situation, Dear Visitor, really I do. It's much easier to make unsupported blanket assertions than it is to actually respond to the text of the article.

Well, let's examine some of the "content".

Libby's sentence has...[not my elipses]commentators suggesting that this act may have had the effect of removing any further incentive that Mr. Libby may have had to provide more complete information about the leak of information about Valerie Wilson's work...and the role that your Vice President and you yourself may have played in that leak.

Since I have been trained in the field of intelligence, I've been aware from the start that Plame was not covert. The indoctrination into security received by intelligence officers is extensive, and detailed for each level of classification from "For Official Use Only" all the way through "Top Secret/Crypto."

The education makes it very clear that covert operations and intelligence agents are just that: deeply covered with plausible identities and a virtual lifetime of documentation supporting their false existenses and for their putative businesses; usually with legitimate corporations or organizational entities. They DO NOT report to work at CIA HQ, Langley, be identified in Who's Who, be known by their neighbors to work at the CIA, and they definitely DO NOT allow their husband or wife to go public with information of dramatic national interest where their identity might be revealed as a result. Indeed, the CIA itself would not allow their information to be made public (in other words they would not have given permission for Wilson to go public) if it would have endangered Plame's status as covert! That would have broken the very law this issue is all about!

Neither was Plame a covert agent within the last five years, as the law decrees, or Armitage would have been indicted (if he wasn't disappeared by the CIA and waterboarded into confessing that Cheney made him do it ... and to cover their negligence in allowing Wilson to reveal intelligence information and breaking the law to do so) Instead, it appears that Conyers and Leahy are disappointed that Libby won't be available to force some confession out of to fulfill their dreams of revenge for their leader's impeachment... (and which progressive collective may be appreciating waterboarding a bit more, under certain circumstances).

Besides all of that, neither Armitage nor Novak actually revealed Plame as a covert agent, Corn did that.

Since there was no crime in revealing Plame's identity as Wilson's wife, and since it is known that Armitage made the original comment to Novak, and Corn was the one who actually mentioned that she was "covert", then efforts to gain documents concerning no crime is a partisan witchhunt.

Don't some of you Democrats, just a few, feel a bit hypocritical? Don't some of you feel like puppets made to lie by your leadership (and "journalists") pulling your strings of loyalty? Don't some of you resent having to play dumb and ignore posts like this one? Aren't some of your sick and tired of defamming the messenger who informs you of this reasonable information, if you just can't ignore it?

How about even one upright man in Sodom?

All roads of the Bush Administration corruptions begin and end at www.iviewit.tv and www.iviewit.tv

Here you will find what is quickly becoming known as Patentgate.

"Here you will find what is quickly becoming known as Patentgate."

Not very 'quickly' with that font!

"All roads of the Bush Administration corruptions begin and end at www.iviewit.tv..."

I went to your suggested site out of curiosity for another's opinion, to be considered without prior knowledge or bias (current comments on this Watcher's page notwithstanding but still considered neutrally). It begins with a 7-entry list of "Special Thanks to..." showing general terms such as, "my family..." which I thought was quite touching and responsible, but then is followed by a 28-entry list of "F*** You to...", naming individuals and corporations alike, by name. These two facts, on just my initial viewing of your suggested page, make me not want to give it any further consideration because it is clear to me from the start-page, just from the presentation of it, that the site's views are neither balanced nor fair. A collection of writings which are meant to educate and inform would by necessity be created and presented with respect to persons and "Others Thinking of Becoming Involved" which, incidentally, is also on the "F*** You..." list on that page.

I'm hoping this comment succeeds in trying to educate and inform, because I'm not sure what your intent was in suggesting the iviewit.tv site.

Warm Regards,
Visitor

The "intelligence-trained" visitor has this to say:

Since I have been trained in the field of intelligence, I've been aware from the start that Plame was not covert. The indoctrination into security received by intelligence officers is extensive, and detailed for each level of classification from "For Official Use Only" all the way through "Top Secret/Crypto."

The education makes it very clear that covert operations and intelligence agents are just that: deeply covered with plausible identities and a virtual lifetime of documentation supporting their false existenses and for their putative businesses; usually with legitimate corporations or organizational entities. They DO NOT report to work at CIA HQ, Langley, be identified in Who's Who, be known by their neighbors to work at the CIA, and they definitely DO NOT allow their husband or wife to go public with information of dramatic national interest where their identity might be revealed as a result



Well, that's exactly one of you who has been "aware from the start." That's more of the same distraction about Plame. "Covert" has a specific meaning in the law; the CIA, Plame herself, and Fitzgerald all say that, yes indeedy, she was "covert" within the meaning of the law.


