Sunday, October 30, 2005

Let's get it straight

Karl Rove was not exonerated of culpability for exposing a CIA operative and the indictment of "Scooter" Libby is about lying the nation into an illegitimate war! The Sunday news shows today have been replete with conservatives and Republicans claiming that prosecutor Fitzgerald came up empty-handed with his Grand Jury not accusing anyone of the crime he was initially investigating. They claim that Rove not being indicted means that he never committed a crime. They also claim that Libby's indictment of obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury is a trivial accusation. Therefore, conservatives make the reasoning that the Iraq War was instigated with complete and honest information.

But let there be no mistake: Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald only handed down indictments on those charges where he's confident that he can get a conviction. Acting responsibly (unlike Kenneth Starr), he is strictly maintaining his allegations within the scope of his indictments. However, that does not mean that no other crimes were committed. It simply means that the burden of proof to convict someone of disclosing the identity of a covert intelligence personnel and improper disclosure of national defense information [the identity of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative] requires proving intent on the part of the person leaking the information. Without being inside of the head of the person, proving intent is almost impossible to do. Therefore, Fitzgerald wisely decided not to try to bring indictments over which it would be difficult to prevail.

Like a smart prosecutor, Fitzgerald levied charges that will be relatively straightforward to prove. In his press release, he makes a compelling case for obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury. In fact, this case is only missing one component to convict Libby of disclosing classified information: intent. And it's naive to claim that this indictment has nothing to do with the Iraq War. Fitzgerald only publicly said this was the case to act responsibly and maintain his credibility as he presses charges. However, the indictment has references to ambassador Joseph Wilson debunking the claims that Iraq had WMDs all over it. It's no accident that Fitzgerald makes it clear in his indictment that the American people were being deceived without actually pressing charges against someone for doing so.

It's also naive to claim that Karl Rove is innocent of any crimes simply by virtue of the fact that Fitzgerald leveled no charges against him. There's no question that the person Fitzgerald refers to in his indictment as "Official A" is Karl Rove. And although Fitzgerald made it clear that Official A is not currently under indictment now, he never closed the door on the possibility that he might be charged later. This is another case of a charge not being levied only because the burden of proof is great. Rove is a shrewd character, and he did not make some of the blatant mistakes Libby did, thereby not exposing himself to indictment for the easier charges to prove which Libby is alleged to have done. Fitzgerald would have had to show intent to convict Rove of the charges he was initially investigating. As mentioned before, intent is a very difficult thing to prove unless you're in the head of the accused.

Finally, conservatives who try to claim that the charges in the indictment are trivial, as opposed to the crimes that were initially investigated, are sadly lacking in ethics. Fitzgerald spoke at length about the importance of truth when he presented the indictment at a press conference Friday. His indictment explicitly states:
When citizens testify before grand juries they are required to tell the truth. Without the truth, our criminal justice system cannot serve our nation or its citizens. The requirement to tell the truth applies equally to all citizens, including persons who hold high positions in government. In an investigation concerning the compromise of a CIA officerÂ’s identity, it is especially important that grand jurors learn what really happened. The indictment returned today alleges that the efforts of the grand jury to investigate such a leak were obstructed when Mr. Libby lied about how and when he learned and subsequently disclosed classified information about Valerie Wilson.

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