By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers
It’s unfortunate “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” is on summer break, because only a comedy program could accurately reflect the idea of President George W. Bush commuting a prison sentence.
Bush erased a 30-month sentence for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted of four counts relating to the investigation in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. He left intact two years of probation and a $250,000 fine.
Our newspaper on Sunday published an editorial saying Bush was correct in commuting the sentence. I respectfully disagree with my publication, and I’ll discuss the points individually:
1. Libby was prosecuted for lying to investigators about a non-crime: When obstruction of justice is done successfully, prosecutors can’t prove a crime. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has repeatedly stated Libby’s lies kept him from properly concluding anything about Plame’s outing. He likened it to a baseball player throwing sand in the umpire’s face.
2. Libby was accused of outing Plame, though Fitzgerald knew somebody else outed Plame: Yes, Libby did not discuss Plame’s identity with Robert Novak — the first journalist to report she worked at the CIA. However, Libby did speak about Plame’s employment with Judith Miller of the New York Times several times before Novak’s column was published. Miller, by the way, went to jail for 85 days for refusing to testify for an investigation into the leak.
3. Let’s revisit the first two points, and note both arguments were presented to the jury. The jury rejected both in finding Libby guilty.
4. Libby and the Plame situation were about people’s disagreements over the Iraq war, and the jail sentence was given in accordance with that: Well-established punishments for perjury were set long before Libby ever committed such acts. Libby was convicted of two counts of perjury (five years maximum for each), one count of obstruction of justice (10 years maximum) and one count of making false statements (10 years maximum). Run the counts concurrently and the harshest sentence available is 10 years. But even Fitzgerald argued for 30-37 months, and Libby received the minimum sentence in that recommendation.
5. Libby will serve no jail time, but will face a fine: Libby did face a $250,000 fine, and he’s paid it. That would be a steep fine for most Americans, but most Americans don’t have Fred Thompson and others raising $5 million for their legal fees.
6. A felony conviction and loss of law license are punishment enough: We’ll see about that, particularly when it comes to the 2008 defense appropriations bill. At the Pentagon’s request, the bill includes a section allowing employees of the Department of Defense or contractors working for the Pentagon to receive a security clearance regardless of conviction in any U.S. Court. If that section goes through unfettered, the Pentagon or the DoD can give Libby a job. As the employment of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown shows us, loyalty to President Bush is the best job qualification of all.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail: