Ithaca Blog

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Libby Case: Justice is Blind-Sided

The New York Times says President Bush's commutation of the jail sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby "came as a surprise."

Maybe not, if one considers the president's earliest words about the case in the right light.

Libby was sentenced to prison for lying to a grand jury about leaks from the administration that were designed to punish Joseph Wilson, an early critic of the war in Iraq, and intimidate other critics. The leaks revealed the identity of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as an undercover agent of the CIA.

Early in the investigation, on Sept. 30, 2003, President Bush commented on the proceedings:

"There's leaks in the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

Mr. Bush was true to his word. Mr. Libby was taken care of.

Usually, according to Justice Department standards, "requests for commutation generally are not accepted unless and until a person has begun serving that sentence," which Mr. Libby hasn't, and are generally not granted to those appealing their convictions, which Mr. Libby is.

Margaret Colgate Love, the pardon lawyer at the Justice Department for most of the 1990s, said, "I can't think of a recent commutation that was granted before at least some prison time was served."

Additionally, cooperation with prosecutors is an important consideration in granting commutation. It seems clear that in this case, past non-cooperation is the requirement, and its continuation the goal.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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