The rest of the stuff about Who's Who is just nonsense. And where in that source is she said to work for the CIA? Her entry would likely corroborate her cover. And neighbor after neighbor expressed shock at finding out she worked for the CIA.


If you plan on misrepresenting basic facts to defend this corrupt administration and it's reckless disregard of national interest in pursuing it's own personal interests, at least make an effort to come up with something plausible.

Lee says, "... the CIA, Plame herself, and Fitzgerald all say that, yes indeedy, she was "covert" within the meaning of the law."

Not according to the law -- www.fas.org(4)

The term "covert agent" means--

(A) a present or retired officer or employee of an intelligence agency or a present or retired member of the Armed Forces assigned to duty with an intelligence agency--
(i) whose identity as such an officer, employee, or member is classified information, and

(ii) who is serving outside the United States or has within the last five years served outside the United States; or

(B) a United States citizen whose intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information, and--

(i) who resides and acts outside the United States as an agent of, or informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency, or

(ii) who is at the time of the disclosure acting as an agent of, or informant to, the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; or

(C) an individual, other than a United States citizen, whose past or present intelligence relationship to the United States is classified information and who is a present or former agent of, or a present or former informant or source of operational assistance to, an intelligence agency."

So, if Plame had been covert within the last five (5) years, Fitzgerald could have made a case against Armitage, Novak and Corn. He didn't and so it is clear that Plame was not in a covert status, if she ever had.

"The rest of the stuff about Who's Who is just nonsense."

Where is your support for this claim? Do you have experience in the field of counterintelligence which allows you to dismiss security breaches like this as just "nonsense"? Do you think covert agents routinely place themselves in Who's Who, and which would assist anyone trying to uncover their background, even identity? You're the one with the nonsense.

" ... And where in that source is she said to work for the CIA?"

What? Are you that challenged logically? Listen, a reporter hears the news that Wilson's wife works at the CIA. You try to discover who Wilson is married to. You access the library and look for sources that have information on Wilson, and who his wife might be. You find out his wife was, nee Plame. You call the CIA and ask if Valerie Plame works there. The CIA Information Office says, "Yes".

Bingo! You're smart and successful in your hunt! Some will be smart enough to do so, anyway.

"Her entry would likely corroborate her cover. And neighbor after neighbor expressed shock at finding out she worked for the CIA."

So, what? I heard the opposite, but that on re-interview, the Washington beltway residents decided to go Democratic ... as their voter registrations indicate ...

"If you plan on misrepresenting basic facts to defend this corrupt administration and it's reckless disregard of national interest in pursuing it's own personal interests, at least make an effort to come up with something plausible."

You are so arrogant, that you think to belittle someone who indicates they have knowledge and experience in the field?

You are definitely lucky to have been picked over much better qualified people to edit this site ... that's all I can say on that!

You are so arrogant, that you think to belittle someone who indicates they have knowledge and experience in the field?

And I'm the Queen of Romania.

You might want to learn about logical fallacies, esp. "appeal to authority."

Lee says, "... the CIA, Plame herself, and Fitzgerald all say that, yes indeedy, she was "covert" within the meaning of the law."

Not according to the law...

You seem to have a little trouble separating your opinion from facts. The CIA and Fitzgerald (and me, and most WTW readers who have visited the site for any length of time) are well aware of what the statute says, and have always maintained that Plame was covert. It is the facts of Plame's service that determine whether she is/was covert and you don't know those facts.

A former CIA agent who does know a bit about Plame's service at the CIA not only disagrees with you, but would likely count you among those playing a part in damaging the nation's intelligence abilities and endangering its agents. Not that it's going to matter to a hyper-partisan like you, but here's the statement of ex-CIA officer Larry Johnson concerning Valerie Plame and her status:

