October 29, 2005

THEY CAN HAVE THE NEOCON:

Mr. Fitzgerald would seem to pretty much lay to rest the notion that Ms Plame was covert in this section of his press conference:

QUESTION: You said earlier in your statement here that Mr. Libby was the first person to leak this information outside of the government. Now, first of all, that implies that there might have been other people inside the government who made such leaks.

Secondly, in paragraph 21, the one about "Official A," you imply that Novak might have heard this information about the woman, Mrs. Wilson, from another source. But you don't actually say that.

What can you tell us about the existence that you know of or don't know of or whatever of other leakers? Are there definitely other leakers? Is "Official A" a leaker or just a facilitator? Are you continuing to investigate other possible leakers?

FITZGERALD: I'm afraid I'm going to have to find a polite way of repeating my answer to Mr. Isikoff's question, which is to simply say I can't go beyond the four corners of the indictment. And I'll probably just say -- I'll repeat it so I don't misstep and give you anything more than I should.

QUESTION: Can you say whether or not you know whether Mr. Libby knew that Valerie Wilson's identity was covert and whether or not that was pivotal at all in your inability or your decision not to charge under the Intelligence Identity Protection Act?

FITZGERALD: Let me say two things. Number one, I am not speaking to whether or not Valerie Wilson was covert. And anything I say is not intended to say anything beyond this: that she was a CIA officer from January 1st, 2002, forward.

I will confirm that her association with the CIA was classified at that time through July 2003. And all I'll say is that, look, we have not made any allegation that Mr. Libby knowingly, intentionally outed a covert agent.

FITZGERALD: We have not charged that. And so I'm not making that assertion.


Were the outing itself a crime then Official A who likewise outed her according Fitzgerald's own facts would have been indicted.

Meanwhile, he here reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the criticism being aimed at him:

QUESTION: Mr. Fitzgerald, the Republicans previewed some talking points in anticipation of your indictment and they said that if you didn't indict on the underlying crimes and you indicted on things exactly like you did indict -- false statements, perjury, obstruction -- these were, quote/unquote, "technicalities," and that it really was over reaching and excessive.

And since, when and if they make those claims, now that you have indicted, you won't respond, I want to give you an opportunity now to respond to that allegation which they may make. It seems like that's the road they're going down.

FITZGERALD: [...] That talking point won't fly. If you're doing a national security investigation, if you're trying to find out who compromised the identity of a CIA officer and you go before a grand jury and if the charges are proven -- because remember there's a presumption of innocence -- but if it is proven that the chief of staff to the vice president went before a federal grand jury and lied under oath repeatedly and fabricated a story about how he learned this information, how he passed it on, and we prove obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements to the FBI, that is a very, very serious matter.

FITZGERALD: And I'd say this: I think people might not understand this. We, as prosecutors and FBI agents, have to deal with false statements, obstruction of justice and perjury all the time. The Department of Justice charges those statutes all the time.

When I was in New York working as a prosecutor, we brought those cases because we realized that the truth is the engine of our judicial system. And if you compromise the truth, the whole process is lost.

In Philadelphia, where Jack works, they prosecute false statements and obstruction of justice.

When I got to Chicago, I knew the people before me had prosecuted false statements, obstruction and perjury cases.

FITZGERALD: And we do it all the time. And if a truck driver pays a bribe or someone else does something where they go into a grand jury afterward and lie about it, they get indicted all the time.

Any notion that anyone might have that there's a different standard for a high official, that this is somehow singling out obstruction of justice and perjury, is upside down.


Note that even he apparently thinks there ought to be an underlying crime before the truck driver is indicted for lying about it.

Mr. Libby appears to have just gotten himself in trouble by lying about a set of facts that hadn't opened him to any legal liability in the first place, though he may not have known that at the time he was leaking, Libby defence: I don't recall (News24, 29/10/2005)

The case against Libby: He testified that he learned from NBC correspondent Tim Russert the identity of a covert CIA officer who is the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson. Russert says they never discussed it.

The facts, prosecutor Fitzgerald said, are that the month before the conversation with Russert, Libby learned about the CIA status of Valerie Plame from Cheney, from a senior CIA officer and from an undersecretary of state.

But Libby told the FBI and the grand jury that he informed reporters Matt Cooper of Time magazine and Judith Miller of The New York Times information about Wilson's wife that he had got from other reporters - information that Libby said he did not know to be true. Libby testified that he told the reporters he did not even know if Wilson had a wife.

But Fitzgerald said that rather than being at the end of a chain of phone calls from reporters, Libby "was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards."

The indictment points to interesting behaviour by Libby that changed once Wilson went public with his criticism of the current Bush administration. The former ambassador accused the administration of twisting pre-war intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons program to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.

Early on, the indictment said, Libby became concerned about an article in The New Republic magazine that referred to Wilson, though not by name, as having gone to Africa for the CIA to investigate allegations that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger. The unnamed ambassador was quoted as saying the "Niger story was a flat-out lie."

The indictment said Libby told his deputy there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing information about the trip and that Libby could not discuss the matter on a nonsecure telephone line."

