May, 31, 2007
Dan K. Thommason
Scripps Howard News Service
What in the world did former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby ever do to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to make him so angry? Fitzgerald now wants the federal court to throw the book at Libby as the final step in one of the most graphically unfair, ridiculous investigations and prosecutions in the history of the Republic.
There really has to be something personal here. One would think the Chicago prosecutor with a reputation for self-righteousness had a bone to pick with Libby from the very start.
Fitzgerald has asked for a three-year sentence for Libby, who was convicted of obstructing justice and lying during an inquiry into the disclosure of a CIA undercover agent who hadn't been covert in some time. For heavens sake, the Watergate cover up conspirators didn't get that harsh of treatment for precipitating a constitutional crisis. There are convicted muggers, thieves and dopers who are doing less time.
Valerie Plame, the CIA operative, was about as important to the security of this nation as I am and that much seems implicit in the fact that Fitzgerald decided early on there were no grounds to prosecute anyone under a law making it a crime to reveal the identity of an American spy. But one would have thought that revealing her occupation was a serious breach in national defense that threatened us all and that her life has been ruined by that disclosure. Instead, she and her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, seem to have thrived, becoming media celebrities and the darlings of liberal salons. If the court accepts Fitzgerald's demands, the couple can giggle all the way to the next Vanity Fair party while grousing that Fitzgerald didn't put away more White House aides.
But wait a second. Wasn't this essentially a victimless non-crime, the leaking of Plame's name that is? Then why continue to pursue the matter? That's anyone's guess but a legitimate surmise might be that Fitzgerald was interested almost from the first in getting someone to lie so he could prosecute anyway. In fact, there was almost immediate speculation to that effect after he was appointed. Badger anyone long enough and discrepancies in their stories are likely to appear. I'm sorry, but there has to be some personal motivation in all this.
Having chosen Libby as the scapegoat in this charade, Fitzgerald now wants to administer the coup de grace by putting him in the slammer for 30 to 37 months. Why not? We all know by now that Libby's crime makes him public enemy number one. At least that's the way it sounded in Fitzgerald's sentencing recommendation. He argued that Libby "showed contempt for the judicial process ... by repeatedly lying under oath about material matters in a serious criminal investigation."
He also said that Libby has shown no remorse for his actions. Well, in Libby's mind he feels he was unfairly made an example, wrongly prosecuted and wrongly convicted and there are a great many Americans out there who agree with him no matter what the special counsel says.
This is not a defense for lying nor should public officials be treated leniently when they disobey the law. But there are crimes and there are crimes and the impact of Libby's actions, even if accurately portrayed, which is in doubt, is without real significance except to demonstrate the diligence of those prosecuting him, another notch on the handle of the counsel's gun so to speak. It is difficult for the average person to see how a case can be obstructed when there is no case. Fitzgerald's mandate was to determine whether the law on CIA disclosures had been broken and he knew almost immediately that it hadn't but he kept going.
What about all those others who had a hand in outing Plame -- the former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who told columnist Bob Novak and began this travesty? Why was no one else but Libby pursued with this fervor. The prosecutors even jailed a reporter for not telling them what they already knew. So what in the world is going on here, Fitzgerald?
Perhaps Libby is fortunate that Fitzgerald didn't ask for the death penalty. He probably would have if he could have. Federal District Judge Reggie Walton will make the decision on June 5, and he needs to start asking questions about the severity of this request.
Haven't the taxpayers spent enough on this nonsense?