"As I was walking up the stair/ I met a man who wasn't there./ He wasn't there again today./ I wish, I wish he'd stay away." -- Hughes Mearns
Mearns captures the spirit of Washington, D.C. We are in the midst of a criminal trial concerning the leaking of CIA covert operative Valerie Plame's name to the press. The man on trial did not do the leaking. The man who did the leaking is not on trial. The woman who is the subject of the fictional leak was probably not covert. The person who leaked her name did so in the course of gossip and almost certainly did not, as the law requires, "know that the government had taken affirmative measures to conceal" her identity (because if she wasn't covert, the government would have taken no such steps). Accordingly, there was no crime. And yet, a prosecutor presents evidence, a jury lobs questions and "Scooter" Libby may go to jail for 30 years. This charade competes with the Duke "rape" case for prosecutorial misconduct, brazen defiance of common sense and unbelievable jeopardy to the innocent.
To review: Bob Novak mentioned Plame's name in a 2003 column. Left-wing writer David Corn, together with Joe Wilson, charged that the White House had intentionally blown Plame's cover in order to punish her husband (Wilson) for criticizing the Bush administration. The press went into full battle cry demanding a criminal investigation (in the hope that a high White House official could be snagged). Washington D.C. went into one of its periodic spasms of investigatitis. The CIA referred the matter to the Justice Department. The Wilsons became the toast of the town, posing for the cover of Vanity Fair in a white convertible and granting interviews to the anointed.
More astonishing though is this: In late August 2006, the world learned that Robert Novak's source was actually former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and
Libby's crime, according to Fitzgerald, is perjury and obstruction of justice. The grounds? People's memories of who said what to whom more than three years ago differ. Good Lord, may I never be subject to a grand jury inquest, as I forget appointments, names, faces, passwords, jokes, what I told my husband yesterday and whether or not I paid the phone bill last month.
Where, I wonder, are all the folks who worry about attracting good people to government service? Libby gave up a lucrative private practice to serve his country and now may lose everything, including his liberty, for the trouble.
This trial is a farce and an outrage.
(Full disclosure: My husband is with the same law firm as Libby's lawyer -- a fact I discovered when I proposed that we contribute to Libby's legal defense fund.)