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Will Justice Go After Cheney?

There was considerable evidence that it was Cheney who instructed Libby to out Plame as part of a no-holds-barred crusade against her husband, an administration critic. Libby's own notes showed he first heard about Plame from Cheney. But when the FBI came calling, Libby denied remembering anything about that or any other related conversations with Cheney, choosing instead to make up a fanciful story about having learned of Plame's identity from NBC's Tim Russert.

When Libby was indicted and stepped down as chief of staff, Cheney's choice to replace him was obvious: He chose Addington.

The Coverage

Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick write in The Washington Post: "The Justice Department said yesterday that it has opened a formal criminal investigation into the CIA's destruction of interrogation tapes, appointing a career prosecutor to examine whether intelligence officials broke the law by destroying videos of exceptionally harsh questioning of terrorism suspects.

"The criminal probe, announced by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, significantly escalates a preliminary inquiry into whether the CIA's actions constituted an obstruction of justice. . . .

"To oversee the probe, Mukasey appointed John Durham, a career federal prosecutor from Connecticut, bypassing the department's Washington headquarters and the local U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, which recused itself from the case. . . .

"Leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees vowed to continue their separate inquiries, including a hearing on Jan. 16 at which they plan to grill Rodriguez. Various committee members have accused the CIA of not properly informing them about how the tapes came to be made and, later, destroyed, despite CIA statements to the contrary."

Mark Mazzetti and David Johnston write in the New York Times: "The announcement is the first indication that investigators have concluded on a preliminary basis that C.I.A. officers, possibly along with other government officials, may have committed criminal acts in their handling of the tapes, which recorded the interrogations in 2002 of two operatives with Al Qaeda and were destroyed in 2005.

"C.I.A. officials have for years feared becoming entangled in a criminal investigation involving alleged improprieties in secret counterterrorism programs. Now, the investigation and a probable grand jury inquiry will scrutinize the actions of some of the highest-ranking current and former officials at the agency. . . .

"The question of whether to destroy the tapes was for nearly three years the subject of deliberations among lawyers at the highest levels of the Bush administration. . . .

"Among White House lawyers who took part in discussions between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy the tapes were Mr. Gonzales, when he was White House counsel; Harriet E. Miers, Mr. Gonzales's successor as counsel; David S. Addington, who was then counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney; and John B. Bellinger III, then the legal adviser to the National Security Council. It is unclear whether anyone outside the C.I.A. endorsed destroying the tapes."

And here's a sobering point from Mazzetti and Johnston: "The new Justice Department investigation is likely to last for months, possibly beyond the end of the Bush administration."

Greg Gordon writes for McClatchy Newspapers that, according to an unnamed U.S. government official, "Jose Rodriguez, the CIA's chief of clandestine services, had ordered the destruction of the tapes after consulting agency lawyers. However, the lawyers had 'an expectation . . . that additional bases would be touched,' the official said.

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