It was bracing to see the son of a New York doorman open the door on the mendacious Washington lair of the Lord of the Underground.And while I'd rather read the indictment myself, for those without time, there seem to be good places to start. Stirling Newberry, for one:
But this Irish priest of the law, Patrick Fitzgerald, neither Democrat nor Republican, was very strict, very precise. He wasn't totally gratifying in clearing up the murkiness of the case, yet strangely comforting in his quaint black-and-white notions of truth and honor (except when his wacky baseball metaphor seemed to veer toward a "Who's on first?" tangle).
"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he told reporters yesterday in his big Eliot Ness moment at the Justice Department. The indictment was simply about whether the son of an investment banker perjured himself before a grand jury and the F.B.I.
Scooter does seem like a big fat liar in the indictment. And not a clever one, since his deception hinged on, of all people, the popular monsignor of the trusted Sunday Church of Russert. Does Scooter hope to persuade a jury to believe him instead of Little Russ?
There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible.
This does not capture the full range and gravity of the charges against him. An act of perjury is lying about a material fact. Libby didn't merely lie once about how he came by Plame's identity, but over and over again, elaborating the lie with other lies, fabricating conversations to protect the lie, and asking others to lie to protect the lie. The indictment is filled with statements that Libby made to the grand jury which the prosecutor alleges are lies. This is not a technicality, nor a single moment of weakness, but a sustained campaign to present to law enforcement a fictitious story to avoid criminal jeopardy.All fall down.
But what this indictment implies is weightier still. It states that there was official discussion of Plame's identity by officials of the executive branch. It implies that Wilson questioning the Niger story created a political problem for them which they felt they had to deal with, not by legal means, but by covert, and potentially illegal means. If Wilson had been leaking, then they could have simply had him arrested and charged with leaking classified national security information. But they knew that not only was Wilson telling the truth, but that they had to deal with him without invoking the law.
And the NYT lead editorial, for another:
Supporters of Mr. Libby, known as Scooter, have attempted to describe the Wilson case as, at worse, a matter of casual gossip by Washington insiders about the wife of a man in the news. But the indictment does not describe a situation in which people accidentally outed someone they did not know was a covert officer. It describes a distinct and disturbing pattern of behavior among very high-ranking officials, including Mr. Libby and Vice President Dick Cheney, who knew that they were dealing with a covert officer and used their access to classified information in a public relations campaign over the rapidly disintegrating justifications for war with Iraq.As Peter Gabriel sang: here comes the flood. Because, from Newberry, here's the key:
The question unanswered, as Fitzgerald repeated at his press conference, is why Libby burned Plame, and under whose authority. Politically there is no good answer, whether legal or illegal, the burning of Plame was clearly a political act for political convenience, and not a matter of national security. But for the purposes of the law, Libby is only guilty if he was not supposed to reveal the information. The indictment notes that Libby signed the normal form to protect classified information. This means that if he did not have permission to burn Plame, or the permission was not legally given, he could be charged with revealing classified information.More to come, clearly.
P.S. If you haven't seen it, here are Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh on Iraq and the WMD issue. As Hersh says, the idea that Hussein ever had WMD was an "urban myth." It was clear by '97, in fact, that he had no such thing. There is a great deal more to this than just Scooter Libby's liberal use of lies.