The Counter-deception Blog

Examples of deceptions and descriptions of techniques to detect them. This Blog encourages the awareness of deception in daily life and discussion of practical means to spot probable deceptions. Send your examples of deception and counter-deception to colonel_stech@yahoo.com.

Monday, October 31, 2005

 

GORBANIFARRRR-OUT !!

[from Mark S-N] NB: anyone who (1) can read a map, and (2) wants to invade Iraq, will seek the help of the Iranians. The distance from the Iranian border to Baghdad is about 100 miles; a simulated threat from Iran always sets the Iraqis twitching, and anyone invading from Kuwait to Baghdad needs to worry about that right flank. So the thought of invading without consulting Iran is sheer stupidity. If you do consult Iran, however, you need to keep a hand on your purse and a check on your credibility, because the Iranians have their own strategic interests and they are not ours.

If the Iranians can convince us that the Iranians may be building a bomb, how hard would it be for them to convince us that Saddam is/was building a bomb?

Counter-deception point: always ask, “cui bono”-- who benefits?

 

  

October 31, 2005

Kevin Drum

 

MORE FROM LA REPUBBLICA....I don't really know what to make of this, but this week La Repubblica is running yet another 3-part series about the origins of the Iraq war. Via Nur al-Cubicle, here's an excerpt from Part 1. Note that SISMI is Italian intelligence, and Pollari is Nicolò Pollari, the head of SISMI:

The story of Italian military intervention in Iraq begins [in late 2001] when the resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Ledeen, sponsored by Defense Minister Antonio Martin, debarks in Rome with Pentagon men in tow to meet a handful of “Iranian exiles.” The meeting is organized by SISMI in an agency “safe house” near Piazza di Spagna (however other sources told us it was a reserved room in the Parco dei Principi Hotel).

Twenty men are gathered around a large table, covered by maps of Iraq, Iran and Syria. Those who count are Lawrence Franklin and Harold Rhode of the Office of Special Plans, Michael Ledeen of the AIE, a SISMI station chief accompanied by his assistant (the first is a balding man between 46 and 48 years of age; the second is younger, around 38, with braces on his teeth), and some mysterious Iranians.

Pollari confirms the meeting to La Repubblica: "When [Antonio Martin] asked me to organize the meeting, I became curious. But it was my job and I wasn’t born yesterday. It’s true — my men were also present at the meeting. I wanted to know what was boiling in the pot. It's also true that there were maps of Iraq and Iran on the table. I can tell you those Iranians were not exactly 'exiles'. The went and came from Tehran with their passports with no difficulty whatsoever as if they were transparent to the Pasdaran [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard]."

....The bogus Italian dossier on the Niger uranium turns up [at the meeting] also — and we don’t know exactly why — because Chalabi is in possession of it.

The gist of the article is that Iran was an active supporter of the war because the Shiite mullahs in Tehran thought that a Shiite-controlled Iraq would make a better neighbor than Saddam Hussein's Sunni-controlled secular dictatorship. That's no big surprise, since Iran and Iraq were not exactly good buddies, but the implication of the Repubblica article is that not only was the Iranian regime cheering from the sidelines, but the U.S. and the Italians were actively seeking their help.

I don't know how seriously to take this. It's obviously plausible, but that doesn't mean it's true. Take it with a grain of salt until we get better confirmation of what was really going on.

 


Saturday, October 29, 2005

 

Deconstruction of the NeoCons

October 29, 2005 NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist

Who's on First?

By MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

It was bracing to see the son of a New York doorman open the door on the mendacious Washington lair of the Lord of the Underground.

But this Irish priest of the law, Patrick Fitzgerald, neither Democrat nor Republican, was very strict, very precise. He wasn't totally gratifying in clearing up the murkiness of the case, yet strangely comforting in his quaint black-and-white notions of truth and honor (except when his wacky baseball metaphor seemed to veer toward a "Who's on first?" tangle).

"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he told reporters yesterday in his big Eliot Ness moment at the Justice Department. The indictment was simply about whether the son of an investment banker perjured himself before a grand jury and the F.B.I.

Scooter does seem like a big fat liar in the indictment. And not a clever one, since his deception hinged on, of all people, the popular monsignor of the trusted Sunday Church of Russert. Does Scooter hope to persuade a jury to believe him instead of Little Russ?

Good luck.

There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible.

Mr. Fitzgerald claims that Mr. Libby hurt national security by revealing the classified name of a C.I.A. officer. "Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life," he said.

He was not buying the arguments on the right that Mrs. Wilson was not really undercover or was under "light" cover, or that blowing her cover did not hurt the C.I.A.

"I can say that for the people who work at the C.I.A. and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected," he said, adding: "They run a risk when they work for the C.I.A. that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees."

To protect a war spun from fantasy, the Bush team played dirty. Unfortunately for them, this time they Swift-boated an American whose job gave her legal protection from the business-as-usual smear campaign.

The back story of this indictment is about the ongoing Tong wars of the C.I.A., the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon: the fight over who lied us into war. The C.I.A., after all, is the agency that asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate how one of its own was outed by the White House.

The question Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly declined to answer yesterday - Dick Cheney's poker face has finally met its match - was whether this stops at Scooter.

No one expects him to "flip," unless he finally gets the sort of fancy white-collar criminal lawyer that The Washington Post said he is searching for - like the ones who succeeded in getting Karl Rove off the hook, at least for now - and the lawyer tells Scooter to nail his boss to save himself.

But what we really want to know, now that we have the bare bones of who said what to whom in the indictment, is what they were all thinking there in that bunker and how that hothouse bred the idea that the way out of their Iraq problems was to slime their critics instead of addressing the criticism. What we really want to know, if Scooter testifies in the trial, and especially if he doesn't, is what Vice did to create the spidery atmosphere that led Scooter, who seemed like an interesting and decent guy, to let his zeal get the better of him.

