Monday, June 18, 2007

Free Scooter Libby

Free Scooter Libby
By Christopher Hitchens

If Scooter Libby goes to jail, it will be because he made a telephone call to Tim Russert and because Tim Russert has a different recollection of the conversation. Can this really be the case? And why is such a nugatory issue a legal matter in the first place?

Before savoring the full absurdity of the thing, please purge your mind of any preconceptions or confusions.

--Mr. Libby was not charged with breaking the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

--Nobody was ever charged with breaking that law, designed to shield the names of covert agents. Indeed, the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, determined that the law had not been broken in the first place.

--The identity of the person who disclosed the name of Valerie Plame to Robert Novak—his name is Richard Armitage, incidentally—was known to those investigating the non-illegal leak before the full-dress inquiry began to grind its way through the system, incidentally imprisoning one reporter and consuming thousands of man hours of government time (and in time of war, at that).

--In the other two "counts" in the case, both involving conversations with reporters (Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time), Judge Reggie Walton threw out the Miller count while the jury found for Libby on the Cooper count.

--The call to Russert was not about Plame in any case; it was a complaint from the vice president's office about Chris Matthews, who was felt by some to have been overstressing the Jewish names associated with the removal of Saddam Hussein. Russert was called in his capacity as bureau chief; any chitchat about Wilson and Plame was secondary.

--The call was made after Robert Novak had put his fateful column (generated by Richard Armitage) on the wire, and after he had mentioned Plame's identity to Karl Rove.

Does it not seem extraordinary that a man can be prosecuted, and now be condemned to a long term of imprisonment, because of an alleged minor inconsistency of testimony in a case where it is admitted that there was no crime and no victim?

I know of a senior lawyer in Washington who is betting very good money that if the case is heard again on appeal, the conviction will be reversed. This is for three further reasons, which I call to your attention.

1) There is an important constitutional question regarding Fitzgerald's original jurisdiction. It is a rather nice legal question, having to do with whether, as U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois, Fitzgerald is a "principal" or "inferior" officer under the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A dozen senior legal scholars have filed an amicus brief, arguing that the authority under which the original prosecutorial investigation was conducted was itself dubious. I have no expertise in this very important matter, but in granting them leave to file, Judge Walton made the following hair-raising comment, which I reproduce in full because it is longer than his order and needs to be read in full:

It is an impressive show of public service when twelve prominent and distinguished current and former law professors of well-respected schools are able to amass their collective wisdom in the course of only several days to provide their legal expertise to the Court on behalf of a criminal defendant.

The Court trusts that this is a reflection of these eminent academics' willingness in the future to step to the plate and provide like assistance in cases involving any of the numerous litigants, both in this Court and throughout the courts of our nation, who lack the financial means to fully and properly articulate the merits of their legal positions even in instances where failure to do so could result in monetary penalties, incarceration, or worse.

The Court will certainly not hesitate to call for such assistance from these luminaries, as necessary in the interests of justice and equity, whenever similar questions arise in the cases that come before it.

2) This low sarcasm displays not so much bias against the defendant, but actual animus. What does the number of days have to do with it? In how many cases involving poor defendants is an issue of constitutional law involved? Does the judge not know that Libby has already been almost ruined financially and faces incarceration? Would he have adopted the same tone if 12 experts ranging politically from Robert Bork to Alan Dershowitz had filed a brief arguing the opposite position? It's difficult to see how an appeals court can avoid these questions.

3) The judge refused to let the jury hear from a memory expert and would not admit much of the evidence about Libby's extremely heavy workload on matters of pressing national security. An amazing collection of testimonials has been prepared, from all points of the political compass, regarding particularly Libby's concern about inadequate troop levels in Iraq and his work in strengthening the country's defense against bio-warfare terrorism. It seems to some legal observers that the judge's exclusion of some of this exculpatory evidence was a payback for Libby's decision not to take the stand, which is his constitutionally protected right.

The rush to prejudge the case and pack Libby off to prison seems near universal. (Patrick Fitzgerald has denounced him for failing to show remorse; a strange charge to make against a man who has announced that he intends to appeal.) Given the unsoundness of the verdict, the extraordinary number of other witnesses who admitted to confusion over dates and times, and the essential triviality of the original matter (an apparently purposeless coverup of a nonleak, in private and legal conversations, involving common knowledge of information that was not known to be classified), it is unlikely that the verdict at present can stand scrutiny, let alone the sentence. But why go through all this irrelevant and secondhand hearsay again?

Those who want to "get" someone for "lying us into war" have picked the wrong man and failed to identify a crime. Let them try to impeach the president, who should in the meantime step in to avoid any more waste of public money and time and pardon Libby without further ado.


Anonymous catfleas said...

Thanks, Donal, for keeping Libby's name in the news. We cannot let him be forgotten.

9:47 PM  
Blogger The Merry Widow said...

That is for sure, he looks like an unfortunate soul who is being thrown to the wolves!
The problem with that, is that it shows weakness NOT strength. And that just encourages the wolves!


2:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Catfleas and TMW you are both absolutely right. Scooter is a damned good man and he was thrown in jail for a case of perjury that Russert MAY have committed. Scooter's scalp was one the lefties were more than happy to get. I can just see them dancing around the new addition to the old skull rack and stoking the flame higher like the heathens that they are.

