Friday, October 28, 2005

Dowd and Tierney on Fitzgerald

Well, the man of the hour certainly is Patrick Fitzgerald. I knew it was just a matter of time before someone asked him to run for office and within 10 minutes of his press conference, I heard a female caller to CSPAN asking for just that.

I'm just grateful that not ALL government employees are boneheads.

October 29, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Who's on First?

It was bracing to see the son of a New York doorman open the door on the mendacious Washington lair of the Lord of the Underground.

But this Irish priest of the law, Patrick Fitzgerald, neither Democrat nor Republican, was very strict, very precise. He wasn't totally gratifying in clearing up the murkiness of the case, yet strangely comforting in his quaint black-and-white notions of truth and honor (except when his wacky baseball metaphor seemed to veer toward a "Who's on first?" tangle).

"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he told reporters yesterday in his big Eliot Ness moment at the Justice Department. The indictment was simply about whether the son of an investment banker perjured himself before a grand jury and the F.B.I.

Scooter does seem like a big fat liar in the indictment. And not a clever one, since his deception hinged on, of all people, the popular monsignor of the trusted Sunday Church of Russert. Does Scooter hope to persuade a jury to believe him instead of Little Russ?

Good luck.

There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible.

Mr. Fitzgerald claims that Mr. Libby hurt national security by revealing the classified name of a C.I.A. officer. "Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life," he said.

He was not buying the arguments on the right that Mrs. Wilson was not really undercover or was under "light" cover, or that blowing her cover did not hurt the C.I.A.

"I can say that for the people who work at the C.I.A. and work at other places, they have to expect that when they do their jobs that classified information will be protected," he said, adding: "They run a risk when they work for the C.I.A. that something bad could happen to them, but they have to make sure that they don't run the risk that something bad is going to happen to them from something done by their own fellow government employees."

To protect a war spun from fantasy, the Bush team played dirty. Unfortunately for them, this time they Swift-boated an American whose job gave her legal protection from the business-as-usual smear campaign.

The back story of this indictment is about the ongoing Tong wars of the C.I.A., the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon: the fight over who lied us into war. The C.I.A., after all, is the agency that asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate how one of its own was outed by the White House.

The question Mr. Fitzgerald repeatedly declined to answer yesterday - Dick Cheney's poker face has finally met its match - was whether this stops at Scooter.

No one expects him to "flip," unless he finally gets the sort of fancy white-collar criminal lawyer that The Washington Post said he is searching for - like the ones who succeeded in getting Karl Rove off the hook, at least for now - and the lawyer tells Scooter to nail his boss to save himself.

But what we really want to know, now that we have the bare bones of who said what to whom in the indictment, is what they were all thinking there in that bunker and how that hothouse bred the idea that the way out of their Iraq problems was to slime their critics instead of addressing the criticism. What we really want to know, if Scooter testifies in the trial, and especially if he doesn't, is what Vice did to create the spidery atmosphere that led Scooter, who seemed like an interesting and decent guy, to let his zeal get the better of him.

Mr. Cheney, eager to be rid of the meddlesome Joe Wilson, got Valerie Wilson's name from the C.I.A. and passed it on to Scooter. He forced the C.I.A. to compromise one of its own, a sacrifice on the altar of faith-based intelligence.

Vice spent so much time lurking over at the C.I.A., trying to intimidate the analysts at Langley into twisting the intelligence about weapons, that he should have had one of his undisclosed locations there.

This administration's grand schemes always end up as the opposite. Officials say they're promoting national security when they're hurting it; they say they're squelching terrorists when they're breeding them; they say they're bringing stability to Iraq when the country's imploding. (The U.S. announced five more military deaths yesterday.)

And the most dangerous opposite of all: W. was listening to a surrogate father he shouldn't have been listening to, and not listening to his real father, who deserved to be listened to.

October 29, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
What Fitzgerald Didn't Say

At last, Patrick Fitzgerald has spoken - and what a relief it was to the talking heads who have been speculating about his investigation. For two years they've been predicting great revelations about the perfidy that led America into the Iraq war. Instead, we learned two things yesterday from the special prosecutor:

1. When you've worked at the White House for a few years, having a law degree and a lawyer at your side during legal interrogations are apparently not enough to stop you from saying incredibly dumb things.

2. Being given the powers of a special prosecutor does not necessarily turn you into a crazed inquisitor.

The best news yesterday was what Fitzgerald didn't do. He didn't indict anyone for seemingly minor discrepancies in testimony. He didn't indict on vague conspiracy charges. He didn't indict anyone for leaking classified information, and in his news conference he acknowledged that it could be dangerous to criminalize the leaks that reporters depend upon.

