News & Criticism

Scooter in the Dock

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I confess both to not really following the Scooter Libby trial and to not really understanding all the ins and outs of "the Plame affair." But I sort of like Michael Kinsley's take in Time about one of the major themes surrounding Libby's trial. A snippet from his piece:

Libby is charged with perjury, not with the leak itself. But some might recall that perjury, and not illicit sex, was the charge in the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton a few years ago. And many people–including me–felt that prosecutor Ken Starr had set Clinton up: perjury is not good, but there had been a fundamental unfairness in forcing Clinton to choose between committing perjury and revealing information he should never have been asked for. Libby's case is similar, isn't it? That is, it is similar if you hold to all the theology about the importance of leaks. If leaks are good and must be protected and if we make no distinction between good leaks and bad ones, unofficial leaks and official ones, true leaks and false ones (and the theology makes no such distinctions: all leaks must be protected), then Libby should not have had to testify about whether he had leaked the Plame identity to anyone. And if he had not been asked, he would not now be accused of lying.

If leaks are vital to the freedom of the press, then surely both of the people needed to create a leak–the reporter and the source–deserve protection. If Judy Miller is a martyr of press freedom, then so is Scooter Libby.

More, including a nice takedown of journalistic sanctimony regarding exceptions to the the First Amendment, here.

Back in 2004, Kinsley's former colleague at Slate, Jack Shafer, pissed on anonymous sources and journalists who rely on them, which are at the heart of the Libby trial (that much I know). Check it out here.

And last year in Reason, John Berlau investigated how Sarbanes-Oxley–yes, the accounting rules regs–may have brought Time Warner to heel during Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Plame story. Worth reading here.

NEXT: Soon You'll Grow to Take a Chance With a Couple of Kooks

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  1. And many people–including me–felt that prosecutor Ken Starr had set Clinton up: perjury is not good, but there had been a fundamental unfairness in forcing Clinton to choose between committing perjury and revealing information he should never have been asked for.

    Starr didn’t force Clinton to choose – Clinton forced Clinton to choose when he signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act into law earlier on.

  2. Sidney Blumenthal (yeah, that Sidney Blumenthal. Read the damn article–http://www.salon.com/opinion/blumenthal/2007/02/01/libby_cheney/– before you have kittens) does a much better job than Michael Kinsley at explaining why you shouldn’t feel sorry for poor Scooter. Big Bill lied to conceal the fact that he was a horndog. Scooter lied to conceal the fact that he had revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent (a felony) in order to conceal the fact that George Bush, Dick Cheney, et al. had lied about Iraq’s nuclear weapons program to justify the invasion of Iraq back in 2003, which, if you read the papers, still looks pretty iffy.

  3. I would agree with you if we define horndog as:

    horndog = Committing perjury and coerceing another to commit perjury to conceal the fact you gave professional advancement in return for sexual favors so you wouldn’t lose an ongoing sexual harrrasment case in which you alledgedly didn’t give professional advancement because you weren’t given sexual favors.

  4. Scooter lied to conceal the fact that he had revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent (a felony)

    That is just bullshit. She wasn’t a covert agent, she was a soccer mom in Virginia who once was a covert agent. Further, the law has very specific intent requirements. It was written in response to a specific person who was leaking the name of agents in the field for the purpose of undercutting American foreign policy. No one has ever been prosecuted on it.

    This case is a good example why leaks can be good. Joe Wilson was a chrony hack who used his wife’s influence to get a do nothing junket to Niger and then lied about what he found. People had a right to now that his wife got him the job. His story and his lies have been exposed so many times it is not worth discussing it anymore. I think any principled serious and opponent of the war doesn’t want Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame on their side anymore. But among some people, they have achieved mythical status in total disregard of the facts.

  5. Is it not amazing that our Prosecutors have so much time they can mount massive trials against people for lying about activities that themselves are not crimes.

    Free Martha Stewart.

    Oh, she’s out?

  6. As David Letterman said (and as I’ve quoted before), who among us *hasn’t* had sex with a subordinate in the workplace and then lied about it under oath?

