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October 31, 2005

Some Dare Call It Treason...

A correspondent reminds me that it is time once again to surf over to Donald Luskin's website and to once again lay down a marker that you check everything he says before you trust it. But I don't have the heart to do it. It's just too depressing.

So let me grab one thing from my archives: Donald Luskin's declaration that the doings of the Bushies in the Valerie Plame Wilson case are "tantamount to... treason":

Donald Luskin on Paul Krugman and Valerie Plame on NRO Financial: Paul Krugman, America's most dangerous liberal pundit, has made a statement in his Times column today which... [is] an extraordinarily serious allegation, tantamount to accusing Bush administration officials of treason: "...Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative."

Hold on to that thought in light of Patrick Fitzgerald's statement that Bush administration officials have exposed the identity of a covert operative:

Fitzgerald News Conference - New York Times: October 28, 2005 TranscriptValerie Wilson was a CIA officer. In July 2003, the fact that Valerie Wilson was a CIA officer was classified. Not only was it classified, but it was not widely known outside the intelligence community. Valerie Wilson's friends, neighbors, college classmates had no idea she had another life. The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well- known, for her protection or for the benefit of all us. It's important that a CIA officer's identity be protected, that it be protected not just for the officer, but for the nation's security.

Valerie Wilson's cover was blown in July 2003. The first sign of that cover being blown was when Mr. Novak published a column on July 14th, 2003. But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told. In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson....

Now, something needs to be borne in mind about a criminal investigation.... Investigators do not set out to investigate the statute, they set out to gather the facts. It's critical that when an investigation is conducted by prosecutors, agents and a grand jury they learn who, what, when, where and why. And then they decide, based upon accurate facts.... It was known that a CIA officer's identity was blown, it was known that there was a leak. We needed to figure out how that happened, who did it, why, whether a crime was committed, whether we could prove it, whether we should prove it. And given that national security was at stake, it was especially important that we find out accurate facts.

There's another thing about a grand jury investigation. One of the obligations of the prosecutors and the grand juries is to keep the information obtained in the investigation secret, not to share it with the public.... [I]f information is gathered about people and they're not charged with a crime, we don't hold up that information for the public to look at.... But as important as it is for the grand jury to follow the rules and follow the safeguards to make sure information doesn't get out, it's equally important that the witnesses who come before a grand jury, especially the witnesses who come before a grand jury who may be under investigation, tell the complete truth. It's especially important in the national security area....

That brings us to the fall of 2003....And to be frank, Mr. Libby gave the FBI a compelling story.... [I]f only it were true. It is not true.... The indictment alleges that Mr. Libby learned the information about Valerie Wilson at least three times in June of 2003 from government officials.... [A]t least four people within the government told Mr. Libby about Valerie Wilson.... Mr. Libby, the indictment alleges, was telling Mr. Fleischer something on Monday that he claims to have learned on Thursday.... Mr. Libby testified that he told the reporters he did not even know if Mr. Wilson had a wife....

[But] Mr. Libby discussed this information about Valerie Wilson at least four times prior to July 14th, 2003: on three occasions with Judith Miller of the New York Times and on one occasion with Matthew Cooper of Time magazine... June 23rd of 2003... July 8th.... At the end of the day what appears is that Mr. Libby's story that he was at the tail end of a chain of phone calls, passing on from one reporter what he heard from another, was not true. It was false. He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter. And then he lied about it afterwards, under oath and repeatedly....

[W]hy is this a leak investigation that doesn't result in a charge?... If you saw a baseball game and you saw a pitcher wind up and throw a fastball and hit a batter right smack in the head, and it really, really hurt them, you'd want to know why the pitcher did that. And you'd wonder whether or not the person just reared back and decided, I've got bad blood with this batter. He hit two home runs off me. I'm just going to hit him in the head as hard as I can.... And what you'd want to do is have as much information as you could. You'd want to know: What happened in the dugout? Was this guy complaining about the person he threw at? Did he talk to anyone else? What was he thinking? How does he react? All those things you'd want to know. And then you'd make a decision as to whether this person should be banned....

In this case, it's a lot more serious than baseball. And the damage wasn't to one person. It wasn't just Valerie Wilson. It was done to all of us. And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. Cooper? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?... [W]hat we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.... [T]he harm in an obstruction investigation is it prevents us from making the fine judgments we want to make.

I also want to take away from the notion that somehow we should take an obstruction charge less seriously than a leak charge. This is a very serious matter and compromising national security information is a very serious matter. But the need to get to the bottom of what happened and whether national security was compromised by inadvertence, by recklessness, by maliciousness is extremely important. We need to know the truth. And anyone who would go into a grand jury and lie, obstruct and impede the investigation has committed a serious crime.... [I]f what we allege in the indictment is true, then what is charged is a very, very serious crime... [given] the public interest in finding out what happened here...

Posted by DeLong at October 31, 2005 08:59 AM