Archive for January 23rd, 2007

Lawyers Paint Libby As Sacrificial Lamb

‘Scooter’ Libby Laywers Paint Former Aide As Sacrificial Lamb in CIA Leak Case

WASHINGTON Jan 23, 2007 (AP)— Attorneys for former White House aide “Scooter” Libby said Tuesday that Bush administration officials tried to blame him for the leak of a CIA operative’s name to cover up for presidential adviser Karl Rove’s own disclosures.

The prosecution insisted that it was Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, who lied about his role in the case.

As the trial opened with a preview of each side’s case, it was clear that the jury will be tasked with sorting through conflicting statements.

Attorney Theodore Wells, in the opening statements of I. Lewis Libby’s perjury trial, said Libby went to Cheney in 2003 and complained that the White House was subtly blaming him for leaking Valerie Plame’s identity to columnist Robert Novak.

“They’re trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,” Wells said, recalling the conversation between Libby and Cheney. “I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.”

Wells’ comments followed an opening statement by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who said that the case arose as the White House was “under direct attack” and pushed back against criticism by former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Fitzgerald said Cheney told Libby in 2003 that Wilson’s wife worked for the CIA and Libby spread that information to reporters. When that information got out, it triggered a federal investigation.

“But when the FBI and grand jury asked about what the defendant did,” Fitzgerald said, “he made up a story.”

Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction. He told investigators he was surprised to learn Wilson’s wife’s identity from NBC News reporter Tim Russert, not from the vice president. But Fitzgerald told jurors that was clearly a lie because Libby had already been discussing the matter inside and outside of the White House.

“You can’t learn something on Thursday that you’re giving out on Monday,” Fitzgerald said.

Libby says he didn’t lie but was simply bogged down by national security issues and couldn’t remember details of what he told reporters about Plame.

Fitzgerald believes Libby feared political embarrassment and worried he might lose his job for discussing classified information with reporters. President Bush originally threatened to fire anyone who disclosed such information so, Fitzgerald says Libby had a reason to lie.

The jury of nine women and three men will spend more than a month listening to conflicting statements from members of the Bush administration and journalists, trying to sort out the truth.

Libby’s defense attorneys have spent days trying to weed critics of the Bush administration out of the jury pool. In a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 9-to-1, that wasn’t easy. The final panel contains four people who criticized or doubted the administration’s war policies.

Fitzgerald told jurors that the trial isn’t about the war but that the case will be set against the backdrop of the first months of the invasion. He is expected to tell jurors that the White House was preoccupied with discrediting Wilson’s criticisms, so it’s unlikely Libby forgot that effort.

Libby plans to testify and tell jurors he had many other issues on his mind at the time, such as terrorist threats and emerging nuclear programs overseas.

Attorneys say they expect Cheney to testify for the defense. Historians say that would be a first for a sitting vice president.


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McCain shifts Iraq blame to Cheney, Rumsfeld

Senator John McCain, the 2008 presidential hopeful, is finding new targets to vilify for setbacks in Iraq, according to a report in today’s The Politico – Vice President Dick Cheney and ex-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

“Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the Vice President and, most of all, the Secretary of Defense,” McCain reportedly told the website’s Roger Simon in an interview. He also called Rumsfeld one of the worst Secretaries of Defense in American history.

McCain also called for time for Bush’s escalation policy to succeed, but he added that there were alternatives if it failed. One option, he suggested, was “to withdraw to the borders (of Iraq) to try to keep other countries from interfering. Maintaining our bases in Kuwait and other places. There are a lot of scenarios.”

Simon observes that McCain could face a tricky presidential campaign. On the one hand, conservatives may not believe he is really loyal to them. On the other hand, moderate Republicans may not be forgiving of his stance on the Iraq war.

The full article can be read at the The Politico’s website.


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Report has ‘smoking gun’ on climate

WASHINGTON – Human-caused global warming is here — visible in the air, water and melting ice — and is destined to get much worse in the future, an authoritative global scientific report will warn next week.

“The smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak,” said top U.S. climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, who reviewed all 1,600 pages of the first segment of a giant four-part report. “The evidence … is compelling.”

Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went even further: “This isn’t a smoking gun; climate is a batallion of intergalactic smoking missiles.”

The first phase of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is being released in Paris next week. This segment, written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries, includes “a significantly expanded discussion of observation on the climate,” said co-chair Susan Solomon, a senior scientist for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She and other scientists held a telephone briefing on the report Monday.

That report will feature an “explosion of new data” on observations of current global warming, Solomon said.

Solomon and others wouldn’t go into specifics about what the report says. They said that the 12-page summary for policymakers will be edited in secret word-by-word by governments officials for several days next week and released to the public on Feb. 2. The rest of that first report from scientists will come out months later.

The full report will be issued in four phases over the year, as was the case with the last IPCC report, issued in 2001.

Global warming is “happening now, it’s very obvious,” said Mahlman, a former director of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab who lives in Boulder, Colo. “When you look at the temperature of the Earth, it’s pretty much a no-brainer.”

Look for an “iconic statement” — a simple but strong and unequivocal summary — on how global warming is now occurring, said one of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, director of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, also in Boulder.