Mr. Cheney, eager to be rid of the meddlesome Joe Wilson, got Valerie Wilson's name from the C.I.A. and passed it on to Scooter. He forced the C.I.A. to compromise one of its own, a sacrifice on the altar of faith-based intelligence.

Vice spent so much time lurking over at the C.I.A., trying to intimidate the analysts at Langley into twisting the intelligence about weapons, that he should have had one of his undisclosed locations there.

This administration's grand schemes always end up as the opposite. Officials say they're promoting national security when they're hurting it; they say they're squelching terrorists when they're breeding them; they say they're bringing stability to Iraq when the country's imploding. (The U.S. announced five more military deaths yesterday.)

And the most dangerous opposite of all: W. was listening to a surrogate father he shouldn't have been listening to, and not listening to his real father, who deserved to be listened to.

·                            Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company


 

Four More Years -- Courtesy of Judy Miller

Pieces in the big black ball of thread that is the Bush Presidency.

 

Four More Years -- Courtesy of Judy Miller

 

Among the many facts that we learned from Patrick Fitzgerald's press

conference, one of the most dramatic came in response to a question about

whether it was "worth keeping Judy Miller in jail for 85 days?": "I would

have wished nothing better," Fitzgerald replied, "than, when the subpoenas

were issued in August 2004, witnesses testified then. We would have been

here in October 2004 instead of October 2005. No one would have [gone] to

jail."

 

Hmmm, October 2004. That was right before November 2004.

 

Does anyone doubt that if Patrick Fitzgerald had held a press conference

announcing five indictments against a key member of the Bush administration

just before the last election it would have affected the outcome? Would the

two men whose lies Libby was ultimately lying to cover up have been

re-elected?

 

Thanks, Judy.

 

- Arianna Huffington

 

 


Friday, October 28, 2005

 

Swiftboating the Volcker Report

Russians taking lessons from the pros: If claims of forgeries worked on Dan Rather and CBS News, they might work on the UN.

 

October 28, 2005 NYTimes.com

Russia Calls Evidence in Oil-for-Food Report Forged

By ANDREW KRAMER

MOSCOW, Oct. 28 - Russian officials responded today to a report accusing companies and politicians here of paying hefty kickbacks in the United Nations oil-for-food program for Iraq by saying the documents cited as evidence are actually forgeries.

An independent committee, led by Paul A. Volcker, the former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, released the 623-page report on Thursday after an investigation that cost $33 million. The report included a detailed chapter on Russian oil companies and their dealings with the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.

Following its release, the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, said that countries should use the report's conclusions to prosecute companies under their jurisdictions. Russia, along with France, had won preferential treatment under the oil-for-food program. It handled a third of all oil contracts from Mr. Hussein's government, first because Moscow supported Iraq politically and later, as Iraq became more desperate for money, because Russian oil companies began paying big kickbacks, the report said.

Oil industry analysts here have shrugged off the findings, noting that they probably will not lead to prosecutions in Russia, a country with enough money laundering and kickback scandals of its own.

The Russian minister of foreign affairs, Sergey V. Lavrov, remarked today he had not read the report, but said that at least some of the documents used to support the report's conclusions are counterfeits.

"Documents that were shown to us were forged on a number of occasions," Mr. Lavrov said, according to the Interfax news agency. Mr. Lavrov did not indicate which documents he was referring to, and a ministry spokesman declined to elaborate.

The chairman of the international relations committee in the upper chamber of Russia's parliament, Mikhail Margelov, said the "fabrications" had "cast a shadow" on the entire, years-long investigative effort of Mr. Volcker's committee.

The leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky, who was accused in the report of paying an oil surcharge by transferring title of a Moscow building owned by his son to the Iraqi government, also called the report's supporting documents forged. "These are all fabrications," he was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Mr. Zhirinovsky tried, but failed, to regain title to the building after the United States toppled Mr. Hussein's government in 2003, according to the report. The building is now used as a school by the Iraqi embassy here.

A spokesman for Lukoil, Russia's largest private oil company, also accused of paying kickbacks, said the report's evidence was "unconvincing."

Yet so much oil company cash was passing through the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow in the late 1990's that Iraqi officials developed a system to send it to Baghdad in red canvas diplomatic bags, sealed with wax, on chartered flights, the report said. Each bag held $1.5 million in $100 bills.

Strangely, the embassy also issued receipts to Russian companies for the illegal surcharges and sent copies to Baghdad, the report said. An Iraqi administrative organ, the State Oil Marketing Organization, kept detailed records of the surcharges. Those presumably fell into United States hands after the invasion and occupation of Baghdad.

One of those receipts, a handwritten Arabic note with a line in Russian at the bottom noting a payment of $609,290 from the Russian company Zangas, was posted on the Volcker committee's Web site along with the report.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

 

Plame Game Prisoners' Dilemma

Tom Schelling got enNobeled for showing how game theory fits a multitude of conflict situations. The classic Prisoners’ Dilemma game is all about who in a conspiracy squeals first and most to the law. The Plame Game spinning has been ratcheting up to whirling dervish velocities: Miller rats out Libby, Rove is ratting out Libby, and several stories have Bush ratting on Rove (“Bush Whacks Rove” was the headline of one wholly unconvincing damage control piece intended to distance GWB from the sordid mess).

Given how interesting things got with last weekend’s stories, revelations, and talk show appearances, the timing of this week’s news suggests the WH spin cycle is completely off its bearings. Lots of new stuff on Wednesday and Thursday means every scribbler covering the Washington beat has ample time for story, opinion, and angling for TV time. Since the WH once again failed to quash the mid-week revelations, they are in for another tough weekend at the hands of the chattering classes. The on-line markets have Rove and Libby heading toward 90% chance of being indicted.

Prediction: Somebody in the next week will have to quit to “spend more time with the family.”

 

TODAY'S HIGHLIGHTS 
Rove Told Jury Libby May Have Been His Source In Leak Case
White House adviser Karl Rove told the grand jury in the CIA leak case that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, may have told him that CIA operative Valerie Plame worked for the intelligence agency before her identity was revealed, a source familiar with Rove's account...
(By Jim VandeHei and Carol D. Leonnig, The Washington Post)


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 

OpEd: Life in The Daily Show

Unfortunately, he is not making this up. (Yes, all of this is a fake news story. I just wish that it weren't so true.)

