Monday, October 24, 2005

CIA Trail Leads to Cheney

Lawyers close to the investigation into the leak of a CIA agents name claim that I. Lewis Libby learned of Valerie Plame directly from Vice President Dick Cheney weeks before her name was made public on July 14, 2003 by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. (New York Times: Cheney Told Aide of C.I.A. Officer, Notes Show). That, in and of itself, is not illegal. Both Cheney and Libby are authorized to have that information, and neither of them can be indicted simply because they knew Valerie Plame's name.

Current speculation is that Libby, at least, will be indicted on perjury charges. Lawyers associated with the investigation state that Libby testified before the grand jury that he learned of Plame from journalists, not from the Vice President. Given the presence of his own notes on the matter, that testimony is grounds for perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

Of more concern, however, is the reason Plame's name ever came up in the first place. Plame's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, was openly questioning and criticising the Bush administration's handling of intelligence related to Iraq's alleged attempts to acquire nuclear material from Africa. There appears to be a link between his criticism of that intelligence and investigations by the White House into Wilson and his wife. Of all of the charges being leveled against Rove and Libby, to me, these are the most serious implications and they are not even being discussed.

Investigating a CIA operative that is questioning administration policy, and subsequently leaking the name of an agent in what would appear to be an attempt to discredit the pair can be called nothing short of abuse of power. Any investigation into this whole affair must involve the motives behind the leak, not just the leak itself. Implications that the administration may have used their authority to seek vengeance against someone openly raising legitimate questions about intelligence used to justify military action must be thoroughly investigated.

I don't believe anyone will be indicted for releasing the name of a CIA agent. There is simply not enough evidence to suggest that anyone had any knowledge that her status may have been classified, and that's a requirement before that law may be invoked. On the other hand, I do expect to see perjury and obstruction of justice charges leveled at least against Libby and possibly against Rove. But more than anything, I want to know if there was an abuse of power. All other charges would pale before those allegations. As much as I support the Bush administration and most of their policies, I could not support using their authority to punish anyone for questioning the handling of intelligence. That's a bit too Nixonesque for my likings.


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