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Chief Libby trial blogger says she believes prosecutor 'wants Cheney,' 'won't rest on laurels'
Brian Beutler
Published: Tuesday February 20, 2007
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This weekend, RAW STORY interviewed Marcy Wheeler, one of the blogosphereís most tireless observers and analysts of the CIA leak investigation and the I. Lewis ďScooterĒ Libby Trial.

In the interview, she revealed that she believes that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will press forward with his investigation, and that his ultimate target is Vice President Dick Cheney: "Iím not entirely convinced that Fitzgeraldís done. I used to be conservative on that, believing that he was done. But there are little snippets of hints that heís not."

Wheeler is omnipresent in the new media, most notably at the blog Firedoglake, while also appearing on her own blog, The Next Hurrah, and also at Daily Kos and the Huffington Post. Her book on the CIA leak scandal, Anatomy of Deceit, has been released in paperback. Because of a marathon effort parsing public documents, she managed to beat the traditional media to major stories by months.

ďWe figured out that Armitage was the Novak/Woodward source in March,Ē Wheeler said in an implicit critique of mainstream coverage of the Plame story, ďand we were able to do that because we were able to do things that journalists wouldnít do.Ē

Fitzgerald became famous for using organized crime-fighting tactics to root his way through an immensely corrupt government in the state of Illinois, culminating his years-long investigation with over 60 indictments and the conviction of former Republican Governor George Ryan.

Wheeler believes that Fitzgerald will bring that indefatigable nature to this trial: "I think Fitzgerald clearly wants Cheney and heís not the kind of person who rests on his laurels after getting one conviction. One thing I can say is I donít understand why Eric Edelman wasnít called and that may be something he kept in reserve. I donít understand why Jenny Mayfield wasnít called, that may be something he kept in reserve."

A transcription of the interview appears below.

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BB: I didnít realize how serious the loophole in Fitzgeraldís strategy was and how profoundly it affected the course of the investigation. But at the same time he probably couldnít have moved forward without promising to limit the investigation to only known leakers. Talk about that, if you can.

MW: Armitage is the perfect example because people on the right always say how dare Patrick Fitzgerald didnít find the Bob Woodward/Armitageís connection. But had he done what he needed to do to find that, he would have needed to subpoena every single journalist who spoke to Libby, Rove, Armitage, Fleischer, Bartlett, Hadley, Condi. And youíre beginning to get into the range of things. They were all potential leakers and probably to some degree were involved. Thereís no way you wouldíve been able to subpoena all of that.

BB: How disappointed were you when Cheney was excused.

MW: I wasnít surprised. But you know Cheney canít keep his cool. He may be very intelligent, but if you look at what happened with Leahy he canít keep his cool when somebody challenges him and heís never been challenged by journalists in the way he would have been challenged by Fitzgerald. But I just think there was no way they could have scoped the testimony narrowly enough to avoid Cheney opening himself up to charges. If you read Sid Blumenthalís piece from last week where people were telling Libby not to take the fall for Cheney. Itís pretty clear that everyone agrees thatís what heís in the process of doing. It would defy the point of him taking the fall if Dick Cheney took the stand and exposed himself to a perjury charge. Plus the fact thatóI donít even think that Cheney could have successfully reinforced Libbyís testimony. John Hannah was a huge bust for the defense. They had a great witness, John Hannah, saying if Libby took 2 hrs on July 8 to meet with Judith Miller thereíd be no way heíd forget it.

BB: So predictions? Verdict?

MW: I think Wells is going to make a very concerted effort at jury nullification. In his closing statement heís going to harp on: Rove leaked, Ari [Fleischer] leaked, Armitage leaked and theyíre not doing time, theyíre not even charged. But what Fitzgerald isnít quite able to say although he might get there is that whoever leaked it all came out. Armitage only found out about Plame because of the INR memo [which was part of the leak process to begin with]. Ari found out from Libby and Rove probably found out from Libby. I think Wells, it goes back to his opening statement when he said, ďthe only way my client doesnít get off is if you violate your oath.Ē And itís very wrong. And I think he could be disbarred if it was perceived that he did it intentionally. But what he wants them to think about the leak and not this narrow perjury charge.

BB: Do you buy the reports that Ari Fleischer came forth because he was worried about being imprisoned or executed?

MW: There was nothing in the testimony to support that. You asked about predictions. If Wells is unsuccessful at jury nullification then I think that Libby will get off on the two Cooper charges but be found guilty on obstruction and the two Russert charges.