  7. The better analogy to the Libby case is Martha Stewart.

    In both cases, there was no underlying crime, but an ambitious prosecutor felt the need to bring a charge anyway, so a charge was brought for, essentially, declining to sufficiently cooperate with an illegitimate investigation.

  8. While I think the tactic of setting up perjury traps when an investigation isn’t yielding anything substantial is replent, that isn’t an excuse for lying under oath. Sworn testimony needs to be reliable – no exceptions.

  9. It is, indeed, an interesting take.

    Except for…

    If leaks are good and must be protected and if we make no distinction between good leaks and bad ones, unofficial leaks and official ones, true leaks and false ones (and the theology makes no such distinctions: all leaks must be protected),

    Who says we don’t make distinctions? There’s a big difference between:

    1. a person in the know leaking info to the press about a government operation…

    and

    2. an operation that uses the press to blow the cover of an agent out of revenge.

    IMHO, Scooter telling reporters that an administration critics wife is or was a CIA undercover agent was not a “leak” per se.

  10. Cheating on your wife vs. outing a CIA agent.

    You either get why one of these is a big deal in our legal system and the other isn’t, or you don’t.

  11. TF:

    Paula Jones was lying when she said that she didn’t blow Governor Bill when he propositioned her. Her complaint that he didn’t promote her because she wouldn’t blow him was also a lie. What she was really complaining about was that she blew him and then he didn’t promote her, which is not a valid complaint under law. And, of course, Paula’s biggest problem was that she wouldn’t blow her husband, but she would blow Bill. No wonder she ended up posing for Penthouse, after her Federalist Society friends had squeezed her drier than a lemon.

    Governor Bill was lying when he said that he didn’t proposition her, and more or less lied by implying that he didn’t get a blow job from her. Monica Lewinsky blew Bill not because he promised her professional advancement but because she wanted to blow a President. Bill’s suggestions to his secretary (“I was never alone with her, was I?”) were as slimy as Bill, but didn’t amount to coercion. Bill lied to cover his big fat ass, and I don’t feel the least bit sorry for him.

    John:

    Valerie Plame worked as a covert CIA agent overseas. The revelation of her identity exposed her contacts to retaliation and reduced their usefulness to the CIA in the future. The idea that it’s OK to leak the identity of a covert CIA agent for a purpose unrelated to undercutting American foreign policy and be off the hook for it is bullshit.

    While everyone agrees that Joe Wilson has made a total ass of himself, what he said was true. The CIA continues to stand by it and the White House continues to hold to the position that President Bush should have not have said that Iraq had tried to buy yellow cake. Senate Republicans accused Wilson of lying, but those accusations are a lie.

    Scooter Libby lied on five specific occasions to the FBI. He leaked the identity of covert CIA agent to several reporters. The fact that they did not write about it, and that the information became known to the general public through someone else, is irrelevant. George, Dick, Scooter et al. have involved us in a long war on entirely false pretenses. They deserve some grief.

  12. Also, Starr was charged with looking into a land deal Clinton had been involved in years before, and decided to expand his investigation into a he-said-she-said sexual harrassment case. Clinton mislead him while Starr was quizzing him about this tangential part of the case.

    Fitzgerard was charged with looking into who leaked the name of a covert CIA agent and Libby mislead him while Fitzgerald was quizzing him about the episode he was appointed to investigate.

    Who are you, John, the CIA’s HR Director? BTW, the CIA’s HR Director says you’re full of crap, and the CIA itself requested the investigation after Plame’s name was leaked.

    Mmmm, “junket to Niger.” Lucky bastard – why can’t I get any unpaid jobs that involved going to hellholes and catching dysentery?

  13. The Scootmeister should be prosecuted for just being a friend of Cheney. Actually, anything he said should have been known to be unbelievable. Since we already know that, how can he be prosecuted for perjury? We didn’t believe him in the first place.

  14. I wish they were as willing to go after fraud as they are perjury

  15. Anybody named Scooter should be prosecuted and then shot. Except Phil Rizzuto of course.

  16. Cheating on your wife vs. outing a CIA agent

    Cheating on your wife with subordinates at work is worse than just cheating on your wife. I heard so much about how evil workplace harrassment was in the Bay Area in the 1990s. it was so nice to watch those feminists gag on Bill’s shut em down juice.

