After two years of thorough, aggressive investigation Patrick Fitzgerald is unable to say whether or not there was a plan at the White House to leak the name of Valerie Plame-Wilson in an effort to undermine her husband Joseph Wilson. So far, the obstruction of justice has been successful.
The indictment of "Scooter" Libby on one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of making false statements, and two perjury counts demonstrates that the lies and deception that got the United States into this war have continued before a federal grand jury.
Before Fitzgerald's announcement of the indictment of Libby, I had hoped Americans would see inside the White House -- were they manipulating intelligence to support an invasion of Iraq? Were they intimidating opponents like Joseph Wilson who questioned some of their claims of weapons of mass destruction? Did the administration lie to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq? But, so far the White House has succeeded in preventing Americans from knowing what really happened.
Patrick Fitzgerald was unable to say whether or not there was a plot to undermine Joe Wilson, and intimidate others who might speak out, by attacking his wife. Bush administration supporters have been misstating the situation claiming that the failure to indict on the underlying offense shows it did not occur. No, the failure shows that so far there has been a successful obstruction of justice.
Libby, it seems, decided to make up a story and blame the media. According to the indictment, Libby testified that he heard about Plame's CIA employment from reporters when in fact he learned of her identity from three sources in the government, including Vice President Cheney, an unidentified undersecretary of state and a CIA officer. However, when he was asked about the conversations by the FBI and when he testified before the grand jury, Libby insisted he had learned about Wilson's wife first from NBC's Tim Russert. Patrick Fitzgerald points out the absurdity of this testimony: “Mr. Libby ... was telling Mr. Fleischer something on Monday that he claims to have learned on Thursday.”
According to the indictment, Libby spread the information to the media, sharing the information with White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine correspondent Matt Cooper.
The indictment does show the vice president was involved in discussions about Joseph Wilson and his wife, Plame. The indictment alleges that Cheney and others -- including his counsel, deputy national security adviser and press secretary -- took part in discussions about how Wilson was assigned to investigate the Niger uranium claim, the identity of his wife, and whether the information could be shared with reporters. This conversation occurred before Plame's name was made public in a July 14, 2003 column by Robert D. Novak.
The indictment indicates that Cheney may have had further involvement. He and Libby may have discussed how to handle the Wilson problem and the media coverage of Wilson's charges on or about July 12, on the return leg of a trip to Norfolk, Va. According to the indictment, Libby talked over “with other officials aboard the plane” (Cheney was on board) how Libby should respond to media inquiries, including some from Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. Two days later Novak reported the identity of Valerie Plume-Wilson.
But Fitzgerald, who is not going to make an allegation until he can prove it, said in his press conference last Friday: “We make no allegation that the vice president committed any criminal act.”
So, how do we hold an administration that seems willing to lie accountable? First they misled the country and Congress about the threat of Saddam Hussein with talks of mushroom clouds over the United States. Now, the key player is accused of lying and obstructing justice before a federal grand jury. The Congress has been unwilling to seriously oversee their actions. There is not even a single Democrat who is willing to seek an inquiry on impeachment. The Special Prosecutor has had sand thrown in his eyes so he can't see what happened. Is this administration going to avoid responsibility?
They still have hurdles to overcome to contain the information. Libby's trial or plea agreement may get the facts out. Other indictments are still possible, although Fitzgerald downplayed the likelihood of anything significant. And, Congress may begin to provide oversight to the war and the Bush administration. But so far, the obstruction of justice and lies are working.
Kevin Zeese is director of Democracy Rising. You can comment on this column on his blog at the site.
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