As I troll around the ‘sphere, it is interesting to me that there seem to be two distinct factions within the left wing regarding what will happen now- those who think this is it, or those who are hoping this is just the beginning. Kevin Drum is a pretty solid example of the former:
That leaves only one conclusion: Fitzgerald didn’t think he could win conviction for any charges related to the actual leak of Plame’s name. And if he didn’t think he could win a case against Mr. X, he probably didn’t think he could win a case against Libby either.
(Unless, of course, he brings further charges against Mr. X at a later date, or announces a plea deal of some kind. Based on his press conference, though, my guess is that he doesn’t plan to. He seemed pretty eager to lower expectations on that score.)
Anyway, that’s my guess. Obviously we don’t know everything yet, and we might not ever know everything. It depends on how leak free Fitzgerald’s office stays. And it says nothing about how insanely malicious and reckless it was to expose Valerie Plame’s identity in real world terms. Legally, though, if Fitzgerald thought he could bring charges against anyone for the actual act of exposing Valerie Plame’s identity, I think he would have done it today.
But I tend to take Fitzgerald at his word when he says his work is “substantially” complete, and that he’s “not looking expand [his] mandate or authority.” I think there’s still a fair-to-middling chance Karl Rove will be indicted. And if Rove is indicted, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen Hadley is too, since he also seems to be implicated in Rove’s attempt to hide his conversation with Matt Cooper. But if Turdblossom or anyone else goes down, I suspect it will be for the same perjury and/or false statement and/or obstruction charges that nailed Scooter. And once that’s done (or the decision is made not to do it) I think Fitzgerald will call it quits, just like Dean said he would…
That sure doesn’t sound like a man ready to go plunging down a rabbit hole into the wonderland of forged Niger documents, Ahmed Chalabi, “Curveball,” the Likudniks in the Pentagon, concealing evidence from Congress — or any of the other issues that enrage and agitate the Cheney administration’s critics. In that sense, Fitzgerald has, perhaps deliberately, positioned himself as the anti-Starr. His turf begins and ends with the Plame outing.
At the other end of the continuum is the Booman Tribune, who thinks this is just the beginning:
The indictment makes it clear that Libby was authorized to have access to classified information (Paragraph 1), but also takes pains to point out not only that he was obligated not to disclose that information, but that he had signed a “Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement” the primary purpose of which was to let its signatories know, in no uncertain terms, that disclosure of classified information would be a big no-no.
Voila! All of the elements, at least of the Espionage Act (if not the Intelligence Identities Protection Act), have been made out in the indictment. So, why go to all the trouble of setting up the factual predicates for violations of the classified information statutes in the indictment (especially when he didn’t have to) and then stop short of charging them? The explanation he gave during his press conference (i.e., that he was balancing the interests of the First Amendment with the wisdom of charging the crime) does’t fly. Subpoenaing reporters, sending one to jail and threatening to do the same to another one demonstrate, I suggest, his less-than-overarching concern about the First Amendment. And, his expressed concern that the U.S. statute governing classified information not become subject to the loose application which has characterized its British analog (i.e., the “Official Secrets Act”) also rings hollow, especially given the fact that he trumpeted, loud and long, during his press conference the serious violations of national security the conduct in this case appears to have constituted.
No, the real reason to lay out as much factual detail as he did was for Fitz to show the world (and in particular, the world within the White House) that he has the goods, and that he won’t hesitate to drop the dime on some additional malefactors, particularly, Cheney. Let’s face it: Libby is only the consigliere to Cheney’s don. Even though the threat of spending 30 years in the pokey will be a powerful incentive for Libby to cut some kind of deal that might include turning on his boss, the possibility of the additional charges of revealing classified information, particularly against Cheney, is even more powerful since, presumably, Cheney does’t appear to be at risk of a truth-telling-related indictment.
I simply have no idea what is going to happen, and as I have limited experience in this sort of proceeding, I don;t know how useful my guesses will be. I am most alarmed that the CIA has still not even done a damage assessment:
There is no indication, according to current and former intelligence officials, that the most dire of consequences — the risk of anyone’s life — resulted from her outing.
But after Plame’s name appeared in Robert D. Novak’s column, the CIA informed the Justice Department in a simple questionnaire that the damage was serious enough to warrant an investigation, officials said.
The CIA has not conducted a formal damage assessment, as is routinely done in cases of espionage and after any legal proceedings have been exhausted. Yesterday, after a two-year inquiry into the leak, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald issued a five-count indictment against Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, for perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements during the grand jury investigation.
Why not? This Observer piece has a bit of background on Plame, and that it was feared she had been compromised by Aldrich Ames, which would be the first time I have heard that:
Her next move was to the London School of Economics, where she began ‘being laundered’ and going undercover. After gaining a degree, she was sent to the College of Europe, an international relations school in Bruges, before moving to Brussels and into the energy business.
There, she worked out of the now closed consulting firm Brewster-Jennings, frequently traveling to Africa and other far-flung areas as an intelligence agent under non-official cover (NOC).
By then none of her friends, and not even her family and father, a retired military officer, knew of her real identity. With no diplomatic protection, the cover she had taken years to build as an energy business consultant would be all-important. Strip it away and, like any other NOC out in the field, she’d be open game for potential enemies – expendable without any official repercussion.
When, in 1997, the CIA began to fear Plame had been given away – along with other covert overseas operatives – to the Russians by the double agent Aldrich Ames, she was brought back to Washington. There, at a reception given by the then Turkish ambassador, her eyes drifted across the room to meet those of retired US ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.
It will be nice when all the information finally comes out abut this whole case, rather than in drips and drabs and bits and pieces of unreliable rumor. At any rate, if you have anything else to add, please do so in the comments.