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January 12, 2004


Oh, it's worse than that, even.

"In his appearance this evening on '60 Minutes,' Ron Suskind, author of The Price of Loyalty, based to a large extent on information from former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, made an astonishing, very serious misstatement.

"Suskind claimed he has documents showing that preparations for the Iraq war were well underway before 9-11. He cited--and even showed--what he said was a Pentagon document, entitled, 'Foreign Suitors for Iraq Oilfield Contracts.' He claimed the document was about planning for post-war Iraq oil (CBS's promotional story also contained that claim): http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/01/09/60minutes/printable592330.shtml

"But that is not a Pentagon document. It's from the Vice-President's Office. It was part of the Energy Project that was the focus of Dick Cheney's attention before the 9/11 strikes.

"And the document has nothing to do with post-war Iraq. It was part of a study of global oil supplies. Judicial Watch obtained it in a law suit and posted it, along with related documents, on its website at: http://www.judicialwatch.org/071703.c_.shtml Indeed, when this story first broke yesterday, the Drudge Report had the Judicial Watch document linked (no one at CBS News saw that, so they could correct the error, when the show aired?)"

It's not actually the same statute, though, right? What is the statute that deals more generally with unauthorized leaks of classified info?

"But that is not a Pentagon document. It's from the Vice-President's Office. It was part of the Energy Project that was the focus of Dick Cheney's attention before the 9/11 strikes.

I don't know if that makes it worse for O'Neill, or worse for Dick Cheney.

I'm increasing the likelyhood of this transforming into a real story by 20%. So, for those playing at home: There's now a 21% chance that the O'Neill story is gonna actually decide undecideds in the next election.

It's not actually the same statute, though, right? What is the statute that deals more generally with unauthorized leaks of classified info?

There's a couple statutes that could be implicated, including (possibly) the one at issue in Plame. A conspiracy charge is also potential viable, though a long shot. I'd go into more detail, but I'm out of time.

Read the PowerLine post, von. It's completely unrelated to the war in Iraq.

What Mylroie says about the "Foreign Suitors" document is correct. The Judicial Watch link still works as of this morning, and as you can easily see, the document, dated March 5, 2001, has nothing to do with post-war planning. It is merely a list of existing and proposed "Iraqi Oil & Gas Projects" as of that date. And it includes projects in Iraq by countries that obviously would not have been part of any "post-war" plans of the Bush administration, such as, for example, Vietnam.

Bring it on. Turn this book into the Pentagon Papers.

Read the PowerLine post, von.

Will in a moment, Slarti. Thanks for the link. (Though my comment more reflected Cheney's attempt to keep his files away from the Senate.)

Oh, here's the link to the set of documents being referred to as Pentagon plans for exploiting Iraqi oil:


Check them out. They're nothing more than a list of countries interested in exploiting Iraqi oil. The really, really funny thing about that list is we're not in there. But about thirty other countries are.

I find it intersting that you're flacking for a crankpot like Laura Mylroie, but you could be right on the substance. We'll see.

Odd that you'd attempt the ad hominem approach over just addressing the facts of the matter, praktike. Actually, nested ad hominem, as you attempted to discount my findings by your expose of my part-time job of media flack for Mylroie (where IS that closing sarcasm tag, anyway?) and attacked her via an ad hominem-rich article by a journalist. I can almost let the second of those pass, but the first tells me you're not really worth discussing these things with.

"We'll see," I said, but maybe, just maybe, the documents have something to do with this:

The Kellogg contract has been a source of controversy since it was issued under emergency laws that allow the US government to hold closed and noncompetitive bids during wartime. Cheney was the chairman of Halliburton for five years until he was chosen by Bush as his running mate, and news of the Kellogg award prompted conflict-of-interest charges. Lawmakers and public-interest groups have criticized what they say is a lack of detailed information about the contract, which has gradually been uncovered by their own investigations of the deal.

The contract was originally thought to have limited Kellogg's tasks to capping war-damaged wells, but was slowly revealed by the probes to include gas-importation and surveys of unknown cost in coordination with Iraqi oil ministry officials of the country's neglected and damaged petroleum grids.

Recent statements by US officials suggest the franchise may have been expanded to include exploration and development of new oil and gas fields.

The White House request for supplemental funds, submitted through a 54-page document prepared by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, says part of the money "will also initiate the development of new oil and gas fields," a reference to the vast reserves discovered in Iraq more than a decade ago, oil specialists say. Developing those sources, the request estimates, could enhance Iraq's energy output by 250,000 barrels of crude oil and 200 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day.

On Oct. 8, Army Major General Carl Strock, the deputy director of operations for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, told the House Committee on Government Reform that money provided under the supplemental budget request would be used for "the development of the oil fields . . . and it's also building the new refinery."

Phone calls to Strock's office in Washington for comment were not returned; an Army Corps spokesman in Dallas said there was nothing in the terms of either Kellogg's existing contract or the two new contracts that would replace it that could allow for the tapping of new energy reserves in Iraq.

