Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby Vindicated & Cleared of Outing Valerie Plame

I just had to write that headline bcause you will not see it anywhere else.

For months a special prosecutor has been persuing the charge that members of the Bush administration leaked information to the press that exposed Valerie Plame as a CIA agent.

After two years, the special prosecuter apparently had not found enough evidence to indict anyone on this charge. (The indictment for Scooter Libby that was released today can be found here).

During two years involving hundreds of hours of testimony covering hundreds of people trying to recall hundreds of conversations that took place over two years ago with hundreds of different people and with most of these conversations either "off the record" or from an "anonymous source" and being recalled without the benefits of having taken notes on those conversations to assist with recalling exactly what was said when and to whom...... After all of this, the Special Prosecutor was only able to come up with one statement, repeated several times by Scooter Libby concerning conversations with three/four journalists, that appears to be untrue.

In each of these conversations, Libby told the special prosecuter that he was asked a question (which the reporters apparently deny they asked) and that, in his reply, he told them that he did not confirm to them that Valerie Plame was Joe Wilson's wife (which the reporters apparently claim otherwise) but that he had heard suggestions to that effect from other reporters (which the reporters apparently claim he did not say to them.)

The prosecutor presents this evidence against Libby, clearly taking the side of the reporters testimony as being true while believing that Libby intentionally lied, obstructed, falsified and perjured himself with this one statement out of thousands of statements on every other point.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Clearly Libby will have some explaining or clarifying to do when he is given the opportunity to defend himself during his now-pending trial.

If, in fact, Libby made these statements knowing full well that they were not true then he should suffer the consequences of the charges that he now faces.

But, whether guilty of these charges or not, there is no evidence presented that in any way paints the Bush administration as having conspired to do anything unethical or illegal concerning the pathetic case of Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame.

Curiously, although Barbara Miller of the New York Times is mentioned as one of the reporters who interviewed Libby, her published recollections of her testimony interviews are so vague and and her own integrity and honesty so shaky that her testimony, cited as evidence in the idictments, would appear to be less than authoritative.

This leaves the recollections of NBC's Tim Russert and Time reporter Matthew Cooper as the basis for the indictments against Libby. As I read Libby's testimony in the indictment I am not always certain that he is testifying as to what he told them and wanted them to believe (which was clearly obfuscated and untrue but not in any way criminal) or to what he actually knew and believed at the time (and either lied about it intentionally--which is criminal--or simply mis-remembered--which is not).

At the worst, Scooter Libby was caught in telling a lie to the Grand Jury that has little to do with the charges that initiated the investigation in the first place.

As a reflection of the Bush administration, Captain Ed puts it in persperspective:

If the Times has its sources correct, they can celebrate the second indictment of a Bush administration official.
That only puts the Bush administration 59 behind the Clinton administration, by the way. And that was while he was still in office -- that apparently does not count Sandy Berger's stealing of code-word classified documents from the National Archive and destroying them during the 9/11 investigation
Right now it appears to be a he/said she/said sort of indictment. A classic case of "left-wing media" vs "conservative republican administration advisor."

With a foundational plot line like that the trial will make a compelling story.

As a matter of national politics it will, however, be "full of sound and fury" but "signifying nothing."

UPDATE: I appears that my thoughts are closely reflected in a statement released by Libby's lawyer today.