I am continually amazed at the torrent of political misinformation fed to us, much of which is by syndicated columnists secure in their knowledge that their loyal and gullible readership won’t bother to look for evidence to the contrary, regardless of its ready availability.
There is no better example of this public malaise than exists in the seemingly interminable soap opera involving the former vice presidential advisor, Scooter Libby, and his conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice.
I will not comment on his guilt or innocence of these charges inasmuch as I was not present at the proceedings nor will I weigh in on the comparison of pardons or commutation of sentences by Presidents Bush and Clinton. I will leave those comparisons to the two houses of Congress, which will inevitably convene hearings to enable the members of the party not holding the White House to preen, pontificate and threaten dire action to curb runaway executive power. Once again, it will be an exercise in theatrics — the power of the president to pardon is absolute regardless of political party.
Nevertheless, in the Libby case, there is a question which has yet to be answered, one which has been largely ignored in the media feeding frenzy. Why was Mr. Libby subpoenaed by the special prosecutor at all?
In researching this question, one has but to look at the facts — all of which have been available for some time. First, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed by the Justice Department for basically two reasons: To discover if a crime had been committed in compromising the identity of a covert CIA agent, and, if so, who was guilty of leaking that information?
By law, for this to have been a criminal offense, the agent had to have been actually covert and that status had to have been known to the person who “outed” said agent and that compromise must have been committed maliciously with intent to do harm. For an agent to fit the legal definition of covered or covert status, that person must have served in that capacity in a foreign nation in the preceding five years.
Valerie Plame did not meet this criteria in that she had not served in this capacity for six years and was employed by the CIA as an analyst, a fact which was advertised as general knowledge by members of the Washington, D.C., media. Moreover, her husband, a former State Department official, had listed her as a CIA employee in his “Who’s Who in America” biography.
Next, a damaging truth found the light of day, long after the countless subpoenas and the interrogation of witnesses when it became known that the prosecutor, Mr. Fitzgerald, knew at the beginning of his investigation that Ms. Plame’s identification was leaked to the media by State Department official Richard Armitage rather than by Vice President Dick Cheney or by Karl Rove — much to the chagrin of those holding Pavlovian hopes for their respective scalps.
Consequently, it was evident from day one that no crime had been committed. Ms. Plame was not covert; accordingly, no one could have outed her either with malice aforethought or for political gain. Secondly, since it is also a matter of record that the source naming her as a CIA employee was known to Mr. Fitzgerald before he subpoenaed anyone, why did he not end the investigation and report those findings?
This is an enigma. Was the appointed prosecutor so enamored of his importance that he failed to see the forest for the trees? Or, was it a failed witch hunt, necessitating a scapegoat? Mr. Libby may have been guilty of no more than a faulty memory as were several prominent media witnesses in their testimony but the real travesty was to place him in that position in the first place.
J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident who can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.