October 19, 2005 NYTimes.com

Op-Ed Columnist

Leading by (Bad) Example

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18 (Iraq News Agency) - A delegation of Iraqi judges and journalists abruptly left the U.S. today, cutting short its visit to study the workings of American democracy. A delegation spokesman said the Iraqis were "bewildered" by some of the behavior of the Bush administration and felt it was best to limit their exposure to the U.S. system at this time, when Iraq is taking its first baby steps toward democracy.

The lead Iraqi delegate, Muhammad Mithaqi, a noted secular Sunni judge who had recently survived an assassination attempt by Islamist radicals, said that he was stunned when he heard President Bush telling Republicans that one reason they should support Harriet Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court was because of "her religion." She is described as a devout evangelical Christian.

Mithaqi said that after two years of being lectured to by U.S. diplomats in Baghdad about the need to separate "mosque from state" in the new Iraq, he was also floored to read that the former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr, now a law school dean, said on the radio show of the conservative James Dobson that Miers deserved support because she was "a very, very strong Christian [who] should be a source of great comfort and assistance to people in the households of faith around the country."

"Now let me get this straight," Judge Mithaqi said. "You are lecturing us about keeping religion out of politics, and then your own president and conservative legal scholars go and tell your public to endorse Miers as a Supreme Court justice because she is an evangelical Christian.

"How would you feel if you picked up your newspapers next week and read that the president of Iraq justified the appointment of an Iraqi Supreme Court justice by telling Iraqis: 'Don't pay attention to his lack of legal expertise. Pay attention to the fact that he is a Muslim fundamentalist and prays at a Saudi-funded Wahhabi mosque.' Is that the Iraq you sent your sons to build and to die for? I don't think so. We can't have our people exposed to such talk."

A fellow delegation member, Abdul Wahab al-Unfi, a Shiite lawyer who walks with a limp today as a result of torture in a Saddam prison, said he did not want to spend another day in Washington after listening to the Bush team defend its right to use torture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfi said he was heartened by the fact that the Senate voted 90 to 9 to ban U.S. torture of military prisoners. But he said he was depressed by reports that the White House might veto the bill because of that amendment, which would ban "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of P.O.W.'s.

"I survived eight years of torture under Saddam," Unfi said. "Virtually every extended family in Iraq has someone who was tortured or killed in a Baathist prison. Yet, already, more than 100 prisoners of war have died in U.S. custody. How is that possible from the greatest democracy in the world? There must be no place for torture in the future Iraq. We are going home now because I don't want our delegation corrupted by all this American right-to-torture talk."

Finally, the delegation member Sahaf al-Sahafi, editor of one of Iraq's new newspapers, said he wanted to go home after watching a televised videoconference last Thursday between soldiers in Iraq and President Bush. The soldiers, 10 Americans and an Iraqi, were coached by a Pentagon aide on how to respond to Mr. Bush.

"I had nightmares watching this," Sahafi said. "It was right from the Saddam playbook. I was particularly upset to hear the Iraqi sergeant major, Akeel Shakir Nasser, tell Mr. Bush: 'Thank you very much for everything. I like you.' It was exactly the kind of staged encounter that Saddam used to have with his troops."

Sahafi said he was also floored to see the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, declare that a Bush administration contract that paid Armstrong Williams, a supposedly independent commentator, to promote Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind policy constituted illegal propaganda - an attempt by the government to buy good press.

"Saddam bought and paid journalists all over the Arab world," Sahafi said. "It makes me sick to see even a drop of that in America."

By coincidence, the Iraqi delegates departed Washington just as the Bush aide Karen Hughes returned from the Middle East. Her trip was aimed at improving America's image among Muslims by giving them a more accurate view of America and President Bush. She said, "The more they know about us, the more they will like us."

(Yes, all of this is a fake news story. I just wish that it weren't so true.)


 

More doubt on AQ letter

[From Chris E] The importance of this story is the source: the Washington Times (UPI is owned by News World Communications, the same parent company of the Times [and is owned, in turn, by Rev. Moon's Unification Church]), which is a favorite of certain Administration sources [tho they prefer the New York Times for PSYOP]

 

Terrorist letter's validity doubted

By Shaun Waterman

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL Washington Times Published October 19, 2005

 

Two terrorism analysts are raising questions about the authenticity of a letter purportedly written by al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahri to Iraqi terrorist leader Abu Musab Zarqawi. U.S. intelligence officials have expressed "high confidence" in the letter's authenticity, and President Bush referred to it in his weekend radio address, saying it "lays out why al Qaeda views Iraq as 'the place for the greatest battle' of our day."

 

But terrorism analyst Stephen Ulph of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation said he had nagging questions about the document, which outlines a four-stage strategy for the insurgency in Iraq. After successfully expelling the Americans, the letter tells Zarqawi, he should "establish an Islamic emirate ... over as much territory as you can ... in Sunni areas" of Iraq. He then should spread the jihad to neighboring countries, the letter says, setting the stage for all-out war with Israel. Mr. Ulph expressed surprise at the use of the word "Israel," noting that jihadists typically are loath to name the country, instead using terms like the "Zionist entity." He said the four stages are well-known to contemporary Islamic warriors and that it seems unlikely that al-Zawahri would find it necessary to spell them out in detail to Zarqawi.

 

Raymond Ibrahim, an American scholar of Arabic history and language, echoed that point. "That would be a given," he said. "There's no reason to set it out in so much detail." Mr. Ibrahim, who plans to publish a collection of al Qaeda documents and has read many of al-Zawahri's writings, said the style of address was both "too chummy and too deferential. ... It doesn't sound too much like him," he said. Yosri Fouda, chief investigative correspondent for the Arabic satellite news channel Al Jazeera, disagreed. He said the letter "is Zawahri's style, linguistically and ideologically." Mr. Ulph said that without more information about the provenance of the document, it was impossible to be sure about its authenticity. "It's a just a gut feeling," he said of his assessment.

