For the Bush administration, this verdict is bad news. It feeds into the Bush-lied mantra of antiwar critics and leading Democrats, who are unbothered by proof that Joseph Wilson has been no model in truth-telling.
When Joseph Wilson returned from Niger, officials who debriefed him thought that Wilson's information supported the belief that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa. As The Washington Post editorialized, "Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth" in saying he debunked the Niger story. The United Kingdom's Butler Commission also found the Niger story to be "well-founded."
Besides, while there were doubts about Iraq's nuclear intentions, the intelligence community and Saddam Hussein's top brass were convinced that Iraq had chemical and-or biological weapons. The experts turned out to be wrong -- but at the time, Bush had strong reason to believe they were right.
Cheney comes across as the albatross of this administration. If Cheney had stuck to simply debunking the he-sent-Wilson story, Wilson would have faded away. And you have to wonder why Cheney, who is supposed to be so smart, didn't sit down with Libby to make sure that Libby gave a true and credible account. Instead, Cheney was doodling about Libby being a fall guy.
Following the trial from my desk, I was hoping that there was enough to Libby's faulty-memory defense to instill jurors with reasonable doubt. I also believe that Fitzgerald should not have gone after Libby when he knew Armitage and Bush strategist Karl Rove were the leakers to Robert Novak, whose column outed Wilson as a CIA agent and spawned this investigation.
But I have to figure that jurors got it right. In the end, there is no denying that Scooter Libby did this to himself. And there's no defending any official who willfully lied under oath.
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