So yesterday, there was finally an ending to the Valerie Plame affair. I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, was sentenced to thirty months in prison and a $250,000 fine for perjury in the spy case. This incredibly convoluted and confusing case finally has an end.
This whole case is traced back to a trip by Joseph Wilson, diplomat and husband of Valerie Plame, to Africa in 2003 when he tried to discover the legitimacy of President Bush’s claim in the State of the Union Address that Iraq had purchased “yellow cake” from Niger. Wilson returned and wrote an op-ed for the New York Times titled “What I Didn’t Find in Africa”, which disputed the claim of President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet.
The following week, on July 14, 2003, Robert Novak disclosed in his column that Plame was a CIA operative. This set off a flurry of probes, questions, and inquiries into how this could happen. How could an active agent be exposed? And was she exposed to punish her husband for going against the Bush administration? And today, after all those questions, “Scooter” Libby is going to jail.
This is an anticlimactic end to this saga, which has been persisting for the last four years. And yes, convicting one of the top men who was responsible for getting the United States into the Iraq War is no small beans. In fact, it’s fairly incredible that this law suit ever came to fruition. Nevertheless, there is still no criminal suit brought against those who revealed Plame’s identity. Although Libby should be held accountable for his actions, there are still others that must be held accountable for theirs as well.
Libby supporters have a similar argument except for different reasons. Libby should have a lesser sentence because he was just convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Everyone does that. It’s not like he revealed who Plame was. He just lied about what he knew to prosecutors and a grand jury. President Bush should pardon him.
This isn’t a question whether or not Libby is culpable for his actions (he is and will be punished accordingly). This is a question concerning if those with power, money, influence, etc., etc. are above the law. U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton does not think so when he gave Libby a sentence on the higher end of the prosecutor’s suggestion according to the New York Times:
The sentence was several months longer than the minimum recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, based on what Judge Walton said was his agreement with prosecutors that Mr. Libby’s crimes obscured an investigation into a serious matter and that his lies obliged the government to engage in a long and costly investigation that might have been avoided had he told the truth.
Judge Walton’s actions suggest that he also believes that the law and truth are more important in our justice system than intangibles such as the wonderfully ironic remarks made on his behalf by catalog of Who’s Who in Washington such as Henry Kissinger’s statement, “He pursued his objectives with integrity and a sense of responsibility.” Or “The qualities that stand out most in my experience with Scooter are honesty, integrity, fairness and balance,” written by Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense.
Well, Mr.Libby has been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice by a jury of his peers. Obviously, his integrity is not that strong.
This case will probably end up as a footnote in the tale of the Iraq War. You’ll say, “Oh yeah, I remember that.” when it’s a question on Jeopardy in ten years. However, yesterday was a reaffirmation that power cannot buy you out of taking responsibility for your actions. If you lie, you’re going to jail. Let me repeat that once again for Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Tenet, our Vice President and anyone else who might be listening: If you lie, you’re going to jail…
Unfortunately, I’m having a hard time believing that myself.