CORRECTING THE RECORD ON VALERIE PLAME
By Larry C. Johnson
I submit this statement to the Congress in an effort to correct a malicious and disingenuous smear campaign that has been executed against a friend and former colleague, Valerie (Plame) Wilson. Neither Valerie, nor her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson has asked me to do anything on their behalf. I am speaking up because I was raised to stop bullies. In the case of Valerie Plame she is facing a gang of bullies that is being directed by the Republican National Committee. I entered on duty at the CIA in September 1985 as a member of the Career Trainee Program. Senator Orin Hatch had written a letter of recommendation on my behalf and I believe that helped open the doors to me at the CIA. From the first day all members of my training class were undercover. In other words, we had to lie to our family and friends about where we worked. We could only tell those who had an absolute need to know where we worked. In my case, I told my wife. Most of us were given official cover, which means that on paper we worked for some other U.S. Government Agency. People with official cover enjoy the benefits of an official passport, usually a black passport--i.e., a diplomatic passport. If we were caught overseas engaged in espionage activity the black passport was a get out of jail free card. It accords the bearer the protections of the Geneva Convention.

Valerie Plame was a classmate of mine from the day she started with the CIA. At the time I only knew her as Valerie P. Even though all of us in the training class held Top Secret Clearances, we were asked to limit our knowledge of our other classmates to the first initial of their last name. So, Larry J. knew Val P. rather than Valerie Plame. Her name did not become a part of my consciousness until her cover was betrayed by the Government officials who gave columnist Robert Novak her true name. Although Val started off with official cover, she later joined a select group of intelligence officers a few years later when she became a NOC, i.e. a Non-Official Cover officer. That meant she agreed to operate overseas without the protection of a diplomatic passport. She was using cover, which we now know because of the leak to Robert Novak, of the consulting firm Brewster-Jennings. When she traveled overseas she did not use or have an official passport. If she had been
caught engaged in espionage activities while traveling overseas without the black passport she could have been executed.

We must put to bed the lie that she was not undercover. For starters, if she had not been undercover then the CIA would not have referred the matter to the Justice Department. Some reports, such as one in the Washington Times that Valerie Plame's supervisor at the CIA, Fred Rustman, said she told friends and family she worked at the CIA and that her cover was light. These claims are not true. Rustman, who supervised Val in one of her earliest assignments, left the CIA in 1990 and did not stay in social contact with Valerie. His knowledge of Val's cover is dated. He does not know what she has done during the past 15 years.

Val only told those with a need to know about her status in order to safeguard her cover, not compromise it. Val has never been a flamboyant, insecure person who felt the need to tell people what her "real" job was. She was content with being known as an energy consultant married to Joe Wilson and the mother of twins. Despite the
repeated claims of representatives for the Republican National Committee, the Wilson's neighbors did not know where Valerie really worked until Novak's op-ed appeared.

I would note that not a single member of our training class has come forward to denounce Valerie or question her bona fides. To the contrary, those we have talked to have endorsed what those of us who have left the CIA are doing to defend her reputation and honor.

As noted in the joint letter submitted to Congressional leaders earlier this week, the RNC is repeating the lie that Valerie was nothing more than a glorified desk jockey and could not possibly have any cover worth protecting. To those such as Victoria Toensing, Representative Peter King, P. J. O'Rourke, and Representative Roy Blunt I can only say one thing--you are wrong. I am stunned that some political leaders have such ignorance about a matter so basic to the national security structure of this nation.

Robert Novak's compromise of Valerie caused even more damage. It subsequently led to scrutiny of her cover company. This not only compromised her "cover" company but potentially every individual overseas who had been in contact with that company or with her.
.....


You are definitely lucky to have been picked over much better qualified people to edit this site ... that's all I can say on that!

Actually, I don't edit the site, I'm just one contributor to it. And no, I'm beyond lucky, I'm positively blessed. Contributing to this site allows me to engage in these exchanges with you, which helps keep me on track. As long as I'm irritating someone with your beliefs and mindset, I know I'm probably doing something right.

Cavjam quibbles, "And I'm the Queen of Romania."

I always am amazed at the willingness of those who quote "logical fallacies" but use their efforts to post nonsense, in place of the logical facts they seemingly support. They obviously can't spell the word, "Hypocrite".

Cavjam says, "You might want to learn about logical fallacies, esp. 'appeal to authority.'"

An "appeal to authority" *CAN* be a logical fallacy, but isn't one automatically. Indeed, I posted the law, and which if Plame had been covert during that time, then Armitage, Corn, and Novak might have been indicted in defying. No such case was handed down by the Grand Jury!

So, either Fitzgerald, the Grand Jury, or the Judge was negligent; perhaps all three? If, that is, your own appeal to authority in the form of the CIA's and Fitzgeralds statements that SHE WAS COVERT!

