Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter
We're going into the final year of a decade since the Valerie Plame case burst into the national news, and still the truth remains untold by key persons involved. Why is that?
Is Richard Armitage telling the truth when he says he didn't tell President Bush that he was the leaker in the Valerie Plame case because of U.S Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald?
In an interview with CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he didn't come forward as the source of the leak because "the special counsel, once he was appointed, asked me not to discuss this and I honored his request".
Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed special counsel on December 30, 2003.
Let's examine Armitage's claims.
Armitage has stated that reporter Bob Novak's column, published October 1,2003, caused him to (1) immediately meet with the FBI and confess to being the leaker, and (2) then call Secretary of State Colin Powell and tell him he was Novak's source and, therefore, responsible for leaking the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA employee.
According to court records Richard Armitage went to Marc Grossman, the Undersecretary of State, on the evening of October 16, 2003 and told Grossman that he, Armitage, was the leaker. Armitage did this knowing that Grossman was scheduled to be questioned by the FBI the next day.
Undersecretary Marc Grossman is the author of the memo that started it all by identifying who Valerie Plame was to his superiors at the State Department - Armitage and Powell.
So, what do we know?
(1) We know that as of Oct. 16, 2003 the top three officials at the State Department and the FBI knew that Richard Armitage was the person who divulged Valerie Plame's identity to the press.
(2) We know that, between Oct. 16 - Dec. 30, it was not Patrick Fitzgerald who was keeping the three top officials in the U.S. State Department from divulging that Armitage was the leaker.
And (3) we know, that, if in the time between Oct. 16 - Dec 30, any one of the State Departments top three officials (Powell, Armitage or Grossman) or the FBI would have gone public with what they knew, Patrick Fitzgerald would have never been appointed Special Counsel.
Consequently, New York Times reporter Judith Miller would not have spent nearly three months in jail, and Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, would not have been prosecuted.
As this unfolds, ponder this:
Did our current FBI director Robert Mueller keep the identity of the "leaker" Richard Armitage from his boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft?
And, if not, did John Ashcroft neglect to tell President George W. Bush?
To be continued....
Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter
Why would James B. Comey appoint Patrick Fitzgerald as Special Counsel on a case that was already solved?
Why would he even appoint a Special Counsel at all when Richard Armitage, the man responsible for exposing the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame to the media, had already confessed and had not even hired an attorney to represent him?
Who is James B. Comey?
James B. Comey, Jr. (born December 14, 1960) was U.S.Deputy Attorney General in the George W. Bush's administration. As Deputy A.G., Comey was the second-highest ranking official in the Department of Justice (DOJ). He ran the day-to-day operations of the DoJ, serving in that office from December 2003-August 2005.
Comey had been U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York before becoming Deputy A.G.
In December 2003, he appointed his close friend and former colleague, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, to be the Special Counsel leading the investigation into the Valerie Plame leak after Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself.
In August 2005, Comey left the DOJ and became General Counsel and Senior Vice President at Lockheed Martin. From there he went on to Bridgewater Associates in June 2010.
In 2009, Comey’s total compensation package at Lockheed Martin was 6,113,797. Apparently, no one in the media cared that Lockheed worked closely with the Cohen Group where Marc Grossman was Vice Chairman.
Grossman was a key figure in Patrick Fitzgerald's quest to find out who leaked that Valarie Plame worked for the CIA.
Before Fitzgerald’s investigation team even bought their office supplies, Comey and Fitz knew that Armitage had, innocently he claimed, leaked the knowledge about Valarie Plame to, now deceased, columnist Bob Novak.
Comey left Lockheed to work at Bridgewater Associates and then, after a short stay at Bridgewater, he became a partner with Attorney General Eric Holder's former law firm, Covington & Burling.
What do Lockheed Martin and the Cohen Group have in common? Did they have any vested interests in Iraq or Afghanistan while Fitzgerald was chasing down the phantom leaker? Did the old media ever explore that possibility?
