Fred Thompson and Scooter Libby

Fred Thompson announced two weeks ago that “everyone knew” – “it was obvious from the outset” – that Valerie Plame Wilson “was not a covered person” under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Oooops!

Fred Thompson hasn’t been a real prosecutor for 35 years, but he plays one on TV. You might think he’d be careful about slandering a real prosecutors’ prosecutor on behalf of a convicted perjurer. But you’d be wrong.

Ol’ Fred may yet regret allowing his name to be used as a member of the Advisory Board of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust. I’m not sure, but to ordinary folks that may look like “Arthur Branch” is just a mite too cozy inside the Beltway.

But Thompson’s real vulnerability is going to come from his speech to the Council for National Policy,a speech which Fitzgerald’s sentencing memorandum in the Libby case shows to be a mostly a pack of lies.

Thompson said:

As you may recall, for some inexplicable reason, the CIA sent the husband of one of its employees to Niger on a sensitive mission. She had suggested it. He came back to the U.S. and proceeded to publicly blast the administration. Naturally, everyone wanted to know “who is this guy?” and “why was he sent to Niger?” Just as naturally, the fact that he was married to Valerie Plame at the CIA was leaked.

Having virtually guaranteed that Ms. Plame’s identity would be ultimately disclosed by using her, shall we say, “politically active” husband, the CIA then demanded that this leak of her name be investigated by the Justice Department for a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

The Justice Department, bowing to political and media pressure, appointed a Special Counsel to investigate the leak and promised that the Justice Department would exercise no supervision over him whatsoever — a status even the Attorney General does not have.

The only problem with this little scenario was that there was no violation of the law, by anyone, and everybody — the CIA, the Justice Department and the Special Counsel knew it. Ms. Plame was not a “covered person” under the statute and it was obvious from the outset.

Furthermore, Justice and the Special Counsel knew who leaked Plames’s name and it wasn’t Scooter Libby. But the Beltway machinery was well oiled and geared up so the Special Counsel spent the next two years moving heaven and earth to come up with something, anything. Finally he came up with some inconsistent recollections by Scooter Libby, who had been up to his ears studying National Intelligence Estimates. But he worked for Dick Cheney, so that apparently was enough for the special counsel.

I didn’t know Scooter Libby, but I did know something about this intersection of law, politics, special counsels and intelligence. And it was obvious to me that what was happening was not right. So I called him to see what I could do to help, and along the way we became friends. You know the rest of the story: a D.C. jury convicted him.

I’ve highlighted the parts that the sentencing memo demolishes. Valerie Plame Wilson was a covered person: working covertly, having her identity actively protected, and having traveled abroad seven times under both official and unofficial cover in the five years prior to the leak, and while Libby wasn’t the only leaker he burned her to at least three different people before the Novak column ran. Note also the wonderful passive construction &#8212 Plame’s CIA identity “was leaked” (by no one in particular), and the deniably but unmistakably racist crack about a “D.C. jury.”

And this is the conservatives’ Great White Hope against Rudy McRomney? On this showing, I could make a better President out of paper maché.

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