Sunday, January 11, 2009

Watch List: Sowell for Libby Pardon

Thomas Sowell has written a piece for National Review that calls for the pardon of Scooter Libby. it is entitled, "Manufacturing a Crime." In about the clearest explanation you will ever see of the case, Sowell writes:
[Libby] testified under oath that he had not leaked to reporters the information that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA, but had in fact learned about it himself from reporters, including Tim Russert. Unfortunately for Scooter Libby, there was testimony from Tim Russert that he himself did not know that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA at the time of his conversation with Libby. Perhaps even more damaging, the White House’s own press secretary, Ari Fleischer, said that Libby mentioned to him that Ms. Plame worked for the CIA. This was a few days before Libby talked with Russert. It seems clear that Libby had his facts wrong.
But, as Sowell notes, the conversations at issue took place 8 months earlier and, while it is a crime to reveal the identity of an undercover CIA agent, Plame was no longer an "undercover agent, her identity having already been revealed long before this whole episode." She was just "someone with a desk job."

The only reason Plame's name became important, was because her husband attacked the administration for going to war in Iraq.  Sowell notes Joe Wilson became an "instant hero to critics of the Iraq war in the mainstream media." In addition, "the impression was widespread that the Bush administration — specifically Vice-President Dick Cheney — had sent him to Niger and then rejected his report." What Libby and others discovered was that Wilson had been sent by the CIA, on the recommendation of his own wife, Valerie Plame

Columnist Robert Novak revealed all of this in a July 2003 editorial and the immediate response was that "a CIA agent had been 'outed' in retaliation for her husband’s criticism of the administration." Sowell observes that the problem with that spin was 1) no crime had been committed and 2) both Novak and the person that he got the information from - Richard Armitage - were critics of the war. Novak and Armitage walked. Libby took the fall. 

Says Sowell:
As someone who has any number of times had his memory corrected by consulting old records or old letters, I don’t think a man’s life should be ruined for that, when there was no crime to investigate in the first place. Surely President Bush can pardon this man before leaving office.

See Sowell's full editorial here. 

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