The Fitzmas That Fizzled

“Scooter” Libby has, or I should say had, a reputation as a smart and gifted lawyer. Why in the world he’d be dumb enough to purger himself in front of a grand jury is beyond me. However, it seems quite clear that Patrick Fitzgerald has his ass in a sling. Fitzgerald’s no slouch when it comes to running a tight investigation, and Libby’s own idiocy has been his downfall. If he doesn’t go to jail, it will be by the skin of his teeth.

At the same time, all the Democrats with visions of Karl Rove getting “frog-marched” out of the White House were disappointed. Fitzgerald essentially said that had Libby not lied, no crime would have been committed. What Libby did was no worse – and probably far less damaging to national security – than what Sandy Berger did when he destroyed valuable evidence related to the attempted millennium terrorist attacks. Then again, the facts don’t matter to the raving partisans of the left. They’re convinced that Valerie Plame was some super-secret agent, and that an anonymous star at the CIA designating the loss of a covert CIA agent is the result of her “unmasking” despite the fact that the star also corresponds to the war in Iraq. For some, facts aren’t what’s important, just partisanship.

Glenn Reynolds wraps it up quite well:

ONE OF THE THINGS I’VE NOTICED in the Judy Miller / Scooter Libby coverage is the development of a new history that’s very convenient for a lot of the people peddling it. The new story is that:

1. We only went to war because of WMDs — that was the only reason ever given.

2. Bush lied about those.

3. He told his lies to Judy Miller, who acted like a stenographer and reported them.

4. Everyone else gullibly went along.

There are lots of problems with this, beginning with the fact that it’s not true. I’ve addressed much of this — especially parts 1 & 2 — in earlier posts like this one, this one, and especially this one. It gets tiresome having to repeat this stuff, but the new history, despite its falsity, is just too convenient for too many people to be stopped by anything as simple as the truth.

Democratic politicians who supported the war want an excuse to tack closer to their antiwar base. Shouting “It’s not my fault –I’m easily fooled!” would seem a substandard response, but it is a way of changing position while pretending it’s not politically motivated. Meanwhile, journalists, most of whom were reporting the same kind of WMD stories that Miller did (because that’s what pretty much everyone thought — including the antiwar folks who were arguing that an invasion was a bad idea because it would provoke Saddam into using his weapons of mass destruction), now want to focus on her so that people won’t pay much attention to what they were reporting themselves. This makes Judy Miller a handy scapegoat.

But, as I say, the biggest problem with this revisionism is that it’s not true. I guess we’ll just have to keep pointing that out.

And indeed we will.

The left continues fighting over 2002, while the most basic nature of the war has changed since the fall of Saddam. Right now the people of Iraq are fighting alongside us in a battle against a group of radical Islamic fascists who have every intention of plunging Iraq into civil war – or worse. Nobody who has even the slightest interest in a more peaceful world can advocate turning our backs on Iraq. But it isn’t about Iraq, or world peace, or anything else. It’s all about the hatred of George W. Bush. It’s all about political ideology and political power. And trying to distort history by repeating the same old pack of lies over and over again is exactly what the left does best.

Scooter Libby did something phenomenally stupid, and he deserves to face the punishment for it. However, if being stupid were a crime, we’d have to turn California into a prison and put a good fraction of the Democratic Party there. Fitzmas fizzled for the left, but no doubt it won’t reduce their zealotry one iota.

Reynolds also notes something very important that is getting utterly missed in the discussion of this case: the fact that the CIA royally screwed up:

THE BIG LOSER in the Libby affair, it would seem to me, is the CIA. At least it will be if anyone pays attention.

Consider: Assuming that Valerie Plame was some sort of genuinely covert operative — something that’s not actually quite clear from the indictment — the chain of events looks pretty damning: Wilson was sent to Africa on an investigative mission regarding nuclear weapons, but never asked to sign any sort of secrecy agreement(!). Wilson returns, reports, then publishes an oped in the New York Times (!!) about his mission. This pretty much ensures that people will start asking why he was sent, which leads to the fact that his wife arranged it. Once Wilson’s oped appeared, Plame’s covert status was in serious danger. Yet nobody seemed to care.

