What the Libby Verdict Does and Doesn’t Mean
- 12 March 2007 by Author 0 Comments
What the Libby Verdict Does and Doesn’t Mean
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 03/12/07
There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the “Scooter” Libby verdict. It really is very easy to break down intellectually to ascertain what the verdict represents, and what it doesn’t represent. The problem for many seems to be when the process is taken beyond the intellectual limits, and conjecture, misinterpretation, or wishful thinking are invoked.
In December, 2003, Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed by the Justice Department to serve as the Special Prosecutor in the reported leak of a CIA employees’ identification. The alleged leak was of the name of Valerie Plame, the head of the WMD desk at the CIA, who sent her husband, Joseph Wilson to Niger to investigate reports of Saddam Hussein’s attempts to purchase nuclear materials (yellow cake).
Within three days of Fitzgerald’s appointment, Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State, notified Fitgerald that he thought he was the source of the leak.
After three years, over $60 million, and scores of subpoenas and cross-examinations, the only charges Fitzgerald could muster was five counts of obstruction of justice and perjury by former Cheney Chief of Staff, “Scooter” Libby. These charges were made based on Libby changing his story, or recollecting differently, for his many interrogations. Neither the charges nor the conviction indicated any attempt to “protect” any one else in the White House, including Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, President Bush’s Chief of Staff.
With the cursory history laid out, a review of what the Libby guilty verdict really represents is facilitated. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed after the verdict’s announcement that it was about someone in the administration finally being “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.”
Was the verdict, as Reid alleges, a vindication of critics’ accusations against the Bush administration for manipulating intelligence leading to the Iraq war? Obviously not, as there were no charges to that effect even though the prosecutor was given “plenary” powers in his role as special prosecutor, meaning there were virtually no limits to what he could or couldn’t pursue in the case. In other words, Fitzgerald was on a fishing expedition with a very wide net, and whatever he “caught,” he could prosecute.
Was then the verdict a vindication of the multifarious charges of Bush administration efforts to “punish” a critic of the Iraq war? No. There is no evidence of that in spite of three years of extensive efforts on the prosecutor’s part to find incriminating evidence to that effect. Armitage was the source of the leak, but since he opposed the Iraq conflict he’s summarily exempted from prosecution. The Washington Post asserts that Wilson himself was the initial source of the “leak.” Claims that Bush advisor Karl Rove was the source amount to nothing more than wishful thinking. After observing the zealous pursuit Fitzgerald showed with the case, you can be sure charges would have been leveled against Rove if warranted.
Was the verdict about the actual “leak” of a CIA employees name? Apparently not, as Fitzgerald knew the source of the leak to be Richard Armitage early in the investigation, and to date, no charges whatsoever have been leveled against that source. Further, it’s not even established that Plame was covered by the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Victoria Toensing who helped author the Act has said that Plame was not covered by the provisions of the act as Plame was not “in the field” or a covert agent.
Was the verdict against Libby an indictment of the Iraq war itself? Obviously not, otherwise the prosecutor would have addressed the fact that Joseph Wilson had initially confirmed to the Senate Intelligence Committee Hussein’s efforts to procure “yellow cake” before he publicly lied about it in a now infamous op-ed column in the New York Times, which lie he perpetuates ad nauseam on the speakers’ circuit.
It’s obvious that even the jury was not sure what Libby was charged with. For eight days they deliberated, and then just three hours before they released their verdict, they inquired of the judge what exactly the charges were. According to Denis Collins, a journalist who served on the jury, they thought Libby was the “fall guy” for the administration. This begs the question, the fall guy for what? There were no other charges, no other indictments, no other accusations made by the “plenary” prosecutor against the administration collectively, or any members of the administration individually.
It appears that the jury was wanting much more than they got, as did the media who responded in a virtual orgasm of insinuations, extrapolations, and conjectures after the verdict was released as characterized by Tim Russert’s comment that it was “like Christmas morning” when the verdict was handed down. Who, coincidentally, had his own share of contradicting recollections that could have brought him the same charges Libby received.
It would appear, based on the evidence, that this was no more than a witch hunt where Fitzgerald threw a lot of “noodles” to see what would stick, and came away only with evidence of a process crime. If anything else can be drawn from the investigation, it is the fact that the White House had nothing to hide as it related to the investigation, the supposed leak of a CIA employees’ name, or of any attempt at obfuscation.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.