BB: Do you think that the Intelligence Identities Act is a law that will ever be successfully adjudicated?

MW: Well the problem in this case, Iím not entirely convinced that Fitzgeraldís done. I used to be conservative on that, believing that he was done. But there are little snippets of hints that heís not.

BB: What are those? Talk about those.

MW: I donít think I should say. Itís court personnel stuff. If nothing else, there may be another charge for Libby that heís lying about the NIE. But I think Fitzgerald clearly wants Cheney and heís not the kind of person who rests on his laurels after getting one conviction. One thing I can say is I donít understand why Eric Edelman wasnít called and that may be something he kept in reserve. I donít understand why Jenny Mayfield wasnít called, that may be something he kept in reserve. I think I understand why the defense didnít call her. So he may or may not be done, but, in this case, if heís not done, I say this in the book, there are two Constitutional issues you run up against. Because Iíve long believed that if Fitzgerald gets to the point where he can prove that it wasnít the NIE they were declassifying but it was Plameís identity, then youíre in the Constitutional issue of whether Navy vs. Egan, which is what Addington was using to justify it, whether its true that it can supersede all the procedures that executive orders lay out for declassification. That you can instantly declassify something. And whether you can declassify Plameís identity without telling her. And Iím still not convinced that you can indict a sitting vice president for something he did as a sitting vice president. Agnew was indicted for something he did before.

BB: What would you say are the differences between blog ethics or citizen journalist ethics and regular journalist ethics? And how much of what you do is in the old style, calling and cultivating sources?

MW: In the book I very deliberately avoided that, partly because my big sources were Joe and people who know Joe and I didnít want the book to be Joeís side of the story. I wanted it to be able to stand on its own. I did that deliberately. I wanted this to be public record stuff. Thatís what I do well. Iím as good a close reader as I think there are out there. And reading through the filings and that kind of thing Iím sure I read them as intelligently as anybody. So for me thatís what I do. I donít particularly like the phone and I donít live in DC. I think one of the bigger differences between what I do and what journalists do has to do with genre more than anything else. And Iíve said this before. I wouldnít want to give up the ability to say, ĎIím going to speculate wildly. It is speculation, but hereís my basis for it.í And I mean, we figured out that Armitage was the Novak/Woodward source in March and we were able to do that because we were able to do things that journalists wouldnít do. And Iíve been harping since October since it became crystal clear that Libby had met with Novak and probably was hiding those meetings and Iíve just been saying ďNovak meetings, why the hell isnít anybody reporting this.Ē But to some degree I understand that journalists canít say, ďeveryone said Richard Armitage is the source but we just discovered that Scooter Libby actually had meetings with Robert Novak that neither of them has revealed until now and we therefore canít say with certainty that Richard Armitage was the first source until we understand what this is,Ē and thatís the conversation that should be happening.

BB: How do you stay accurate?

MW: I definitely do corrections on anything that I asserted definitively. A lot of what I do is present evidence. The book was different. I had to put it to bed. Where a lot of what I do on the blog is say, ďhereís something we donít know about the January 24 document." I can say with certainty based on OVPís own documents that it is post dated to the time they were told to take the Niger reference out of the State of the Union. And maybe there are documents I donít know. What I do is say, ďhereís what the evidence shows.Ē If new evidence comes to light then I say, ďnew evidence comes to light and hereís what we now know.Ē

BB: Have there been any recriminations, intimidation or defamation or anything like that?

MW: So far there havenít been any ill side-effects.

BB: Do you see yourself ó when all this is said and don eó continuing to blog or transferring into a media position or bridging the two? Whatís the plan?

MW: I donít know. I donít want to do traditional media. Itís the genre issue. We need to expand the genre of traditional mediaóeverything from pseudo-objectivity to the size of articles to the kinds of things you can say in articles because thatís not serving our purposes very well. I donít want to do that until journalism gets a lot more vibrant

BB: Is blogging a sustainable medium? Can they be profitable, or provide people a living?

MW: Thatís one of my questions because right now Iím a consultant so I can work 20 hrs a week and pay the bills and thatís what I did when I left academic work. I spend a lot of time blogging now and I like doing it but there is something to be said for having people who arenít full time bloggers doing it. I kind of want to retain at least the principle of that because you get a lot of different viewpoints that you wouldnít otherwise necessarily get. I think thatís a good thing.

BB: Whatís your readership like these days?

MW: Iím not sure weíre sustainably at 4000 weíre normally at 3000 unique hits a day. That was before Thursdayís New York Times article, though.