 

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, cautioned last week against "reading too much into a single source of intelligence." Committee spokesman Jamal Ware said later that the Michigan Republican had not been trying to cast doubt on the authenticity of the document, but "he would like to see some additional corroboration. It's not definitive."


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

 

The Head, The Tail, The Whole Damn Thing: Rant On Presidential Leadership

(With apologies to Dennis Miller--from September 2002)

Frank J. Stech

Before we have another 11 September, somebody needs to rethink the White House spin on Leadership and the Global War on Terrorism. Dick Chaney probably would fund the work. Anything to get out of the cave he’s been forced to hide in since he had to “take charge” while POTUS, in an apparent (if not real) panic was staying out of Dodge (Washington and New York) all through 9-11, the first day of the global war on terrorism.

The day-long Air Force 1 excursion on 9-11, hauling “Dubya” from Florida, to Louisiana, to Nebraska, to protect the President from illusory threats was, well, a shameful way to start a war. The subsequent “image management” from the WH (the “credible threats” that turned out to be neither credible nor threats) only made it worse. Trembling at shadows and running to hide. From what school of leadership was that?

Rumsfeld didn’t let Secret Service agents “hustle him to safety.” He just went to help at the Pentagon disaster site, then went back to work. Maybe not smart, but brave. Cheney stayed in the White House war room (basically fighting the first day of the war). When is Chaney not in charge? How hard was this?

Cheney got exiled for holding the fort while getting the White House staff to safety, while Dubya’s handlers hid him all day on 9-11, basically leaving Washington and New York to fend for themselves, then Dubya’s handlers had the gall to sell photos of Dubya staring out the window of Air Force 1, looking at, what? Cows in Nebraska? Dubya was in charge all this time? Uhhh, not exactly.

Americans know how leaders are supposed to behave. Georgie Patton knew to let the troops see him drive to the front and then fly to the rear. Winston worked at 10 Downing with a London Bobby at the door for security. Winston’s hidey hole was across (and under) the street from the Houses of Parliament and got bombed regularly by the Luftwaffe. Winston didn’t even wait for the smoke to let up before he walked the rubble (and had his picture taken). Winston even got carried away with his own very real heroism. When Winston insisted that Ike let him watch the D-Day landings from the invasion fleet (which even Ike didn’t do), King George 6th told his Prime Minister, “If you go, I must too.” Winton stayed where he belonged.

Great lines from the WWII BBC: “Buckingham Palace was bombed again tonight, The King and Queen are safe...” The late Queen Mum, wife of George 6th, said during the war she stayed in the Palace because “the children needed her and she needed to stay with the King, and the King would never leave.” Message to the enemy: pure courage and utter defiance, with class. No doubt about it. It was their finest hour.

Then there was Rudi G at Ground Zero in NYC, looking (then and now) more presidential than just about anyone in Washington. Rudi G became the hottest ticket in politics, followed by the “Rummy Show” at the Pentagon. And well deserved. When the chips were down, it was obvious who had the sand, and who did not.

Now we have Dubya’s bookend flight, an unnecessary PR landing on an aircraft carrier, to “celebrate” a war that we didn’t need to fight, which measurably distracted us and the world from the war we do need to fight. Way to fly, Mr. President!

Memo to Dubya: Come back to earth. You have a job you are supposed to be doing for us.

Since Dubya got himself lost on 9-11, the National Command Authority seems to have misplaced the real fight (global war on terror) and invented another one that it would rather fight (on Iraq). The global part shrank into the coalition of the trivial. If only they could stop attacking each other and just learn to live together. Not the Israelis and Palestinians or the Iraqi factions: the Defense and State Departments.

Ask the Saudis if they are happy with the National Command Authority’s decision to fight Al Qaeda by conquering Iraq. The global war on terrorism and the CEO-style presidency have come across to the world more like a combination of Gary Cooper’s deputies in High Noon and the Amity Town Council in Jaws. Is anybody going to lead the real fight?

The Saudis just had their 9-11, despite the conquest of Saddam. Next time we have a 9-11 in the United States (the Administration has repeatedly said they can probably do nothing to prevent it), let’s hope the White House handlers remember that public perception of leadership (what the hell, just call it “leadership”) is more important than duck and cover, picking fights we don’t need, or adolescent flights of fantasy. For a change, let’s fight the war that needs fighting.

Leadership isn’t Tom Ridge coordinating 40 (or 50, or 70) federal agencies, or John Ashcroft waging war on the Bill of Rights (except bearing assault weapons—give those back), or Dick Chaney making the Middle East safe for Halliburton. Leadership is “The Leader,” promising to “We, the People,” to insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, or bloody well die trying, so help me God. Fighting the real fight, not some Top Gun fantasy version of reality. No more, no less.

It is dealing with Al Qaeda and their friends like Captain Quint told the Amity Town Council he’d deal with Jaws, the shark: “the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”

Message to Dubya: Get out of Air Force 1 and other airplanes and drive to the front, so the troops can see the way to the real war.

That’s just me. I could be wrong.

September 2002

October 2005: Nothing has changed. I have more sand in my pants cuffs than Dubya has in his whole body. He continues to think his adolescent angst about his Daddy and Mommy amounts to leadership.

 

Auditors For Iraq War Withdrawn In 2004

Wholly speculative conspiracy theory: I hypothesize that the reason the public has been barred from seeing the minutes of VP Chaney’s discussions with his oil and energy company cronies some four-plus years ago is that the word “Iraq” appeared repeatedly. When going to war gets your cronies $142B in unaudited contracts (probably 2 to 3 times that number), it is, as Mel Brooks kind of said, “Good to be VP.” As Chaney actually said, “It’s our due.”

