What Did Dick Cheney Know and When Did He Know it?

The FBI released documents Friday night that shed new light on his role in the 2003 Valerie Plame scandal

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The FBI has released key documents related to former Vice President Dick Cheney's role in the 2003 scandal over the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson. The documents, notes from a 2004 FBI interview with Cheney, shed new light on the nature of his involvement. Cheney's statements in the interview contradict the official testimony of his former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was convicted of obstruction of justice for his role in the scandal.

The documents resurface questions that have persisted since 2003, when Valerie Plame Wilson's identity was leaked to news sources in what many have called retaliation for her husband's public push against invading Iraq. Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador, had published an op-ed insisting that Iraq had not sought nuclear materials in Africa, which was then a primary rationale for the White House's push to invade Iraq. As you'll see below, blogger Marcy Wheeler, who made her name reporting the original Plame scandal, is once again leading the way.

  • Cheney's 'Near Total Amnesia'  The official release by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the group that acquired the documents, expresses skepticism that Cheney would "forget" so much. "The transcript reveals that Mr. Cheney – generally credited with razor sharp intellect and recall – demonstrated an astonishing inability to recollect even simple facts much less the numerous conversations others have testified to regarding his involvement in the administration’s efforts to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson. Mr. Cheney’s memory frequently failed to improve, even when confronted with his own hand-written notes."
  • Was Bush Involved?  Marcy Wheeler notes some unusual chronology: The actions that later became the "Plame scandal" began almost immediately after a high-level White House meeting with President Bush. "It's just a mere five hours from Cheney and Rove’s conversation with Bush to Libby telling the White House Press Secretary that Plame was a CIA officer," she writes. "So Cheney and Libby asked Schmall (for at least the third time) about Wilson’s trip. Then Cheney went into a briefing, then meeting, with Bush, Condi, Card, and Rove. And then Rove went into the senior staff meeting talking about how they had to push back against Wilson. Cathie Martin wrote up some talking points reflecting Rove’s comments. And then Libby told Ari Fleischer about Plame's identity."

  • Cheney 'Forgot' 22 Key Facts  Mother Jones's Nick Baumann compiles a damning list of 22 major facts and events that Cheney claimed to have no memory of. "For an interview conducted around a year after the events in question, the Vice President seems to have forgotten a lot, including one very crucial detail: whether he told Libby about Valerie Plame Wilson," Baumann writes. That detail, which would have implicated Cheney in much of the wrongdoing that got Libby convicted, would have been awfully difficult to forget so quickly.
  • White House's Obstruction Lawyer  Marcy Wheeler points out that Emmet Flood, Cheney's private attorney during the scandal, was hired by the White House just three days after Libby's sentencing. Flood "for the last two years of the Bush Administration, took the lead in preventing Congress or anyone else from getting documents that would implicate Rove or–you guessed it–Dick Cheney," writes Wheeler. "[Federal prosecutor] Patrick Fitzgerald made it clear that Dick Cheney was the ultimate target of the CIA Leak Case. And Dick Cheney did the obvious thing any bureaucratic master would do. He put his own personal defense lawyer on the payroll to help obstruct any efforts to expose his role in outing Valerie Plame."
  • My Role  The Atlantic's Matt Cooper, who was involved at the time, looks through the documents. "I've just taken a quick glance at the documents, but already it's interesting, if not shocking," he writes. "For what it's worth there's only a passing reference to me and my conversation with Scooter Libby about the Plame affair. My take on the case can be found here and here."
  • Cheney Refused to Release Journalists  Marcy Wheeler finds evidence that Cheney refused FBI requests to sign waivers that would have released journalists from confidentiality on their discussions. That is, he made sure high-profile journalists he'd dealt with (such as the New York Times's Judy Miller, who went to jail for refusing to expose her source on the matter) were still bound by confidentiality agreements. "If Cheney spoke to both [Robert] Novak and Judy [Miller]-–and there’s reason to believe he might have–-he refused to expose those conversations to the scrutiny of [federal prosecutor] Fitzgerald."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.