So, who exactly leaked to columnist Robert Novak? That was the big question that was supposed to be answered.
The CIA leak probe was, after all, about a leak. In particular, it was about the leak of classified government information, namely the clandestine intelligence service of Mrs. Valerie (Plame) Wilson. (SET ITAL) That (END ITAL) was the mission of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. But after a two-year tortuous investigation, he failed to complete his assignment. Instead, he produced a five-count indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff, on a Martha Stewart-like technicality of perjury, making false statements and obstructing justice.
Libby's lawyer completely denies these charges, although it's probable that Libby did make a bunch of mistakes in the course of the investigation. Still, in America, you are innocent until proven guilty. And Fitzgerald may have a devil of a time drawing a curious he-said-she-said conviction out of a series of alleged phone calls between Tim Russert, Matt Cooper, Judy Miller and Scooter Libby.
In the meantime, we still don't know the identity of the leaker.
Perhaps Vice President Dick Cheney simply called George Tenet over at the CIA and said: "George, who the hell is this Joseph Wilson guy? I never sent him to Niger or anywhere else. Why is he writing this crazy stuff in The New York Times questioning whether Saddam was seeking nuclear material?"
That's just my speculation about the origin of the leak. And whether it did or didn't happen that way, Cheney never told Scooter Libby to mouth off to various big-shot reporters. The White House should have merely issued a statement saying they had no knowledge of Wilson's assignment and left it that.
But at least now we know there was no conspiracy running through the White House. Watergate-wishing Democrats will be sorely disappointed. There are no high crimes and misdemeanors.
The president's chief strategist, meanwhile, appears to have escaped with his life. Fitzgerald bent over backward to allow certain Karl Rove "corrections" into the grand jury record in return for total cooperation in the investigation. There's more to be revealed on this front, but for now we have one indictment for allegedly not telling the truth in an investigation that seems to have not found any wrongdoing in the matter of the "outing" of a CIA operative.
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