Aide’s indictment another stain on Bush’s White House
Vice President Cheney's chief of staff has been charged in the CIA leak case.
THE indictment of Vice President Cheney's closest aide does not accuse him of revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent, but of lying to conceal a White House drive to discredit her husband, who dared to challenge the administration's foundation for going to war in Iraq.
The charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements have been belittled as trivial by two Republican senators, just manini pickings from a two-year investigation.
They are not. As special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said, they are "very, very serious matters" that go to the heart of a justice system that requires citizens, "including persons who hold high positions in government," to tell the truth.
The indictment revives unsettled questions about how the administration came to use false intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to push for the invasion. The counts against I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff, also speak to a characteristic of the Bush administration to disparage its critics, an effective strategy imported from the president's political campaigns.
The indictment of Libby, who was as intimately tied to the vice president as Cheney is to Bush, dealt another blow to the president in a terrible week that saw the derailing of his Supreme Court nominee and the 2,000th military death in Iraq. Still unresolved is whether his right-hand man, Karl Rove, also will be indicted in the CIA case; he remains under investigation.
As he retreats to Camp David for the weekend, the president ought to reflect on how the administration might have escaped the latest stain on the White House to which he pledged to restore honor and dignity.
The indictment outlines events that took place after former diplomat Joseph Wilson went public with his findings that debunked a report claiming Iraq was seeking material to build nuclear weapons, a report Bush used to argue for war in his 2003 State of the Union address.
On a request from Cheney -- about whom Fitzgerald pointedly made no allegations -- Libby directed the collecting of information about Wilson in an effort to discredit him, eventually suggesting to news reporters that Wilson was a nobody who got the job to investigate the report because of his wife, covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Who unmasked Plame remains unclear. Fitzgerald was unable to determine who first outed her, the crime he was charged with investigating. However, as happened with Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, it was the alleged cover-up that appears to have snagged Libby.
Before leaving for Camp David, Bush said Libby, who has resigned, deserves a presumption of innocence. He offered no defense of Libby, but praised him as a man who "sacrificed much in service to this country." If convicted, Libby could sacrifice his freedom as well.