This leaves two possibilities. One is that the mission was intended to result in the New York Times oped all along, meaning that the CIA didn’t care much about Plame’s status, and was trying to meddle in domestic politics. This reflects very badly on the CIA.

The other possibility is that they’re so clueless that they did this without any nefarious plan, because they’re so inept, and so prone to cronyism and nepotism, that this is just business as usual. If so, the popular theory that the CIA couldn’t find its own weenie with both hands and a flashlight would appear to have found some pretty strong support.

Either way, it seems to me that everyone involved with planning the Wilson mission should be fired. And it’s obvious that the CIA, one way or another, needs a lot of work.

Porter Goss has been doing exactly that over the last few months, but cleaning up the CIA will be a major effort indeed. Wilson’s trip seems to me to be a deliberate effort by rogue elements of the CIA to attempt to influence and discredit our Iraq policy – which means that the CIA was trying to act as an unelected branch of government rather than an intelligence service. Allowing the CIA to have a say in policy is always a dangerous thing – see Pigs, Bay of – which is why it’s as crucial as ever that the CIA be reigned in. Thankfully, DCI Goss seems to understand the need to reform the CIA and restore it to performing its core mission rather than playing partisan politics, but changing the culture of an entrenched bureaucracy is a task of nearly Sisyphean proportions. Someone at the CIA screwed up, and unless that mess is cleaned up, we’re going to have plenty more “intelligence failures” – something that in a time of terrorism is absolutely intolerable.

10 thoughts on “The Fitzmas That Fizzled

  1. Libby is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, I think it’s fair to reserve judgment for now on whether he’s phenomenally stupid or not. However, if he did ‘lie’ to the grand jury, it’s clearly stupid, which I’m sure he’s not. If he’s not stupid, and he did intentionally lie, what’s the reason behind it? I have a feeling that’s what Fitzgerald is going for right now. Libby is either his pawn to take this investigation in another direction, or it’s his way of justifying a two year investigation.

    The whole Wilson-Plame (isn’t she really called Wilson too?!) stinks. And what stinks is not what the White House did – it’s the Wilsons and what they did. In my opinion, Plame-Wilson was about as covert as a hooker on Sunset Strip.

  2. ““Scooter” Libby has, or I should say had, a reputation as a smart and gifted lawyer. Why in the world he’d be dumb enough to purger himself in front of a grand jury is beyond me.”

    Big mystery there. Libby was protecting his bosses from political scandal in 2003 and 2004 so that they could win re-election, deferring the consequences of his lie until 2005 after Bush was already re-elected.

    “THE BIG LOSER in the Libby affair, it would seem to me, is the CIA. At least it will be if anyone pays attention.”

    No doubt. Now the precedent has been set that the sitting administration, whoever that may be, can out an undercover CIA agent and get away with it. The CIA is now assured of being unquestioning hand puppets of the executive branch, faced with the prospect of a legal, systematic genocide waged against their agents and their families if they dissent from the administration.

    ” the fact that the CIA royally screwed up”

    Yet Bush still pinned a medal on George Tenet’s chest in 2004. How does that work?

    “The left continues fighting over 2002, while the most basic nature of the war has changed since the fall of Saddam”

    If not for the insistence that the “smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud” if we didn’t wage war against Iraq, Congress would have never authorized the President to go to war. You know it. I know it. Glenn Reynolds knows it. The real cultural revisionists are the ones now trying to say that this war would have happened if not for the apocalyptic claims of mushrooms clouds by the administration. Every flag-draped coffin that returns to American shores is one more reason why we should continue “fighting 2002” the way we didn’t back then because we made the mistake that the “restoring honor and integrity” crowd couldn’t possibly stage a deception so unprecedentedly disgusting as what Bush, Inc. did.