The February report will have “much stronger evidence now of human actions on the change in climate that’s taken place,” Rajendra K. Pachauri told the AP in November. Pachauri, an Indian climatologist, is the head of the international climate change panel.

An early version of the ever-changing draft report said “observations of coherent warming in the global atmosphere, in the ocean, and in snow and ice now provide stronger joint evidence of warming.”

And the early draft adds: “An increasing body of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on other aspects of climate including sea ice, heat waves and other extremes, circulation, storm tracks and precipitation.”

The world’s global average temperature has risen about 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1901 to 2005. The two warmest years on record for the world were 2005 and 1998. Last year was the hottest year on record for the United States.

The report will draw on already published peer-review science. Some recent scientific studies show that temperatures are the hottest in thousands of years, especially during the last 30 years; ice sheets in Greenland in the past couple years have shown a dramatic melting; and sea levels are rising and doing so at a faster rate in the past decade.

Also, the second part of the international climate panel’s report — to be released in April — will for the first time feature a blockbuster chapter on how global warming is already changing health, species, engineering and food production, said NASA scientist Cynthia Rosenzweig, author of that chapter.

As confident as scientists are about the global warming effects that they’ve already documented, they are as gloomy about the future and even hotter weather and higher sea level rises. Predictions for the future of global warming in the report are based on 19 computer models, about twice as many as in the past, Solomon said.

In 2001, the panel said the world’s average temperature would increase somewhere between 2.5 and 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit and the sea level would rise between 4 and 35 inches by the year 2100. The 2007 report will likely have a smaller range of numbers for both predictions, Pachauri and other scientists said.

The future is bleak, scientists said.

“We have barely started down this path,” said chapter co-author Richard Alley of Penn State University.


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WASHINGTON A jury that includes four critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policies was seated Monday to try former White House aide “Scooter” Libby on charges of lying about what he told reporters concerning the wife of a prominent war opponent.

The jury of nine women and three men was seated after a nearly hourlong court session that was as silent as a professional chess match. Prosecutors and defense attorneys consulted in whispers, then handed papers to the clerk to exercise their 20 unexplained strikes of potential jurors.

The only sound was the clerk reading the number of each juror eliminated and the replacement juror’s number.

Six potential jurors who had criticized war policy or the Bush administration were struck, as was one woman who said she had voted for President Bush.

Although it was not announced which side struck which jurors, Libby’s attorneys, Theodore Wells and William Jeffress, had tried to exclude strong opponents of Bush policies.

The critics who were seated had said they could put those views aside. Drawn from a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 9-to-1, the jury pool had included quite a few who said they could not put their opposition aside. They had been sent home earlier by U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.

A former aide to Bush and chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, I. Lewis Libby is charged with five felony counts — obstructing an investigation into the leaking of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity in 2003 and lying to the FBI and a grand jury about three conversations with reporters about her.

Plame’s name and employer were disclosed in a newspaper column, attributed to two senior administration figures. The column by Robert Novak was published shortly after Plame’s husband, ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused Bush of saying Iraq was trying to buy uranium for nuclear weapons long after the administration knew the story was untrue.

On Tuesday, Walton will give preliminary instructions about the CIA leak case and then both sides will give opening statements. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald plans to speak for an hour; Wells estimated he’ll talk for two hours.

Three women and one man were seated as alternates. Although the public knew, the jurors weren’t told which ones were alternates so they would all pay full attention during the trial.

In a city where blacks outnumber whites more than 2-to-1, the jury has 10 whites and two blacks. Two of the alternates are black.

The critics chosen to serve include a woman who works for a senior citizens agency and said, “I think Bush was not candid” about why he began the war.

There is also a retired woman who worked for the Air Force, Navy and nonprofit groups and said the administration was not “forthright about the reasons for engaging in” the war.

The other two were a retired math teacher who said he would have sent 500,000 troops to Iraq — about four times the number Bush sent — and a Web architect who said he questions administration credibility at times.

The jury includes a retired Washington Post reporter who once worked for Post editor Bob Woodward and was a neighbor of NBC reporter Tim Russert, both of whom are to be witnesses in the case.

[Bloomberg News reported: Asked about possible testimony by Post editor Bob Woodward, the man said, “I would say the one thing that he drilled into all of us was, don’t take anybody’s word for anything until you get the facts. I’d find it shameful to overweigh anything.”]

Other jurors include a retired postal worker; a travel agent who only looks at newspapers for the sudoku puzzles; and a hotel sales agent who described herself a “master of all things pop culture, but nothing related to current events.”

Two female jurors had voiced personal critiques of Cheney, a likely defense witness. The hotel sales agent said Cheney seemed like “a responsible but slightly cold man.”

A woman who works for the Health and Human Service Department said, “I’m not particularly impressed with a lot of his manners of being.” But neither of them criticized administration policy.

Libby is the highest-ranking member of the Republican administration to face criminal charges.

The contentious four-day jury selection, which took twice as long as the judge predicted, foreshadows a heated trial set to the backdrop of the war in Iraq.

The credibility of Cheney and other administration officials will be a key issue in the case. Cheney and Libby, who is also expected to testify, are likely to contradict other witnesses, including some reporters.

Prosecutors say Libby lied to investigators to keep his job and spare himself political embarrassment. Libby says he didn’t lie but rather forgot details about his conversations because he was preoccupied with national security issues.


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