Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is Scooter Libby The Proverbial Iceberg Tip?

The recent conviction of former Vice Presidential Chief of Staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, on four felony charges was certainly a step in the right direction, regarding the Valerie Plame affair. Libby was convicted for obstruction of justice, perjury, and for lying under oath. While all are serious crimes, they fail to address the central issue at hand:

Was the revelation of Valerie Plame to the media as a CIA operative politically motivated?

Special Prosecutor, Larry Fitzgerald says that his investigation is complete and that he has no plans to file any other charges against any other administration official. By all accounts, Mr. Fitzgerald did a first rate job with the investigation and subsequent prosecution. But can Scooter Libby really be the only member of the Bush Administration who violated the law?

Probably not and here's why.

  • Fact: The United States has a federal law known as the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. This Act signed into law by then President Ronald Reagan, makes it federal crime to reveal the identity of a covert agent.

  • Fact: Columnist Robert Novak, revealed Ms. Plame's identity in his column of July 14, 2003.

  • Fact: Mr. Novak has public ally said that his sources were Senior Administration officials.

  • Fact: Grand Jury testimony revealed that Karl Rove was a source for both Novak and for Time Magazine reporter, Matt Cooper.

So why no indictment for Rove?

The answer seems to lie in whether Rove knew that Valerie Plame was an operative or if his mention of her in the context of the story was politically motivated in order to help discredit her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson.

I would like to believe that the Libby conviction resulted from a man who panicked and lied. I'd like to believe that Karl Rove's mention of Valerie Plame (though not directly by name) was simply a small detail in a story and that his intent was not nefarious. Perhaps all of this is true. Unfortunately, the administration has such a long history of misrepresenting the truth, that this story is akin to the "boy who cried wolf." It may be true, but nobody believes it is.

True or not, many important and unanswered questions are linked to this event. Did the administration plot to out a CIA operative in order to discredit her husband? Did they knowingly disregard verifiable intelligence in order to launch a war? Given the seriousness of these issues, it is imperative that the investigations not end with the conviction of Scooter Libby.

It is crucial that Congress initiate hearings to determine if Libby is simply a small ice cube floating in the water, or the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Do As George Says, Not As He Does

This seems to be the reigning philosophy of the Bush administration, which on Thursday, selected a design for a new generation of atomic warheads. This would be the first major step toward building a new nuclear weapon since the end of the cold war.

Letting a man who can't pronounce nuclear choose the design for the next nuclear weapon, is a little like letting a colourblind person choose the swatches for the drapes. Chances are the results aren't going to be pretty!

Both the energy and defense departments say that the new warheads will not add to the existing stockpile, but rather make it safer and eliminate the need for underground testing. If true, these are admirable goals, though one wonders why underground testing is still even necessary.

Are the capabilities of nuclear weapons still that big a mystery?

More than anything though, this announcement comes at a curious time. The Bush administration is currently negotiating with North Korea to scrap their nuclear ambitions, while engaging in sabre rattling with Iran over theirs. Whether this upgrade represents an increase to the nuclear arsenal or not, the timing calls U.S. credibility into question.

It's hard to fathom how Mr. Bush expects other countries to halt their nuclear ambitions when we appear to be expanding our own.

Then again, given his track record, it really shouldn't be.