Still, the biggest losers so far in this case - aside, of course, from Scooter Libby - are journalists. We've spent our careers assuring sources that we'll protect them, but now they can see how our testimony led to one source's indictment. If there's a trial, reporters will have to publicly betray Libby's confidences - and probably endure assaults on their integrity and accuracy from Libby's lawyers.

Journalists will argue that Libby is a special case who is getting what he deserves for dragging them into this mess. The special prosecutor said he had to compel their testimony because Libby had falsely fingered them as his source for the identity of a C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson.

Everyone might have come out ahead if Libby had just told what Fitzgerald says is the truth: that Libby heard about Wilson's identity from other officials. Even if Libby had confessed to revealing her identity, he probably would have avoided prosecution as long he hadn't realized that he was outing a covert officer. If the indictment is accurate, it looks as if he pursued a remarkably self-destructive strategy.

But then, so did all the journalists who turned this leak into a major story and clamored for a special prosecutor. Why were we so eager for someone to look into the secret practices of our own business? What made this leak so scandalous that it merited the risk of empowering someone who could turn into another Ken Starr?

The leak was imagined to be a deliberate crime, part of an elaborate plot to cover up the administration's efforts to hype prewar intelligence. But from the start there was always a much simpler explanation: that it was an accident by administration officials replying in kind to leaks from a critic. It was unrealistic to expect the investigation to yield any grand geopolitical lessons, and it didn't, as Fitzgerald noted in his best moment at yesterday's news conference.

"This indictment's not about the propriety of the war," he said. "And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel."

The indictment merely demonstrated that the cliché about the cover-up being worse than the crime is especially true when there was no crime to begin with. If the facts in the indictment are accurate, then Libby deserves to be prosecuted, and maybe his example will do some good in the future - at the very least, officials will be more careful about protecting the identities of covert operatives.

It's conceivable they might even be more careful in telling the truth to grand juries. Now that Libby has been indicted on the same charges that got Bill Clinton impeached - perjury before a grand jury and obstruction of justice - maybe someone will finally wise up the next time.

But those are pretty meager benefits to show for an investigation that has consumed Washington for two years without discovering any crimes that occurred outside the investigation. Before we clamor for a special prosecutor again, we should remember how little the last two have accomplished - and how much damage the next one could do.

For now we seem to have lucked out with Fitzgerald. He deserves credit for not trying to justify all his work with a rash of dubious indictments, and he'll deserve more credit if he resists the temptation to drag this investigation out much longer. Enough is enough.


At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tierney wrote: "But then, so did all the journalists who turned this leak into a major story and clamored for a special prosecutor. Why were we so eager for someone to look into the secret practices of our own business? What made this leak so scandalous that it merited the risk of empowering someone who could turn into another Ken Starr?"

What's he talking about? It was the CIA that requested the investigation into who revealed classified information in the first place, not journalists.

And if journalists did start clamoring for an investigation that in the end may hurt their own professional interests, then maybe it's because -- and this may be hard for a modern-day conservative to understand -- they're more interested in the TRUTH, and letting the chips fall where they may and getting to the bottom of things, because the truth is more important than loyalty to any one person or Party or president or job.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger Harold Nicolson said...

Editorial in Tierney's paper on the same day...

Supporters of Mr. Libby, known as Scooter, have attempted to describe the Wilson case as, at worse, a matter of casual gossip by Washington insiders about the wife of a man in the news. But the indictment does not describe a situation in which people accidentally outed someone they did not know was a covert officer. It describes a distinct and disturbing pattern of behavior among very high-ranking officials, including Mr. Libby and Vice President Dick Cheney, who knew that they were dealing with a covert officer and used their access to classified information in a public relations campaign over the rapidly disintegrating justifications for war with Iraq.

.. and it was on the FREE side of the paywall. Thanks uniongrrl

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tierney is confused, as usual. No "underlying crime..."? Scooter and Dickie are up to their eyeballs on this one...where the retarded monkey posing as our president is, well, they don't care, and we probably shouldn't...ever notice how drunk he appears these days...? Just send him a bottle...

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Grant said...

Politics aside, thanks for today's Dowd Tierney banquet. Screw the Times and their TimesSelect. Found you via Dogpile search. And GOOOD blog. Again, Thanks.

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous rose said...

Can he possibly be making the argument that we should not investigate abuse of power because it would empower the investigator with the, wait for it, ability to abuse power. TaDa

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Shouldn't Fitzgerald be searching for something more damning, like Dumbya cheating on Laura or something? Gosh gee whiz.

Whether it was accidental or purposely evil, even a liberal recognizes it's not a Good Thing to uncover any CIA agent at any level.

Looks like Dumbya's famed crankiness is mirrored in his staff.

Boo hoo.


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