Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Thoughts & Concerns from the Libby Trial.

The verdict is in. Scooter Libby has been convicted. He was, according to the New York Times, “convicted today of lying to FBI agents and grand jurors investigating the unmasking of a CIA operative amid a burning dispute over the war in Iraq.”

I an not concerned about the conviction of Mr. Libby per se. He was given a fair trial before twelve jurors. After hearing the evidence, they decided that Mr. Libby’s defense – that he did not lie; rather, he just had a memory lapse – was not credible. Not having heard all of the evidence, I will trust the jury’s assessment of the facts. There may be grounds for an appeal, I do not know. Regardless, in the narrow sense of this trial and the perjury related charges made against him, Mr. Libby has received justice.

That is possibly the only thing about this whole matter that does not trouble me:

1. I am troubled that anyone publicly identified Valerie Plame to begin with. I know Joe Wilson claimed to have been sent on fact finding mission to Niger by the Vice President’s office – a falsehood -- but it was not necessary to identify Plame in order for the Bush administration to fully rebut that portion of Wilson’s claim. Her involvement was ancillary to the only real fact at issue – between Bush and Wilson, who was lying. George Tenet could have been tasked to set the record straight on Wilson’s claim. We should never be identifying our intelligence agents, at least under these types of circumstances.

2. I am troubled that the “leak” investigation by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald resembled far more an inquisition then a criminal investigation. From Day 1 of his appointment, Fitzgerald had to know that there was not a criminally prosecutable leak, and in fact he knew, but kept secret, the name of the person responsible for the leak.

3. I am troubled that the only crime at issue, on Day One of the investigation, was whether, in leaking Ms. Plame’s name, the leaker had violated the 50 U.S.C. 421 et al – the act that protects a narrow category of agents from having their identity made public by another narrow category of individuals. The first question the Special Prosecutor had to answer was whether Ms. Plame qualified for that protection.

The statute only protects covert agents that are assigned overseas or who have “served” overseas within five years of the disclosure. We know that six years before the disclosure, Valerie Plame was transferred to a permanent assignment in Washington D.C. as a WMD analyst. We know that she made occasional trips overseas, but obviously the Special Prosecutor did not believe this was sufficient to meet the “service” requirement under the statute or he would have charged it.

And that was the threshold question for this entire investigation. The Special Prosecutor had to know all of this information from on or near Day 1 of his investigation. While revealing Plame’s identity may have been objectionable, it was not itself a crime. In other words, this Prosecutor conducted a near four year, multi-million dollar investigation and prosecution for something he had to know at the onset was not a crime.

4. Robert Novak made Plame’s identity public to the world when he published it in a newspaper. Novak received his information about Plame’s identity from Richard Armitage. Libby had nothing to do with Novak’s publication of Plame’s identity, nor the leak of that information by Richard Armitage.

5. I am troubled tht the Special Prosecutor knew even before he began his investigation that Armitage had provided the information to Novak – and he asked Armitage to keep quiet about that fact during the investigation. That is just incredible.

6. I am very troubled that Fitzgerald’s handling of this whole matter resembles in far too many ways the Duke rape prosecution by Mike Nifong. It was prosecutorial overreaching writ large.

7. I am troubled that Scooter Libby will not be the first or last person convicted of a felony for lying about something that was not a crime. I believe that law to be overly harsh in the extreme. If there is no underlying crime, then the punishments appropriate for perjury and obstruction related thereto should be something substantially less then the three years in prison that Libby now faces.

8. I find it of stunning irony that Libby is facing three years in prison for lying when there was no prosecutable crime, yet Sandy Berger, who stole a significant amount of classified material relating to 9-11 and destroyed it gets off with community service.

9. I am troubled that the left is rejoicing in Libby's conviction while the whole cause of this affair -- and the one true scoundrel -- is Joe Wilson. It was he who lied to all of America when, in his now infamous op-ed he made sweeping claims that he had investigated the Iraq-Niger connection on behalf of Cheney and found nothing. We know of course today that the report he gave to the CIA after his trip to Niger was that the former President of Niger had been approached by an Iraqi delegation whose purpose, the ex-President believed, was to purchase uranium.

10. I am troubled that Joe Wilson is now a hero of the left wingers. It saddens me that they have no criteria for heroes other then they must somehow degrade President Bush. There is no concern for accuracy or honesty – just partisan effectiveness.

11. I am troubled that, in order to protect Joe Wilson and his wife, the Democrats on the 9-11 Commission refused to join in the findings, based on unrefuted evidence placed before the Commission, that Wilson had lied and that his wife in fact had been in large measure responsible for Wilson being tapped to go to Niger.

12. I am troubled by the fact that I have yet to see, in a main stream newspaper of the past two years, a single newspaper article that, in giving background of the Libby trial, acknowledges that Wilson was anything other then honest in his attacks on the administration.

13. Wilson’s claim that he and his wife have been victimized by the administration really takes some brass ones. It reminds me of the story of the boy who slaughters his parents but then asks the Court for mercy because he is an orphan.

14. And lastly, I am troubled by having to listen as every partisan Democrat that can find a microphone and every liberal journalist who can find their computer grossly misrepresent and overstate the meaning of this conviction and how it is indicative of [insert your favorite outrageous assertion here] about Bush and Cheney.

Pelosi: Today’s guilty verdicts are not solely about the acts of one individual.This trial provided a troubling picture of the inner workings of the Bush Administration. The testimony unmistakably revealed – at the highest levels of the Bush Administration – a callous disregard in handling sensitive national security information and a disposition to smear critics of the war in Iraq."

Reid: "I welcome the jury's verdict. It's about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics. Lewis Libby has been convicted of perjury, but his trial revealed deeper truths about Vice President Cheney's role in this sordid affair. Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct."

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