October 30, 2005
No Innocent Here -- Libby Lied

By Debra Saunders

As far as Lewis "Scooter" Libby goes, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's indictment is damning. If the information in the indictment is true -- and I assume it is, even if the courts should presume Libby innocent -- the Libby line has crumbled.

I'll start with these caveats from Brad Blakeman, a former White House lawyer: "I hope it's not true. ... Only (Libby) has those facts, but he will have to vigorously defend each and every one of those five charges. Things can be taken out of context. Memories can fail."

And: "The fact that you can bring an indictment does not mean you get a conviction." If legal guilt is unclear, the moral question is settled -- against Libby. "Mr. Libby gave a compelling story," Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters. But the story wasn't true.

Destroyed is Libby's ruse that reporters informed him that retired Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA agent. Fitzgerald reports that CIA officials and Vice President Dick Cheney told Libby of her status.

What is more, Libby was duty-bound to keep quiet about Plame's role in the Wilson episode. In fact, Libby's attempts to suggest that reporters told him about Plame indicate that Libby knew that he was, at the very least, skirting the law.

Or to quote from the special prosecutor's cross examination of Libby before the grand jury: "If you did not understand the information about Wilson's wife to have been classified and didn't understand it when you heard it from (NBC'S Tim) Russert, why was it that you were so deliberate to make sure that you told other reporters that reporters were saying it and not assert it as something you knew?"

Fitzgerald told reporters at Friday's press conference he was not asserting that Libby knowingly outed a covert agent. You can interpret that to mean that it remains unclear whether leaking Plame's identity was in itself a crime. If Libby had given the feds a different account, the investigation may have melted away.

Some Republicans will argue that the White House had a right to leak Plame's role in the CIA's decision to send Wilson to Niger. Wilson wrote that his wife had "nothing to do" with the CIA sending him to Niger -- which the Senate Intelligence Committee debunked.

According to Stephen F. Hayes' thorough reporting for The Weekly Standard, Wilson asserted that his report on Niger utterly debunked the belief that Iraq was trying to obtain "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, but some intelligence analysts believed that Wilson's verbal report supported the theory that Iraq had tried to get yellowcake in Niger.

On Friday, Wilson's lawyer told reporters that Wilson believes the White House was trying to punish his family and him for speaking the "truth." Bush supporters would argue the Bushies retaliated because Wilson was not truthful.

These facts paint a tarnished portrait of Wilson -- but they provide no excuse for any White House official to lie under oath.

Allow me to convey my profound disappointment in President Bush. For months, he has done nothing to prevent operatives from selectively leaking information that seemed to exculpate Libby. The administration's credibility will suffer for it. I suggest the president look to Fitzgerald for a more appropriate approach on how to conduct oneself in the center of this controversy.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Debra Saunders

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