Indictments are, as everyone knows, proof of nothing except the prosecutor's intentions. The actual trial, at which a defense is permitted, is the point at which real information is likely to emerge. I have known real-world indictments that were dropped entirely without trial, and the prosecutor forced to apologize, once the defense lawyers got involved and began to unmake the case. This prosecutor, however, seems unlikely to have made gross errors of the sort that lead to such a situation.
My basic principles about government-official indictments remain the same:
1) A desire to defend the weaker party, which wants to see the matter resolved in the favor of the innocent whenever an innocent man is threatened by the state's power.It is also strange to note that "Scooter" Libby's only appearance at Grim's Hall, as far as I can recall, was just the other day:
2) A desire to see corruption in government restrained, which desires to see the matter resolved by hurling any guilty men into the dungeon in this case. This is true whether "the guilty" is Delay, or the prosecutor, should the prosecutor in fact be engaged in a political prosecution.
My respect for the administration, on the wane somewhat of late especially due to the matter of their ICE appointee, is somewhat reinforced by this exchange. It is good to know that there is at least one among them who knows, and honors, the old forms. It isn't much compared to the great matters of war and politics: but it isn't nothing, either.That stands. I was, and remain, impressed with gentlemanly and chivalrous conduct -- indeed, to some degree I am more impressed with it, if Mr. Libby knew that the generous letter he was writing was apt to result in his own indictment.
Nevertheless, keeping your oaths is at least as important a part of being a man -- and a gentleman -- as respect and kindness to ladies. It is odd to see that someone who has obviously learned the one lesson so well can be brought up short on the other matter. Austin Bay says he thinks Libby just thought he could get away with it; Sovay, who has been watching the case closely, said exactly the same thing.
The most interesting thing about the facts of the case, though, touches on the Wilson/Plame matter. There are two remaining disputes between Left and Right on the facts of the case: who, exactly, outed Plame; and whether Plame recommended Wilson for the job in Niger. Out of those two disputes grow great differing empires of opinion about the proper resolution of the matter. The biggest difference is this one: whether the "real evil act" here was by the White House, one of whose officers chose to compromise national security in order to secure political points by outing a CIA employee; or by the CIA, which is alleged to have been conducting these missions on their own authority with the intention of undermining the White House's foreign policy (which is not acceptable, if true), or perhaps even to manipulate internal US politics (which is seriously disturbing, if true). A third possibility, which I think is the most likely, is this: the real bad actors were Wilson and wife, who were manipulating both the CIA and the press. This would explain the facts as they seem to be arranging themselves.
The summary of charges makes clear that the CIA and State advised Libby that Wilson's wife had in fact been responsible for getting Wilson sent on the trip. This information is summarized on pages 5-6 in the bullet points. It is also clear that the trip was organized by the CIA on its own authority, with Plame's input, rather than at a higher level.
It is also clear, from the findings of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that Wilson reported one thing to the CIA and another thing entirely to the press. It is also clear that Wilson printed a number of things that were flatly untrue. Lying in the press is not perjury, of course, so there's no legal trouble involved -- but it does appear that Wilson and Plame are guilty of misusing their position to attempt to manipulate US policy and politics.
That does not excuse Libby. The proper response to the existence of bad actors at CIA is not to out them in the press, which -- as the indictment makes clear -- is a matter that seriously disrupts national security, not least by demonstrating that a given corporation is or has been used as a locus for non-official-covers. It can also endanger our foriegn assets' lives. The indictment does not accuse Libby of having done so, but it makes clear that the prosecutor feels Libby hampered the investigation into who did.
Neither does it justify perjury. Oath-breaking is never acceptable.
The plot has thickened, however. The trial is apt to fall on these fault-lines of opinion like a sledgehammer. The radical left is apt to be pushing the "virtuous CIA, Plame not involved in Wilson's selection, Wilson was right, evil White House" narrative into the public, even though the facts plainly don't support it. The radical right is apt to push the "evil CIA/Plame/Wilson conspiracy to manipulate internal US politics" narrative, even though the facts don't support that. Both narratives are likely to undermine public confidence in the secret parts of the government -- the administration and CIA -- that are chiefly running the GWOT. The result could be a disaster for the war.
It could also be a disaster for the truth. The most likely set of facts is that the Wilson pair and Libby were the bad actors. The Wilsonians appear to have manipulated the CIA into sending Wilson, and then deceived the press about what Wilson found in Africa. Libby did wrong, allegedly, by hampering the investigation into the leaks and by deceiving the grand jury. The majority of the administration and the CIA were apparently only trying to do their jobs.
If that is true, as it appears prima facie to be true, then we will have to work hard to make sure that neither of the politically-driven narratives becomes the public understanding of the case. As per my basic principles, I would like to see the guilty hurled in the dungeon and the corrupt restrained. I would also like to see the innocent, those public servants in the administration and intel services who have been trying to do their jobs to protect this nation and further its interests, defended against slander. This case, which until now has been a minor sideshow in American politics, appears to be becoming a true danger.