Friday, July 14, 2006

Plame-Wilson: A Lawsuit Too Far?

There is something off putting about the lawsuit filed by Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson against Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby and Karl Rove charging that they conspired to destroy Plame's career by leaking her identity as an undercover CIA agent.

Don't misunderstand. The suit has merit and the Wilsons have every right to file it.

The leaks engineered by the three men -- and authorized by President Bush himself -- were vicious efforts to punish Wilson for his very public and very correct assertions that the White House had skewed intelligence reports to justify the invasion of Iraq.
My off-puttedness can be summed up in the photograph of Plame and Wilson above, which I believe is from a Vanity Fair article. While Plame's career arguably was damaged, Wilson, with his spy wife as helpmate, has wrapped himself in the flag and been a shameless self promoter from the outset of the scandal. Now Plame has joined him, as well.

Vanity indeed.

The lawsuit seems as much an effort to drag out the couple's 15 minutes of fame than to get redress. It's not like they need the dough. Besides which, Libby has been indicted by the grand jury convened to investigate the leaks and goes on trial early next year. Rove skated only because he was a good liar. And Cheney's already wretched reputation took another major hit.

Justice -- or at least a fair approximation of it -- is being served. There are too many other, more important issues out there like extracting the U.S. from the war itself.

It's time to move on, but Plame and Wilson do not want to do so.

Having gotten that off my chest, the lawsuit (which can be read in its entirety here) could bring new and well deserved embarrassment to the Bush administration.

This is because of the broad scope of pre-trial discovery in a civil suit. On the other hand, it is probable that Cheney will argue that he has immunity from prosecution and has a very good chance of prevailing. So don't hold your breath waiting to see this Darth Vader in the dock.

Beyond that, there is the intriguing possibility that the hit on Plame and Cheney was engineered with the help of Republican Party operatives, which would be a violation of the law.
Paul Kiel, a reporter for Josh Marshall's increasingly influential TPM Muckraker explores that angle, among others, here.

Anticlimaxes don't come much bigger than Robert Novak's tepid admission this week that Karl Rove was the source of his column on Plame, which is what triggered the scandal in the first place.

Eric Alterman, who would probably fight Novak to a draw in a smugness smackdown, has this to say at The Huffinton Post:
Novak lied to everyone in order to betray his country on behalf of Rove and company. First he revealed the name of an active CIA officer, blowing any and all operations with which she has ever been involved, costing the country millions, and possibly endangering lives despite the specific request from the agency that he not do so.

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