The framers of the Constitution gave the President the pardon power to enable him to intervene in cases where criminal defendants were unfairly convicted or otherwise mistreated by the criminal justice system. One such defendant is Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, recently convicted of lying to federal investigators seeking to learn who had leaked the name of CIA official Valerie Plame to journalist Robert Novak, who mentioned her in an article about her husband’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison and fined $250,000. President Bush has commuted the prison sentence, so Libby need not go to jail. But several features of the case indicate Bush should go further and grant Libby a full pardon, thereby cleansing his criminal record.
First, there was no underlying crime. Administration critics said Plame’s name was leaked to destroy her career and punish her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson, for publicly criticizing Bush’s Iraq policy. They demanded Novak’s source be identified and punished. But while it is illegal to reveal the name of secret agents, Valerie Plame was an analyst, not an agent. Revealing her name to Novak was no crime.
Second, even if revealing Plame’s name were a crime, Libby was not Novak’s source. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage confessed he had inadvertently mentioned Plame to Novak. Since doing so was not criminal, no effort to prosecute him was made.
Third, Libby was the victim of selective prosecution based on logic and evidence not considered strong enough to convict anyone else. Under pressure from Administration critics seeking blood, the Deputy Attorney General appointed Patrick Fitzgerald Special Prosecutor to continue the investigation, despite the determination that there was no crime to investigate. Fitzgerald chose to prosecute Libby for allegedly lying about how he learned of Plame and whether he told anyone else about her. Libby had told investigators he had learned of Plame from Tim Russert of NBC news, and denied revealing her name to other reporters. Russert and others contradicted him. Libby said such disagreements were honest differences of memory. Fitzgerald convinced the jury these contradictions proved Libby lied. Yet Bush’s press secretary also denied discussing Plame, only to be similarly contradicted. But Fitzgerald chose to overlook that case and declined to seek an indictment
Fourth, and most egregiously, in sentencing Libby, the judge acceded to Fitzgerald’s demand that Libby be as harshly punished as if he had obstructed an investigation into leaking classified information, despite the fact that he was not indicted for doing so.
These features of the case—especially the use of a double standard by which to judge Libby and infliction of punishment for a crime he did not commit— show that whether Scooter Libby actually lied at some point in the investigation, he is nonetheless the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. To prevent further injustice, President Bush must pardon Scooter Libby immediately.
Malcolm Cross is a key member of the Erath County Republican Party.