21Sep/111

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? The Untouchable Myth Is Born (Part 2)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

“[Joseph C.] Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction.” Robert D. Novak, “Mission to Niger,” The Washington Post, July 14, 2003

This sentence, written by the late columnist Robert Novak, catapulted Patrick Fitzgerald into national notoriety where he assumed the mythological stature of a relentless Special Counsel.

The key word used, or perhaps misused, by Novak was “operative.”

Once “operative” appeared, Plame assumed the image of the clandestine secret agent whose identify had been casually, and carelessly, revealed by a leaker with potentially nefarious motives.  The revealing was seen as a violation of 50 U.S.C. § 421 : US Code - Section 421: Protection of identities of certain United States undercover intelligence officers, agents, informants, and sources.  Plame quickly became a pop culture Jane Bond. 

The word “operative” triggered the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate the leak – an investigation that stayed active in the news media, on-and-off, from September 2003 to March 2007.

At the end, when Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff, was convicted on four counts of making false statements on March 6, Libby was the big loser.  The Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, was the big winner.  His image as Untouchable had been cast in bronze by the mainstream media. Today, The Washington Post describes Fitzgerald with these words:

“The dogged Fitzgerald has been compared to Eliot Ness, the former head of the liquor-busting “Untouchables” in Prohibition-era Chicago… [T]he workaholic prosecutor’s most famous investigation was into the leaking of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity, a probe that led all the way to the Bush White House and resulted in the conviction of former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby (President George W. Bush later commuted his sentence.)”

Information concerning the Plame Case is well-documented and easily accessible on the internet.  No need to rehash it further here.

Future historians who review the saga will encounter a very curious fact.  It’s found in this 2006 interview between CBS News national security correspondent David Martin and Richard Armitage, who was Secretary of State Colin Powell’s Deputy at the State Department.

Click here to view video: 

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/09/07/eveningnews/main1981433.shtml

So, before Fitzgerald was appointed Special Council, Armitage told the FBI that he was the leaker.  When asked why he didn’t go public as the investigation to find the leaker grew, Armitage says, “The Special Counsel, once he was appointed, asked me not to discuss this, and I honored his request.”  Now that’s interesting stuff.  And puzzling, too.

 (Why did Armitage speak up publically in 2006, long after the media spotlight had turned on Libby, and, also, Karl Rove?   After all, Bush said,in July 2005, he wanted to know who leaked the information, and that he’d fire whoever committed the crime. In any regard, Armitage’s allegiance was not to his President but to a Prosecutor who went on the hunt for the leaker he already knew. Now, really, isn’t all this bizarre, or what?)

The CBS interview wasn’t the only time Armitage confessed to the crime.

Armitage agrees it was “foolish” for him to mention Plame’s CIA employment to Novak.

That begs this question: If “foolishness” is his excuse, what was Patrick Fitzgerald’s excuse for engaging in a long and costly investigation when, even before it started, the culprit, Armitage, had confessed to the crime?  (Has the media ever asked Fitzgerald that question? Or, were they so delightedly breathless to see the evil Cheney embarrassed through Libby that they dared not ask?)

What was the Fitzgerald investigation really about?  If Armitage was guilty, why was he never prosecuted for the alleged crime? Does confessing get you a pass?

We get a hint to the back story from recent comments made by former Vice President Cheney while speaking at Union League Club Authors Group in Chicago on September 19.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times,

A block away from the office of the man who prosecuted his chief of staff, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter had harsh words Monday for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

“My friend Scooter Libby is a very good man,” Cheney said. “He gave up a very successful private life in order to serve the nation. … For his trouble, he ended up as part of a particular prosecution. I will always think that he did not deserve what happened.”

Cheney was in Chicago to discuss his new book "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir."  In his book, Cheney wrote, “It was as though he [Colin Powell] thought the proper way to express his views was by criticizing administration policy to people outside the government.”

Armitage was the Deputy Secretary of State under Powell.  Libby was Cheney’s Chief of Staff. It’s clear now that Powell and Cheney were not blood brothers. But there may have been occasional blood spilled between them.

In the now obvious power struggle that was going on between the two top Lieutenants in the Bush administration, what was Fitzgerald’s role? Was he the Untouchable, intrepid prosecutor in search of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of who committed the alleged crime of exposing Plame’s employment to Novak?  Or, was Fitzgerald a political operative touched by persons within the Bush administration to embarrass and undercut Cheney.

If Judith Miller went to jail for failing to reveal her source for what she later wrote about Plame, why did Novak get a pass?  Looks like Bob Novak was the real “Untouchable” throughout the entire saga.  Nobody touched him.

Turning now to more recent events, since John Chase of the Chicago Tribune is obviously getting a pass for notifying Blagojevich that his phone conversations were being tapped, how’d he earn that pass? Was it by leaking the information to Blago?

One last question:

In the events that constituted the sudden arrest of Blago, for who might Fitzgerald have been playing the political operative, dressed, again, in the dark suit of the Untouchable Eliot Ness?

19Sep/110

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald: Untouchable Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? (Part 1)

By: Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Is the United States Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois an intrepid crime fighter, as he’s typically portrayed by most of the Chicago and national media?  Or, is the legend of a modern day Untouchable Elliott Ness largely a media-created myth?

The ABC News video below is from the June press conference following the conviction of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.  It has about it a seriously surreal aspect.

At about 5:40 in the recording, Fitzgerald reports what everyone in the room already knows, and one reporter in the room knows better than all the others. “There was a leak to a newspaper article that indicated that Mr. Blagojevich was being recorded on,” he says.

