Saturday, March 18, 2006

Taking a leak, Libby-style...

When was the last time you "misremembered" anything? For my part, I can't remember. Come to think of it, I can't recall even using the term "misremember," yet counsel for Scooter Libby, former top aide to the vice-president, who was indicted, in late fall, on 5 counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and lying to the FBI, are intent upon claiming that all the hoopla, in the White House, surrounding the revelation that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as first reported, may have been a contributing factor in distracting the poor man to the degree that he has forgotten meaningful "snippets of conversation," which relate to the disclosure of a covert CIA operative, Valerie Plame Wilson's identity, in violation of federal law. This argument strikes me as tantamount to saying you forgot whether you studied for your Final Exam because you were distracted by your parents who were fighting over a car payment in the other room.

Mr. Libby's counsel may be second only to the defense team that won the release of O.J. Simpson in their efforts to deflect attention away from the right hand to among the most powerful vice-presidents in United States history by asserting that chronic arguments, in the Oval Office, are behind his inability to focus on who it was who told him about Mrs. Wilson.

More intriguing still is the assertion, on the part of his lawyers, that "the State Department and certainly not Mr. Libby bears responsibility for the leak," according to a published report by the Associated Press today. Let's stop for a moment, and do the math---how many employees does the State Department have when it operates nearly 260 U.S. embassies, and consulates, around the globe, even if we factor out the number who work in D.C.? Does it follow logically that federal prosecutor Fitzgerald should pursue the State Department, and not their client, for leaking the CIA agent's identity, and do they have anyone in particular, out of several thousand employees, in mind?

The good news is that Libby's attorneys appear to have narrowed it down to 3 department officials, Richard Armitage, Marc Grossman, and (are you ready for this?) Colin Powell who, while secretary of state, reportedly mentioned that everyone knows what Mrs. Wilson does for a living. Well, that's 3 down, and how many more to go? Mr. Armitage, as you may know, was unanimously confirmed, back in 01, as Deputy Secretary of State despite having been denied appointment, in 1989, to the position of Assistant Secretary due to his ties to Iran Contra. (oh, and by the way, any resemblance between Armitage and Jack Abramoff is purely coincidental.)

While some might wince at comparisons between Colin Powell and Thomas Jefferson who was our first secretary of state, truth be told it was Mr. Powell who was the only member of this administration to suggest that the Pentagon was operating in defiance of international law, and the Geneva Conventions, in designating detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere, "enemy combatants." I daresay, too, that history will record Mr. Powell's opposition to his president's invasion of Iraq, and human rights travesties.

On the other side of the equation, we have profiles not in courage, but in cowardice. The last time we saw such memorable "misremembering," or artful dodging, was when Ronald Reagan said he didn't recall any conversations about the sale of arms to the Contras in exchange for release of hostages in Iran. The only difference is, when the former president said he didn't remember, he was telling the truth.

If lawyers for Dick Cheney's former aide get their way, and go after the State Department, and the C.I.A., as they're trying to, we will never know who is responsible for leaking, and who broke the law, any more than we have seen the killer of Nicole Brown, and Ron Goldman brought to justice.