John Darby raised some interesting points in his letter commenting on my recent column recommending a pardon for Scooter Libby. Let me respond.

Mr. Darby begins by saying that Valerie Plame was, in fact, an ďunder coverĒ agent of the CIA, and that disclosing her name was a violation of the law. But the Special Prosecutor obviously didnít think so, which is why he refused to indict the man who actually exposed Ms. Plame, namely Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. It was the Justice Department and the Special Prosecutor, not me, who decided that revealing Ms. Plameís name was not a felony. Thatís why nobody was indicted or convicted for doing so.

Mr. Darby correctly quoted the clause in the Constitution establishing the Presidentís pardon power. I said the purpose was to allow the president to correct perceived miscarriages of justice, based on my reading of The Federalist, written by three framers of the Constitution-Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay-who sought to interpret its meaning. In fact, while the President cannot pardon an impeached official, otherwise there is no known limit on the power of the President to pardon anyone convicted of a federal crime. That is why George Bush would be as much within his rights to pardon Scooter Libby as Bill Clinton was to pardon convicted criminals whose families contributed to the Democratic Party and his wifeís 2000 Senate campaign. The Presidentís pardon power in federal cases is basically absolute, to be used or not as each president sees fit. I hope Bush uses it to pardon Scooter Libby.

Malcolm L. Cross