Just in case you were wondering about the status/quality of the jury who convicted him, remember this: The foreman of the jury was a newspaper guy, the details escape me, but I think he was a reporter. I think he's a big lefty. In deliberations the jury asked the judge some of the world's most INANE questions. Two of the jurors (DC's finest) were overheard asking why they "didn't have a chance to question Karl Rove and Dick Cheney."

Scooter is a good, smart, hard-working public servant who sacrificed a TREMENDOUS amount of personal income to come and work on WOT issues in the office of the VP. He is a victim of a Soviet- style show trial aimed at "eliminating" political opposition. The left has been criminalizing conservatism for years and now they have the scalp of an honest public servant.

If the President doesn't make a large show of pardoning Scooter with an apology, high power conservatives will refuse to serve future administrations and will remain at their lucrative private jobs. If we don't protect men like Scooter Libby from the leftist jackals, they'll stay home!

Hey lefties out there, I welcome your drooling arguments BUT PLEASE READ THE ARTICLE FIRST!!


4:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Libby prosecution clearly was the dirty work of the leftist anti-war movement in this country. After all, the reason Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate this matter was because a left-wing government agency (known as the "Central Intelligence Agency") filed a criminal referral with the Justice Department, as the MoveOn-sympathizer CIA officials were apparently unhappy about the public unmasking of one of their covert agents.

In response, Bush's left-wing anti-war Attorney General, John Ashcroft, judged the matter serious enough to recuse himself, leading Bush's left-wing anti-war Deputy Attorney General, James Comey, to conclude that a Special Prosecutor was needed. In turn, Comey appointed Fitzgerald, the left-wing anti-war Republican Prosecutor and Bush appointee, who secured a conviction of Libby, in response to which left-wing anti-war Bush appointee Judge Reggie Walton imposed Libby's sentence.

You see, it was a left wing show trial. They even controlled every branch of government.

9:16 AM  
Blogger VerityINK said...

Yes, I think the jury guy--who may have even been foreman--worked for the WaPO (he took notes of the proceedings and, I believe, intends to write a book...)

I wonder how much Russert, Armitage--even Novak--was paid...

Those on the Left KNOW Scooter didn't commit a crime--it's just that none of them have the character to admit it.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I recall, we arent supposed to read anything in that leftist rag Slate, right?
- Boxer
p.s. I forgot to sign the post above.

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The crime is pretty straight forward. Lying to a grand jury and perjury. He has proven to be very good at that, enough to keep the leaker out of the courts so far.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. If "outing a covert agent" were the crime here, Richard Armitage would be in jail right now. As would her blabber-mouthed husband who told numerous people on the lefty DC cocktail circuit that his wife worked at the CIA.

2. Since Armitage wasn't charged with the crime, she WASN'T covert OR her status was a BADLY kept secret. Psssst, both are true.

3. You lefties just LOVE your Soviet style show trials. How utterly pathetic! You wack jobs must have noticed something by now about conservative fury over this verdict. Have you noticed that we weren't mad at the Duke Cunningham verdict (we were deeply saddened), but the Libby verdict has us infuriated? Think real hard and see if you can figure out why. I know that your logic circuits are addled by a leftist worldview, but somewhere your logic hides. So give it a shot. I won't hold my breath.


3:45 PM  
Blogger VerityINK said...

BOXER--He was convicted solely because he and Tim Russert didn't have the same recollection about a conversation. That's all. He didn't lie--you only want to be low enough to say he did.

P.S You'll have to point out where I said not to read Slate. Had I said that, you'd have been all over me saying I only read from rightwing sources, so you've set me up to be damned if I do or damned if I don't whichever thing I do...

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morgan, your paranoia is running even higher than most days today.
But I gotta admit, I love the Soviet 'show trials'. Of course the show trial was orchestrated by the Bush Justice Department. So what does that mean? Bush and Gonzales are orchestrating show trials of Republicans? There was not a single progressive hand in this and you darn well know it. That is probably what hurts so much. Truth and the rule of law, something alien to so many here.

And who besides a few wingers has said Armitage has outed Plame? You seem to grab onto these canards and cling to them for dear life.

Try reading the CIA report on Plames status.

Of course I am not holding my breath either. Hard facts are something that are not encouraged here.
- Boxer
p.s. Use your search capabilities built into blogger to find your slur of Slate. I think Les linked to it and you and everyone else called it a left wing mouthpiece or something.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Boxer you certainly pass the test for being a lefty.
1. Up is Down
2. Left is Right.
3. Black is white and on and on and on.

You guys have no shame. Now you are even denying that Armitage was the one who gave her name to Novak, starting this whole problem.

This was an attempt by a pretty little leftist named Plame-Flame who worked at a desk at the CIA headquarters to undermine the foreign policy of a duly elected President. This non-secret employee was caught in the act.

No paranoia, just facts. Those are the stubborn little things that destroy your leftist worldview. BTW I could care less about Slate. Maybe that leftist rag lets Hitchens write because he's a brilliant atheist?


11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You certainly pass the test for being a wingnut.

- Irrefutable evidence is denied

Where are your "facts". Mine are above in black and white (or is that white and black). Can you provide a NEWS link to a CIA report?

A gut feeling just doesnt cut muster outside your world. Truthiness was only a joke, really.

- Boxer

1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

La boxeo, did you read the article? A simple yes or no would suffice.


3:16 PM  

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