I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, ex-chief of staff for Vice President Cheney, was found guilty today on four of five felony counts of lying under oath in the investigation of the Valerie Plame case.
In 2003, the Bush administration leaked the identity of Ms. Plame, an undercover CIA agent, to the press in retaliation for criticism by her husband, Joseph Wilson, of the administration's justification for war in Iraq.
Mr. Libby was not charged as the original or sole source of the leak. No one was, although the investigation revealed that Libby, Karl Rove, and Richard Armitage of the Bush administration all provided information to journalists about Ms. Plame's identity.
Why didn't the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, charge anyone with the original offense under investigation?
Because that case hinged on intent, and intent is a tough thing to prove.
Almost anything is tough to prove in court, beyond a reasonable doubt. Murder is hard to prove. Look at O.J. Simpson. Look at John Gotti. Simpson was acquitted. Mob guys historically go down not for their real, most serious crimes, but for ancillary crimes you can prove, like income tax evasion.
Successful prosecution of a serious crime usually requires a confession, a witness, or an informer.
No one in the Bush administration was about to confess.
So Fitzgerald investigated, and interrogated, and waited for someone in the conspiracy to trip, by lying under oath. Libby tripped.
Once that happened, the prosecutor's goal is to turn the person caught in a lie into a witness. He offers immunity for testimony against the bigger guys who ran everything.
Libby didn't bite. Why would he? If he turns evidence, his professional career is ruined for all time. His livelihood depends on patronage.
If, instead, he takes his chances with a jury, he might easily win. Even if he loses, it's just a temporary blip in his career. He does 18 to 36 months in a playpen, and when he gets out, he gets taken care of. That's happening already. Republicans have raised millions of dollars for him: a lot more money than he would ever earn otherwise.
So, today, he is found guilty, and justice is served, at least technically. Fitzgerald didn't get to try the cases he wanted. But he tried the case he could, and he won.
And he brought to light the facts of the administration conspiracy. Today, Fitzgerald said, "It's not the verdict that justifies the investigation. It's the facts."
for Ithaca Blog