The Inspector Javert Of DC

The Washington Post has a sensible editorial on the fallout of the Libby conviction:

The fall of this skilled and long-respected public servant is particularly sobering because it arose from a Washington scandal remarkable for its lack of substance. It was propelled not by actual wrongdoing but by inflated and frequently false claims, and by the aggressive and occasionally reckless response of senior Bush administration officials — culminating in Mr. Libby’s perjury.

Mr. Wilson was embraced by many because he was early in publicly charging that the Bush administration had “twisted,” if not invented, facts in making the case for war against Iraq. In conversations with journalists or in a July 6, 2003, op-ed, he claimed to have debunked evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger; suggested that he had been dispatched by Mr. Cheney to look into the matter; and alleged that his report had circulated at the highest levels of the administration.

Of course, Wilson’s claims were thoroughly debunked. No solid evidence has emerged that Bush “iied” in the 2003 State of the Union, there was no organized campaign to discredit Wilson or “leak” Plame’s name, the real leaker was Richard Armitage all along (a fact which Mr. Fitzgerald knew from the beginning), and there’s no evidence that Plame was actually working as a covert agent.

If Libby lied under oath, he made a terrible mistake, but given the complexity of this case his defense that he simply misremembered things is entirely plausible. Nothing excuses perjury or obstruction of justice, but Fitzgerald’s case was weak and his prosecutorial indiscretion will have significant impacts in the future. They’ve already tarnished everyone involved in the case, as the Post notes:

Mr. Wilson’s case has besmirched nearly everyone it touched. The former ambassador will be remembered as a blowhard. Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby were overbearing in their zeal to rebut Mr. Wilson and careless in their handling of classified information. Mr. Libby’s subsequent false statements were reprehensible. And Mr. Fitzgerald has shown again why handing a Washington political case to a federal special prosecutor is a prescription for excess.

Mr. Fitzgerald was, at least, right about one thing: The Wilson-Plame case, and Mr. Libby’s conviction, tell us nothing about the war in Iraq.

This was a politically motivated prosecution by a prosecutor whose blatant partisanship was made clear in his closing. It should never have been allowed to go as far as it has, and it demonstrates why the politicization of justice tarnishes both law and politics.

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