I suspect the Bush-Chaney Team had decided to go to war in Iraq as soon as the Supreme Court said they were elected. The WMD was the smoke screen to hide the real reasons for: inferiority complex (Bush), and oil and unaudited contracting (Chaney). “It’s our due.”

 

Miami Herald October 18, 2005

Auditors For Iraq War Withdrawn In 2004 By Seth Borenstein

 

WASHINGTON - The chief Pentagon agency in charge of investigating and reporting fraud and waste in Defense Department spending in Iraq

quietly pulled out of the war zone a year ago -- leaving what experts say are gaps in the oversight of how more than $140 billion is being spent.

 

The Defense Department's Office of Inspector General sent auditors into Iraq when the war started more than two years ago to ensure taxpayers were getting their money's worth for bullets, meals-ready-to-eat and other items.

 

The auditors were withdrawn in the fall of 2004 because other agencies were watching spending, too. But experts say those other agencies don't have the expertise, access and broad mandate that the inspector general has -- and don't make their reports public.

 

That means the bulk of money being spent in Iraq doesn't get public scrutiny, leaving the door open for possible waste, fraud, and abuse, experts say.

 

U.S. spending in Iraq falls into two big categories -- fighting the war and rebuilding the country. A Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has a 45-person staff in Baghdad to monitor $18.4 billion in contracts.

 

In contrast, the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General, whose responsibility includes reviewing the $142 billion earmarked for the military, doesn't have a single auditor or accountant in Iraq tracking spending, Knight Ridder has found.

 

Spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch, of the Defense Department IG's office, acknowledged Monday that the agency has no auditors in Iraq and that its criminal investigative arm ceased operations in Iraq in October 2004. Lynch said taxpayers' interests are served instead by other watchdog agencies, including the Defense Contract Audit Agency and the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

 

Since the war in Iraq began, government spending has been tainted by charges of inflated pricing, double billing, bogus shipments of goods and kickbacks.

 

The inspector general's relocation makes finding cases of abuse more difficult, government officials and other contracting experts say.

 

Between October 2004 and this month, only one of the 107 audits listed on the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General's website is about Iraq.

 

By contrast, the reconstruction inspector general has completed 25 audits and has 60 investigations under way.

 

The issue is likely to be discussed today at a hearing of the national security subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee.

 

Lynch said the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General currently has no specific audits being conducted in Iraq.

 

Lynch said taxpayers will be protected nonetheless by the many different agencies that are required by law to monitor various aspects

of the efforts in Iraq.

 

That's not good enough, watchdog groups said.

 

“Our Iraq presence isn't going away; the only thing going away is the people watching how the money is being spent, said Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. If you don't have anyone watching it, the precedent is that the money will be wasted.”


 

Commerce Dept: Just The Bright Side, Thanks

Lying to your employers (us) Department: And if you have to learn Bengali to get a job, think of it as a fringe benefit.


OCTOBER 17, 2005  BusinessWeek.com

UP FRONT

Just The Bright Side, Thanks

After holding off for more than a year, the Commerce Dept. has quietly released a study of offshoring -the movement of white-collar jobs to low-wage countries. But it's not the even-handed assessment completed by staff analysts in June, 2004, after six months of research. The staff report was largely ditched, say outside experts who heard the staffers' views. Instead, these critics charge, Commerce political appointees put out a 12-page report that portrays offshoring as an unconditional boon to the U.S. economy. After BusinessWeek's print edition went to press on Oct. 5, the Commerce Dept. responded by saying: "In carefully developing the report, we sought to ensure that it was thorough, objective and that the competitive environment was properly assessed and supported by hard data."

Commerce has only released its final report to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) who ordered it up, but BusinessWeek has obtained a copy, as well as a slide show tied to the original research, presented by staffers at a conference last December.

The staff researchers' presentation gave both the pros and cons, comparing factors that favor U.S. high-tech job growth with those that favor offshoring. The official version dispenses with most of the disadvantages. Instead it points to pro-offshoring studies done by McKinsey Global Institute and uncritically cites data from a lobbying group that represents the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies. "No objective analysts, even if they were in favor of outsourcing, would write a report like this," says Ron Hira, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, who saw the December presentation. To see the slide show and official report, go to www.businessweek.com/extras

By Aaron Bernstein

 

Online Extra: The Commerce Dept.'s Official Offshoring Report
Here's the department's full-length "Six-Month Assessment of Workforce Globallization In Certain Knowledge-Based Industries. To read the report, http://images.businessweek.com/ss/05/10/commercebriefing/commerce_offshoring_report.pdf

 

Online Extra: Commerce Staffers' Original Offshoring Report
Here's the original presentation prepared by Commerce Dept. researchers, with pros and cons for the U.S. workforce. To view the slide show,

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/05/10/commercebriefing/index.htm


Monday, October 17, 2005

 

Miller Times

Judi Miller (whom we have excoriated for several years for being such a dupe for WMD “intelligence” stories) is finally being characterized by her peers for what she is: an energetic, sloppy reporter, who became a gullible mouthpiece, easily manipulated by “unnamed government sources” to justify an unnecessary war.

 

washingtonpost.com

Reporter, Times Are Criticized for Missteps
Media Analysts Question Decisions by Miller, Newspaper's Editors Regarding Leak

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 17, 2005; A02

Media analysts assailed New York Times reporter Judith Miller and her editors yesterday for what they called a series of missteps and questionable decisions revealed in two lengthy articles about the problems of covering the CIA leak investigation while defending the embattled journalist.

Alex Jones, a former Times reporter who heads the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, noted the paper's disclosure that Executive Editor Bill Keller had told Miller in 2003 she could no longer cover Iraq and weapons of mass destruction after some of her stories turned out to be wrong.

"If the New York Times does not trust Judy Miller to do stories in her area of expertise, what do they trust her to do, and why should we trust what she does?" Jones asked. "She's a great, energetic talent, but investigative reporters need to be managed very closely, and her characterization of herself as Miss Run Amok is something an institution like the New York Times can't afford."