After Wilson criticised the Bush administration on NBC's Meet the Press, Libby had lunch with then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and advised him that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and noted that such information was not widely known, the indictment said.

It said Libby proceeded to spread it more aggressively than he had previously.


No matter how you slice it, his behavior once the investigation started was spectacularly stupid and regardless of whether he's ever convicted of a crime or pleads guilty to one, it's hard to feel sorry for a guy who looks to have been lying so systematically to law enforcement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 29, 2005 7:55 AM
Comments

Best-case explanation I've seen is that since Libby apparently found out the information from Cheney, who was entitled both to know it and to tell his aide, Scooter lied about the source in the run-up to the 2004 election because the VP's right-to-know would have been lost in the stories to follow, and just his menioning of the Plame connection to Libby would have been portrayed as an "outing" scandal that could have impacted the election.

Since the incidents occurred in 2003, you can debate whether or not the story would have had 15-month legs among the public, though there's no question it would have among the media. But with the White House being told even back in early 2002 that the '04 election would be tight, it at least provides a bit of a reason for such seemlingly willfully stuipd behavior on Libby's part.

Posted by: John at October 29, 2005 9:03 AM

It was weird that Fitzgerald went on and on about the dangers to national security of outing a covert agent when he wasn't charging Libby, or apparently anyone else for doing so, and why did Fitzgerald look and sound so nervous? Shaky voice, averted eyes? Unusual for a veteran prosecutor.

BTW If hes so concerned about national security and the dangers of outing covert agents, why isnt he indicting Leahy. The covert agents he outed turned up dead.

Posted by: tefta at October 29, 2005 9:08 AM

tefta:

It reminded me of the press conferences that Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton had, where with the facts against them they decided that just stayting out there and taking, even if not answering, every question would satisfy folks instead.

Posted by: oj at October 29, 2005 9:26 AM

oj. I'm not following your comment about Ferraro and Hillary unless you aren't referring to specific occasions, but just commenting on the genre of press conference where the performers know the media will make them look good no matter how stupid they really are. If so, you're absolutely correct.

Do you remember way back after bubba was elected in 1992, but before he took office, the NYTs Sunday Magazine had a bunch of pundits make predictions about the fabulous corruption-free administration, the likes of which the world had never seen. I dont remember who they were or what they said, except for P.J. ORourke whose comment was very short, I dont have the exact quote, but it was something like: It doesnt matter what Clinton does, the media will spin it favorably. As usual, PJ hit the mark.

Slightly o/t - The boyishly handsome Fitzgerald could play himself in the made-for-TV movie if he can wipe that tiny little hint of a sneer off the side of his mouth. Now that Peter Lorre is no longer with us, I cant think of a single person who is evil looking enough to portray the arch criminal Scooter Libby.

Posted by: tefta at October 29, 2005 10:37 AM

My husband cannot grasp why it was wrong for a "covert" agent to actually work for the CIA out in the open like she did.


And I just can't explain it well, I guess.

Posted by: Sandy P at October 29, 2005 10:51 AM

Perhaps seducing Joe Wilson was the best she could do.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 29, 2005 12:31 PM

So above it appears that Fitz is against bringing charges against someone if no underlying crime was committed but isn't that exactly what he has done? Above he says it wasn't his job to determine if Plame was covert or not but wasn't the whole investigation based on determining if someone outed a covert agent? Libby may have acted badly but I still don't see why Plame, Wilson, Novak, Russert, etc. aren't being called on the carpet as well.

Posted by: AWW at October 29, 2005 1:15 PM

AWW -

Re: Russert&Asociates.

Absent a plea bargain, they will.

Posted by: ghostcat at October 29, 2005 2:10 PM

AWW:

Libby's the only one who lied about the non-crime.

Posted by: oj at October 29, 2005 3:54 PM

Why didn't Fitz have anything to say about David Corn (who first revealed Plame's actual status)? And if Wilson was Corn's source, why isn't he under indictment? And was Andrea Mitchell questioned about her discussions with Tim Russert? For all we know, Libby did hear something about Plame from Russert, because Russert first heard it from Mitchell. Just asking.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 29, 2005 4:29 PM

Because she wasn't covert so there's no underlying crime. Only the liar was charged.

Posted by: oj at October 29, 2005 4:36 PM

OK. No. Prosecutors do NOT bring these kind of cases all of the time. Fitzgerald is lying. Perjury is usually only prosecuted where the evidence is iron-clad (such as a reversal of testimony) and where there was a underlying crime. This is purely practical. You can't win cases where there is an obvious defense like "I forgot." It's easy to forget things when they don't matter.

Maybe Libby lied. Maybe he didn't. Maybe he got nervous and screwed up. But, as perjury cases go, this is a mouse. It's all about "Who told whom and when," which is really unimportant stuff. $1,000,000 spent on such a charge is a joke.

Posted by: Kevin B at October 30, 2005 1:10 AM
« THEY WANT ANOTHER SCALIA & YOU'VE GOT ONE: | Main | LET’S ALL GO TO THE ZOO ZOO ZOO »