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Trial of the Absurd By: John Podhoretz
New York Post | Friday, February 09, 2007


Let me try to unravel the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Scooter Libby trial.

Libby, you'll recall, was Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. He resigned the day he was charged with five counts of perjury by a special prosecutor named Patrick Fitzgerald.

Libby (who is a friend of mine) is accused of lying in sworn testimony to a grand jury and sworn statements to FBI investigators. Those lies, Fitzgerald says, have to do with what Libby said he knew - versus what he actually did know - about a CIA officer named Valerie Plame Wilson.

Libby agrees that on or about June 12, 2003, he was informed of the existence of Valerie Plame Wilson by his boss, the vice president.

A month later, Robert Novak published Valerie Plame's name in a column. A few days later, the leftist columnist David Corn wrote a piece claiming that Wilson was a covert CIA agent.

"If [she] is such a person," wrote Corn, "her career has been destroyed by the Bush administration." Plame's husband went further, telling Corn in effect that the Novak column "compromised every operation, every relationship, every network with which she had been associated in her entire career."

If Mrs. Wilson had been a covert agent and the administration officials who told Novak about her knew she was a covert agent, they would have committed a grave felony. Under the deadly serious terms of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, that knowing revelation carries a prison sentence as long as 25 years.

In due course, the CIA referred the matter to the FBI. The president said he'd fire anybody who leaked. Investigators interviewed various White House officials, including Libby. The Justice Department decided a special prosecutor was needed to clarify the matter, one with no political ties in D.C. And so Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, was appointed.

What we know now is this: In the early stages of his involvement, Fitzgerald met with Novak - who told him who had spoken to him: State Department official Richard Armitage and top Bush adviser Karl Rove.

Novak wasn't charged with publishing her name. Armitage and Rove weren't charged with revealing her identity. Nor was former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, who told Fitzgerald - under a grant of immunity - that he'd told three other reporters of Plame's identity.

None of those reporters was charged either - but then, none of those reporters published her name.

But there was another reporter who didn't publish Plame's name: Judith Miller, formerly of The New York Times. Fitzgerald asked her to reveal her sources on the matter, even though she never published anything about it. She refused - and he saw to it that she was thrown in jail for refusing him.

Fitzgerald then asked Libby to write Miller a letter releasing her from any pledge of anonymity Libby might have demanded of her. He did so. Fitzgerald then sprung her from jail - even though she still had other sources she wouldn't name, has not named to this day and will never name.

Sources, let me remind you, for a story that was never published. Sources who might have lied to Fitzgerald about talking to Miller and therefore might have committed perjury the way Fitzgerald says Libby committed perjury.

The day Libby was indicted, Fitzgerald made a whole spiel about the sanctity of the grand jury process and how no one can lie to a grand jury. You know what? Somebody - or somebody else - probably lied to his grand jury, but Fitzgerald has allowed that person to slip loose. How could he!

Miller says she found notes indicating that in two meetings with Libby, they discussed Valerie Plame Wilson. She didn't remember much about those conversations and couldn't make out her notes very well, and when she testified in the trial last week, by all accounts she was a disastrous witness for the prosecution because she didn't make much sense.

Still, because the notes make it appear Libby talked about Mrs. Wilson, they apparently contradict Libby's claim that he had forgotten about her identity until Tim Russert reminded him of it. And Russert, in his trial testimony yesterday, said he couldn't have told Libby because he didn't know who she was.

So let's review. No crime was committed, according to Fitzgerald, in the publication of Valerie Plame Wilson's name.

No crime was committed, according to Fitzgerald, by the actions of two government officials who revealed Valerie Plame Wilson's name to Novak.

No crime was committed, according to Fitzgerald, by the White House press secretary who actually and actively tried to spoon-feed the name to three journalists.

Scooter Libby, by contrast, spoke to a reporter who didn't publish a story with Valerie Plame Wilson's name in it. She went to jail for 85 days. Now Fitzgerald wants to send Libby to jail too - on the basis of dimly remembered conversations and indecipherable chicken scratches.

So why did this series of conversations end up being the subject of a criminal investigation? Don't ask. Really. The jury's not even supposed to think about Valerie Plame Wilson's status - whether covert, classified, non-covert, non-classified or whatever. Honestly. That's what the judge ruled.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Crime Without a Cause.

Oh, except for one thing: BushliarCheneydespicableHaliburtonevilneocons.

I rest my case.

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John Podhoretz is a columnist with the New York Post.


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