- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

Yesterday’s indictment and subsequent resignation of Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, is a dark moment for the administration and the country as well. Regardless of one’s assessment of the behavior of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and his own role in exposing the identity of his CIA -agent wife, Valerie Plame, the charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in the CIA leak investigation are serious and must not be dismissed as a prosecutorial witchhunt against the Bush administration.

If convicted on all of the charges — one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two of making false statements — Mr. Libby faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

And this point cannot be emphasized strongly enough: If the information contained in the indictment is true, Mr. Fitzgerald isn’t trying to entrap Mr. Libby for being forgetful or making innocuous “technical” errors in his testimony. According to the indictment, Mr. Libby engaged in a systematic campaign to deceive investigators as to when he learned that Mrs. Plame was a CIA agent and what he told reporters about her.

As an example of how Mr. Libby “did knowingly and willfully make as materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statement and representation,” the indictment says, Mr. Libby told the FBI that in July 2003, reporters were telling the administration that Mrs. Plame worked for the CIA, but that he did not know for certain if that were true. The indictment recounts numerous examples of grand jury testimony and interviews with investigators in which Mr. Libby allegedly repeated one or another version of this claim (the same deception he allegedly used in interviews with journalists such as Tim Russert of NBC News and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine). But prosecutors will present evidence showing that Mr. Libby was advised of Mrs. Plame’s CIA employment by Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003.

With Mr. Libby’s departure from the administration, attention is now being focused upon Karl Rove, President Bush’s top aide, who remains under investigation. Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has some obligation to complete the investigation and not let a cloud hang over the administration. Mr. Rove is not merely a public citizen; but a most senior official whose advice during time of war is critical.

We fully understand that Mr. Fitzgerald must retain all of the normal prosecutorial devices in order to complete a thorough investigation. But Mr. Rove cannot fully discharge his duties if a prosecutorial cloud continues to hang over him. The national interest requires that Mr. Fitzgerald resolve Mr. Rove’s status either by clearing him or indicting him.

We take felony charges very seriously, irrespective of party affiliation. If the individual warrants criminal conviction, then the law should take its course and the penalties should be extracted.

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