Later in the press conference, reporters begin asking Fitzgerald – whose national reputation as a dogged plugger of leaks was built during his relentless pursuit of the person who revealed Valerie Plame’s identity as a Central Intelligence Agency employee – about the leak in the Blago investigation.  You’ll recall that Fitzgerald’s hunt for the Plame-leaker began in 2003, and ended in March 2007 with the conviction of Scooter Libby, after costing the taxpayers $2.58 million.  (Hold that thought. We’ll briefly revisit that saga in a later installment. It’ll help us answer the lede question.)

In the June 2011 press conference, the reporter sitting in the front row, slightly to Fitzgerald’s left, holding a tape recorder toward the podium is Chicago Tribune reporter John Chase.  He’s the slightly balding man, wearing a striped blue shirt and glasses. He carefully follows the questions other reporters ask about the “leak” that alerted Blagojevich that his conversations were being recorded by the FBI.  It’s reasonable he’d be interested, since he wrote the article to which Fitzgerald referred. Sitting right there with a front row seat as they talk about him. How ‘bout that.

Here’s a transcript of the intercepted phone conversation where Blago learns about Chase’s Tribune article in advance of its publication.

 

DATE: 12/04/2008
TIME: 10:29 P.M.
ACTIVITY: Rod Blagojevich home line incoming call.
SESSION: 1394
SPEAKERS: BLAGOJEVICH: Rod Blagojevich
P. BLAGOJEVICH: Patti BlagojevichGUERRERO: Lucio Guerrero
* * * * *
P. BLAGOJEVICH Hello.
 
GUERRERO Hey Patti, this is Lucio.
 
P. BLAGOJEVICH Hey Lucio.
 
GUERRERO Little late. Is the governor around?
 
P. BLAGOJEVICH Yeah, hold on.
 
GUERRERO Alright.
 
(PAUSE)
 
BLAGOJEVICH Hey.
 
GUERRERO Hey, sorry to call so...
 
10 BLAGOJEVICH Yeah.
 
11 GUERRERO You probably know this. Ah, Scofield
12 and I got a call from John Chase about
13 ten minutes ago. Uh, he said they're
14 writing a story for tomorrow's paper
15 that says as part of a federal
16 investigation they have recordings of
17 you and also, John Wyma's cooperating
18 with the feds. Uh, I've got calls out
19 to Quinlan, waiting to hear back. So
20 does Mary Stewart, I just haven't heard
21 back from him yet. I assume we're not
22 going to say anything but I want you to
23 know.
1
BLAGOJEVICH They have recordings of me and Wy-,
Wyma's cooperating with the feds? Who
said that?
 
GUERRERO John Chase. He said the story's gonna
say two things. He left me a message I
didn't pick up cause I wanted to hear
what he had to say. He said one, it'll
say it's the, as part of the federal
investigation they have recordings of
10 you. He doesn't say what it says on the
11 recordings. And, number two, that John
12 Wyma's cooperating with the feds.
 
13 BLAGOJEVICH Huh.
 
14 GUERRERO So, like I say I have a call in... I, I
15 assume we're not going to say anything,
16 but I, just so you know that tomorrow's
17 paper, that's gonna be in there.
 
18 BLAGOJEVICH In the Tribune tomorrow?
 
19 GUERRERO Correct.
 
20 (PAUSE)
 
21 BLAGOJEVICH Recordings of me?
 
22 GUERRERO Correct.
 
23 BLAGOJEVICH On the telephone with Wyma, maybe?
 
24 GUERRERO I don't know. Like I said I didn't pick
25 up the phone. I didn't want to get into
26 it with him so that's what he left on
27 my, on my, ah, voice mail.
 
28 BLAGOJEVICH And where's Quinlan?
 
29 GUERRERO I don't know. I got, Mary's got,
30 calling him and I've called and emailed
31 him.
 
32 BLAGOJEVICH Alright, I'll get him. I'll call you
33 back. Bye.
 
34 GUERRERO Bye.
2
BLAGOJEVICH (To P. BLAGOJEVICH) Tribune's
writing...

Late in the press conference, the prosecutor who jailed New York Times’ reporter Judith Miller for 85 days for failing to reveal a source, displays a rather blasé attitude toward having a key element of his investigation leaked to the media.  Chase isn’t going to jail like Judith.  What’s up with that?

At about 16:14 in the video, Fitzgerald states, “I didn’t do it.”  The “it” refers to leaking the information to the Chicago Tribune.  Who said he did?

That’s probably a truthful statement.  Of course, the US Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois would never phone a Chicago reporter and leak sensitive information.  He’d have someone on his staff do it.

The question is – Why?

While you ponder that thought, here’s another.

In the press conference, Fitzgerald makes a plea for persons with knowledge of corruption to come forward and report that information to his office.  He repeated that theme recently when, on September 12, while speaking before City Club of Chicago, according to the Sun Times, he said,

“The one thing I find frustrating is that people view corruption as a law enforcement problem. If I had a dollar for everyone who has come up to me after we’ve convicted someone and said, ‘Yes, we knew he or she was doing that all the time but we wondered when someone was going to get around to doing something about it. And I bite my lip, but I wanted to smack them upside the head.”

He said the person who needs to do something about corruption is “you. It is my view that sometimes we say, ‘that’s the way it is in Illinois or that’s the way it is in Chicago.’ If you’re finding yourself saying that, what you’re really saying is, ‘That’s the way I will allow it to be.’

“You either speak up and do something about it or you’re part of the problem. That’s the only way to look at it.”

So, here’s another question:

If you’re a citizen with first-hand knowledge of corruption, why in the world would you take that information to a U.S. Attorney’s office that has a leak, particularly when the guy in charge doesn’t seem all that concerned about leaks?  Doing so could cause you unintended pain, if it got leaked to the wrong person, or persons.