Developing Iraq's virgin petroleum fields could increase its crude output to some 8 million barrels a day, according to analysts. But oil specialists say it would be premature to move on new wells, portions of which were parceled out for development under deposed dictator Saddam Hussein to non-US oil companies.

"They need to develop a legal framework," said Fareed Mohamedi, chief economist of PFC Energy in Washington. "And who will negotiate the law? They have a lot of work to do first."

Maybe we didn't know where everything was, and these were the only maps that were available.


This info was to be used as leverage points w/ the coalition of the willing.

Just sayin'.

come on, slarti, this is all in good fun.

If it's all in good fun, can I throw in how Mylroie's Ph.D. trumps Bergen's B.A.? Or that Mylroie actually is a mideast expert, whereas Bergen just plays one in print?

Maybe not. Well, you're all a bunch of poopey-pants, then.

Halliburton, Cheney and KB&R have already been addressed ad nauseam, and having been nauseated by the degree to which some are willing to avoid looking at the facts of the matter, I'm not going to get into it. AFAIC, those who think Cheney's made himself rich by this little war are welcome to hold fast to that opinion, despite several layers of fact to the contrary.

Anyways, the Bush adminstration wants this story to die. Making a federal case out of it won't achieve that end, and O'Neill isn't losing any sleep over it either way.

Actually, watching a bunch of people go into a sort of rhetorical St. Vitus' dance over the whole thing is a little amusing. Maybe the administration feels the same way.

slarti, slart, slart.

Nowhere did I say that Cheney is making himself rich.

Instead, I linked to an article from a reputable media source--the Boston Globe--alleging that you, the American taxpayer, are paying for the exploration of oil fields in Iraq. How do you, as a conservative, feel about that?

Meanwhile, Laura Mylroie--whose book I have read, mind you--has almost zero evidence for the wild claims she makes. That is not an ad hominem attack.

The centerpiece of Mylroie’s argument is that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef–two of the major al Qaeda figures we’ve arrested over the past year–are actually Iraqi intelligence agents, and aren’t actually related to one another.

Her evidence?

That during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Iraq may have modified the Kuwaiti files that are the basis of the U.S.’s knowledge of Mohammed and Yousef. The point of this would have been to create false “legacies” for Iraqi intelligence agents, who would then presumably be free to commit acts of terror against the United States without being traced back to Saddam.

Seems to me like if we wanted to confirm the veracity of her claims, we’d be able to do a few simple things–check their DNA for matches, find out if they have Iraqi accents, show their pictures to their college professors to see if it’s the same guys, etc.

Given Cheney and Rumsfeld’s deep interest in connecting Iraq and Al Qaeda, you’d think we’d have done this already, and the headlines would be blaring the news.

So how about it? What’s the problem?


Mylroie's point is a load of garbage.

Mylroie wants us to think that the O'Neill is saying it was all oil -- but when I read the CBS article it was clear that the oil report was just one example used to support O'Neill's point was the Bush team seemed determined to invade from their first weeks in office:

“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

Anyways, the Bush adminstration wants this story to die. Making a federal case out of it won't achieve that end, and O'Neill isn't losing any sleep over it either way.

At present, I agree. The more the story gets played, however, and the more confidential material gets leaked, the fewer incentives the Administration has to stay its hand. O'Neill may be sleeping soundly now; he should enjoy the feeling. It may not last.

Read the friggin' links, guys. You're addressing points I'm not even making.

Look: the simple fact is that Suskind is waving around documents he claims are from the Pentagon (they're not) that he claims are plans to exploit Iraqi oil (they're not). Go look at them and tell me how they are. Anything outside of those two points is...completely unrelated to anything I'm talking about.

Slarti (and others) -- just got back from the Powerline blog post; it is pretty convincing. The documents referenced on Sixty Minutes appear to be identical to those produced in response to Judicial Watch's litigation.

Three points, however:

(1) This does not disprove, however, Suskind's or O'Neill's claim that the documents showed US plans for a post-war Iraq. The energy task force may very well have considered the possibility of invasion during its analysis.

(2) The Powerline blog goes an assumption beyond an assumption too far when it suggests that, because these documents were Energy task force documents they cannot be Pentagon documents. Copies of a map/document can be "owned" and used by more than one agency.

(3) Suskind, however, at a minimum mischaracterized the documents when he suggested that they were purely Pentagon documents. Assuming the Powerline blog's reporting is minimally accurate, this simply cannot be true.

I'm afraid the writers on the right are going to need to do better job of trashing O'Neill than this, or the public is going to get the idea O'Neill is telling the truth -

"Far from being a truth-teller, Mr. O'Neill comes across in Mr. Suskind's book as a vengeful Lone Ranger...he resembles Don Regan, the temperamental White House chief of staff who, after President Reagan fired him, went on to write a tell-all book embarrassing his old boss with revelations about Nancy Reagan's fondness for astrologers."

For the record, the stuff Regan wrote about "Nancy Reagan's fondness for astrologers" was true.