    “At the same time, all the Democrats with visions of Karl Rove getting “frog-marched” out of the White House were disappointed. ”

    No argument. With all the talk of what a bad week last week was for the Bush, it was actually an extremely good week for him. He gets to re-do the Harriet Miers mistake and get his base to go back to hating Democrats and he gets to keep Turdblossom in the White House. Plamegate has peaked with the Libby indictment. Its prominence in the headlines and in public opinion polls can only go down from here. Democrats’ dreams of the coming trial reminding everyone about the lies that led to this war will most likely be unfulfilled since Libby was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice rather than conspiracy charges. This wasn’t the worst possible outcome of this investigation, but its very unlikely it will bear any more relevance in public opinion a year from now than it would have if no indictments had been issued at all.

  3. I don’t know how you got the idea that Fitzgerald said that “that had Libby not lied, no crime would have been committed.” In fact, he said exactly the opposite – it was Libby’s obstruction that prevented an effective investigation into other criminal acts.

    Well, Libby’s gonna roll, for sure – and the indictments are coming. Fitzmas isn’t over yet.

  4. One thing that keeps nagging me is Mr. Wilson’s role in the whole affair. He is of senior State Dept. rank, no doubt had a mid-level security clearance and was well versed in the ways of confidential, if not clandestine operations.

    How then could he put himself front and center in the media as the most vocal “insider” opponent to the Bush / Cheney causus beli for war and not expect some reporter somewhere to start digging in to his past, his family, his wife’s employment, etc.?

    Should’t someone married to a CIA agent be somewhat more discreet? Nobody: the MSM press, far-right commentators looking to discredit the indictments, etc. has raised the point. Am I off-base or does someone else think his conduct raises an issue of un-clean hands on the part of the Wilsons?

  5. MHS, the only way a reporter could “dig up” Plame’s true employment would be for a government official to betray her status; which, is exactly what happened. A civil reporter limited only to the civil powers avaliable to the media would only have uncovered her cover story as an employee of Brewster-Jennings.

    I imagine that Wilson trusted the officials of his government not to commit gross, treasonous criminal acts and not only cripple a massive weapons-interdiction program instituted at the cost of millions, but put hundreds of American agents at risk and, in at least several cases, very likely result in their deaths.

    Now, are you saying that Wilson was wrong to trust the Bush administration not to employ traitors and criminals?

  6. That’s a harsh and somewhat rosey picture of Washington. Between my father, sister and I, there’s 24 years expeience on the Hill. DC is, above all, a company town. Everybody knows everybody. In 1954 my folks lived in a four-plex in north DC. Two very fit, middle-aged single men lived next door. They would disappear for a month or so at a time, then show up like nothing had happend. Everyone knew what they did, but nobody talked about it.

    Things are different today in that everyone in Washington can’t wait for a chance to talk to a reporter. Do you really think a decent investigative reporter couldn’t figure out in a day or so of asking that Ms. Plame didn’t have your standard 9 to 5 job? He could not have proven she was CIA, but, when nobody can ID where she works, what the company does, who else works there, etc. the questions and speculations start coming. The bigger the story, ie: a bungled war, the tougher the questions. No one can expect a bit of privacy in our hyper-scrutiny public arena these days, whether from the press or from attack groups on all sides of any issue.

    I’m not by any means blaming Mr. Wilson or saying he outed his own wife. It is a good cautionary tale for everyone on the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  7. Plame did have a 9 to 5 job, though. That was part of her cover.

    Look, the FBI did the investigation. Nobody knew she was covert. Her close friends and college roommates didn’t even know.

    Everybody’s acting like this was some kind of “open secret”, that everybody was in the know, but I haven’t heard of a single person that actually did know. Have you?

  8. Nobody knew she was covert because she wasn’t, if she was Libby would have gotten indicted. Becasue you libs wish it would happen doesn’t make it so. If he had outed Plame then Libby would have been indicted for it. Thats not the case. Because Plame was classified doesn’t mean she is covert, she went to CIA headquarters for 5+ years, she wasn’t doing the spy thing, if she ever did that in the first palce. She was a WMD analyst not field operative.

  9. NBC Reporter and wife of Alan Greenspan knew of Plame’s identity. In fact, Wilson was blabbing to retired Air Force General Tom McInerney about his wife’s job in a Fox News greenroom, and the General is willing to testify to that fact under oath…

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