Libby Found Guilty

Of course, if I reversed the numbers, I could say, “found not guilty.” He was found guilty of 4 of 5 counts, according to the Washington Post. I would hate to second-guess the jury, even though I have grave doubts on the average IQ of a jury that could survive voir dire under the circumstances.

But what made me want to comment was this (from the same story):

Libby, 56, was the only person charged in a three-year federal investigation that reached the highest echelons of the Bush White House. The central question in the probe was whether anyone in the administration illegally disclosed classified information during the late spring and early summer of 2003, when they told several journalists that an early critic of the Iraq war was married to undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

No one was ever charged with the leak, but the results of the investigation, led by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, ultimately tarnished both the administration and the Washington press corps.

So we can’t actually prove that a crime was committed by any specific person, but we can get someone for lying about it. This kind of investigation and its result disgusts me. I think Cheney is not a very good public official. I think there are plenty of liars in Washington, but too many special prosecutor probes end up simply chasing round and round, and finally charging people with something else. Once you have an investigation such as this in progress, it’s likely you’ll catch somebody lying about something, and the resulting conviction helps make the whole exercise seem worthwhile.

At least in this case there was a crime to investigate. And make no mistake–leaking classified information is and should be a serious crime. Nonetheless, you have to convict someone of it before you can throw them in jail, and in Washington DC, leaks are the order of the day. But a special prosecutor should, in my view, be able to charge someone with a crime before he can charge someone with lying about it. After all, if you have enough evidence to prove someone was lying, that should mean you have a good idea what did happen.

This time it’s a conservative who is likely going to jail. Another time this happened, it was Bill Clinton. In that case he was lying about his sex life. A different set of people was talking of witch hunts then, but I find both cases troubling. I do regard marital fidelity as a factor in how I regard a candidate’s character. I do consider it ethically questionable, at a minimum, for a person in authority to have any kind of sexual contact with a young aide. But the proper people to enforce that are the voters. In the end, he agreed to a plea bargain because of the perjury.

I dislike both of these results. The voters can act in both cases, but convicting people of lying about their sex life, or of having faulty memory (as I’m characterising it) is hardly a worthwhile close to years of investigation. I suspect that these special prosecutors are simply a fine way to keep a scandal alive so the politicians can do some more lying about it.

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