Connecting Some Dots
Here are a couple more pieces of news analysis to take a closer look out at the current news and maybe connect some dots.
• On Friday, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald filed a sentencing memo with the U.S. District Court in regard to Scooter Libby. Libby was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice, and Fitzgerald requested a jail sentence of 30 to 37 months for him. That was pretty big news going into the holiday weekend. (There was news going into the holiday weekend? Who knew?) Fitzgerald pointed out that Scooter was found guilty of obstructing justice because he did indeed obstruct justice. Therefore, we still don't know what really happened in the Plame case. In Tuesday's Washington Post, Dan Froomkin examined the sentencing memo in a bit more detail:
Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has made it clearer than ever that he was hot on the trail of a coordinated campaign to out CIA agent Valerie Plame until that line of investigation was cut off by the repeated lies from Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
. . .
In Friday's eminently readable court filing, Fitzgerald quotes the Libby defense calling his prosecution "unwarranted, unjust, and motivated by politics." In responding to that charge, the special counsel evidently felt obliged to put Libby's crime in context. And that context is Dick Cheney.
Libby's lies, Fitzgerald wrote, "made impossible an accurate evaluation of the role that Mr. Libby and those with whom he worked played in the disclosure of information regarding Ms. Wilson's CIA employment and about the motivations for their actions."
It was established at trial that it was Cheney himself who first told Libby about Plame's identity as a CIA agent, in the course of complaining about criticisms of the administration's run-up to war leveled by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. And, as Fitzgerald notes: "The evidence at trial further established that when the investigation began, Mr. Libby kept the Vice President apprised of his shifting accounts of how he claimed to have learned about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment."
The investigation, Fitzgerald writes, "was necessary to determine whether there was concerted action by any combination of the officials known to have disclosed the information about Ms. Plame to the media as anonymous sources, and also whether any of those who were involved acted at the direction of others. This was particularly important in light of Mr. Libby's statement to the FBI that he may have discussed Ms. Wilson's employment with reporters at the specific direction of the Vice President." (My italics.)
Not clear on the concept yet? Fitzgerald adds: "To accept the argument that Mr. Libby's prosecution is the inappropriate product of an investigation that should have been closed at an early stage, one must accept the proposition that the investigation should have been closed after at least three high-ranking government officials were identified as having disclosed to reporters classified information about covert agent Valerie Wilson, where the account of one of them was directly contradicted by other witnesses, where there was reason to believe that some of the relevant activity may have been coordinated, and where there was an indication from Mr. Libby himself that his disclosures to the press may have been personally sanctioned by the Vice President." (My italics.)
• A few weeks ago, the Prez issued a presidential directive that's gotten a fair amount of attention in progressive blogs and sites (such as The Progressive) and a little bit in the mainstream (the WaPo took a look, for instance). As summed up by Matthew Rothschild's Progressive article, the Prez said that, in case of a "catastrophic emergency" (defined fairly broadly), he'll be in charge of the government.
Viewed in one light, that's fairly alarming, and I've wondered to some extent why this isn't getting more attention. Apparently a number of readers of Talking Points Memo wondered the same thing, so TPMMuckraker took a look. Their conclusion is that it's not such a big deal. They point out that Clinton had a similar plan and interview a number of experts from the ACLU and various places suggesting that, if not this one, some kind of similar plan needs to be in place. The Clinton directive put FEMA in charge in similar circumstances, and during the Clinton administration, that wasn't a bad idea. Nowadays, though, you'd after wonder how much any of us want to turn to FEMA in case of catastrophic emergency.
On the other hand, this is the Bush administration we're talking about. The new directive might indeed make sense if we were to presume good faith on the part of the government. But I'm not sure good faith has been operative in the administrative branch for years now. While this might not be an obvious power grab on the surface, if such a circumstance were to arise, it seems to me that we have to assume the Bush administration will try to grab whatever power it could get its hands on. The Bushies don't deal with us at face value, and we have to stop dealing with them at face value.