Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, at his news conference yesterday, said that the reason Lewis “Scooter” Libby isn’t being charged directly with exposing Valerie Plame’s status as an undercover CIA operative is that Libby’s alleged lies may have made it impossible to get at the truth.
In his careful way, Fitzgerald said that Libby’s truthful testimony might not have led to his being charged in blowing Plame’s cover — but that, on the other hand, maybe it would have. The relevant excerpt:
FITZGERALD [note: earlier I nonsensically attributed these remarks to “LIBBY”]: Let’s not presume that Mr. Libby is guilty. But let’s assume, for the moment, that the allegations in the indictment are true. If that is true, you cannot figure out the right judgment to make, whether or not you should charge someone with a serious national security crime or walk away from it or recommend any other course of action, if you don’t know the truth.
So I understand your question which is: Well, what if he had told the truth, what would you have done? If he had told the truth, we would have made the judgment based upon those facts. We would have assessed what the accurate information and made a decision.
We have not charged him with a crime. I’m not making an allegation that he violated that statute. What I’m simply saying is one of the harms in obstruction is that you don’t have a clear view of what should be done. And that’s why people ought to walk in, got into the grand jury, you’re going to take an oath, tell us the who, what, when, where and why — straight.
Naturally, the Wall Street Journal editorial page blows right past that distinction with a headline that reads, “Obstruction for What? Libby is charged with lying about a crime that wasn’t committed.” Here’s the lead:
WSJ: Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation took nearly two years, sent a reporter to jail, cost millions of dollars, and preoccupied some of the White House’s senior officials. The fruit it has now borne is the five-count indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff — not for leaking the name of Valerie Plame to Robert Novak, which started this entire “scandal,” but for contradictions between his testimony and the testimony of two or three reporters about what he told them, when he told them, and what words he used.
Given Fitzgerald’s clear statement that Libby’s alleged lies made it impossible to determine whether or not a larger crime had been committed, the Journal editorial amounts to journalistic malpractice. Are you surprised?