To the Contrary

Here are the real facts about the Libby case

It is understandable why the average person might not know the true story about the "outing of Valerie Plame," but the disinformation contained in the editorial "The Libby sentence" is inexcusable.

The facts of the case are this: Joseph Wilson wrote an op-ed article in which he lied through his teeth. In that article Wilson claimed that he was personally asked to go to Niger by Vice President Cheney to verify that Iraqi agents had tried to buy "yellow cake" for their atomic weapons program. Wilson further claimed that he reported to Cheney that there was no attempt by Iraq to do so and, therefore, President Bush lied when he included the statement about this attempt along with others concerning his alarm over the gathering (not imminent) threat that Iraq posed in his 2003 State of the Union message.

It has since been determined that Cheney never met Wilson and that it was Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, an analyst at the CIA, who suggested to her superiors that Wilson go to Niger. Wilson, who had no qualifications for such an assignment other than his wife's recommendation and who never filed a written report, had previously testified to a congressional committee that Iraq had indeed tried to make such a purchase. In Bush's 2003 speech, he stated the attempted buy was based on British Intelligence and the British still stand behind their report.

As far as the investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is concerned, it should have never been conducted and, once started, should have been shut down almost immediately. The outrage by the press has always been that Plame's identity as a CIA employee was confidential and her life was endangered by making that information public. At least one reporter has commented that this information was already public information because Wilson himself talked openly about it.

Plame wasn't covered

Beyond that, the former congresswoman who drafted the legislation that defined the crime said from the very beginning that Plame was not covered by the law. The intent was to protect only covert agents and the person doing the outing had to know the agent's status was covert. Neither condition existed. Further, Fitzgerald knew within 72 hours of his investigation that the person who had originally "outed" Plame to the press was Richard Armitage, a State Department employee with no ideological ties to the Bush administration.

Instead of wrapping up the case quickly, Fitzgerald played to the press by dragging the investigation on for almost two years. After spending all that time and money, he had to justify himself by indicting someone. Scooter Libby was indicted on a process charge of obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI and grand jury. (By the way, since the charge against Libby was based on statements he made about his own conversations with reporters, it is difficult to understand how that can be construed as covering up for anyone else in the administration.) These charges, while serious, are often overlooked, especially when they have little impact on the investigation. This was the situation in this case, but it was the only "crime" Fitzgerald could find.

Libby's crime?

What was Libby's egregious crime? He failed to accurately recount when and from whom he first heard about Valerie Plame and her part in this incident and when and to whom he conveyed that information. Everyone admits Libby, as Cheney's chief of staff, was an extremely busy person handling hundreds of issues for the vice president. Imagine being asked some six months later about the timing, content and context about a particular issue that was part of conversations where several other issues were also discussed. Libby had no reason to knowingly lie, because there was no one in the administration to protect.

Meanwhile Armitage, who knew all along that he was the source of the "leak" to the press and Fitzgerald, who knew Armitage was the source and had no intention of indicting him, both refused to make that information public until long after Libby was indicted.

For The Herald to continue to imply that there was a concerted effort by the Bush administration to smear Wilson is ridiculous. Wilson effectively smeared himself by telling a factually challenged version of his role in all this, something the media has consistently ignored. As far as Plame's employment with the CIA is concerned, while it may not have been common knowledge, it was far from being secret information. Knowing her identity poses no more risk to her than knowing the identity of the editorial staff of The Herald. Perhaps less!

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