Either they are criminally negligent, or they are lying to your partisan parrots ...

... or both!!!

Lee makes his appeal, "You seem to have a little trouble separating your opinion from facts. The CIA and Fitzgerald (and me, and most WTW readers who have visited the site for any length of time) are well aware of what the statute says, and have always maintained that Plame was covert. It is the facts of Plame's service that determine whether she is/was covert and you don't know those facts."

You are misdirecting this, and since there was no indictment for revealing the identity of a covert agent. I posted the law, and it is obvious that Plame had not been covert in the last 5 years prior to Novak's first mention of this, and not even in-the-field, since Ames revealed all the CIA's covert operations and was caught in 1994. Plame attended school under her own name, after that, and then was assigned to HQ, Langley. The facts are apparent, while it is your claims that languish from lack, thereof.

"A former CIA agent who does know a bit about Plame's service at the CIA not only disagrees with you, but would likely count you among those playing a part in damaging the nation's intelligence abilities and endangering its agents."

Another appeal to authority, which Cavjam derides. Again, if Plame had been covert there would be an indictment...

I posted the law, we know Plame was not covert from 1994 onward -- so there!

"I posted the law, we know Plame was not covert from 1994 onward -- so there!"

"we" don't know that, "you" thiink you do. And "So there"??? What about my daddy's bigger than your daddy.

Your post doesn't even make sense. Ames and 1994 somehow preclude Plame being covert, despite the CIA and Fitzgerald saying she was, despite Larry Johnson saying she was, all because Ames was caught in 1994?

Yes, indeed, I'm blessed.

I won't be responding again unless you actually say something that makes sense on this planet, outside of your own head.

Lee expostulates, ""we" don't know that, "you" thiink you do. And "So there"??? What about my daddy's bigger than your daddy."

Your sarcasm is inane! Can't you gin some up on subject?

As for being "covert", I suppose this article supports your concept of what "covert" means? (pointed sarcasm!)

Plame on Wikipedia

Who's Who was updated on her marriage, and you'll remember that one; although you've tried to ignore it over-and-over. They don't put covert agents in Who's Who. They don't send them to international courses under their own names, and they don't work at Langley, daily! No matter how hard you WISH she had been covert, to satisfy the law, you can't twist it into reality! Indeed! The CIA would NOT have allowed Wilson to go public, if his wife had been covert!

"Your post doesn't even make sense. Ames and 1994 somehow preclude Plame being covert, despite the CIA and Fitzgerald saying she was, despite Larry Johnson saying she was, all because Ames was caught in 1994?"

The cover business she was a NOC working at was ended as covert when Ames was identified as the leak at the CIA. If you had read any of the background on Plame, you would have known that, but you didn't! You are more than just ignorant -- you use your ignorance to attack partisanly and literally lie about your own knowledge; while you ridicule that of others ...

"I won't be responding again unless you actually say something that makes sense on this planet, outside of your own head."

You won't be responding, period, because you know the absymal depths of your own ignorance in regards to this situation -- you simply (most pejorative sense) want to believe, have faith in your party of lying partisans, hand-in-glove with a federal agency playing domestic politcs ...

Subversion and treason on the part of those who plotted this coup ...

Even Darth Novak admits that "Waxman was correctly quoting [CIA director Michael] Hayden" when Waxman said, in a March 17, 2007 congressional hearing:

Ms. Wilson was a covert employee of the CIA. We cannot discuss all of the details of her CIA employment in open session. I have met with--personally with General [Michael] Hayden, the head of the CIA, to discuss what I can and cannot say about Ms. Wilson's service. And I want to thank him for his cooperation and help in guiding us along these lines.
...
During her employment at the CIA, Ms. Wilson was undercover. Her employment status with the CIA was classified information, prohibited from disclosure under Executive Order 12958. At the time of the publication of Robert Novak's column on July 14, 2003, Ms. Wilson's CIA employment status was covert. This was classified information.

Novak still fights the conclusion that she was covert within the meaning of the statute, of course. But then Darth fights anything that would reflect poorly on him and his confederates.

Of course, some really agitated, far, far, far, far right extremists know better than the CIA director based on some theoretical meanderings in a biased mind, aided by a heavy dose of propaganda from every right wing flack known to mankind, about Alrdich Ames, whose activities and disclosures are themselves secret.