Well that didn't take long. US Treasury just requested an investigation into the...er...O'Neill Papers.

For the record, the stuff Regan wrote

For the record,

Don who?

At least to 99.999% of the population. Which I thought was Fund's point. Going out small and petty doesn't help with the whole legacy thing. Not that it matters much.

Upthread, Katherine asked It's not actually the same statute, though, right? to which the answer is no, this is a statute that could be applied (remember Deutch's computers). Deutsch avoided prosecution by basically convincing Reno of his ignorance. O'Neil will probably avoid prosecution on that or another basis. I still wonder if he would actually risk 10 years and $10,000 by handing over classified documents to a journalist? The documents may be "classified" the way Plame was a "secret" agent.

to which the answer is no, this is a statute that could be applied (remember Deutch's computers).

Well, for completeness, that's not the only statute that might apply. For instance, the same statute that implicates the Plame leakers may also be implicated by O'Neill.

And, to be equally fair, I never claimed it did disprove. What it does contradict, though, is the claim that the documents were prewar plans for Iraqi oilfields: implication was that we fought the war to gain those fields. The plans were for the world at large, not us. I trust we've now beaten this one to a pulp.

O'Neill may in fact have a smoking gun somewhere in those 19,000 pages. We'll have to wait and see.


You're the attorney but a plain reading of the Plame statute indicates otherwise (unless O'Neill's documents expose an agent).*

*By the way, how's J vs Reynolds coming? I read that you've hired nov as co-counsel. Hope you can work with him. I've heard he can be a real...

You're the attorney but a plain reading of the Plame statute indicates otherwise (unless O'Neill's documents expose an agent).*

Sorry, RBD,I was hanging quite a bit on the "may" in my post ("the same statute that implicates the Plame leakers may also be implicated by O'Neill"). 19,000 pages, after all, contain quite a bit of information. I should have explained the "out-on-a-limb" flavor of my proposed caveat a bit better.*


*Same goes for my mention of conspiracy: very out on a limb. Hey, among those few who know (and even fewer who care), I gots a lawyer-reputation for creativity. I'll do a better job of flaggin' the speculative-speak from the more reasonable-speak on the blog, just like I force myself to do in real life.

By the way, the following, if true, may be damning from a public policy standpoint (the legal side comes out slightly differently)*:

"The administration previously allowed the release of some sensitive documents. Bob Woodward, author of 'Bush at War,' writes that his information included 'notes taken during more than 50 national security council and other meetings,' as well as 'other personal notes, memos, calendars, written internal chronologies, transcripts and other documents.'"

There's an old adage in the law (OK, fine, it comes from the von Bulow case in the 1980s): A privilege cannot be both a sword and a shield. That is, one cannot offer with one hand confidential documents that prove your case, but shield with the other the confidential documents that tend to dispove your case. If you waive a privilege as to some documents, all privileged documents relating to the same subject matter must be produced.


*For the record, this is one of those out-on-a-limb moments.

Ok, von, as someone who actually has some experience with classified data, I have to speak up. You just knew I was going to, anyway.

Notes taken at NSC meetings aren't by definition classified. Classified data are very specifically demarked and are always accompanied (both written and in text) by notation regarding level of classification. In classified meetings, there's always an announcement beforehand regarding the classification level of the meetings, and people in the meeting not cleared at that level must leave the room. So, if anyone took notes at a classified meeting, the level of classification of those notes would have been obvious. And if that person wasn't authorized to take classified notes, then that person broke the law. If he was, those notes would then become a classified document, which is assigned a document number and entered into accountability.

In short, it doesn't matter who divulges classified information to the uncleared; whoever does that has broken the law. Always.

This becomes dicey when it's brought to the courtroom. There, my experience (thankfully) fails me. I'd imagine the judge would have to be read in. Life would get really messy if you had to read in an entire jury.

Marshall is funny:

"Number of days between Novak column outing Valerie Plame and announcement of investigation: 74 days.

Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.

Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritical goons ... priceless."

Hey, Slarti, I wouldn't think to disagree with your views on classified material -- you've got the experience, I don't. But I don't think that what I wrote is out of line with what you wrote. I'm specula-guessing, my friend.

No, von, I wasn't disagreeing with your sword/shield statements. Those I actually do agree with. What I think smells to high heaven is the assertion that Bob Woodward was able to view classified material and take classified notes at an NSC meeting. Right now, I'm leaning in the direction that Bob's fabricating. As lax on security as the Clinton White House was, I don't think even they would have allowed this. To think that Bush is less on the ball, security-wise...well, I just don't think so. Why? Condoleezza Rice (NSA), Rumsfeld (SecDef) and DCI are all in NSC, too. Each one of them is, of necessity, hyper-aware of the possible consequences of breaking security protocols.

It all stacks up to "not likely", IMO.

It all stacks up to "not likely", IMO.

Gotcha, Slarti -- though I tend to credit Woodward's account a bit more than you.

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