From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


Lewis “Scooter” Libby is a felon

The criminal conviction of one of the Bush administration’s most
powerful figures is a victory for the rule of law, and a warning that
no official is invulnerable.

By Glenn Greenwald

Mar. 06, 2007 | A unanimous federal jury today found former Cheney
Chief of Staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby guilty of four of the five
felonies for which he was indicted. Libby was convicted of two counts
of perjury, one count of obstruction of justice and one false
statement, all of which arise out of the lies he told to the FBI and
grand jury as it investigated the “outing” of CIA operative Valerie
Plame. What had appeared for several years to be a powerful shield
possessed by top Bush officials against being held accountable under
the law looks much less powerful today. Dick Cheney’s most trusted
advisor is now a convicted felon.

The implications of this trial are likely to be far-reaching and long-
lasting. There were few officials with greater influence or power
during the first four years of the Bush administration than Libby. He
was not only the vice president’s chief of staff, but also assistant
to the president himself in national security matters. But Libby’s
importance in the Bush administration is reflected by far more than
his formal titles.

He has long been one of the most well-connected neoconservatives in
the country. Along with Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb
Bush and Norman Podhoretz, Libby was one of the 25 signatories to the
founding statement of Bill Kristol’s empire-embracing Project for a
New American Century in 1997. PNAC called for an invasion of Iraq long
before the 9/11 attack was seized on as the “justification” for that
invasion. When it comes to the political movement that has dominated
the American government for the last six years, Scooter Libby was at
its very crux, a close intimate of America’s most powerful political

Today’s event sends a potent and unmistakable message, one that is
absolutely reverberating in the West Wing: If Libby can be convicted
of multiple felonies, then any Bush official who has committed crimes
can be as well. Not only are Bush officials subject to the rule of law
(their radical theories of executive power to the contrary
notwithstanding), they are also vulnerable to legal consequences (the
defeatist beliefs of some Bush critics notwithstanding). Having the
nation watch this powerful Bush official be declared a criminal —
despite having been defended by the best legal team money can buy —
resoundingly reaffirms the principle that our highest political
officials can and must be held accountable when they break the law.

Some of the future events in the Libby case are easy to foresee, while
others are more uncertain. Almost immediately after the verdict was
announced, Libby’s counsel, Theodore Wells, vowed that Libby would
request a new trial and if that is unsuccessful (as it likely will
be), he will appeal the conviction. Those are routine steps in a case
of this magnitude. What is both less routine and less certain is the
question of whether prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is planning to
leverage this conviction in order to secure additional indictments
against other possible defendants, possibly the vice president
himself. Fitzgerald stressed after the verdict that he had “no
expectations” of further indictments, but he left open that
possibility in the event that new information came to light that
warranted further proceedings.

The Bush administration has no good options for how to respond to this
conviction politically. The seriousness of the charges is manifest.
Libby was accused, and now found guilty of, obstructing justice in
connection with an FBI investigation into the disclosure of a covert
CIA operative. Unlike, say, defenders of Bill Clinton during his
perjury impeachment trial in the Senate, the administration cannot
plausibly make the claim — though its proxies in the conservative
blogosphere continue to do so — that the underlying investigation
that Libby obstructed was not serious. And the endless parade of
emphatic speeches delivered by top Republicans about the Seriousness
of Perjury during the Clinton impeachment proceedings somewhat
hamstrings the ability of Republicans to be dismissive of the
importance of these crimes.

Nor are potential Libby defenders able to depict Fitzgerald as some
sort of partisan, out-of-control Ken Starr figure. Fitzgerald was
appointed as special counsel by the Bush Justice Department, and has
no Starr-like history of partisan affiliations one way or the other.
By refusing to indict Karl Rove and other Bush officials who were
almost certainly indictable — a decision that disappointed most Bush
critics following this case — Fitzgerald has revealed himself to be a
model of prosecutorial restraint. He is also now a vindicated

While Libby associates will undoubtedly unleash all sorts of smears on
Fitzgerald in order to discredit the conviction, there are simply no
effective weapons against what ought to be the serious political
damage resulting from this trial. Whatever one wants to say about
Fitzgerald, the jury, after lengthy deliberations, has spoken.

It is worth noting, perhaps most important, that there is a whole
array of other pending judicial matters that, either directly or
implicitly, entail accusations against high Bush officials, including
the president himself, of engaging in serious criminal behavior. Last
August, a federal district judge, Anna Diggs Taylor, ruled that
President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program violated not only
the Constitution but also FISA, a criminal statute making it a federal
felony to eavesdrop on Americans without judicial warrants and
imposing punishments of five years’ imprisonment for each offense and
fines up to $10,000.

Also last fall, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hamdan case rejected the
Bush administration’s principal defense for its violations of the
Geneva Conventions not only with regard to military commissions, but
also generally. By holding that Common Article 3 of the Conventions
applies to all detainees, and by emphasizing that a failure to treat
detainees in compliance with Common Article 3 constitutes “war
crimes,” the Supreme Court effectively found that Bush officials have
authorized and engaged in what clearly could be construed to be felony
violations of the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. sec. 2241), which makes it
a federal crime to violate war treaties such as the Geneva
Conventions. Though the administration succeeded in inducing the
Republican-led Congress to enact the Military Commissions Act as a
shield against retroactive criminal liability, the constitutionality
of that law, and the efficacy of the criminal shield provisions, are
far from certain.

Beyond these known areas of potential criminal liability, the control
of Congress that Democrats have now been given enables them to conduct
probing investigations in order to finally penetrate the unprecedented
wall of secrecy behind which the Bush administration has operated.
Meaningful investigations will almost certainly generate additional
sources of potential criminality on the part of this government.

There have been times in American history when it appeared as though
certain political leaders were too powerful to be held legally
accountable for their actions. Yet the rule of law in this country —
as slow, imperfect and endangered as it sometimes may be — typically
prevails over a particular elected official or political movement.
Richard Nixon was reelected in 1972 with the largest landslide in
American history, but he spent the next two years watching as his
closest aides were hauled off to criminal proceedings and convicted,
and in 1974, Nixon himself was forced from office, dependent upon
Gerald Ford’s pardon in order to avoid being imprisoned himself.

This administration has concocted all sorts of radical theories to
justify its transgressions and outright violations of the law. It
began that behavior at a time when it appeared that it was
invulnerable and too politically powerful to be held accountable.
After today’s conviction of one of its own, it most assuredly sees
things differently.

— By Glenn Greenwald

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