New revelation helps exonerate Scooter Libby

In a book just released, The Story: A Reporter's Journey, Judith Miller, a key witness in the Libby prosecution, states that Patrick Fitzgerald had offered repeatedly to drop all charges against Lewis Libby if he would "deliver" Vice President Cheney to him.  In addition, she charges that Fitzgerald manipulated her into incorrectly testifying about a critical conversation she had with Libby and withheld exculpatory evidence from both her and the defense in order to induce her mistaken testimony – testimony the prosecution knew was made because she was acting under a false belief.

As Peter Berkowitz explains in the Wall Street Journal, ("The False Evidence Against Scooter Libby"):

Ms. Miller's new memoir recounts that after her conditions had been met and Mr. Fitzgerald asked the court to release her from jail in September 2005 [where he'd had her imprisoned for 85 days for refusing to reveal her sources], she was summoned to testify before the grand jury. While Mr. Fitzgerald prepared her, she recalls, his pointed queries led her to believe that a four-word question regarding Joseph Wilson surrounded by parentheses in her notebook—"(wife works in Bureau?)"—proved that Mr. Libby had told her about Ms. Plame's CIA employment in a June 23, 2003, conversation (well before Mr. Libby's phone conversation with Russert). She so testified at trial in 2007.

Three years later, Ms. Miller writes, she was reading Ms. Plame's book, "Fair Game," and was astonished to learn that while on overseas assignment for the CIA Ms. Plame "had worked at the State Department as cover." This threw "a new light" on the June 2003 notebook jotting, Ms. Miller says, since the State Department has "bureaus," while the CIA is organized into "divisions."

Ms. Miller, who had spoken to many State Department sources around the same time she spoke to Mr. Libby, says in her memoir that she then realized she must have begun her conversation with him wondering whether Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the State Department. Ms. Miller also now understood that "If Libby, a seasoned bureaucrat, had been trying to plant her employer with me at our first meeting in June, he would not have used the word Bureau to describe where Plame worked."

Mr. Fitzgerald, who had the classified file of Ms. Plame's service, withheld her State Department cover from Ms. Miller—and from Mr. Libby's lawyers, who had requested Ms. Plame's employment history. Despite his constitutional and ethical obligation to provide exculpatory evidence, Mr. Fitzgerald encouraged Ms. Miller to misinterpret her ambiguous notes as showing that Mr. Libby brought up Ms. Plame. 

If Ms. Miller had testified accurately, she would have dealt a severe blow to Mr. Fitzgerald's central contention that Mr. Libby was lying when he said he was surprised to hear Russert mention Ms. Plame.

In connection with this information, I'd remind readers that Plame's outing (by Richard Armitage, not Libby or Cheney or Rove) caused no damage to Plame or any CIA operation.  See Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA by former CIA counsel John Rizzo, who said, "Plame was a midlevel officer in the Counterproliferation Division, which was part of the Directorate of Operations. Although she had been an Agency officer, she was so obscure that I didn't ever recall hearing her name, much less meeting her." As to the injury to the Agency, Rizzo says:"There was no evidence indicating that any CIA source or operation--or Plame herself, for that matter--was placed in jeopardy as a result of the 'outing'. And it appeared that dozens if not hundreds of people knew she was an Agency employee."  The only consequence of the overzealous prosecution of this matter by Fitzgerald was what Rizzo calls "little more than a seemingly interminable distraction and a colossal waste of time and money."

Rizzo, of course, is focused only on the impact on the CIA.  For the rest of us, the impact of this disastrous fiasco was the disruption of the president's War Council, where Libby was the advocate for the surge (in opposition to Armitage's boss, Colin Powell, who hid from the president for three years the source of leak).  The surge was successful.  Had this made-up leak not interrupted the process, it would have occurred earlier and probably saved many lives and resources.  Had Libby falsely implicated Cheney to save his own skin, we'd never have had the surge, and Iraq would have been in much worse shape when Obama took office (and then precipitously and foolishly withdrew most of our troops).

It was a terrible error for President Bush ,who did commute Libby's sentence, to fail to pardon him, which would have expunged his wrongfully obtained conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice and allowed him to return to the practice of law.  It's well past time, in any event, that the fairy-tale narrative of the vindictive outing of Valerie Plame be given a decent burial and Libby 's good name restored in the public record.

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