“But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”
– Leviticus 16:10.

Yesterday Scooter Libby was found guilty of 4 out of 5 charges presented to a jury. All of the charges are related to procedural crimes, essentially lying to various parties during the course of an investigation. The real problem is that there was no underlying crime committed.

To recap: Valerie Plame worked for the CIA as a covert agent with non-official cover, or as a NOC. In the mid-1990’s her cover was blown and was known by Moscow, and more recently her identity was also blown inadvertently by the CIA through mishandled paperwork sent to the Swiss Embassy in Cuba. In 2003 in the run up to the current Iraq Conflict there were political recriminations and lots of infighting between the parties. Joe Wilson became the Democrats’ point man for John Kerry by lying about a trip he took to Niger and whether or not there was an offer to sell Uranium Yellowcake to Iraq. Joe Wilson was so thoroughly discredited that the Kerry Campaign dropped him later. It turns out that Valerie Plame, the former covert agents whose identity was already known to Russia and Cuba, suggested that the CIA send her husband Joe Wilson to Niger. Robert Novak broke the story about Valerie Plame arranging the trip and her ties to the Democratic Party. There was then a whole lot of caterwauling about “outing” a covert agent to try to scare opponents of the administration and how bad it was and how laws were broken, etc. . . A special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed to investigate the matter. Mr. Fitzgerald never reported that there was any crime at all attached to the revelation of Valerie Plame’s name and that she worked for the CIA. Scooter Libby was cooperating with the investigation and for all we really know, just had a bad memory and now stands convicted of four separate crimes after cooperating with an investigation into a non-crime. Whew!

The Wall Street Journal is calling for the White House to issue and apology and a pardon. There is some logic to this as the WH allowed for John Ashcroft to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor when they could have simply held the [correct] line that no crime was committed and no further investigation was warranted. Instead, we have wasted millions of dollars and time to convict someone who had nothing to hide. If he was lying [and not forgetting] about his sources, it was not to cover for anyone, for a crime, or to cover for anyone who may have committed a crime. The statements were completely immaterial to the case and did nothing to help anyone evade justice and were not intended to. All of Scooter Libby’s behavior indicates that he had nothing to hide and was doing his part to cooperate. He only secured counsel after he was indicted.

This will probably not help people to have more confidence in cooperating with investigators in the future where a misspoken word may end up giving you jail time. Or maybe people will just have to settle for having a bad memory all the time. “I don’t recall” may become the favored answer to investigator questions. If you are really determined to have tons of information about the case, this is a good resource.

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