Gazette editorial repeated usual falsehoods about Libby case

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In arguing for a pardon for former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for his role in the leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity, an editorial in The Gazette of Colorado Springs parroted several falsehoods and conservative talking points about his prosecution on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

In a June 9 editorial, The Gazette of Colorado Springs repeated numerous falsehoods and misleading statements related to the prosecution and sentencing of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, parroting conservative talking points about the case. The former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney was found guilty on March 6 and on June 5 was sentenced to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine "for lying to investigators about his role in the leak of" Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity. The Gazette misleadingly asserted that Libby lied "about a noncrime"; falsely asserted that Libby had not leaked Plame's identity; and falsely asserted that Plame's covert status "has still not been revealed officially." In making these false and misleading arguments for a Libby pardon, The Gazette echoed conservative talking points also parroted by Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen and The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction.

1. Libby lied "about a noncrime"

From the editorial "Pardon Libby" in the June 9 edition of The Gazette of Colorado Springs:

For lying about a noncrime, 30 months seems a harsh sentence. As one of the major behind-the-scenes architects -- as Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff -- of the lamentable war in Iraq, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby has a great deal to answer for, whether in the depths of his conscience or in the annals of history. For the crimes of which he was convicted in March, however, it is outrageous that he has been sentenced to 30 months in jail and fined $250,000.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted repeatedly (here, here, here, here, and here), Fitzgerald explained in a press release and in a press conference when a grand jury indicted Libby on October 28, 2005, that Libby's perjury and obstruction had prevented Fitzgerald's investigation from determining whether the "fine judgments" necessary to charge a violation of federal law could be made.

2. Libby "lied about an act that ... was committed not by Libby but by somebody else."

But he lied about an act that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was never able to charge as a crime and which -- as Fitzgerald knew early on but concealed from the public -- was committed not by Libby but by somebody else.

The act to which The Gazette referred was the leaking of Valerie Plame's covert identity as a CIA agent. While it is true that Fitzgerald's investigation determined that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the original source for a July 14, 2003, column by Robert Novak that was the first public revelation of Plame's CIA identity, the investigation also revealed that in advance of Novak's column, Libby had personally leaked Plame's identity to Judith Miller of The New York Times and confirmed Plame's CIA employment to Matthew Cooper of Time magazine. As Fitzgerald noted in his May 25 sentencing memorandum:

Following Ambassador Wilson's Op Ed in the New York Times on July 6, 2003, Mr. Libby inserted himself even more in the press response to Mr. Wilson. On July 7, he disclosed the information about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment to Ari Fleischer, then the White House press secretary, in what Mr. Fleischer described as a "weird lunch." The next morning, Mr. Libby disclosed the information about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment again to reporter Miller. Mr. Libby provided information about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Wilson on the condition that any attribution disguise him as a "former Hill staffer." Later that week, Mr. Libby confirmed the information about Ms. Wilson's CIA employment to reporter Matt Cooper, who had first learned the information from Karl Rove.

Further, Fitzgerald noted, "The investigation was never limited to disclosure of Ms. Wilson's CIA affiliation to Mr. Novak; rather, from the outset the investigation sought to determine who disclosed information about Ms. Wilson to various reporters, including -- but not limited to -- Mr. Novak."

3. Plame's covert identity "has still not been revealed officially"

Whether she was an undercover agent or not, which could have made a knowing revelation of her identity a crime under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, has still not been revealed officially, though it seems to have been informally confirmed that at least she was at some time.

Contrary to The Gazette's suggestion that it had been only "informally confirmed" that Plame had been a CIA agent "at some time," Colorado Media Matters has noted that the CIA officially confirmed her status in an unclassified summary of Plame's employment history: "At the time of the initial unauthorized disclosure in the media of Ms. Wilson's employment relationship with the CIA on 14 July 2003, Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States." [emphasis added]

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