Has any reporter ever asked Fitzgerald or Comey why a phantom leaker was sought after the real leaker had already confessed? Did any Tribune or Sun Times reporter ever pose that question to Fitz?
Has anyone asked former New York Times writer Judith Miller how she feels about having spent nearly three months in jail after Fitz already knew that Armitage was the leaker? Does that make her a victim of wrongful imprisonment?
What does Scooter Libby say about all this?
And, lastly, did Fitzgerald or Comey violate any laws during this Kabuki dance?
Many questions – no media interest – hence, no answers. Nothing to see here folks, move along. It’s the Chicago Way.
Next..... Where did Dick Armitage eventually land?
Guest Writer, John A. Shaw
PART 2: A SNAPSHOT OF AUCHI’S METHODS: FIXING THE CONTRACT FOR THE IRAQI CELLULAR PHONE SYSTEM
This exposure of Nadhmi Auchi’s master plan to insert himself into the American political process comes after a decade of investigation revealing a two-pronged story that (1) charts the development of a criminal conspiracy, and, at the same time, (2) describes how Auchi’s self-serving plans intersected with a normal governmental oversight function at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) during the Iraq War.
My office at the DoD surfaced Auchi’s central role in the largest case of corruption in Iraq reconstruction in a “preliminary” 120-pages report dated May, 2004. I labeled the report “preliminary” because I anticipated it would be fully followed-up by the DoD Inspector General’s office. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Here is the story in brief: Auchi had been inserted into U.S. reconstruction plans for Iraq by Ahmed Chalabi, a onetime business partner of Auchi’s. Chalabi was being promoted by a small circle of people at the Pentagon who wanted to assure pro-American leadership in post-Saddam Iraq. No one outside the circle knew anything about their specific plans, but everyone knew that Chalabi, a secular Shia with a non-sectarian agenda, was the favorite choice.
To his unwitting Pentagon supporters, everything depended on Chalabi having the support, both political and financial, to get to the top. None of his Pentagon supporters’ actions were improper or remotely illegal. Their aim was to assure that the award of the first cellular telephone contracts ever issued in Iraq went to dependable candidates for national leadership: one for the northern (and Kurdish) area to Jalal Talibani; one for the central zone (including Baghdad) to Ibrahim al-Jaafari; and one for the southern (largely Shia) area to Ahmed Chalabi.
The contracts, worth $3 billion, would assure funding for the three Iraqi leaders. It would provide them, in Chicago-street parlance, “street money” for two years.
The telecom tender appeared, at that time, to involve only Iraqis and Iraqi money. It was, initially, meant to be an Iraqi system, built for Iraqis, by Iraqis. But American money was ultimately involved.
Auchi was an independent facilitator, doing what he had done in Iraq, and throughout the region, his entire adult life – fixing deals.
My 2004 report established Nadhmi Auchi as a major figure in Iraqi corruption, both under the Saddam Hussein regime, and today. Information gathered by the various U.S. authorities since 2004, however, indicates that Auchi has been the central figure in Iraqi institutional corruption for the past decade.
I accidently discovered Auchi’s role in the telecom fix, but had no idea it was part of an intelligence operation. In the end, that discovery was as fateful for Auchi as was the discovery of the extent of Rezko’s role in the Pay-to-Play scheme in Illinois. Together, the two revelations threatened to destroy both legs of Auchi’s railroad.
Auchi bribed a U.S. government official involved in letting contracts for the Iraqi cellular phone system. The bribed employee’s (and Auchi’s) role was revealed by two reports I received on the same day in January, 2004.
The first was a letter from the British Ambassador to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that asked about my investigation of the Brits who had been involved in the fix, and about whom I had spoken to Jeremy Greenstock, the British Ambassador to the CPA.