    Outting a CIA agent is still worse. There is no need to overstate here.

  17. “Mmmm, “junket to Niger.” Lucky bastard – why can’t I get any unpaid jobs that involved going to hellholes and catching dysentery?”

    You have obviously never been anywhere on the State Department dime. Trust me they live well. Further, a creep like Joe Wilson can never turn down getting to be Mr. Joe Wilson.

    Look no one outed a CIA agent. If it were try why didn’t Fitzgerald charge anyone? Do you guys think that he wanted to make a fool of himself by spending millions of dollars only to get one indictment on some guy no one outside Washington had ever heard of on a he said she said purjury charge? Give me a break. If anyone was guilty of outing Plame, Fitzgerald would have charged it.

  18. Make that. Mr. Important. not Joe Wilson.

  19. It is my understanding that Plame was working on assessing Irans weapons capacity at the time of the “leak”. Regardless, it is irrelevent in this trial.

    The are a couple of undisputed facts that need to be understood in this matter that some people ignore.

    1. Libby is not disputing he gave two versions of the events. His claim is that the “discrepency” is not a lie but a “mistake” due to memory loss.

    2. The Bush administrations office was leaking information about Wilson’s wife working at the CIA (crime or no crime) to reporters. The relevence is that they were, in fact, active in trying to undermine Wilson’s NY Times op-ed article. The VPs office was active in finding information about Wilson’s wife and the Niger trip, which they did get the information from a few people, including the CIA. There was much discussion about this Wilson and who sent him within the office of VP. Libby took notes on meeting he attended.

    3. Libby was involved in #2.

    4. Libby was not honest with investigators nor the grand jury, about what he said to reporters. His claim was that Russert informed about Wilson’s wife. Russert disagrees. Being that Libby was involved with #2 it is more than obvious that Libby already knew about Plame BEFORE he met with reporters since he was pro-active in that discovery within the office of the VP.

    5. Bush said he would fire whoever was leaking. Sure he backtracked on that statment but there was much furor about leaking regardless.

    The question for the jury is simple. Did libby intentionaly lie to the grand jury and investigators, possibly so Bush wouldn’t fire him, or was the so called “lie” a product of faulty memory.

    Being that Libby was pro-active in finding out who sent Wilson, and the fact that he took notes about it, discussed with Cheney and others, it is EXTREMELY unlikely he had a fault in his memory when speaking with investigators or the grand jury.

    Notice how no one in the administration is demanding leaks be investigated anymore. The Bush admin is full of leakers, leakers are everywhere in DC. The Bush admin is not the first nor will they be the last. Leaks move the DC media machine, has for decades.

    The moral of the story is not to lie about it to investigators. You would think they would have learned that lesson from the Clinton impeachment.

  20. “Look no one outed a CIA agent. If it were try why didn’t Fitzgerald charge anyone?”

    We don’t know. Fitzgerald hasn’t finished his investigation or written a report.

    Most likely scenarios are that he cut a deal with Karl Rove early in the process, or that the responsible parties carried out the operation carefully enough to avoid breaking the law. For example, by setting up Armitage, who lacked the necessary intent.

    Regardless, we know that Plame was a covert CIA employee; we know that her cover was blown by the White House; and we know that the CIA considered it important enough to request a criminal investigation.

    Oh, we also know that Plame’s field of work was the Iranian nuke program.

  21. Cheating on your wife vs. outing a CIA agent.

    joe wins this weeks Tendentious Characterization Award.

    “Cheat on his wife” is a tendentious way to characterize behavior that incudes assaulting women and engaging in sexual harassment.

    “Outing a CIA agent” is a tendentious way to characterize truthfully informing a reporter that a CIA employee who drives herself to CIA headquarters every day arranged for her husband to take a trip that he later wrote an NYT op-ed for.

  22. “Most likely scenarios are that he cut a deal with Karl Rove early in the process, or that the responsible parties carried out the operation carefully enough to avoid breaking the law.”

