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Can the White House Lie to Congress, then Punish Whistle Blowers?
Published on Monday, March 12, 2007 by the Home News Tribune (New Jersey)
Can the White House Lie to Congress, then Punish Whistle Blowers?
by Gene Racz
 
Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, set hearings for this week to examine the CIA leak case in which Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. was convicted of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to the FBI.

It's nice when the common sense of our elected representatives matches the level of common sense of ordinary citizens.

This scandal stinks of treason, and it neither began, nor should end, with Libby.

After the verdict was read for Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, one of the jurors, Denis Collins, told reporters that the nagging question brought up again and again during deliberations was: "Where's Rove? Where are these other guys?"

That's Rove, as in presidential adviser Karl Rove, and the "other guys" presumably as in Cheney and possibly other higher-ups.

Collins went so far as to call Libby the "fall guy."

Now there's the healthy dose of institutional distrust we've all been waiting for.

It's now time for Waxman and Congress to do its part and get some answers as to what this case was really about.

At the heart of the sordid episode lies the leaking to the press, by members of the executive branch, the identity of a CIA official, Valerie Plame, in order to retaliate against her husband, Joe Wilson. Wilson wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times that discredited the White House's assertion that Iraq had pursued significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

With the Libby verdict in, conservative political journalist and pundit Andrew Sullivan came out swinging on the issue in his insightful blog "The Daily Dish." Sullivan wrote, "The salience of this case is obvious. What it is really about what it has always been about is whether this administration deliberately misled the American people about (Weapons of Mass Destruction) before the war. . . . We now need a Congressional investigation to find out more, to subpoena Cheney and, if he won't cooperate, consider impeaching him."

Others from the political right don't seem so eager. Sen. Lindsay Graham called Libby "a good candidate for a pardon." Bob Novak, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, called for his outright pardon.

Novak rightfully pointed out there was no underlying criminal violation as to why Libby was prosecuted, only that Libby had "consciously and purposefully lied to FBI agents and the grand jury about how he learned of Mrs. Wilson's identity."

Novak also notes that "no hard evidence was produced Libby was ever told (Plame) was undercover." But, as author Dave Lindorff writes, "the whole focus of the media in this case has been on the narrow, inside-the-Beltway question of who leaked the information about Plame to the media. Entirely forgotten has been what this leak was all about to begin with."

What it was really all about, argues Lindorff and others, is a White House smear operation unleashed in an effort to beat back charges that it was misleading a nation into war.

Author John Nichols of The Nation argues that the fundamental question to be addressed in the scandal is, "Can a member of the executive branch . . . deliberately deceive the legislative branch, then set out to punish Americans who expose those lies? That is not just a legal question for prosecutor (Patrick) Fitzgerald, it is a Constitutional question for Congress."

No doubt, Waxman will have a few questions to ask.

Gene Racz covers Middlesex County government. He is the co-author of "Bury My Heart at Cooperstown" (Triumph, 2006). He can be reached at gracz@thnt.com.

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