Prosecute Plame?

By Kenneth R. Timmerman | June 8, 2007

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton wants former vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby to go directly to jail, without passing go, and without collecting $200 dollars. And so far, the word from the White House is that President Bush has no intention of giving Libby a Get Out of Jail Free card.

“The prospect of a pardon has become so sensitive inside the West Wing that top aides have been kept out of the loop, and even Bush friends have been told not to bring it up with the president,” the Washington Post wrote on Wednesday.
If true, that’s a pretty sorry comment on the state of the Bush White House, and the state of this presidency, especially given Bush’s obsession with demanding total loyalty from his staff. Bush’s loyalty is a one-way street.
As I have argued in this space before, Scooter deserves a pardon, now, before he serves a single day in jail.
While Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald – a Clinton appointee, let’s not forget – did succeed in convincing a Washington, DC jury to convict Libby of lying to a grand jury, it’s also crystal clear that Libby was being questioned about a crime everyone now agrees he did not commit.
Even Judge Walton acknowledged this, noting on Tuesday during the sentencing hearing that “the trial did not prove Libby knew that [Valerie] Plame worked in an undercover capacity.”
But the trial did prove, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that Libby was not the government official who leaked her name. That honor falls to former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, who spilled the beans in an interview with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward weeks before Libby ever had the conservations Pat Fitzgerald’s taxpayer-funded Bush-hunt investigated for 2 1/2 years.
For Walton and Fitzgerald, it made no difference that there was no underlying crime. Libby deserved jail time because he “lied about nearly everything that mattered,” Fitzgerald said in his sentencing memorandum. Even worse: Fitzgerald claimed at the hearing that Libby’s lying “uniquely blocked” him from learning the full truth about what happened.
Much hot air has been expelled from various parts about the crime of perjury. Writing in the Washington Times the day after Libby was sentenced, Bush critic Bruce Fein said Libby not only deserved jail time, but “deserves a stiff prison term to deter his erstwhile Bush administration colleagues, for example, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House political guru Karl Rove, from equivocating with Congress and the courts.”
Fein, who reminds anyone who will listen that he was a deputy attorney general during the Reagan administration, also supported a Congressional motion of censure against President Bush last year. He believes that sending Libby to jail “is imperative also to honor the rule of law, the nation’s crown jewel.”
Well, if perjury is so important – and it is, when it concerns an underlying crime – then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should consider appointing a Special Counsel to investigate Valerie Plame.
Why? Because by all appearances, either Val has the memory of a mouse, or she flagrantly perjured herself while testifying under oath before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on March 16, 2007.
Under questioning, Plame insisted that she was not the one who recommended that the CIA send her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joe Wilson, to Niger in February 2002 to investigate claims that Saddam Hussein was seeking to purchase significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
“No. I did not recommend him,” she said. “I did not suggest him. There was no nepotism involved. I didn’t have the authority.”
Besides the fact that no one has ever suggested, to my knowledge, that Valerie Plame actually made the decision to send her husband, her statement is pretty straight forward. She neither recommended her husband, or suggested his name.
Perhaps Ms. Plame never expected that anyone would challenge that statement. Perhaps she just assumed that the truth would remain cloaked in secrecy. Perhaps she trusted her friends in Congress to make sure that no evidence contradicting her assertions would ever be released to the public.
When the Senate Select committee on intelligence first investigated the Niger story in a report released in July 2004, it stated flat-out, “The plan to send the former ambassador to Niger was suggested by the former ambassador’s wife, a CIA employee.”
That angered Mr. Wilson, who wrote to the committee shortly afterwards, claiming that this assertion was “not true.”
Since then, the Senate intelligence committee has gone back to the source, and reviewed yet again many of the intelligence documents that it relied upon for that initial report.
One of those documents was the email from Valerie Plame to her boss at CIA in which she recommended her husband for the Niger trip.
According to Wilson, that memo was “little more than a recitation of his contacts and bona fides.” But in additional views from intelligence committee vice-chairman Sen. Kit Bond, Sen. Hatch, and Sen. Burr, released on May 25, 2007, they state flat out, “This is not true.”
And then they drop the bomb. “The Committee did not release the full text of the document, thinking it was unnecessary in light of the other evidence provided in the [original] report, but considering the controversy surrounding this document, making the full text available now seems prudent.”
The Valerie Plame e-mail, now fully declassified, shows without any doubt that she recommended her husband for the mission in Niger.
After recounting an earlier fact-finding mission he had carried out in Niger for the Agency, as well as his good contacts "with both the [prime minister] and the former minister of mines," she concluded by saying that her husband "may be in a position to assist. Therefore, request your thoughts on what, if anything to pursue here.”
Is there anything ambiguous about that statement? I don’t think so. Valerie Plame was recommending her husband for the Niger trip. [The document can be viewed here]
It ought to be sent to Attorney General Albert Gonzales by members of Mr. Waxman’s committee, along with a cover note requesting a Special counsel investigation to determine whether Ms. Plame committed perjury during her March 16, 2007 Congressional testimony.
And that’s not the only instance where Valerie Plame appears to have garbled the facts, intentionally or not.
Asked by Rep. Westmoreland about the context for sending her husband to Niger, Plame showed that she had been paying very close attention to what was publicly known  about the case:
“Congressman, I believe one of the pieces of evidence that was introduced in the Libby trial was an INR memo of that meeting, where it states -- in fact, my husband was not particularly looking forward -- he didn't think it was necessary. There had been, I believe, at least two other reports -- one by a three-star general and one by the ambassador there on the ground -- who said there really wasn't much to this allegation.
“And the INR folks that attended the meeting also said: Well, we're not sure that this is really necessary.  But it was ultimately decided that he would go, use his contacts -- which were extensive in the government -- to see if there was anything more to this.  It was a serious question asked by the Office of the Vice President, and it deserved a serious answer.”
There’s only one problem with Valerie Plame’s statement. It doesn’t square with what she also should have known from the classified record.
The report “by the ambassador there on the ground” has also been partially declassified, and concluded– precisely to the contrary – that initial CIA reporting “provides sufficient details to warrant another hard look at Niger's uranium sales,” according to the latest Senate intelligence committee report.
If anyone thought this story ended with Scooter Libby’s sentencing hearing, or even with him going to jail, think again.
There is much more to come. Stay tuned.