    I hate to Clintonian and all but if the best you can do is “no one broke the law”, then you really don’t have much. Further, I seriously doubt that Fitzgerald cut a deal with the one big fish he could have indicted and made himself a hero to the media with early in the process. I am not in the investigation so anything is possible, but I find that difficult to beleive.

    “and we know that the CIA considered it important enough to request a criminal investigation.”

    The CIA and the State Department establishment have been actively trying to undercut the Administration for years. Their refereall was entirely political. You may like the politics, but that doesn’t make it any less political. Again, we you have a months long multi-million dollar investigation and the best you can do is a purjury charge after the fact of the alledged crime, there just isn’t much there.

  23. “””Further, a creep like Joe Wilson can never turn down getting to be Mr. Joe Wilson.”””

    Why would anyone judge a persons character based off what the media says about that person, opposed to having met that person in real life.

    I have never met Joe Wilson, I probably never will, as such, I have no opinion either way about his character. I refuse to let the 24 hours news channels feed me an opinion of anyone.

    The guy was sent by the CIA, not his wife, unless you believe his wife has the authority to authorize such trips, she merely recommened him for the trip since he had experince with both the Iraqi and Nigerian governments. Whoever has the authority to dispatch people within the CIA is the one who authorized it. Obviously the CIA felt he was worthy of the job or they wouldn’t have agreed to send him.

    As it ended up, the Bush administration backed down on the claim that sent Wilson in the first place.

  24. “””The CIA and the State Department establishment have been actively trying to undercut the Administration for years.”””

    I think you have that backwards.

  25. “As it ended up, the Bush administration backed down on the claim that sent Wilson in the first place.”

    But not before it had its desired effect.

  26. Follow this link. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/darkside/view/

    Checkout some of the videos, but scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on “interviews”.

  27. Outing a CIA desk jockey is really sort of like outing my son as an elementary school student.

  28. Besides, I’m in favor of abolishing the CIA altogether and replacing it with…….nothing.

  29. Nick, you got to get a better hottie for the St Vals ad.

  30. “Outing a CIA desk jockey is really sort of like outing my son as an elementary school student.”

    That pretty much sums it up. She was a mom with young twins. She wasn’t going to go out and play James Bond anymore if she ever did. The idea that anyone thought they could get back at Joe Wilson by outing his wife from a career she no longer had is just dumb. This has to be the most meaningless and annoying “scandal” in the history of Washington. At least the Clinton scandals had oodles of weird characters from Arkansas and a few dead bodies here and there to keep it interesting.

  31. I’ve never quite understood why Clinton, and Libby for that matter, didn’t just take the fifth.

    The fifth amendment is still in force, right?

  32. I’ve always understood the argument to be that, if the world knows that “Valerie Plame” was a CIA agent, it renders useless any front company or contacts she had used under that name. Likewise, anybody who had dealt with her unwittingly now knows that any information they gave to her (or know that others gave to her) went to the CIA. How is that not a bad thing, “desk jockey” or not?

  33. Ellipsis,

    That were this madness is going. Considering the Libby and Martha Stewart cases, you have to be a lunatic to talk to any federal investigators about anything. If they can’t find anything of substance to get you with, they can just go back and find some descrepancy in what you told them and get your for lying to investigators. Yeah, maybe it was an innocent mistake, maybe not. You get to prove that it was in Federal Court. Rather than risk jail most people will roll over and plead guilty and give DOJ their scalp. No thanks. I wouldn’t answer anything unless granted immunity or specifically ordered to do so by a judge, even if I was completely innocent.

  34. Uh huh. Patrick Fitzgerald is a politicized hack. The CIA are all politicized hacks. Joe Wilson was a politicized hack. Valerie Plame was a politicized hack.

    But the people who burned her and everyone who was ever one of her sources and contacts were just trying to get the truth out there.

    Except that it turned out not to be the truth.

    John is perfectly aware of the problem with burning someone’s old contacts, Not That David.

  35. Because lying to federal investigators can get you in trouble, you should never cooperate with federal investigators.

    I lack the words…

  36. Also, Starr was charged with looking into a land deal Clinton had been involved in years before, and decided to expand his investigation into a he-said-she-said sexual harrassment case. Clinton mislead him while Starr was quizzing him about this tangential part of the case.

