White House indictments: The system is working
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal attorney investigating the CIA leak in the Bush White House, is a powerful antidote to a...
Special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal attorney investigating the CIA leak in the Bush White House, is a powerful antidote to a pervasive mood of cynicism.
His five-count indictment Friday of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff proves the system is working. Fitzgerald wrapped up a two-year investigation of leaks that exposed the identity of an undercover agent of the United States, the wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had angered the Bush administration with a public challenge of the White House rationale for going to war with Iraq.
In his press conference Friday, Fitzgerald said I. Lewis Libby had lied to FBI agents and a grand jury about his role in exposing the CIA agent to reporters. The result was one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements.
Libby's guilt or innocence will be determined by a trial and jury, but the persistence of Fitzgerald and others in pursuing this to the highest level of government cannot be lost on Americans or those outside our country watching the proceedings.
Fitzgerald was resolutely closed-mouth in his televised remarks about names, facts or pending developments not addressed in his indictments. His stubbornness not only respected the rules, but suggested the resolve he brought to the job.
Watch the political dimension unfold. Administration supporters will be quick to belittle and minimize the indictments: So what did Libby actually do? Lie and schmooze up reporters? Pfff, big deal. No, he lied and lied often within legal proceedings.
Perhaps the essential political element is that the administration chose to retaliate against a critic by punishing his wife, not rebutting his charges with facts. Wilson challenged a piece of the White House story that Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. The administration had no information of its own to respond, so it threw a career-ending punch.
One hopes Iraqis are closely watching this legal drama. They are already having the otherworldly experience of seeing Saddam Hussein on trial. In the United States, the rule of law is being used to mark the limits of official power.
Fitzgerald is enforcing the rules for all of us, and he may not be done. The system is working, a potent and timely reminder.
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