Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold
A senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney is cooperating with special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson, sources close to the investigation say.
Individuals familiar with Fitzgerald’s case tell RAW STORY that John Hannah, a senior national security aide on loan to Vice President Dick Cheney from the offices of then-Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, John Bolton, was named as a target of Fitzgerald’s probe. They say he was told in recent weeks that he could face imminent indictment for his role in leaking Plame-Wilson’s name to reporters unless he cooperated with the investigation.
Others close to the probe say that if Hannah is cooperating with the special prosecutor then he was likely going to be charged as a co-conspirator and may have cut a deal.
Hannah did not return two calls and several emails to his White House address seeking comment.
Fitzgerald is investigating whether officials in the Bush Administration illegally outed a CIA agent to get back at her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was a critic of the Administration’s faulty intelligence and lead-up to war.
In a July 2003 editorial, Wilson wrote that the Bush administration “twisted” pre-Iraq war intelligence in order to win public support for the Iraq conflict.
Specifically, Wilson called into question the veracity of President Bush’s claim in his January 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq tried to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Africa. Wilson had been sent on a fact-finding mission to Niger a year before and reported that those allegations were unfounded. Bush administration officials said Wilson’s trip was a boondoggle, and was set up by his wife who worked at the CIA on weapons of mass destruction.
Those close to the investigation said in June 2003, Hannah was given orders by higher-ups in Cheney’s office to leak Plame’s covert status and identity in an attempt to muzzle Wilson, who had been a thorn in the side of the administration since May 2003, when he started questioning the administration’s claims that Iraq was an imminent threat to the U.S. and its neighbors in the Middle East. The specifics of who issued those orders and what directives were given were not provided.
Hannah had been fingered by Wilson
To many following the case, Hannah’s involvement will not come as a surprise. Wilson pointed to Hannah as a possible leaker in his book, The Politics of Truth.
“In fact, senior advisers close to the president may well have been clever enough to have used others to do the actual leaking, in order to keep their fingerprints off the crime,” Wilson writes.
“John Hannah and David Wurmser, mid-level political appointees in the vice-president’s office, have both been suggested as sources of the leak …Mid-level officials, however, do not leak information without the authority from a higher level,” Wilson notes.
The revelation that Hannah has become a prosecution witness strongly suggests that Fitzgerald is now looking into the motive for outing Plame and how Wilson’s complaints threatened to destroy public support for the war, which the Bush administration worked diligently to win.
Fitzgerald may be looking at a broader conspiracy case of pre-war machinations by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and by the Pentagon’s ultra-secret Office of Net Assessment, the former operating out of Dick Cheney’s office and tasked with “selling” the war in Iraq, and the latter operating out of Defense Under Secretary for Policy, Douglas Feith’s office and tasked with creating a war to “sell,” as some describe.
To spread its message that Saddam Hussein was a nuclear threat, the White House Iraq Group relied heavily on New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who, after meeting with several of the organization’s members in August 2002, wrote an explosive story that many critics of the war believe laid the groundwork for military action against Iraq.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002, for example, Miller wrote a story for the Times quoting anonymous officials who said aluminum tubes found in Iraq were to be used as centrifuges. Her report turned out to be wrong.
Hannah under investigation for role with Chalabi group
Hannah is currently under investigation by U.S. authorities for his alleged activities in an intelligence program run by the controversial Iraqi National Congress (INC) and its leader, Ahmed Chalabi.
According to a Newsweek article, a memo written for the Iraq National Congress (INC) raised questions regarding Cheney’s role in the build up to the war in Iraq. During the lead up to the war, Newsweek asserts, the INC was providing intelligence on the now discredited Iraqi WMD program through Hannah and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff.
“A June 2002 memo written by INC lobbyist Entifadh Qunbar to a U.S. Senate committee lists John Hannah, a senior national-security aide on Cheney’s staff, as one of two ‘U.S. governmental recipients’ for reports generated by an intelligence program being run by the INC and which was then being funded by the State Department. Under the program, ‘defectors, reports and raw intelligence are cultivated and analyzed’; the info was then reported to, among others, ‘appropriate governmental, non-governmental and international agencies.’ The memo not only describes Cheney aide Hannah as a “principal point of contact” for the program, it even provides his direct White House telephone number.”
“…Hannah and Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, were the two Cheney employees,’ We believe that Hannah was the major player in this,’ one federal law-enforcement officer told the magazine.
According to the Washington Post, Libby discussed Wilson's wife with at least two reporters before her identity became public.