- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 2, 2007

What in the world did former vice presidential aide Scooter Libby ever do to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to make him so angry? Mr. Fitzgerald now wants the federal court to throw the book at Libby as the final step in one of the most graphically unfair, ridiculous investigations and prosecutions in the history of the Republic.

There really has to be something personal here. One would think the Chicago prosecutor with a reputation for self-righteousness had a bone to pick with Libby from the very start.

Mr. Fitzgerald has asked for a three-year sentence for Libby, convicted of obstructing justice and lying during an inquiry into the disclosure of a CIA undercover agent who hadn’t been covert in some time. For heaven’s sake, the Watergate cover-up conspirators weren’t treated so harshly for precipitating a constitutional crisis. Convicted muggers, thieves and dopers are doing less time.

Valerie Plame, the CIA operative, was about as important to the security of this nation as I am, and that much seems implicit in the fact Mr. Fitzgerald decided early were no grounds to prosecute anyone under a law making it a crime to reveal the identity of an American spy.

But one would have thought revealing her occupation was a serious breach in national defense that threatened us all and that her life has been ruined by that disclosure. Instead, she and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, seem to have thrived, becoming media celebrities and the darlings of liberal salons. If the court accepts Mr. Fitzgerald’s demands, the couple can giggle all the way to the next Vanity Fair party while grousing that Mr. Fitzgerald didn’t put away more White House aides.

But wait a second. Wasn’t this essentially a victimless noncrime, the leaking of Mrs. Plame’s name, that is? Then why continue to pursue the matter? That’s anyone’s guess, but a legitimate surmise might be that Mr. Fitzgerald was interested almost from the first in getting someone to lie so he could prosecute anyway. In fact, there was almost immediate speculation to that effect after he was appointed. Badger anyone long enough and discrepancies in their stories are likely to appear. I’m sorry, but there has to be some personal motivation.

Having chosen Libby as the scapegoat in this charade, Mr. Fitzgerald now wants to administer the coup de grace by putting him in the slammer for 30 to 37 months. Why not? We all know by now that Libby’s crime makes him Public Enemy No. 1. At least that’s the way it sounded in Mr. Fitzgerald’s sentencing recommendation. He argued that Libby “showed contempt for the judicial process … by repeatedly lying under oath about material matters in a serious criminal investigation.”

He also said Libby has shown no remorse for his actions. Well, in Libby’s mind he feels he was unfairly made an example, wrongly prosecuted and wrongly convicted. And a great many Americans agree with him no matter what the special counsel says.

This is not a defense for lying nor should public officials be treated leniently when they disobey the law. But there are crimes and there are crimes, and the impact of Libby’s actions, even if accurately portrayed, which is doubtful, is without real significance except to demonstrate the diligence of those prosecuting him, another notch on the handle of the counsel’s gun, so to speak.

It is difficult for the average person to see how a case can be obstructed when there is no case. Mr. Fitzgerald’s mandate was to determine if the law on CIA disclosures was broken; he knew almost immediately it hadn’t, but kept going.

What about all those others who had a hand in outing Mrs. Plame — the former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who told columnist Bob Novak and began this travesty? Why was no one else but Libby pursued with this fervor? The prosecutors even jailed a reporter for not telling them what they already knew. So what in the world is going on here, Mr. Fitzgerald?

Perhaps Libby is fortunate that Mr. Fitzgerald didn’t ask for the death penalty. He probably would have if possible.

Federal District Judge Reggie Walton will make the decision Tuesday, and he needs to start asking questions about the severity of this request.

Haven’t the taxpayers spent enough on this nonsense?

Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

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