Sunday, January 28, 2007

Cathie Martin in the Witness Chair

Dick Cheney's press aide Cathie Martin was visibly uncomfortable testifying about the Valerie Plame leak. Martin was forced to admit several taboos that were the worst kept secrets in Washington.

With a candor that is frowned upon at the White House, Martin explained the use of late-Friday statements. "Fewer people pay attention to it late on Friday," she said. "Fewer people pay attention when it's reported on Saturday."

The announcement of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 was a perfect example of how the White House kill dissent by slowing the slow weekend news cycle. No will wil care if they aren't paying attention.

Martin is knee deep into the Plame leak. She accompanied Cheney and Libby on the infamous Norfolk flight.

Defending the war became the animating priority aboard Air Force Two that day. According to his indictment on Friday, Libby "discussed with other officials aboard the plane" how he should respond to "pending media inquiries" about the critic, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Apart from Libby, only press aide Catherine Martin is known to have accompanied Cheney on that flight.

Martin was involved in spreading the Plame leak.

But Martin, encouraged by Libby, secretly advised Libby and Cheney on how to respond. She put "Meet the Press" at the top of her list of "Options" but noted that it might appear "too defensive." Next, she proposed "leak to Sanger-Pincus-newsmags. Sit down and give to him." This meant that the "no-leak" White House would give the story to the New York Times' David Sanger, The Washington Post's Walter Pincus, or Time or Newsweek. Option 3: "Press conference -- Condi/Rumsfeld." Option 4: "Op-ed."

Martin was embarrassed about the "leak" option; the case, after all, is about a leak. "It's a term of art," she said. "If you give it to one reporter, they're likelier to write the story."

I would be embarrassed too if I help leak a CIA operative's identity and then had to testify in federal court.


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