Libby's Indictment: A Window Into the White House Cesspool
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
With Scooter Libby’s indictment, the first shoe has been dropped in the
Plamegate criminal case. Whether there will be other shoes is problematic.
Fitzgerald says the case is almost wrapped up, but that Rove is still not out
of the woods yet. The fact that Rove and Cheney weren’t also indicted Friday
is disappointing, to be sure -- they are the real movers and shakers in the
Bush Administration -- but we don't know what's going on behind the scenes.
Is Rove working out a plea bargain that will be announced in a few days?
Could Fitzgerald simply not have all the ammo he needed by October 28 to bring
charges against Rove and Cheney, but is rounding up that last-minute evidence?
Did Fitzgerald present charge(s) to the Grand Jury against suspects other than
Libby but the panel wouldn't indict? We simply don't know at this point (I'm
writing this the same day as the indictment); maybe the inevitable leaks will
help us understand more as the story unfolds.
What is clear is that Libby seems to have been caught redhanded concocting a
false story and, under oath, sticking to those coverup lies in both his FBI
interrogations and Grand Jury testimony. A definite no-no.
WILL THIS CASE GO TO TRIAL?
If Libby goes to trial, you can bet that the potential witness list will
include Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Hadley, Rice, maybe Bush, and a whole host of
high-ranking neo-con underlings (Wurmser, Hanna, Feith, et al.). Libby -- and
Cheney and Rove -- definitely would not want that to happen. Testifying under
in a criminal trial is a lot different than leaking your spin to the media,
and you could wind up in the slammer easily on perjury charges.
Since Libby is Cheney's alter-ego (Rove = Bush), you know that Libby wasn't a
solo cowboy in revealing Plame's identity; after all, as the indictment makes
clear, Libby heard about Plame from Cheney. The ball of lies Libby concocted
seemed designed to deflect attention away from his closest associates, so
there is no way Libby would go to trial and put them in perjury-jeopardy by
In short, this case is not going to court. As I see it, Libby has two options:
1. Libby cops a plea to one of the charges, and no trial takes place.
2. Bush pardons Libby "pre-emptively" before a trial begins. (Remember
Bush's father pre-emptively pardoned Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger before
he even was charged, thus protecting Bush Sr.’s own liability in the
Iran-Contra scandal. Like father like son?)
I suppose Libby could decide to go to trial; he falls on the sword and takes
the sole blame, and every other endangered Administration witness called takes
the Fifth. Bush then pardons Libby. But in all three instances, we find out
little or nothing.
THE LARGER ISSUE OF THE WAR
Is Fitzgerald essentially closing up shop by charging only Libby, or could
there be more indictments to come?
Fitzgerald, without giving anything away, said that if he needed to employ a
grand jury for future indictments, he would do so. But he gave no indication
in his press conference that he had anything major working. (But, earlier, he
apparently told Rove that though he would not be indicted on Friday, the
investigation is still open. Who knows, maybe he just wants to keep Rove in
and emotional, limbo while he finishes off the case.)
Any hope that Fitzgerald's probe would somehow touch openly on Administration
manipulation of lies to take the country to war in Iraq was quashed by the
Special Counsel at his news conference. He made it plain that his investigation
would not go there, even though the “context,” as Fitzgerald put it,
certainly involved the Administration’s selling of that war. But there was no
by the Special Counsel of the role of the White House Iraq Group in the outing
of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson; Libby and Rove were key members of that
As is clear, Libby’s actions are inextricably linked to the struggle to
promote the attack on Iraq; after all, Ambassador Joseph Wilson's opposition to
war, which set off the Administrations' anger, involved the Bush cabal's lies
about alleged Iraqi nuclear activity.
THE FOCUS IS VERY NARROW
Instead of looking wide and deep, Fitzgerald chose to focus very narrowly on
provable facts relating only to this minute aspect of the coverup. The fact
that Libby, a key principal to the events, chose to lie meant that the federal
probers could not get a good handle on the motivations behind the outing of
Valerie Plame. Fitzgerald made plain that he wasn’t about to touch the
issue of the war-lies; it will be up to those who feel strongly about the war
issue to tie all the threads together and make that case.
(Even though we know that Fitzgerald was interested in the original forged
Niger documents alleging an active Iraqi nuclear-program -- which is why Joe
Wilson was sent to Africa in the first place, to check out that story -- the
Special Counsel gave no indication that his investigators would continue to
into that explosive issue, even though the forged-documents scandal is
breaking open right now in Italy.)
