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It Is In The Details

devilinthedetails.jpgEmptywheel has a great bit of analysis on the Team Libby sentencing filing that everyone should read if they get a chance.   But I wanted to home in on a small segment for a moment this morning — because it royally pissed me off.  To wit:

Distinguished public servant. Generous mentor. Selfless friend. Devoted father. This is the rich portrait of Mr. Libby that emerges from the descriptions of him in the more than 160 heartfelt letters submitted to the Court on his behalf. The letter writers, who range from administrative assistants to admirals, neighborhood friends to former colleagues, Democrats to Republicans, bear witness to Mr. Libby’s character and patriotism. As detailed below, Mr. Libby’s accomplishments in the State Department, the Defense Department, and the Office of the Vice President demonstrate his extraordinary commitment to public service. His dedication to promoting freedom abroad and keeping American citizens safe at home is beyond question. Mr. Libby has also earned a reputation for treating people fairly and kindly and comforting those who are distressed. He has avoided the Washington limelight to focus on nurturing his young children. Even those who disagree vociferously with policies he supported while serving in the government believe his conviction is not characteristic of the life he has led.

A public servant at the highest levels of our national government, one who was intimately involved in crafting our national security strategies and military plans, who had the ear of Dick Cheney as his chief of staff and national security advisor, who worked daily with CIA briefers on national security threats…and who betrayed the covert status not just of Valerie Plame Wilson, but the entire network of CIA agents and assets working with Brewster Jennings and other cover operations over years and years of work with a few phone calls and breakfast tete-a-tetes.  Yes, that just screams "dedication to promoting freedom abroad and keeping American citizens safe at home is beyond question."

What Scooter Libby did was nothing short of treasonous.  And to portray him as some sort of decent guy who made a careless error without fully comprehending its ramifications — and downplaying the fact that it was multiple disclosures over a broad period of time in a concentrated, calculated effort by him and other top Bush Administration officials — at the most, is not only disingenuous but it also flies in the face of any acceptance of responsibility.  And I hope Judge Walton takes this piece of character fluff filing for exactly what it is:  a document filled with public relations spin, in which there is no expression of remorse or regret for wrongdoing other than allusions to how horrible it was that Mr. Libby was caught, tried and convicted by a jury of his peers.

At the least, I would expect Judge Walton to be disgusted that Team Libby would think him so easily manipulated that he would buy this dreck after having sat through all of the CIPA hearings and the lengthy trial testimony in this case.  Shameful.

We are a nation of laws.  They apply equally to the common criminal and the high-ranking government official criminal variety, plain and simple.  But, in my mind at least, when you are so placed at the highest levels of government, you not only owe a fiduciary duty of care and commitment to the public good, but you also are charged with operating within the letter of the law — not just because you should, but also because you ought to lead by being the best example you could be. 

And an obfuscating, obstructionist toady who serves to this day as the firewall between the truth and Dick Cheney — who refuses to be completely honest about his role and the role of others in this sordid mess — does not deserve any break in sentencing.  Ted Wells' melodramatic puff piece filing aside, I. Lewis Libby has earned time behind bars, because he steadfastly refuses to acknowledge any remorse for his illegal actions, and because he has learned no lessons from this other than to maintain his obstructionist silence on the matter and have political cronies do the talking for him in an effort to strong-arm the court with their august credentials and connections. 

I have no doubt that Mr. Libby is a husband and father and, having seen him and his wife together on numerous occasions now, it was pretty clear to me when I was in DC that she cares for him a great deal.  But that is no basis on which to make a sentencing decision — and Judge Walton has been around the judicial block enough to know that.  The devil, as they say, is in the details and in this particular case, the details that we learned about Libby — from witness after witness, is that he is a meticulous planner, who has a laser focus when something catches his attention. 

And during the period in question, his attention was directed by his boss Dick Cheney, to whom he was and is fiercely loyal at the expense of any other consideration, to take that mouthy Joe Wilson down a peg or two, by whatever means were necessary including his wife.  The way to prove this cleanly in court was Libby's testimony, and the investigators working with Fitzgerald knew this — and knew that Cheney was smart enough to have severely limited his exposure in this by restricting his conversations on this matter to Libby, and having tasked Libby to take things from there.

At the heart of all of this mess is a fundamental question:  is a public official at that high level loyal to his political patron's interests, or the greater good of the nation, its national security, the rule of law and its Constitution?  The answer in Libby's case is that he was willing to break the law and take the risk of being caught and paying a steep price for that to sustain his loyalty to Cheney above country.

As such, he should pay the price that any such public official ought to pay:  to be sentenced in accordance with the law, with no allowance for leniency in the face of such a blatant disrespect for the legal process and the rule of law (unconscionable coming from a lawyer with his years of practice).  Just like any other American citizen.  I. Lewis Libby threw his reputation and his government service away at the behest of Dick Cheney.  He lied repeatedly under oath, to federal investigators and before a sworn grand jury.  He refused to acknowledge his full role and the facts behind it, and refuses to this day to accept responsibility or remorse for anything beyond being caught.

For that, he deserves a stiff sentence and an immediate remand to jail following sentencing.  Any other defendant in his shoes, without all the fancy connections, would face the same — and should.  Libby should be given no special treatment, because he has earned nothing less than that with his own behavior and his horrid choices.  As an officer of the court, Libby knew better — and I hope that Judge Walton reminds him of that fact on Tuesday.

(Photo of devil graffiti via Snowrunner.)

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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