Sunday, July 8, 2007

More Libby

When President Bush commuted I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's jail time this past week, many from both the Left and Right voiced strong objections. On the one hand, Liberals took the position that this action was an abuse of power and done only to keep a Bush insider quiet. Those on the Right meanwhile did not think the President should have granted anything less than a full pardon. In fact President Bush took the correct course of action. Mr. Libby is guilty of a crime, but the penalty was excessive.

Today, Clarence Page writing for the Chicago Tribune Newspaper, has attempted to do what he calls Beating back the myths of Libby-gate [Emphasis Mine].
Depending on whom you talk to, Libby is either a fine public servant or an evil co-conspirator in a plot to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Plame's husband. Wilson famously blew the whistle on a claim Bush made about Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions that turned out to be bogus.
In the above quote, I have bolded Mr. Page's last sentence because it is ambiguous and creates a false impression. The US Senate found it was Wilson, not Bush who made false claims.

Mr. Page indicates that his e-mail box runneth over with comments about the "facts" apparently colored by the side you believe is right. He even invokes the quote of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan that "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts." Mr. Page then makes the following statement about the "facts". [Emphasis Mine]
Valerie Plame was a covert agent under the relevant 1982 law that makes it a crime to disclose the identity of a covert intelligence officer. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald cleared up that dispute in a memorandum during the sentencing phase of Libby's trial. "It was clear from very early in the investigation," he wrote, "that Ms. Wilson qualified under [the 1982 law] as a covert agent whose identity had been disclosed by public officials, including Mr. Libby, to the press." Four days later, Fitzgerald filed an "unclassified summary" of Plame's CIA employment which described her work as including "at least seven" overseas trips as chief of a unit working on Iraq weapons issues.
Notice that it is Prosecutor Fitzgerald to whom it is clear. This is his opinion. However, it is not clear that a court would have found Mr. Fitzgerald's opinion factual. Actually, there is rather good evidence that the Prosecutor's opinion is wrong.

One authoritative opinion we might consider is that of Victoria Toensing. In 1981 she became Chief Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (chaired by Barry Goldwater), where she helped draft the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. Clearly, one of the Authors of the Legislation would know the Legislation's intent. Ms. Toensing's opinion caries the weight of "someone who was there", and from her vantage point, Valerie Plame (Wilson) was not a covert agent under this Legislation.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate and prosecute violations of this Act. Mr. Fitzgerald did not bring any charges under the Intelligence Identities Identities Protection Act of 1982 because he correctly found no violation of this Act took place.

Let's recap. Since Valerie Plame (Wilson) was not a Covert Agent under the applicable Law, there was no crime committed when Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage revealed her name to Robert Novak and he printed it in his column. Mr. Libby was found guilty by a jury of a criminal offense. President Bush did not pardon Mr. Libby. The President did allow Mr. Libby's Felony Conviction stand. Also left standing is the $250,000 Fine and 2 years probation.

Under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the President exercised his authority to commute a sentence he felt was excessive.


Tucker Lieberman said...

Quote: "...the President exercised his authority to commute a sentence he felt was excessive."

"George W. Bush during his six years as governor of Texas presided over 152 executions, more than any other governor in the recent history of the United States," Sister Helen Prejean wrote in 2005. She wrote that Bush was accustomed to reflecting 30 minutes on each request for clemency, and denied them all with only one exception. (Bush commuted the death sentence of Henry Lee Lucas to life imprisonment because, Prejean claims, of nationwide speculation of Lucas's possible innocence. This occurred during the 2000 presidential campaign "when Bush had begun to portray himself as a 'compassionate conservative.'") "I’m proud of the fact that we hold people accountable," Bush said in St. Louis on Oct. 17, 2000, regarding his record on executing criminals.

Yet, when it came to Scooter Libby--Cheney's former aide accused of obstructing an investigation--Bush said "I respect the jury's verdict" but that the sentence was "excessive" for "a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service."

Naturally, some people are curious why it was fair for Bush to tacitly approve harsh sentences for other offenders who happened not to be public servants and who were guilty of crimes other than lying to protect Bush.

Murky Research said...

tucker: "...public servants and who were guilty of crimes other than lying to protect Bush."

What Crimes did Bush commit? Please provide a source for your accusation.

If Bush wanted to silence Libby, why not give him a full Pardon? As it stands now, Libby is still a Felon, paid $250,000 fine and still has to serve 2 yrs probation. Libby looses his law license too. If I were Libby, anything short of a Full Pardon is not enough to keep me silent. Bush would know this too. My conclusion is that Libby lied only to protect himself.