The second report was from a reliable Arab source in Baghdad. It noted a conversation with a man privy to the payoff pattern in the Ministry of Communications. The conversation fingered three people whom Auchi had paid off “to take care of” the Ministry of Communications: Haider al-Abadi, a Dawa Party member who was the Minister of Communications; Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the head of the Dawa party and putative prime minister; and someone with a name very similar to that of the American official that Auchi bribed. When given the man’s name, the source said, “Yes, yes, do you know him?” That told us we had a direct line connecting Auchi to suborning the contract letting process.
On April 10, 2004 the appointed audit firm for the CPA, BearingPoint, reported that corrupted official’s office had “few to no” reliable financial controls in place, and that all paper and electronic records were gone. More importantly, $240 million was missing from the ministry account for which the official was responsible; half of it in Iraqi funds, and the rest in U.S. funds. To date, no one has traced any of that money.
The bribed official was fired the following day and immediately left Iraq. He was never questioned, nor investigated, either about those funds or about the Auchi bribe.
Auchi and the corrupt U.S. official needed to discredit me and my report, so they said that I, a former Senate-confirmed Inspector General, had tried to create a sweetheart deal for a U.S. company in Southern California which was the only bidder offering more advanced American CDMA technology. This technology was interoperable with the older French Groupe Spécial Mobile (GSM) standard prevalent in the region. I was supportive of it, not only because it used U.S. next-generation technology, but because it was secure, and hence offered a response to the tide of GSM-triggered explosive devices throughout Iraq. Had the Southern California firm won the bidding, we would have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands, fewer IED casualties in Iraq.
The FBI spent a year and a quarter of a million dollars to establish that I had done nothing wrong, much less anything criminal, in carrying out my responsibilities in Iraq and Washington.
Auchi had acted to ensure the victory of his clients, literally at any cost, and the intelligence people wanted the older GSM standard so they could use it to easily eavesdrop on the Iraqis. The winning contracts went to Orascom, which was partially owned by Auchi, and two other newly created consortia, Asia Cell and Atheer, for whom Auchi had orchestrated the financing. All three companies used the old French GSM standard.
That Auchi was the ringmaster of the telecom fix was confirmed by Mehdi al-Rahim, a respected Iraqi banker and a member of the Iraq Communications Oversight Board reviewing the phone contracts. He was given a copy of my report in Washington shortly after it was published in 2004. “Everyone knows that Auchi was right in the middle of this,” he said.
The report on how Auchi, with the aid of the corrupt U.S. official, fixed the cellular telephone contracts illustrates how he operates on a major scale. It not only documented a quintessential Auchi deal, but its revelations resulted in his U.S. visa being revoked by the FBI.
Auchi has not been allowed to enter the U.S. since my May 2004 report. And, despite his optimistic commentary about his prospects in Chicago, Auchi knows that Rezko has made him politically radioactive there. Nevertheless, he counts on being cleansed of that radiation in January 2013. Even if Obama is not reelected, Auchi knows he can still make a lot of money in Chicago.
Auchi’s ability to fix the three Iraqi cellular phone contracts for three Iraqi politicians was the highpoint of his involvement in Iraq after the invasion. He believed it was the prelude to a similar coup in Chicago. He thought he had become untouchable, both because the false image he had propagated to court respectability in the West had never been questioned, and because his activities in the U.S. had assured his central role in the Iraqi reconstruction.
The hubris Auchi exhibited in the Iraq telecom deal, however, led to the erosion of his carefully crafted tale about his background. The investigation underlying the DoD report blew Auchi’s cover story and began to erode his status in the U.S. Ironically, his success in Iraq may have ensured the unraveling of his U.S. activities.
At the DoD he was pursued by an outgunned Deputy Undersecretary, but in Chicago he faced an experienced U.S. Attorney in Patrick Fitzgerald who had been the Special Prosecutor in the Libby/Plame case. It was Fitzgerald who, in pursuing the Illinois pay-to-play scandal, surfaced Antoin “Tony” Rezko as the major bagman he was.
