I find it refreshing that people I admire are on TV and elsewhere are explaining to the American people that this indictment does not charge Libby with underlying offenses — that is, the great offenses to national security related to outing a covert CIA agent. Andy says that but for Patrick Fitzgerald’s kindness, Lewis Libby could have been charged with passing illegally classified information to reporters, specifically the identity of Valerie Plame which, in itself, is classified. (For weeks we’ve been told that Fitzgerald is tough as nails; today we are told he’s a pussy cat.) Nonsense. Frankly, this has the smell of Lawrence Walsh, who claimed that top Reagan officials violated various laws without charging them, and his defenders waived around Walsh’s public statements as evidence of crimes. It then becomes impossible for someone like Libby to defend against such allegations because they’re not made in the form of a charge. Andy falls into this unfortunate trap in his latest post, and with only his friend’s indictment in hand (so much for waiting for all the facts, which we were urged day after day to the lead up of this indictment). Libby deserves the same benefit of the doubt demanded of Fitzgerald and his amen corner. Indeed, the law compels it, and more. Please, spare us the lectures about the rule of law when the legal process hasn’t even had a chance to play itself out, and Libby is condemned as all but guilty without the benefit of due prcess.
Now, as for Plame being classified, I have read the indictment several times, and other than Fitzgerald’s assertion, the fact is that we have nothing but an assertion. What exactly is her classification, and is it in fact classified? Of course the relevance of this will be explored by defense counsel, and this will be put to the test if necessary. Let me suggest that Fitzgerald didn’t bring a straightforward charge on this point because, as Andy in truth concedes, he couldn’t meet all the elements of the statute, and the statute itself is not typically used in this fashion.
Finally, you bet Fitzgerald smeared Libby during his press conference. All the talk about violations of national security, outing a CIA official, and harming CIA recruitment was nothing more than a well-rehearsed public relations speech intended to paint these indictments as something more than they are (albeit serious in their own right). And that is why, I believe, we have strained efforts now to accuse Libby of passing classified information without the benefit of an actual charge.