Last week, news outlets everywhere enthusiastically reported that President Bush commuted his ex-compatriot I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s jail sentence for perjury, as if they had not seen it coming.
But for those who followed the CIA leak case, we’d all seen this coming.
Libby, the only man charged with a crime in the outing of CIA Agent Valerie Plame, was widely seen as the fall guy for bigger fish in the White House circle for the controversy that had investigators talking to everybody – even Bush himself.
The controversy, of course, started when Plame’s husband, Joseph Wilson, charged that the White House manipulated intelligence to assert that Iraq was attempting to buy weapons-grade uranium from the African country of Niger – a claim that sharply contrasted with a report he had submitted after traveling to Niger in 2002, which indicated the opposite was true.
Eight days following this announcement, according to a Washington Post report, a syndicated columnist released his wife’s name, with senior White House officials dismissing evidence as unimportant.
Now, whether or not this leak stemmed from an attempt by the White House to retaliate – and the circumstances under which it occurred do support that theory – it is certain that a law was broken.
Fact – disclosing the identity of a CIA operative is a crime. It is also a fact that when columnist Robert Novak originally published her name, he credited the information to White House sources. Therefore, somebody – in the White House – obviously committed a crime.
Now, when a crime is committed in America, usually somebody is supposed to go to jail. This, however, was not the case this time.
Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of the State Department, who was found to be Novak’s primary source, according to the New York Times, and who also confirmed by witnesses to be the person who had revealed her operative status, was never jailed. Nor was Novak, who released her name, without thought of the damage that could be done by releasing her identity.
In addition, never was enough evidence acquired, nor was it ever established for certain that it was a malicious action.
What was made certain, however, was that “Scooter” Libby lied, and for that, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, two years probation, and a $250,000 fine.
However, this is America, and here, if you are rich and famous or, even better, if you have the right connections, you don’t have to do that whole “jail” thing.
As soon as the final gavel ended the trial, reporters were salivating, just waiting for the pardon to roll in.
The Gallup Organization, too, was ready, polling Americans just a week after the trial to see if they would approve of such a move. At the time, 55 percent said they would be against it. From the uproar I’ve seen since, or lack thereof, you’d think the number just a few months earlier had been zero.
At the time of all this speculation, the Bush camp was quoted in more than one major paper as saying a pardon was a “wildly hypothetical situation.”
Not able to back down on his previous stance, Bush did the next best thing – he spared his old comrade the indignity of jail time, but left the probation, fine, and felony charge intact.
The jail time, Bush said in a statement, was “excessive.”
Perhaps President Bush, who has granted fairly few pardons when compared to others should consider evaluating the cases of all felons within the penal system. As his final term comes to a close, and with an approval rating of only 32 percent, he, like Clinton before him, may want to make a few more controversial pardons.
I’m sure he’d be able to find at least two or three convicts that thought their prison sentences were (ahem) “excessive.”
Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a junior political science major. His column appears weekly in the summer Collegian edition. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.