Friday, March 10, 2006

You've got greymail!

(Updated below)

There is a wonderful old parable about the robin in the barn.

A robin neglected to fly south for the winter, and got caught in a blizzard. Slowly freezing to death it managed to fly into an unheated barn and land on a rafter. The weather was so bad that even in the barn the bird was unable to recover, and finally fluttered to the ground.

In a remarkable coincidence, however, it landed close to a cow, which shat on the bird only seconds after it landed. The steaming excrement, still near the temperature of bovine intestines, quickly warmed and revived the bird. The robin was so joyful at the dramatic reversal of fortune that it began to sing. The singing attracted the cat that lived in the barn, which quickly snatched and ate the bird.

The moral of the story, of course, is that not everyone who gets you into a pile of shit is your enemy, and not everyone who gets you out of one is your friend.

I was reminded of that parable as I read this:

A federal judge ordered the CIA on Friday to turn over highly classified intelligence briefings to Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide to use in the aide's defense against perjury charges.

U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton rejected CIA warnings that the nation's security would be imperiled if the presidential-level documents were disclosed to lawyers for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff.

The judge said the CIA can either delete highly classified information from the briefing material and provide copies of what Libby received six days a week, often with Cheney. Or, Walton said, the CIA can produce "topic overviews" of the matters covered in the briefings.

The judge also ordered the CIA to give Libby an index of the topics covered in follow-up questions that the former White House aide asked intelligence officers who conducted the briefings.

In seeking CIA input late last month, Walton appeared to have been trying to broker a compromise between defense attorneys and prosecutors to avoid a lengthy court battle with the Bush administration over the briefing material.

The judge's order indicates he is ready for such a fight. He set a schedule for the Bush administration to file any objections by March 24.

It might look like the judge is the cow here, but if justice is the robin, he is more likely the cat.

I'm no expert in greymail cases, but this much seems clear. If the judge had told Libby, "You are accused of lying, and none this classified stuff is relevant," Libby would have had an issue for appeal, but would have had to go forward with his defense sans the documents. Instead, the judge has cooperated with the pas de troix that is a successful greymail defense.

1. Defense asks for classified docs
2. Judge orders government to produce
3. Government refuses
4. Defense seeks dismissal
5. Judge dismisses, and Oliver North Scooter walks.

Just two days ago I predicted that the noise Jack Abramoff is threatening to make would inure to Scooter's benefit. I did not expect to see verification so quickly.

Today is a very good day for Scooter. The rest of us just got shit on.

Update: More on Judge Walton here, courtesy dKosian Halcyon.
Update #2: Larry Johnson sees the Judge's half a baby ruling as good news. Upon further relfection, I suspect he may be right. I sure hope so. Not sure I need to do a full Emily Litella here, but grains of salt recommended.
Update #3: I have thought some more about this, and I now think that LJ might be right about the judge's intentions, but not about the result.

Judges generally like compromises. So the approach taken by Walton seems, in the abstract, to make sense. But.

We know the Bush team takes wildly illogical positions regarding the sharing of information. Look at the Seibel Edmonds case, for example. And getting Scooter off the hook is likely to be Karl Rove's highest priority about now (other than his job as Katrina rebuilding czar, of course). So it would not surprise me if the White House refused to let the CIA or anybody else turn over information that is already public, let alone a single word of the PDBs or ther internal documents. (Recall how well it worked out for them to let us know about the "bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside U.S." PDB).

So I'm back to thinking that there is no way the Bush cabal will accept the compromise, if that's what it is, offered up by Walton. The real question will be what Walton does after they refuse.


Blogger Ron Brynaert said...

Ha. Great stuff.

But what about the morale that you should never sing when you're covered in shit.

5:21 PM  

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