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Libby commutation legal, but wrong

July 08, 2007|By BURR LOOMIS

To the editor:

It was completely legal for President Bush to commute the sentence of Scooter Libby, but it was wrong.

Let us review the case, for those who haven't been paying attention.

In the run-up to the unnecessary and costly invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration became aware of a clumsy forgery indicating that Iraq had been trying to buy yellow-cake uranium from Niger.

They should have realized it was a made-to-order forgery, because it was purportedly signed by a Nigerian official who did not hold that job at the date on the letter. But they wanted to believe it. Oh, how they wanted to believe it.

Someone at the CIA wanted to check on the claim, but the CIA didn't have the right person to send. CIA operative Valerie Plame apparently suggested that the State Department had the right man. Her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had been stationed in Niger before their marriage and personally knew the Nigerian officials who would know the truth.

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Ambassador Wilson was sent to Niger and returned to report that there was no truth in the claim. This was reported up the chain to the White House. The people in the White House who were looking for an excuse to invade Iraq ignored this evidence and used the forgery as evidence even including it in Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations.

Ambassador Wilson was upset, and published an op-ed piece in the New York Times saying that the yellow-cake story was not true. The pro-war people in the White House wanted to bolster their story and decided to attack Ambassador Wilson personally on the shoot-the-messenger theory. They decided to leak the fact that he was married to a CIA operative, Valerie Plame.

By what twisted reasoning they thought that would discredit his evidence, I do not know, but apparently they thought so. Of course, it is a felony to divulge the name of a covert CIA operative, because it wrecks whatever network of foreign nationals (spies) she has been able to recruit, endangers those individuals, and makes it harder for other operatives to recruit future spies.

But the neo-cons in the White House didn't care. For their short-sighted political advantage, they were willing to "out" an operative, wreck her network and her career and endanger the lives of all the foreign nationals with whom she had contact.

When the story broke, Patrick Fitzgerald was appointed as a special prosecutor, to find out who had "outed" Valerie Plame.

Fitzgerald proved to be diligent, persistent, and effective. He narrowed his search to the White House, and it appeared that he might put the tag on either Karl Rove or Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter Libby, frustrated the investigation, enough so that Fitzgerald prosecuted and convicted him. Which brings us up to the present.And to the president.

It has been said that President Bush values personal loyalty above all else. Apparently that means above the requirements of the law and the security of the United States. Libby was loyal to Bush and Cheney, enough to get convicted of obstructing a criminal investigation.

Now he faced 30 months in federal prison. So the president commuted his sentence.

I can imagine the following, "Preposterous!! He's been loyal to us, we'll be loyal (somewhat) to him, and keep him out of jail. Our cronies protect us, and we protect our cronies."

And isn't that the definition of corruption?

Burr Loomis

Chambersburg, Pa.

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