Sunday, March 19, 2006

Libby's "I Was Too Busy Blaming Others" Defense

I. Lewis Libby's defense team filed yet another discovery motion under Rule 16 seeking additional classified documents to bolster his "honest-but-overworked-public-servant" defense, with a slightly new twist on why he might not have remembered everything about his contacts with the press regarding the status of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative.  According to the defense motion (available below), the secret documents are need because:

[T]he events alleged in the indictment occurred during a period of increased bureaucratic infighting, when certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction ("WMD") capability.  The fingerpointing that went on within the Executive Branch about who was to blame will be a key issue in examining many of the government's witnesses because it goes to the question of bias.  When the full context of the controversy over the sixteen words [in the President's State of the Union Address] is presented to the jury, the jury will see that the relevant events were far more complex than the government has suggested in its discovery responses, and that the role of Ms. Wilson was peripheral.  If the jury learns this background information, and also understands Mr. Libby's additional focus on urgent national security matters, the jury will more easily appreciate how Mr. Libby may have forgotten or misremembered the snippets of conversation the government alleges were so memorable.

In other words, Libby was fighting in some of the fiercest battles of the Iraq war, sometimes referred to as the Battle of the Potomac or the Siege of Gucci Gulch in other contexts, and hardly had time to think -- much less care -- about Joe Wilson and what's-her-name.  I'm not entirely clear about what it means to "misremember" a conversation, but that term is certainly more benign than, say, "lying" or "falsifying."  The defense is working to distinguish what Libby did, assuming he made an affirmative misstatement about the content of a conversation rather than just not remembering that he had one, from lying to show that he did not have the requisite intent to commit perjury before the grand jury and intentionally make false statements to government agents.  Libby's "blame game" defense makes this case even more uncomfortable for the Administration than it already is because it may raise questions about whether members of the Executive Branch were more involved in CYA on the WMD issue than anything else.  (ph)

Download libby_discovery_memo_march_17_2006.pdf  (thanks to TalkLeft for the link)

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