Conservatives and neoconservatives have been trying to whitewash the Scooter Libby trial ever since the beginning. In today’s Washington Post Robert Novak, the reporter who first printed Valerie Plame’s name, jumped on the bandwagon today and tried to repaint the evidence. Conservatives point to the fact that the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, did not charge anyone with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. He points the finger at Richard Armitage and states that he was the first one to tell him, Novak, about Valerie Plame. What he doesn’t point out is that Richard Armitage was not part of Cheney’s plot to discredit Joe Wilson. Richard Armitage, is the MacGuffin in this plot. He leads nowhere. The plot instead begins in the Vice President’s office.
Vice President Cheney and his right-hand man, Scooter Libby, began to think of ways to systematically destroy Joe Wilson’s story and credibility. The plan was not a single attack on the story or the man would get an attack on multiple fronts. First, “we didn’t send him.” This is where Vice President Cheney would flatly deny having anything to do with sending Joe Wilson to Niger. In fact, it was the vice presidents inquiry that prompted the CIA to send Joe Wilson. Why Joe Wilson? Many people have forgotten this point. Joe Wilson had been an ambassador to Niger. He had contacts in the area. He understood the manufacturing and the controls around uranium. At the time, he was nonpartisan and an excellent choice. Secondly, they wanted to discredit the origins of the trip. Create a cloud of confusion around the origins of the trip. For this, they injected Valerie Plame. They would say — she was the one who sent her husband on a “junket”. (Like a trip to Niger was equivalent to a trip to Maui.) Next, they picked specific journalists that they thought would be sympathetic to their case. These are journalists who have written positive stories about the White House and supported the war. Finally, they needed to tell the journalists something really juicy. Something to close the deal. Therefore, they decided to leak specific sections of the national intelligence estimate that supported their claims.
The Scooter Libby trial was about:
- outing of a CIA operative who happen to be covert
- leaking classified information for the purposes of destroying critics
- doing what was necessary in order to support a war
- the politics of personal attack and destruction
So, when Robert Novak writes that this was no Watergate, he is correct. He is correct if Watergate was about a break in. As we all know, Watergate was about more than a break-in, it was about the cover-up. It was about the lies. Watergate was about arrogance. The Scooter Libby trial was about covering up. The Scooter Libby trial was about lying. The Scooter Libby trial was about doing whatever was necessary to sell the war.
Finally, the neoconservatives complain that nobody was charged with leaking a CIA operative’s name. They also charge, that Valerie Plame was not a covert agent. Let’s take this last charge first. If she was not a covert agent then why did the CIA turn her name over to the Justice Department for investigation? Secondly, the Intelligence Identities Protection act was not written to capture someone who has leaked a CIA agent’s name once but instead someone who has intentionally leaked (and the operative word is intentionally) a covert agent’s name on multiple occasions. Because the law was written so narrowly it would be very difficult or impossible to convict Karl Rove, Scooter Libby or Dick Cheney therefore the special prosecutor decided not to go down this road.