Auchi, although prevented from entering the United States because of his central role in the largest corruption case in Iraq reconstruction, remains engaged through his network in the Chicago political scene, and through his investment in Chicago projects valued at several billion dollars.
Auchi’s success with Obama would ultimately depend on how closely identified Obama would become with Rezko and the money Rezko provided.
In the end, Auchi had a gambler’s good luck. He gambled on having the Chicago Machine on his side and won; he gambled on having an inattentive news media and won; and, he had the money he needed to gamble successfully.
The mainstream media studiously avoided any serious investigation of the extent of Obama’s ties to Rezko, or to any of the others in the local Arab-American combine, even though by 2008 Auchi had funneled nearly $200 million through Rezko into Chicago projects, and had financed the purchase of Obama’s house in 2005.
Here’s where the media failed: They looked at Obama, Rezko, and the Arab network in Chicago through the wrong end of the telescope. By the time Rezko was in trouble, Obama had become untouchable. The press wanted to believe him to be, and therefore portrayed him as, extraordinary, which he certainly was.
The press, also, wanted to believe that Rezko was the product of squalid street politics that were not worthy of Barack Obama. So they effectively ignored the confluence of Obama’s interests and those pursued by Auchi’s Arab network which helped nurture Obama.
COMING NEXT - PART 3: OBAMA – PASSENGER ON THE AUCHI CHICAGO-D.C. EXPRESS
About the Author:
John A. Shaw, a former senior official of the Defense, State, and Commerce departments, served on several White House staffs. He is a specialist in international technology transfer and arms sales, and in the economic development of the Middle East.
Note: Web links were editorially added to enable readers toreadily access basic background information concerning persons, organizations, and documents. Links do not represent the range of information available on the web concerning those topics.
Ernie Souchak, Editor-in-Chief, Illinois PayToPlay & Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter
Chicago Tribune reporters Jeff Coen and John Chase wrote a 486-pages book that packs tedious and mundane details about former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s life, from birth to prison, around one key chapter that documents the role of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in leaking information about his investigation of the ex-governor known nationwide as “Blago”.
The whitewash begins on the second page of the foreword entitled “Authors’ Note”: “We quote heavily from the recordings that federal agents made on phones used by the governor and others. All of those quotes come from transcripts of those phone conversations or the recordings themselves. We are grateful to those who provided case material that was outside of the public record.” (For ease of reading, we will italicize all quotations from the book.)
Those persons “who provided case material that was outside of the public record” remain unidentified throughout the book. But it soon becomes clear where they worked.
In an article written by Ernie Souchak posted on this website last September 14, we noted how the judge’s protective order, covering the transcripts of Blago’s phone conversations, stipulated that nothing prohibited Blago and his lawyers from telling his version of those recorded conversations. Blago and his attorneys were, though, ordered not to disseminate the transcripts that the feds gave them. Only the feds had permission to do that.
So, apparently, Coen/Chase secured those transcripts and recordings mentioned in the “Authors’ Note” from the feds. Here’s a question: Why was the information given to them?
Hold that thought.
The problem for the book’s core narrative – the arrest, trial and conviction of Blago – unfolds in Chapter 14 (pp. 257-295) entitled “I’ve got this thing…”
On October 16, 2011, we concluded a ten-article series concerning U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, which first posted here in on September 19, 2011, with this summary:
“So, what are the facts and circumstances that we know that collectively tend to prove, or sustain by their consistency…the hypothesis that Patrick Fitzgerald is a politically-driven, not jurisprudence-driven, prosecutor whose image as an intrepid, unbiased crime fighter is a media-created fabrication?
Here are a few headlines from Parts 1-9:
Fitzgerald acknowledged that someone leaked information to the Chicago Tribune, via a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, while the reporter, John Chase, sat mute in the front row of the news conference where the arrest of Blago was described as an effort to stop a crime spree. (Chase has told a source known to this writer that he would not identify who leaked him the information on First Amendment grounds.)
