The Libby indictment

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Now it's official. Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, has been indicted for perjury, making a false statement, and obstruction of justice. Evidently, this is for not testifying that he had heard from Cheney that Valerie Plame was a CIA employee. This is a serious charge. I have long said that I would be astonished if someone as smart and savvy as Libby had testified untruthfully. So I am astonished now. There was nothing legally dubious about Cheney disclosing this to Libby. Both had the highest possible intelligence clearances. So it is puzzling that Libby apparently didn't testify truthfully or fully about this.

Note what Libby was not charged with: violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. To violate that act, the agent whose identity has been disclosed must have been serving abroad within five years of the disclosure. According to a book by Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, Plame had not served abroad since 1997, more than five years before the 2003 disclosure. So the act was not violated by anyone. This was an investigation of people who were telling the truth about a person, Joseph Wilson, who was telling lies. For background, see my Creators Syndicate column of last week. The Libby indictment raises in my mind the question of whether it is just to indict someone for false statements in the course of the investigation of what was never a crime.

Politically, this is obviously a blow to the Bush administration. Libby was an important White House aide who played a key role on foreign policy.