Critics inside and outside the paper said they were amazed that Miller would not answer questions about her dealings with editors or show her notes to colleagues investigating the matter. They were equally surprised that Keller and Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. left most legal decisions to Miller without pressing her about her conversations with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Cheney's top aide, or asking to see her notes during the battle that landed her in jail for nearly three months.

Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor, said Miller's limited cooperation was "unforgivable" and provided "dead giveaways of someone who's hiding the truth."

"I just don't think there is any more Judy Miller credibility," Rosen said, while crediting Times editors with "telling some uncomfortable truths about themselves." He predicted that Miller will not return to the Times after a leave during which she plans to write a book -- a view shared by a number of her colleagues.

In yesterday's Times, Miller said Libby had told her on two or three occasions that Valerie Plame, the wife of a White House critic, worked at the CIA. Miller said she agreed to testify in the case only after Libby persuaded her to accept a waiver of their confidentiality agreement that his lawyer says was available all along.

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism, applauded the Times for its "candor" in revealing "a serious divide within the paper" about Miller and management's handling of the case. But, he said, "the acknowledgment that the editor and publisher of the paper did not know what Miller's source had told her is remarkable. . . . It is still not clear entirely what principle Miller felt she was protecting that also allowed her to testify. Is it the waivers? Or is it that she just got tired of jail and scared she might have to stay there?"

Claudia Payne, a Times editor and friend of Miller, said the reporter "cooperated to the best of her ability under the circumstances." Payne said much of the criticism "is based on perceptions of Judy that are uninformed. Some of the declarations about high-handedness and trampling on people are simply not what I've experienced."

Others disagree. Craig Pyes, a former contract writer for the Times who teamed up with Miller for a series on al Qaeda, complained about her in a December 2000 memo to Times editors and asked that his byline not appear on one piece.

"I'm not willing to work further on this project with Judy Miller," wrote Pyes, who now writes for the Los Angeles Times. He added: "I do not trust her work, her judgment, or her conduct. She is an advocate, and her actions threaten the integrity of the enterprise, and of everyone who works with her. . . . She has turned in a draft of a story of a collective enterprise that is little more than dictation from government sources over several days, filled with unproven assertions and factual inaccuracies," and "tried to stampede it into the paper."

Pyes said yesterday he had no problem with the articles as published, which helped win one of two Pulitzer Prizes he shared at the paper. Miller, who is traveling, did not respond to a phone message, and her attorney declined to comment.

No single facet of yesterday's Times account drew more condemnation than Miller saying she cannot recall the name of another source who told her about "Valerie Flame," as she recorded the name in her notebook. Miller said the notation was in a different part of the same notebook used for her first interview with Libby in June 2003.

"It's hard for anyone to imagine that Judy either didn't know who provided that information or, if it was clearly someone else, why she did not make that available," Jones said.

Bloggers were much blunter. "This is as believable as Woodward and Bernstein not recalling who Deep Throat was," wrote columnist Arianna Huffington. Magazine writer Andrew Sullivan accused Miller of "pulling a Clinton." And Editor & Publisher columnist Greg Mitchell said Miller "should be promptly dismissed for crimes against journalism."

Several Times staffers, who asked not to be identified because of a reluctance to criticize their bosses, expressed skepticism about Miller's contention that she pushed an editor she would not identify to pursue the story of Plame's outing. Managing Editor Jill Abramson said Miller made no such request.

Staffers also complained that Miller's legal battle curtailed the paper's coverage. The Times delayed posting an online article on her release from jail -- which was ready at 2 p.m. -- until the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the story hours later.

"The Times felt helpless," Rosen said. "It couldn't print the news. It was very much trapped."


 

OpEd: It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby

Rich's OpEd column connects the dots from the Plame Game Grand Jury probe to the "White House Iraq Group"--that is the "Bush administration ... ensuring that "the intelligence and facts" about Iraq's W.M.D.'s "were being fixed around the policy" of going to war" long before the war option was even publically on the table.
 The vice president cited as evidence a front-page article, later debunked, about supposedly nefarious aluminum tubes co-written by Judy Miller in that morning's Times. The national security journalist James Bamford, in "A Pretext for War," writes that the article was all too perfectly timed to facilitate "exactly the sort of propaganda coup that the White House Iraq Group had been set up to stage-manage." The administration's doomsday imagery was ratcheted up from that day on. As Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post would determine in the first account of WHIG a full year later, the administration's "escalation of nuclear rhetoric" could be traced to the group's formation. Along with mushroom clouds, uranium was another favored image, the Post report noted, "because anyone could see its connection to an atomic bomb." It appeared in a Bush radio address the weekend after the Rice-Cheney Sunday show blitz and would reach its apotheosis with the infamously fictional 16 words about "uranium from Africa" in Mr. Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address on the eve of war. Throughout those crucial seven months between the creation of WHIG and the start of the American invasion of Iraq, there were indications that evidence of a Saddam nuclear program was fraudulent or nonexistent.
So, the remaining question is whether the Special Prosecutor is playing just the Plame Game, or going after any of the deeper lies and their fabricators.
 
October 16, 2005 NYTimes.com
Op-Ed Columnist

It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby

THERE hasn't been anything like it since Martha Stewart fended off questions about her stock-trading scandal by manically chopping cabbage on "The Early Show" on CBS. Last week the setting was "Today" on NBC, where the image of President Bush manically hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity construction site on the Gulf Coast was juggled with the sight of him trying to duck Matt Lauer's questions about Karl Rove.

As with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Bush's paroxysm of panic was must-see TV. "The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts," Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in "Psycho." Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.

That stonewall may start to crumble in a Washington courtroom this week or next. In a sense it already has. Now, as always, what matters most in this case is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney.

Mr. Wilson and his wife were trashed to protect that larger plot. Because the personnel in both stories overlap, the bits and pieces we've learned about the leak inquiry over the past two years have gradually helped fill in the über-narrative about the war. Last week was no exception. Deep in a Wall Street Journal account of Judy Miller's grand jury appearance was this crucial sentence: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group."