But in a way, though the Special Counsel’s narrow focus was disappointing,
the full indictment, with all the detailed facts about Libby’s bullshit cover
story, opens up a window through which we can glimpse the moral cesspool that
was (and is) the Bush Administration in its dealings then and now with regard to
the Iraq War.
Even if Rove and Cheney and Bush escape indictment, their credibility is in
tatters, their power diminished, their focus scattered. But, and this is a very
big but, Bush&Co. still hold the reins of power and can do, and are
to do, a great deal of damage in their weakened, cornered state.
In short, the Administration has been bloodied badly, but not fatally
wounded. An indictment of Rove probably would have been extremely helpful in
delivering that coup de grace, but, for whatever reason, Fitzgerald didn’t, or
couldn’t, go there, and Libby looks like the designated scapegoat.
If the Congress were to establish serious and high-level investigations of
the entire Plame affair, or if the House were to pass an impeachment resolution
-- thus putting Administration officials under oath during depositions -- that
would be the beginning of the end of Bush&Co. power. But that's not about to
happen right now in a GOP-ruled Congress, and Bush/Rove/Cheney, no matter how
suspect and politically-damaged, still rule from the White House. That’s
important to keep in mind in the next weeks and months.
GOP SPIN-POINTS AGAINST INDICTMENT
The GOP spin against Fitzgerald started even before the Libby indictment was
revealed. In the main, it’s designed to make light of the charges -- none for
the leak itself in espionage terms, rather only about “minor” matters like
lying and perjury -- and to question Fitzgerald’s “partisan” motives. (Of
course, when Clinton was in the dock, lying and perjury were extremely grave
matters to GOP leaders, anything but "minor.")
I thought Fitzgerald handled those charges rather deftly in his news
conference, saying he has no party affiliation, he was given his authority by
Justice Department, and that lies and perjury concerning national-security
matters are not “minor” but go to the heart of protecting the lives and
our spies and those with whom they come into contact.
By sticking only to the facts of this one indictment and refusing to engage
in surmise outside that narrow purview -- and by having no leaks emerging from
his prosecutorial team, unlike Kenneth Starr’s politically-charged probe of
Clinton -- Fitzgerald gave rightwing critics little on which to hang their
denunciations of his investigation.
THE REAL SCANDAL IS THE WAR
I'm as consumed as the rest of you with the Libby indictment, and whether
other shoes will drop. But the broader scandal right now is not which official
lied to government investigators, but the war itself. Hundreds and thousands are
continuing to die because of Bush neo-con lies and deceptions that took us to
war in Iraq, and yet and still, with the Republicans in charge of the
Congress, there are no official investigations there of how Americans were
into attacking Iraq.
Remember that Republican Sen. Pat Roberts promised before the election that
his Intelligence Committee would investigate how the White House used and
perhaps abused the intelligence to take the country to war, but, after Bush was
declared the winner, Roberts said there was now no reason to hold such a probe,
even after the bombshell revelations of the Downing Street Memos and other
proofs of Bush Administration duplicity and war-crimes.
That's the real scandal and the real danger when one party controls the three
branches of government. Congressional oversight is effectively abandoned, and
the timid Democrats, seemingly unfamiliar with the concept of “opposition
party,” barely make any significant noise. The Democrats, most of whom voted
the war and continue to fund it, are essentially silent.
In addition, there is the other major scandal that basically has been swept
under the rug: the shoddy election and electronic vote-counting system we have
in this country that appears to have resulted in manipulated election results
in 2004. Again, the Democrats are basically silent, therefore the Republicans
need do nothing to find out what happened and how to prevent such electoral
corruption in the future. (And why should they want to find out? They benefit
from the easily-manipulated system, which is run by Republican-supporting
If the Libby indictment can serve as a wedge to get to these larger issues,
then the two-year-long Plamegate investigation may have borne good fruit. But,
since Fitzgerald isn't going to speak openly about what he found -- the
political and ideological slime and dirt he had to wade through over the past
years -- it's up to us to get those facts out to the American people.
In short, the Libby indictment is a small victory for justice, and does some
damage to the power-mad Bush Administration, but if we truly want to get this
crew's reckless, dangerous policies out of the White House, the ball is back
in our court. No other way to say this: We’ve simply got to ratchet up our
efforts. Organize, organize, organize.#
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D, in government & international relations, has taught at
various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org)