Urbin Report

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Plame Games gets down to basics...

As we know, the only clear liar in this mess is Joe Wilson.
The "case" against Lewis Libby has been clearly proved to be a fraud, as Byron York points out.

At the end of each witness's testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, after prosecutors and defense attorneys examined and cross-examined, U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton asked jurors to write down any questions they had. Walton would then look through the papers, decide which questions were appropriate and pose them to the witness.
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But last week there was a moment when we got a hint not from a question that Walton asked, but from one he refused to ask. After the testimony of star prosecution witness Tim Russert, Walton scanned the jurors' queries and announced, "There is going to be one question I'm not going to ask. I've concluded that that question is not appropriate and therefore you should not speculate as to what the response would have been."
What was he talking about? A moment later, Walton told the jurors: "What Mrs. Wilson's status was at the CIA, whether it was covert or not covert, is not something that you're going to hear any evidence presented to you on in this trial."

"Whether she was, or whether she was not, covert is not relevant to the issues you have to decide in this case," he said.

It is The Thing That Cannot Be Spoken at the Libby trial.
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The problem is, the entire case stems from accusations that the Bush White House illegally leaked Mrs. Wilson's identity in an effort to get back at her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, for his high-profile criticism of the administration's case for war in Iraq. That's why the CIA leak investigation began, and it's why Libby appeared before a grand jury, leading to the perjury charges against him. It's what the CIA leak case is about. Yet Walton has told jurors to put it out of their minds.

It has been clear since day one that Plame was not a "covert" agent, as the CIA defines the term.

Fitzgerald has handled this so badly, even the Washington Post is starting to turn on him.
Could someone please explain to me why Scooter Libby is the only person on trial in the Valerie Plame leak investigation?
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There's a reason why responsible prosecutors don't bring perjury cases on mere "he said, he said" evidence. Without an underlying crime or tangible evidence of obstruction (think Martha Stewart trying to destroy phone logs), the trial becomes a mishmash of faulty memories in which witnesses can seem as guilty as the defendant. Any prosecutor knows that memories differ, even vividly, and each party can be convinced that his or her version is the truthful one.

If we accept Fitzgerald's low threshold for bringing a criminal case, then why stop at Libby? This investigation has enough questionable motives and shadowy half-truths and flawed recollections to fill a court docket for months. So here are my own personal bills of indictment:

THIS GRAND JURY CHARGES PATRICK J. FITZERALD with ignoring the fact that there was no basis for a criminal investigation from the day he was appointed, with handling some witnesses with kid gloves and banging on others with a mallet, with engaging in past contretemps with certain individuals that might have influenced his pursuit of their liberty, and with misleading the public in a news conference because . . . well, just because. To wit:

  On Dec. 30, 2003, the day Fitzgerald was appointed special counsel, he should have known (all he had to do was ask the CIA) that Plame was not covert, knowledge that should have stopped the investigation right there. The law prohibiting disclosure of a covert agent's identity requires that the person have a foreign assignment at the time or have had one within five years of the disclosure, that the government be taking affirmative steps to conceal the government relationship, and for the discloser to have actual knowledge of the covert status.

From FBI interviews conducted after Oct. 1, 2003, Fitzgerald also knew that then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage had identified Plame as a CIA officer to columnist Robert D. Novak, who first published Plame's name on July 14, 2003.

  In January 2001, Libby was the lawyer for millionaire financier Marc Rich, whom President Bill Clinton pardoned shortly before leaving office. Fitzgerald, who was then an assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, and U.S. Attorney James Comey spearheaded the criminal investigation of that pardon.

  Fitzgerald jailed former New York Times reporter Judith Miller for almost 90 days for not providing evidence in a matter that involved no crime. Yet the two were engaged in another dispute: Fitzgerald wanted Miller's phone records, contending that by contacting an Islamic charity, she had alerted it to a government search the day before it happened.

  Fitzgerald granted immunity to former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer without ever asking what he would testify to; he permitted NBC News bureau chief Tim Russert to be interviewed in a law firm office with his lawyer present, while Novak was forced to testify before the grand jury without counsel present.
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THIS GRAND JURY CHARGES JOSEPH C. WILSON IV with misleading the public about how he was sent to Niger, about the thrust of his March 2003 oral report of that trip, and about his wife's CIA status, perhaps for the purpose of getting book and movie contracts.

  On July 6, 2003, Wilson appeared on "Meet the Press" hours after the New York Times published his op-ed "What I Didn't Find in Africa," which accused the administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the Iraq threat. The piece suggested that Wilson had been sent to Niger at the vice president's request to look into foreign intelligence reports of Iraqi efforts to obtain yellowcake uranium. Wilson told Andrea Mitchell, "The office of the vice president, I am absolutely convinced, received a very specific response to the question it asked and that response was based upon my trip there." But Cheney said he had no knowledge of Wilson's trip and was never briefed on his oral report to the CIA.
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Plame was not covert. She worked at CIA headquarters and had not been stationed abroad within five years of the date of Novak's column.

Go read the whole thing.