Drip, drip, drip …

Libby but not Rove to be indicted tomorrow, says the NYT. Investigation to continue. The suspense is bad for you and me. Just think how brutal it is for the bad guys. Maybe one of them will crack.

No idea whether this from the NYT is right, though it seems to be well-sourced and other papers have comparable stories: an indictment tomorrow of Libby, probably on “technical” rather than “substantive” charges, but not indictment of Rove, with the investigation continuing.

That would be lousy for my ability to get a good night’s sleep, but it would be even worse for the White House and therefore better for the future of the country.

Note the wicked brilliance of it: the first big round of slime-and-defend aimed at Fitzpatrick would be muffled. Libby’s friends, if any, will want to go full-bore, but Rove will want to keep, if I may mix a metaphor, his powder dry and his nose clean as long as Fitzgerald continues to hold Rove’s future in his hands.

An indictment of Libby, even if it’s “only” for perjury and obstruction of justice, would dominate a couple of news cycles. Not only does Hutchison’s “perjury technicality” seem to be going down rather badly with the public, but the chorus of “Fitzgerald didn’t indict on anything substantive” would be muted by the unspoken threat “but he still might.”

In purely law-enforcement terms, every additional day of uncertainty is one more day in which some potential defendant’s nerve might crack. I’m not usually considered a softie, and I deeply believe that this crowd mostly deserves it, but what Fitzgerald is doing right now to Rove, Libby, and their friends is just brutal.

No, it’s no worse than prosecutors do to lots of other criminals, and to some innocent people, every day, but it’s brutal nonetheless. I’ve never seen a good statistical study, but I’d bet that being in Rove’s current situation for a while takes years off your life expectancy, even if you’re never actually indicted.

So subjectively I want the investigative and grand jury phase to end tomorrow, so I can stop fretting about it. But objectively I think letting tomorrow be the next drop of the water torture would be more likely to result in exposing and punishing the guilty and — more important to me — helping to educate the country about the nature of its current ruling cabal.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure we could get the White House Counsel’s office and the right-wing commentariat to agree that the water torture isn’t cruel, inhumane, or degrading. And Mr. Cheney, (or, as the Washington Post editorial page calls him, the “Vice President for Torture”) would undoubtedly agree.

Update It’s official: Libby indicted on false statements, perjury, and obstruction; investigation continues. That doesn’t mean that Libby won’t be indicted on more charges later.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com