In fact, (1) Blago’s crime spree had, with Fitzgerald’s knowledge, been going on for several years. (2) Chase has not been called to account for tipping off Blago that his conversations were being recorded by the feds. (3) Eric Holder’s Department of Selective Justice has taken no steps – like that taken by Fitzgerald when he jailed Judith Miller of the New York Times in the Valerie Plame Case – to force Chase to reveal the source of the leak. And, (4) Fitz’s demeanor in discussing the leak in a press conference can be accurately described as disinterested.
The urgency to arrest Blago was manufactured out of whole cloth. The leak had to originate out of the DoJ. And, the closest outlet for the DoJ to the Chicago Tribune is Fitzgerald’s office. You connect the dots.
In retrospect, we know now that Richard Armitage was the confessed leaker in the Valerie Plame Case. We also know that Fitzgerald knew of Armitage’s confession before undertaking a long and costly investigation that convicted a key staff member of Vice President Cheney of a crime not connected to the Plame leak. And, that this media event, upon which the foundation of the Untouchable myth was built by the main stream media, was politically-driven.
The Plame “investigation” boiled down to a surrogate WWF-like wrestling match between two Big Beltway Boys: Armitage representing Powell – Libby for Cheney. With Fitzgerald as the biased referee. And, it will be so chronicled by unbiased historians in the future.
The arrest of Blago was timed, not to stop a crime spree, or the selling of a Senate seat – since the latter notion is built on the myth that, once Blago got paid for appointing someone, the act was immediate and irrevocable. The arrest was timed to save Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr., from criminal prosecution for bribing a governor in order to receive a Senate appointment. Connect the dots. It was about saving J.J., Junior.”
Chapter 14 – The Whitewash
The narrative here is significant, not just for what it reveals, but more for what it conceals.
The authors do not reveal the source for the information that Chase telephonically conveyed to Blago’s Spokesman, Lucio Guerrero, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Friday, December 4, 2008, namely, that the feds were listening in on Blago’s phone conversations.
Consequently, this question remains unanswered: Who leaked the information that Blago’s phone conversations were being wiretapped by the feds to the Tribune and Chase? Plus, why was that revelation leaked to the paper?
Then, why did Fitzgerald show no interest in tracking down the leaker?
We’re no closer today to answers to those questions after the 486 pages of whitewash.
Now, for the information in Chapter 14 that substantiates our October 2011 summary above:
Page 264: “Again, prosecutors noted the gravity of what Blagojevich had said. They were aware of the Balanoff meeting but had not recorded it.” (Tom Balanoff is president of the Service Employees International Union, Illinois Council, and the Vice President of its International Executive Board.)
How did the Coen/Chase know this information unless someone in the U.S. Attorney’s office gave them a blow-by-blow description of the investigation? Of course that’s what happened. The authors were scripted by the feds.
Page 267: “At the FBI’s listening room, there continued to be a mixture of thrilled disbelief and newfound resolve at what was being caught on the recordings. Agents believed they were capturing the sitting governor in incriminating conversations, and they played the calls for supervisors.
At one point, the FBI’s national director, Robert Mueller, was in town for a Chicago event. Having heard about the success of the Blagojevich operation, Mueller wanted to hear some of the recordings for himself. He stopped at the FBI’s Chicago headquarters on Roosevelt Road on the West Side near Ogden Avenue and took a seat in Rob Grant’s office. Agents had put together a disc of some of their favorite snippets for Mueller to hear.
Who was the guy dropping the F-Bombs? Mueller asked.
Well, that was the governor of Illinois, agents explained.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Mueller said, shaking his head, clearly pleased with how investigators were doing.”
This sounds like the testimony of an eyewitness to the event, given all the illustrative details. That eyewitness would be an employee of the FBI, or, someone from Fitzgerald’s office involved in the USAO’s investigation of Blago. This information clearly didn’t come from an audio tape or transcript of one of Blago’s intercepted calls, or from the building’s janitor.
It comes from a source intimately involved in the investigation.
