- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The inherently political trial of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was bereft of an underlying crime, subject to the whims of an arrogant and overzealous prosecutor in the person of Patrick Fitzgerald, and totally beside the point once Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was revealed as the “outer,” so-called, of Valerie Plame. Nevertheless, this, too, is beside the point. A citizen jury was empaneled to judge Libby’s guilt on five counts of obstructing justice, lying and perjury. The jury assessed the preponderance of evidence pointing to the defendant’s guilt on four of the five counts. The jury handed down a verdict sufficiently supported by the evidence presented.

This will strike many friends of Libby and the Bush administration as regrettable, unfair, or worse. But this properly has no bearing on the verdict. The first and most important point is that even the understandable haziness of Libby’s recollection of the particulars of the Plame matter as it occurred in the summer of 2003 cannot explain his inability to recall the most rudimentary details of repeated conversations with journalists and colleagues in the government about Mrs. Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson. The contradictions were evident. It seems clear that Libby held back information of importance to the investigation, the reasons about which we can only speculate, and that is true despite the fact that Mr. Fitzgerald just as clearly debased his office in his pursuit of a defendant to justify the money he misspent looking for a crime.

Perjury is a serious matter, and its importance is minimized at the risk of undermining the integrity of the judicial process, which depends on fact-finding and truth-telling.

And here the matter ends — in the eyes of the law, and for the purposes of this trial. Even Mr. Fitzgerald, driven as he is by overweening ambition, now calls the case “inactive” and does not expect to file further charges (unless the prospect of further media attention changes his mind). The tormentors of the Bush administration calling for an expanded investigation deserve nothing but scorn. Their target is the destruction of an administration and a war policy they loathe. Justice is not their aim.

They must now take their case to the another court — the court of public opinion. Even with an unpopular administration conducting an unpopular war, their prospects are dim.

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