    I’m not sure why I’m trying to be fair to Starr but he could only expand his investigation when Janet Reno authorized it. I’m still wondering why she did not tell him it was outside the scope of his investigation and that he needed to concentrate on his mandate.

    She could have set up another investigation if she wanted to deflect political fallout but by that time she must have realized that Starr was beyond “independent counsel” and well into attack dog mode.

    Maybe it wasn’t obvious at the beginning but picking Starr to investigate Whitewater was on about the same level as picking James Carville to investigate some Republican’s shenanigans and expecting some kind of evenhanded inquiry. 🙂

  37. “”If they can’t find anything of substance to get you with, they can just go back and find some descrepancy in what you told them and get your for lying to investigators. “””

    Not true, they have to prove you lied to a jury. Libby would win if, 1. The VPs office was not involved in conduct that was questionable. (why do you think they were covering it up?) 2. If Libby, didn’t take notes of his meeting while he was actively searching for who sent Wilson.

    “””That pretty much sums it up. She was a mom with young twins.”””

    Only John would think working on WMD issues is the same as housework and baby sitting.

    “””From sourcewatch.org

    The name of Valerie Plame (nee Valerie E. Wilson), wife of retired U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was exposed on July 14, 2003, as a CIA covert operative by columnist Robert Novak, who wrote:

    “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate” the allegation.”””

    Of course all this is irrelevent to the trial. Libby said something to the investigators and the grand jury that was false, Libby admits it.

  38. you should never cooperate with federal investigators.”””

    I believe that called obstruction of justice. Except when they are pointing the finger at you, then plead the 5th.

  39. Isaac,

    I don’t understand that, either.

    Heck, I don’t understand why the Democrats allowed lifetime Republican operative Starr to take over from the previous, professional investigator. Barney Frank called him out the first day his name was announced, and as usual, Barney Frank was right.

  40. Because lying to federal investigators can get you in trouble, you should never cooperate with federal investigators.

    Joe, I think you aimed this comment at John, but I’m curious… Do you think that Clinton was wise to play Starr’s witch hunt game? I realize the Big C. was playing a semantics game, and probably thought he beat Ken at his own game. But if it were me, I wouldn’t have answered personal questions like that. But then, I’m not a politician.

  41. R C Dean wrote,

    “Cheat on his wife” is a tendentious way to characterize behavior that incudes assaulting women and engaging in sexual harassment.

    I only know about consensual blowjobs. When was there assault and harassment? (This is an honest question)

  42. Paula Jones accused him sexual harassment, I think the suit was settled.

    Much like Bill O’Reilly’s.

  43. …and as usual, Barney Frank was right.

    joe, Barney Frank votes with Ron Paul eighty percent of the time, so he must be right a lot.

    But his bill on the Walmart bank indicates to me that he’s as susceptible as anyone when it comes to influence peddling. But then maybe he really believes he’s helping Mom’n’Pop bankers (actually I think he might actually think this is some blow against bank consolidation or something).

    I actually thought that Starr was Reno’s pick on Whitewater because she thought that in the end Bill was safe but that having someone like Starr would insulate her from accusations of trying to go soft on the matter. What I don’t understand is why she let Starr go off on the blowjob investigation rather than splitting it off to a new investigator.

  44. Actually, also, joe, I didn’t realize that the appointment of Special Prosecutors was subject to any Congressional input. I though it was the AG’s decision alone.

    But, as usual, I am open to being corrected.

  45. “But his bill on the Walmart bank indicates to me that he’s as susceptible as anyone when it comes to influence peddling. But then maybe he really believes he’s helping Mom’n’Pop bankers (actually I think he might actually think this is some blow against bank consolidation or something).”

    I don’t know enough about the subject, but I know for a fact that Barney Frank is not someboy who is susceptable to influence peddling.

    IIRC, the old Independent Counsel act required Congress to direct the AG to appoint a counsel.

  46. no shit, joe, that Barney Faggot bugger for sure can walk on water, can’t he?

    How comes he still isn’t more than a lousy little concresscritter from the Peoples’ Republic of Taxachussetts?

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