Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Lewis Libby Railroad

So, the prosecutor in the case of supposed “outing” of alleged undercover agent Valerie Plame, Patrick Fitzgerald, has found insufficient evidence that Ms. Plame’s alleged cover was blown, which was the reason for the entire investigation, and has therefore not charged anyone with violating that law. Instead, after a two-year investigation only a single figure, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, has been charged, and he wasn’t charged with the crime that was the focus of the investigation.

Mr. Fitzgerald said that divulging a covert agent’s identity is a serious matter, and indeed it is. The people who put themselves into this situation for their country must be protected.

An important but never discussed element of this whole affair is whether the covert agent protection law covered Valerie Plame to begin with. You might think that this would be the very first determination to be made before committing millions of dollars and nearly two years to an investigation. Yet, Mr. Fitzgerald has not said that the law covered Ms. Plame. If the law did not cover her, there should have been no investigation after that fact was determined. If there had been no investigation Mr. Libby would never have been put in the position to give false information to the grand jury because there would have been no grand jury.

Yet despite the failure to show that the law covered her, or to state that the law was broken, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald conducted a nearly two-year investigation.

Without a clear purpose to justify an investigation, something even minimally relevant, like knowing that a law was broken, Mr. Fitzgerald spent millions of dollars on a 22-month fishing expedition, the result of which is that he found that no one broke the law protecting covert agents, the very focus of the investigation. However, Lewis Libby appears to have gotten mixed up in recounting the multitude of conversations a chief of staff to the Vice President of the United States participates in every day. Joseph diGenova, a former US attorney agrees, noting that "[t]here were many conversations over a long period of time involving many people.” How many of us remember correctly every word of every conversation we have every day? How many remember those conversations from two years ago? How would you like your freedom to depend upon you ability to remember those multitudinous conversations? Welcome to Lewis Libby’s life.

That is the only logical explanation. Mr. Libby, of course, always knew he hadn’t committed the crime of outing Valerie Plame, which is validated by the fact that neither he nor anyone else has been charged with that crime. What possible reason could he have, therefore, to deliberately lie to the FBI, the special prosecutor, or a grand jury?

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Anonymous said...

Regarding the millions Fitzgerald has spent, he's a relative bargain.
From Dan Froomkin's WashPost online column:

"[Slevin and Leonnig report]In its first 15 months, the investigation cost $723,000, according to the Government Accountability Office."

Think about that number for a minute. It's astonishingly low by any standard.

Consider that over about the same period of time that Fitzgerald spent $723,000, independent counsel David M. Barrett spent more than $3 million.

Who the heck is Barrett? He was appointed more than ten years ago to investigate then-Housing Secretary Henry G. Cisneros. It's not clear what he's been doing lately, other than tidying up. He's spent more than $21 million in all.

And as George Lardner Jr. wrote in The Washington Post on March 31, 2001, by that point independent counsel investigations of Clinton had cost almost $60 million -- about $52 million by Kenneth W. Starr alone.

James Shott said...

I'm less concerned at the dollar amount than that there was an investigation at all when no crime was committed. If no one broke the law covering covert agents, this should have been a short and even-cheaper investigation. Instead, we have what appears to be a witch hunt.

Anonymous said...

With hunt Schmitch hunt. If Libby didn't lie to the grand jury, he has nothing to worry about.

James Shott said...

Right. Or is it? Remember, he is only "accused" of lying. He may not have lied. All he may have done is to have gotten mixed up some of the details of a few of a multitude of conversations he had with lots of different people two years prior.

And yet, even though the crime the investigation was launched over was not broken, and Mr. Libby may have done nothing wrong, he is now out of a job, and publicly accused of committing five felonies.

You may cavalierly blow that off because it's him, not you. But I think that it is a horrible injustice to indict someone like Lewis Libby for some secondary and otherwise irrelevant "misdeed," when no original crime was committed.