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A Time For Heroes

No word as yet on anything other than a jury that is still deliberating the fate of I. Lewis Libby in Washington, DC.  And so we continue to wait.

Carol Leonnig has an article in today's WaPo regarding the potential backlash that a not guilty verdict could have on the reputation of Patrick Fitzgerald — or, in the alternative, the lack of impact, depending on who you ask.  My favorite part of Carol's piece

Washington lawyers who have dropped in to watch the case say Fitzgerald's skills were best demonstrated in the tapes played in court of him questioning Libby before a grand jury. Under relentless questioning, Libby explained over nearly an hour that he forgot he learned about Plame from Cheney, then believed he learned it for the first time from NBC's Tim Russert, but recalled that Cheney did not share classified information. Libby's voice increasingly faded in strength, as Fitzgerald made him sound more and more illogical.

"And so when Tim Russert had this conversation with you, you didn't remember that the vice president told you in June that Wilson's wife works at the CIA," Fitzgerald said, "but when you remembered what you forgot, you remembered that you learned it in June not to be classified."

He paused, then asked incredulously: "As you sit here today, is that your testimony under oath?"

The article itself is a fairly balanced piece.  I particularly enjoyed the honest characterization of lawyer/former Senator/teevee personality/Libby pal Fred Thompson as a "a board member of a group raising legal funds for Libby" since that is absolutely true and is an accurate reflection of his personal bias in discussions about the case.

What is a bit odd is that the online editors have topped it with the inflammatory headline "Verdict May Taint Prosecutor" for reasons only they understand.  Probably the same reasons that they put in op-eds over the weekend from people with an agenda against accountability for the Administration, but it falls on their consciences as to why they continue to do this.   Or on their waning subscription numbers, as the case may be.

Media Matters has an exceptional run-down of the wingnut shill hyperventilation circuit on this.  And Larry Johnson hits the nail on the hypocritical head with this post on why some perjury is bad (read:  perjury about a bobby jo in the West Wing when a Democrat does it) while other perjury is not even a crime (read: exposing a CIA agent and her entire network working on WMD issues during a time of war because someone dared to criticize the Administration for lying about the reasons for said war, regardless of its impact on classified activities meant to protect each and every one of us in this country and abroad).  And, fwiw, I agree with Larry — perjury, under any circumstances, is a bad thing because attempting to subvert the justice system by lying is simply unacceptable.  Period. 

But the hypocrisy with which Libby's alleged perjury is attempted to be downplayed by the very right-wing shills who were marching around the Beltway with pitchforks and torches just a few years back?  Well, that is just downright irritating — and incredibly dishonest, both to the public and to themselves.

Which gets me to my point this morning:  yesterday, Dana Priest had a very interesting chat on the WaPo regarding national security issues.  In the middle of the chat, she was asked a question about the Libby case and the investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson's name, and had this to say (H/T to allan_in_upstate and LaFourmiRouge for the heads up on this.):

Pauling, N.Y.: Is it possible that Valerie Plame was covert but would not be covered by the IIPA? Why is it that no government official will comment about Ms. Wilson's employment and covered status?

Dana Priest: Because she was covert! No, she's covered. If she were not, you could not have this trial in the first place.

And there, with the simplicity of a three sentence response, Dana Priest says what ought to be obvious to any thinking person who has ever worked around anyone who is undercover in any way. The CIA referral would have gone nowhere, very quickly, with the DoJ had Valerie Plame Wilson not been covert. In fact, the referral would never have been made in the first place. But the fact that John Ashcroft, partisan Attorney General that he was, allowed an investigation to be opened — and followed through on by the FBI for months and months under his supervision, before passing it off to an appointed Special Counsel pretty much says it all in terms of substance as to the reason for a referral in the first place.

The fact that Valerie Plame Wilson and those working with her either as fellow agents, assets, or even innocents who happened to travel with her on what they thought were simply ordinary business trips, but are now connected with the CIA in the minds of external intel agencies in any country in which she and they may have travelled…and it just keeps rippling outward from there…were exposed by the very government that ought to have held their secrets as closely as they possibly could?  By their OWN government — at the highest levels? 

The betrayal in this act of vengeance is breathtaking in its scope — and its stupidity.

But the repercussions of this conduct?  Not just of revealing Valerie Plame Wilson and her network, but across the broad spectrum of intelligence agencies and people who work in them over the last six years of Bush Administration pressures, of Dick Cheney demanding intel to fit his warped world view, of the war between the WHIG and the CIA, of all of this — the repercussions are enormous.  The losses that the intelligence community has seen of experienced field officers, of experienced analysts with a commitment to do the job well, has been staggering.

And the cost to our nation's safety as a result of these losses?  There is a cost, and one that will not easily be paid back because the years of training and work that go into achieving that level of proficiency in a job which requires a high level of integrity and skill and understanding is not easily won back in a short term.  And the fact that political cronies may be doing the recruiting for the very people we so desperately need to fill these jobs — in an environment of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush's making?  You'll have to pardon me if I do not feel comfortable with where this may lead us.

And this is true across the board in a lot of civil service jobs in Washington, DC.  I have heard this from countless readers and friends and current and former officials and peons — to a person — that there has been a concerted effort to decimate the collective understanding of how to make government work in the public name of efficiency.  But privately, it has resulted in the insertion of political cronies at all levels and facets of government service, which has in turn resulted in the insertion of political hackery, cronyism and ideological zeal into decisions as diverse as research grants at the NIH or environmental policy or no-bid contracts that have resulted in vast profit schemes and war profiteering.

All of which has been allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged for far too long by the Republicans who controlled Congress.

This is a time for heroes.  I selected the clip of the West Wing above for a very good reason.  This is one of my favorite Jed Bartlett moments, and it comes at the end of an emotionally difficult episode — and truly shows the difference that some uplift and a call to the service of your fellow citizens when the nation most needs you to take action can mean for us as a nation.  The actions of one person, in the right place at the right time, can change the course of history.

What if you are that person?

This nation of ours needs heroes, now more than ever.  Heroism comes in many forms but, for my money, the biggest hero that any of us can be is to be an active, involved, and attentive person who holds both their governmental representatives and themselves accountable for their community, for their nation, and for our place in the world.  Today, stand up and be the hero that your nation needs you to be. 

I have had enough of self-dealing, backstabbing, short-term-power-grabbing, don't care about anything other than what's in it for me falseness.  This is a time when our nation has substantial problems.  And it will take all of us — pulling together — to even begin to make a dent.  This is a time for true leadership in this nation of ours.  But we will not see it, we will continue to get this half-baked, self-dealing idiocy unless and until we all stand up and say "enough!" and demand much better — for ourselves, for our children's sake, and for this nation of ours.

Today, stand up and be the hero that your nation needs you to be.  Let us all stand up together.  For America.  For ourselves and our children and our children's children.  For liberty.

(And yes, I have been reading Langston Hughes famous poem about America again.  Why do you ask?)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com