Page 281: This portion of Chapter 14 explains the nature of the alleged urgency that caused the USAO to arrest Blago to, as Fitzgerald later claimed, stop an on-going crime spree.
“Fitzgerald had grown concerned that they had a sitting governor who had yet to make an appointment after working for weeks to see what he could get for himself in a deal for the Senate seat. They could let things go a little further, but it was starting to get risky that Blagojevichwould actually make a choice. Schar [Reid Schar, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, NDIL] said it would be derelict of those in the room to allow Blagojevich to make a decision. Everyone in the meeting believed the process had been corrupted, no matter how Blagojevich finally acted. To do something before he made a pick and out the investigation would at least make that corruption known, and the political could react to any pick by the governor.
In the end, there was agreement. Very soon, they would act, and likely on the morning of December 9, a Tuesday, the day before Blagojevich’s birthday and after a possible meeting the governor had been talking about with Jesse Jackson, Jr.”
What does “at least make that corruption known” mean? The USAO had been investigating Blago for years, and had compiled a substantial amount of evidence of corruption. At least, the goal should have been to arrest Blago when he accepted a bribe, and, also, arrest whoever paidthe bribe.
The real “risk” in letting Blago close a deal with the briber(s) negotiating with him on behalf of Jesse Jackson, Jr., was that they, too, would be implicated in a crime along with Blago. Whatever happened to the notion of intent to commit a crime? Blago went to jail – the briber(s) skated. That was the goal.
Pages 286-288: “’Jackson was the ‘uber African American,’ Blagojevich reminded Harris. He would consider what it would mean in black politics and how it would strengthen him, Blagojevich said, and don’t forget, third parties had offered him $1.5 million in fund-raising help.” (p. 286)
“’There’s tangible, concrete, tangible stuff from [Jackson’s] supporters,’ Blagojevich said, as Yang [Fred Yang, a pollster hired by Blagojevich] pressed him for more detail. ‘Well like, you know. You know what I’m talking about,’ the governor finally told him. ‘Specific amounts and everything.’” (p. 287)
“When prosecutors heard Blagojevich make the ‘tangible’ remark, they believed the Jackson proposal was in fact the way the governor was going to go.” (p. 288)
So, according to Coen/Chase, the feds believed that Blago was about to do a deal that would yield him $1.5 million for appointing Jesse Jackson, Jr. as a U.S. Senator from Illinois. That means that Blago was arrested to stop the commission of a specific crime, rather than to stop a crime spree.
If the USAO would have waited, both the bribee and the briber would have been caught and prosecuted. But the trap was sprung prematurely – for a reason.
Robert Blagojevich had a meeting scheduled with Jackson's money man Raghuveer Nayak on Friday, December 5. After learning from Chase, on the evening of December 4, that his conversations were being intercepted by the feds, Blago instructed his brother Robert to cancel that meeting.
The Duck Rule
If it looks like a duck; waddles like a duck; and quacks like a duck – face it, it’s a duck.
As we wrote back in October 2011: “The arrest was timed to save Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. from criminal prosecution for bribing a governor in order to receive a Senate appointment. Connect the dots. It was about saving J.J., Junior.”
Remember that Jackson was the ’08 Co-chair of Obama’s Presidential Campaign Committee.
The book entitled Golden, written by two Chicago Tribune reporters who were granted special access to information coming from inside the investigation, is a 486-page apologia in defense of an improbable explanation behind the timing of the arrest of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
It is a duck.
Was there a quid pro quo deal here? Did the USAO inside-leaker(s) say, “Guys, we’ll give you exclusive access to all this information, and in exchange you tell the story the way we want it told. We gotta deal?”
Don’t forget that Roland Burris, the man Blago appointed to the U.S. Senate, was the 60th vote in favor of ObamaCare. Had Blago, and those bribing him, both been arrested after the money was exchanged, would there have even been a second Senator from Illinois in the U.S. Senate when the ObamaCare vote was taken?