Very little has been written about the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq, was never announced. Only much later would a newspaper article or two mention it in passing, reporting that it had been set up by Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq.

Of course, the official Bush history would have us believe that in August 2002 no decision had yet been made on that war. Dates bracketing the formation of WHIG tell us otherwise. On July 23, 2002 - a week or two before WHIG first convened in earnest - a British official told his peers, as recorded in the now famous Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration was ensuring that "the intelligence and facts" about Iraq's W.M.D.'s "were being fixed around the policy" of going to war. And on Sept. 6, 2002 - just a few weeks after WHIG first convened - Mr. Card alluded to his group's existence by telling Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times that there was a plan afoot to sell a war against Saddam Hussein: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

The official introduction of that product began just two days later. On the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 8, Ms. Rice warned that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," and Mr. Cheney, who had already started the nuclear doomsday drumbeat in three August speeches, described Saddam as "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." The vice president cited as evidence a front-page article, later debunked, about supposedly nefarious aluminum tubes co-written by Judy Miller in that morning's Times. The national security journalist James Bamford, in "A Pretext for War," writes that the article was all too perfectly timed to facilitate "exactly the sort of propaganda coup that the White House Iraq Group had been set up to stage-manage."

The administration's doomsday imagery was ratcheted up from that day on. As Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post would determine in the first account of WHIG a full year later, the administration's "escalation of nuclear rhetoric" could be traced to the group's formation. Along with mushroom clouds, uranium was another favored image, the Post report noted, "because anyone could see its connection to an atomic bomb." It appeared in a Bush radio address the weekend after the Rice-Cheney Sunday show blitz and would reach its apotheosis with the infamously fictional 16 words about "uranium from Africa" in Mr. Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address on the eve of war.

Throughout those crucial seven months between the creation of WHIG and the start of the American invasion of Iraq, there were indications that evidence of a Saddam nuclear program was fraudulent or nonexistent. Joseph Wilson's C.I.A. mission to Niger, in which he failed to find any evidence to back up uranium claims, took place nearly a year before the president's 16 words. But the truth never mattered. The Bush-Cheney product rolled out by Card, Rove, Libby & Company had been bought by Congress, the press and the public. The intelligence and facts had been successfully fixed to sell the war, and any memory of Mr. Bush's errant 16 words melted away in Shock and Awe. When, months later, a national security official, Stephen Hadley, took "responsibility" for allowing the president to address the nation about mythical uranium, no one knew that Mr. Hadley, too, had been a member of WHIG.

It was not until the war was supposedly over - with "Mission Accomplished," in May 2003 - that Mr. Wilson started to add his voice to those who were disputing the administration's uranium hype. Members of WHIG had a compelling motive to shut him down. In contrast to other skeptics, like Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner), Mr. Wilson was an American diplomat; he had reported his findings in Niger to our own government. He was a dagger aimed at the heart of WHIG and its disinformation campaign. Exactly who tried to silence him and how is what Mr. Fitzgerald presumably will tell us.

It's long been my hunch that the WHIG-ites were at their most brazen (and, in legal terms, reckless) during the many months that preceded the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald as special counsel. When Mr. Rove was asked on camera by ABC News in September 2003 if he had any knowledge of the Valerie Wilson leak and said no, it was only hours before the Justice Department would open its first leak investigation. When Scott McClellan later declared that he had been personally assured by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby that they were "not involved" with the leak, the case was still in the safe hands of the attorney general then, John Ashcroft, himself a three-time Rove client in past political campaigns. Though Mr. Rove may be known as "Bush's brain," he wasn't smart enough to anticipate that Justice Department career employees would eventually pressure Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest, clearing the way for an outside prosecutor as independent as Mr. Fitzgerald.

"Bush's Brain" is the title of James Moore and Wayne Slater's definitive account of Mr. Rove's political career. But Mr. Rove is less his boss's brain than another alliterative organ (or organs), that which provides testosterone. As we learn in "Bush's Brain," bad things (usually character assassination) often happen to Bush foes, whether Ann Richards or John McCain. On such occasions, Mr. Bush stays compassionately above the fray while the ruthless Mr. Rove operates below the radar, always separated by "a layer of operatives" from any ill behavior that might implicate him. "There is no crime, just a victim," Mr. Moore and Mr. Slater write of this repeated pattern.

THIS modus operandi was foolproof, shielding the president as well as Mr. Rove from culpability, as long as it was about winning an election. The attack on Mr. Wilson, by contrast, has left them and the Cheney-Libby tag team vulnerable because it's about something far bigger: protecting the lies that took the country into what the Reagan administration National Security Agency director, Lt. Gen. William Odom, recently called "the greatest strategic disaster in United States history."

Whether or not Mr. Fitzgerald uncovers an indictable crime, there is once again a victim, but that victim is not Mr. or Mrs. Wilson; it's the nation. It is surely a joke of history that even as the White House sells this weekend's constitutional referendum as yet another "victory" for democracy in Iraq, we still don't know the whole story of how our own democracy was hijacked on the way to war.


 

Saturday, October 15, 2005

 

Plame Game: Conflicts of Interests

Two Points:

Changing your story too many times is never very good when you are trying to deceive:

Rove…has emerged as a central figure in the investigation. …His story has changed from the earliest days, when he told reporters he had nothing to do with the leak of Plame's name. Since then, Rove has testified that he discussed Plame in passing with two reporters, including Robert D. Novak, whose July 14, 2003, syndicated column first publicly identified Plame as a CIA operative married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV….The source close to Rove would not provide details of yesterday's exchange, other than to say the grand jury was very interested in discrepancies in testimony.

