Sunday, October 30


After reflecting for a while on the indictment of Scooter Libby and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's statement, I simply don't understand why he didn't charge Libby, at least, with the underlying crime of exposing the identity of a covert CIA agent. The indictment itself indicates that they clearly had the goods on Libby. Plame's identity as an agent was classified, and Libby revealed it to people (journalists) who were not cleared to receive such information, and for no other reason than to destroy the credibility of her husband, who had made statements countering administration claims of an Iraqi nuclear threat. 'Nuff said.

Robert Parry thinks Fitzgerald doesn't understand just how serious was Libby's (and others') offense:

Fitzgerald, who is the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, appears to have bought into the notion that government officials had a right to discuss Plame’s covert status among themselves as long as they didn’t pass the secret on to journalists. Then Fitzgerald didn’t even seek punishment for that, limiting his criminal case to Libby’s lying about how and when he learned of Plame’s identity.

But to veterans of U.S. intelligence, one of the ugliest parts of Plame’s outing was the cavalier manner in which White House officials tossed around references to her CIA job to undercut her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for criticizing George W. Bush’s case for war with Iraq.

Sensitive Secrets

Within the U.S. government, few secrets are more sensitive than the identity of a CIA officer under “non-official cover,” or NOC, meaning the agent operates outside government protection, such as posing as a business executive as Plame did. Lacking diplomatic cover, a NOC faces a far greater chance of execution if caught spying.

“The CIA is obsessive about protecting its NOCs,” one angry former senior U.S. official told me after Libby was charged only with perjury, false statements and obstruction of justice. “There’s almost nothing they care about more.”

Fitzgerald did leave open the possibility there might be more charges against other officials but said he had completed the “substantial bulk” of his investigation. He also discouraged speculation that major new revelations were ahead and even skirted questions about whether an underlying crime had occurred in leaking Plame’s identity.

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