Dear Richard Cohen…
Should I call you Dick — or do you prefer “connected beltway hack with no understanding of the point of prosecuting people who break the law?”
Read your column in today’s Washington Post. Thought I would drop you a line to ask if you have upped your medications or if you were drunk at your deadline time or something? Do you know any real prosecutors — or only the political wannabes that you meet at DC social functions?
If you don’t know any actual prosecuting attorneys, let me help you out. For people who uphold the law as their vocation — and there are an awful lot of them in this country who take their jobs very seriously — putting people in jail for breaking the law, and seeking justice, is their job.
Sure, they are mean to the jerks who break the law. (btw, these people are called criminals.) These criminals may be poor, uneducated and even mentally unstable — and sometimes they are wealthy, highly educated and people you seem to want to continue to hang out with at cocktail parties.
Here’s a clue: the laws apply to EVERYONE, across the board, whether they are rich and powerful or poor and powerless. (You might want to read up on what Martha Stewart has been doing for the last year or so. Might be illuminating on this point.)
This goes for ALL the jerks who break ALL the laws, not just the laws you happen to have thought were important at the time you turned in your column. And not just the jerks who are too poor or too ignorant or too mentally unstable to hire a really good defense attorney.
When I say all of them, I mean it — even the ones who are bestest friends with Dick Cheney do not get a pass on abiding by the laws of this nation. And that goes double to the ones regarding national security matters during a time of war. You might want to peruse the text of the SF 312 and the Espionage Act, since you seem to need some assistance in researching this matter. Also, try phoning a friend or two who works for “the Company,” and see what they think of politicizing intelligence gathering. I suggest Larry Johnson — he’s a really fun guy, and he thinks people who out CIA NOCs are neat. (Well, not really, but please call him anyway. It could be fun for the rest of us.)
By the way, punishment for breaking the law goes double for the political leaders of our nation, who have a fiduciary obligation to uphold the laws they are sworn to serve and to use their power wisely to benefit the whole of our country, and not just their political cronies and wealthy supporters. (Another personal note here: using political power to get even with someone just because he says you are wrong, in a way that puts his wife, his family and the families of everyone who works with his wife in jeopardy just for payback — not so nice, and definitely deserving of the full prosecutorial treatment.)
Oh, and in case you were wondering how Judy Miller got caught up in all of this mess, we prosecutors like to call it “accessory” — as in potentially prosecutable along with all the other folks involved if she was aiding and abetting the conspiracy to commit a crime. Poor Judy, carried water for people breaking the law and got caught. How dare a prosecutor want to see her treated like every other living, breathing citizen in this country?!? (Okay, I’m not really outraged, but I was trying to appear empathetic to you here. How am I doing?)
Perhaps you journalists (if I can be so bold as to count you among them) ought to reconsider being human shields for people who use you to commit odious crimes, and then leave you to rot in jail because they are too craven to accept responsibility for what they have done.
Try cultivating more friends who work in law enforcement. Might do you some good.
PS — Kevin Drum was nice enough to try and help you out today because everyone is jumping on you for your idiotic column. He makes a good point that bad prosecutions help no one (even though you, Richard, thought that Ken Starr was doing fantastic work at the time — what were you thinking?!? Try looking up “consistency” and “hypocrite” in your dictionary.), and that Kevin hopes that Fitzgerald turns out to have the goods rather than bring a bad prosecution. I happen to agree with Kevin on this, because a bad prosecution really is a waste of resources that ought to be going toward a more deserving perp.
However, Kevin worded things a little inartfully and is now taking heat that ought rightfully be going to you, Richard. You should send him some chocolates or something — you owe Kevin big time.
(In case Kevin reads this, keep your chin up and have faith — this will be a good prosecution because Fitz is that sort of guy. He’s a boy scout, he doesn’t leak, and he builds his case artfully, like a good prosecutor should — starting with the smaller charges on the lower level people to flip them against the next level, and so on — just like he has done many times with the mafia and terrorists. If you don’t have enough faith in this yourself, you can borrow some of mine. I have it in spades. Fitz rocks — and I’m keeping a Guiness in my fridge in case he ever wants to stop by my house and chat. I’m just sayin’…)
UPDATE: I’m going to use my editing perogative and raise up a response of mine from the comments, so that it is clear to everyone that I personally think that this case should be prosecuted properly and to the fullest extent of the law. Period. I think my ever-growing migraine (and I do mean a headache and not my toddler) is getting the better of my way with words, today, so I want to be certain that I’m clear where I stand on this. No free passes for these clowns. Here’s what I wrote below, and I hope this is clear enough:
I’m emphatically NOT accepting that perjury or conspiracy or obstruction are either soft or wrong as charges. I think they ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent, especially given that lying in this context has so many potential after-effects on other agents, recruiting of assets, and so on and so on. And someone most emphatically SHOULD be brought to account.
What I was trying to say, perhaps inartfully as well, if Kevin was trying to give Richard Cohen a hand up from his idiotic slog in the gutter, that people shouldn’t just flay him for that alone. I took Kevin’s post as just trying to be nice and help out a friend — and simply asking that any charges that are prosecuted be solid ones (unlike a lot of what we saw Ken Starr trying to gin up from one press leak to the next).
But don’t misunderstand where I am on this — I absolutely think this is worth pursuing to the end of every charge, if for no other reason than the lesson needs to be learned, and this needs to be a moment of education for everyone in government, that national security matters are NO place for political hackery. Period. And those who cross that line will be punished — swiftly and severely. Our national security personnel deserve nothing less.
UPDATE #2: Sorry, this is going to be a drive-by posting because I need sleep. But I wanted to be sure everyone saw this post by Larry Johnson, former CIA officer on TPM Cafe. Some of you may remember him as one of the officers who testified before the Conyers sub-panel on the damage caused by leaks of classified information. Mr. Johnson worked with Valerie Plame Wilson at CIA — was a member of her entering class when they started — and speaks directly to why Richard Cohen is full of crap.