Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Political Misfortune of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby

Today will be closing arguments in the perjury case of VP Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, whose political fortunes changed forever when Robert Novak wrote his column on July 14, 2003. The taxpayers fortunes have changed some $1.4 million, not including the trials, according to the AP, and Libby has raised a fortune of more than $3 million in his legal defense fund.

The folks over at Firedoglake have been making hay that the old-platform media hasn't been up to the task of covering the trial, but I wandered for 20 minutes through their website, before I gave up in a sea of un-organized details (excellent source material for writing a book, but not for time-pressed information consumers. Bloggert David Corn offers more concise summaries, in my estimation. Extensive pre-trial background, well presented, here.)

Perhaps AH can ask them to put together a timeline and to write up what they hoped to find out but which wasn't shown at trial, whatever came up that was totally unexpected, and the general import of the behind-the-scenes spillover for readers interested in more than simple guilt or innocence of the charges? (One effort here, Libby Trial Dodges the Truth).

Bloggert Swopa, while complaining about old-platform reports, offers up an interesting conjecture that, to him, seems in plain sight to those following the details:

What I think the [Washington] Post and [TPM bloggert John Marshall] are trying to imply is that those calls [to six Washington journalists] from Air Force One were specifically orchestrated by Libby, based on Cheney's instructions on Air Force Two. And special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has sources on both planes to back that theory up.

Few people have speculated in advance of a verdict about whether Libby may eventually get a pardon for any of his adjudicated transgressions, perhaps with some pulbic support out of pity if folks come to understand that the true impetus for the Plame affair originated with his bosses. At least one neocon, Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress as a diplomat in Reagan's State Department, had their political careers resuscitated. Abrams was pardoned by Bush-41 and, after a series of very critical posts with Bush-43, became a Deputy National Security Adviser, a post he still holds.


Against this backdrop, one starts to see the injustice, the duplicity, in the GOP's strategy for handling leaks and leakers.

On the one hand, it is fairly clear to an outside observer, that the Attorney General has been set to the task of providing a penalty to those who leak information. Leaking itself is neither good or bad, but the person who leaks must face consequences.

The imputed policy of imposing costs on a leaker can be gleaned from a number of instances:

  1. the robust prosecution of the investigative journalists who used leaked grand jury testimony in the baseball steroid scandal

  2. the partial, rather than full, de-classification of the deeply embarrassing NIE of April 2006 on Iraq, so that the leaker could still be held accountable, presumably;

  3. the case of imposing a cost on Joe Wilson, albeit non-legal, for relying on a privileged position inside the government (his wife Valerie Plame's connection to the CIA) to provide information in an NYT op-Ed that others might have wanted to keep secret.

While we might think intuitively in terms of a "just leak", one that serves the public interest better than the elected officials are doing, there is, of course, no such legal category.


However, not only is the GOP's Administration in an odd position of having used 'leaks' to fight Wilson's 'leaks' (perceived as non-loyalty or policy-unfaithfulness, if not outright peddling of privileged information) but they also have promoted convicted liars right on up to the the highest ranks of government, namely the NSC.

It a hurdle to portray the first as anything more than vindictive and the second, hypocrisy.

(photo: AP)

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