The roots of this case are the deception of the public about the truth of the WMD in Iraq (i.e., the reason why Plame’s husband was being attacked by the WH). This case seems to slide inexorably closer to those roots day-by-day:

Some lawyers in the case think Fitzgerald may no longer be interested in proving whether Plame's name was illegally leaked to reporters. …Instead, the lawyers … think the special prosecutor … Fitzgerald could be trying to establish that a group of White House officials violated the Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of classified material, or that they engaged in a conspiracy to discredit Wilson in part by identifying Plame….Another possibility, the lawyers say, is that Fitzgerald could charge Rove or others with perjury or providing false testimony before the grand jury. This is a popular avenue for prosecutors in white-collar criminal cases.

washingtonpost.com

Rove Pressed On Conflicts, Source Says
Questions Said to Focus On Differing Accounts

By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 15, 2005; A01

The grand jury investigating the CIA leak case pressed White House senior adviser Karl Rove yesterday to more fully explain his conversations with reporters about CIA operative Valerie Plame, including discrepancies between his testimony and the account provided by a key witness in the investigation, according to a source familiar with Rove's account.

Making his fourth appearance before the grand jury, Rove answered a broad range of questions for 4 1/2 hours, including why he did not initially tell federal agents about a July 2003 conversation about Plame with the witness, Time magazine's Matthew Cooper, the source said.

Rove's defense team asserts that President Bush's deputy chief of staff has not committed a crime but nevertheless anticipates that special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald could find a way to bring charges in the next two weeks, the source said.

"The special counsel has not advised Mr. Rove that he is a target of the investigation and affirmed that he has made no decision concerning charges," Robert Luskin, Rove's attorney, said in a statement.

Fitzgerald is believed to be in the final days of a 22-month investigation into whether any administration officials knowingly identified Plame to the media to retaliate against her husband, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war. White House officials are bracing for the possibility that Rove; I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff; or other officials could be indicted.

But it remains a mystery who -- if anyone -- will be charged in the case. The grand jury expires Oct. 28.

One person who will not be charged is Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify in the case before making two recent appearances before the grand jury. Miller was recently told by Fitzgerald that she is only a witness in the case, according to a source close to Miller.

"Judy has always been a witness in this case and nothing more," said Robert S. Bennett, Miller's attorney. "She is neither a subject nor a target of the investigation."

A team of Times reporters is preparing a report on Miller's role in the saga that could be published as early as tomorrow. Until a contempt-of-court citation against her was lifted, Miller refused to tell her story to the paper on the advice of her lawyers. But Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said yesterday that Miller is now cooperating with fellow reporters on the story.

Rove, the mastermind of Bush's political career, who is considered the leading architect of White House political and policy plans, has emerged as a central figure in the investigation. In addition to his four trips to the grand jury, he spoke with investigators several times early in the probe.

His story has changed from the earliest days, when he told reporters he had nothing to do with the leak of Plame's name. Since then, Rove has testified that he discussed Plame in passing with two reporters, including Robert D. Novak, whose July 14, 2003, syndicated column first publicly identified Plame as a CIA operative married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

On July 6, 2003, Wilson said publicly that he had found no evidence for the administration's claim that Iraq was seeking uranium for use in a nuclear weapons program. Wilson had been sent to the African nation of Niger by the CIA to investigate that claim.

But Rove has maintained that he did not name Plame or disclose her covert status, and it is not clear whether his remarks amount to a crime.

The source close to Rove would not provide details of yesterday's exchange, other than to say the grand jury was very interested in discrepancies in testimony. Rove initially did not tell federal agents about his conversations with Cooper. In an earlier grand jury appearance, he testified that the purpose of their conversation was welfare reform, not Wilson or Plame.

But Cooper testified that he did not recall discussing welfare reform at all. He said he had detailed notes on their discussion about Wilson and Rove's passing reference to Wilson's wife.

There is also a mystery about a once-missing e-mail. The e-mail -- from Rove to a White House colleague -- shows Rove discussing his conversation with Cooper and saying he waved the reporter off Wilson's allegations. It did not surface until earlier this year, well after the investigation was in full swing.

Luskin said Rove is finished testifying in the case, which would seem to suggest the end of the case is near, lawyers involved in it said.

Because Fitzgerald mandated secrecy in the case, the role of other administration officials remains unknown to all but the special prosecutor's staff. Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, has not returned reporters' phone calls for several days. Neither has Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman who testified early in the case and was present on a July 2003 Air Force One flight on which a memo that included information about Plame was circulated.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who in 2003 denied any White House involvement in the leak, has refused comment for several months.

Libby, who, like Rove, has testified to discussing Plame without using her name or disclosing her CIA status, also appears to be another main focus of the probe.

Wilson's campaign caught the attention of Vice President Cheney's office nearly two months before Plame was unmasked, according to senior administration officials. Cheney's aides pressed the CIA for information about Wilson.

By early June -- one month before Plame was identified in Novak's column -- the State Department had prepared a memo on Wilson's trip that contained a small section about Plame marked "S" for secret. A few days before Novak's column was published, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell brought the memo with him on a trip to Africa with Bush and many of his top aides.

Some lawyers in the case think Fitzgerald may no longer be interested in proving whether Plame's name was illegally leaked to reporters. That would require the difficult task of showing that an official knew the material was classified, that the official knew that the CIA was actively working to keep it a secret and that the person purposely leaked the information.

Instead, the lawyers, who based their opinions on the kinds of questions Fitzgerald is asking and not on firsthand knowledge, think the special prosecutor may be headed in a different direction. They said Fitzgerald could be trying to establish that a group of White House officials violated the Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of classified material, or that they engaged in a conspiracy to discredit Wilson in part by identifying Plame.

Another possibility, the lawyers say, is that Fitzgerald could charge Rove or others with perjury or providing false testimony before the grand jury. This is a popular avenue for prosecutors in white-collar criminal cases.

While other aides describe a nervous and unsettled White House, Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. said that the president's advisers are going about their business and trying to ignore the controversy.

"Well, obviously we're all human beings and we know that there are external activities that impact the environment you're working in . . .," Card said in the transcript of an interview with C-SPAN that will air tomorrow. "It is something that is there, but it is something that we don't talk about because it would be inappropriate. . . . I haven't found anyone that is distracted because of the ongoing investigation, but we all know that it's taking place and we're all working to cooperate with the investigators."


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