Saturday, December 17, 2005

Quick, Watson, The Game Is Afoot!

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a famous British novelist. His prolific works include crime and science fiction, non-fiction, historical novels, romances, plays and poetry. Four novels and fifty-six detective stories featured the legendary sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and his arch nemesis, professor Moriarty. The thrilling plots always thickened when Holmes turned to his trusted companion, Dr. John Watson, and said: "Quick, Watson, the game is afoot!" Today, we're witnessing a real-life enactment of a Conan Doyle crime novel with the indictment of I. Lewis Libby.

Irving Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, was indicted on October 28, 2005. In a dramatic press conference, special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald outlined the charges. The five felony counts were: one for obstruction of justice; two for perjury and two for making false statements. Libby faces a maximum of 30 years in jail and a $1.25 million dollar fine.

Patrick J. Fitzgerald was born into a working-class Irish-Catholic family in Flatbush, Brooklyn. His father was a Manhattan doorman. He attended a Catholic grammar school and Regis Jesuit high school. He received degrees in economics and mathematics from Amherst college and a JD from Harvard law school. After practicing civil law, he became an assistant US attorney in New York City. He assisted in the prosecution of Mafia don, John Gotti. In 1994, he prosecuted the case against Sheikh Omar and eleven others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In 1996, he served on a team of prosecutors investigating Osama bin Laden. And on October 24, 2001, he was confirmed by the senate for the post of US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Fitzgerald is known for his vigorous, impartial and largely leak-free investigations into corruption. This should come as no surprise. Since his December 2003 appointment as Special Counsel in the Valerie Plame affair, he's conducted the entire investigation before the grand jury in complete silence. Fitzgerald's secrecy was very unnerving to George Bush and his masters of deceit.

It's interesting to note none of the counts against "Scooter" Libby was directly related to the outing of Valerie Plame's name and CIA position. Instead, they're about lying to impede and mislead the grand jury. The scrupulous wording of the indictment indicates Fitzgerald understands the complex nature of this crime. Obviously, he felt the circumstantial evidence was insufficient to press criminal charges for the Plame leak. So, he settled for the next best thing: peeling the artichoke to get at the heart of the crime.

In order to expose the actual leaker, Fitzgerald chose an old prosecutor's tactic. He selected a secondary figure to go after first. "Scooter" Libby didn't commit the crime, but he probably knows who did. The very fact he lied repeatedly to the grand jury is strong evidence he knows where the bodies are buried. Further, it means he's confident he'll receive protection in the form of a presidential pardon. This gambit may backfire because the president's approval numbers are very low. And any presidential pardon in this case would expose Republican lawmakers to political retribution.

There's no sign Libby will turn state's evidence to plea bargain a lighter verdict (like John Dean did during Watergate). Unfortunately, his unbending loyalty may seal his fate. Libby is 55 years old. A 30-year sentence is equivalent to the death penalty. This puts him under enormous pressure to tell the truth. There's no guarantee he'll receive a pardon and presidents have been known to develop instant amnesia. He still has to testify in open trial. And any additional lies he tells will simply pile more perjury and contempt of court charges onto his sentence. Under these circumstances, it appears Libby has no choice. He either cooperates with Fitzgerald, without waiver protection, or he falls upon his sword.

In February 2004, acting attorney general James B. Comey delegated plenary authority to Fitzgerald. As special counsel, he's permitted to prosecute the Plame case with the full authority of the US attorney general's office. He'll need every ounce of that power because the Bush mob will fight him savagely to the bitter end. This case is about much more than determining who outed a CIA agent. Ultimately, it's about executive privilege and presidential abuse. The Plame case is directly related to the Iraq war and the lies George Bush told to start it. Bush's treasonous war crimes are so vast they make Watergate seem like a tea party.

The media are happy to give "Poppy" Bush a free pass regarding the sins of his son. This is patently ridiculous. If a parent accepts praise when a child does well, then that same parent should be blamed when the results are clearly disastrous. The press never tires from repeating Dubya's retort he receives his marching orders from a higher power, as if he ignores his natural father's advice. In 1991, Poppy Bush refused to send the troops on to Baghdad not because of some balance of power or humanitarian reason. He passed on this option because of uncertainty. It was unknown whether Saddam Hussein would use the chem/bio weapons we sold him, as a last resort. The risk of losing thousands of soldiers in a chem/bio massacre was too great. When a myriad inspections determined Iraq was defenseless, it set the stage for the second Iraq war. This hard evidence condemns Dubya's invasion and occupation of Iraq as a crime against humanity. Bush used the approval of a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, to guarantee the safety of US troops when they invaded Iraq and mass murdered its citizenry. A greater crime is unimaginable. And there's ample reason to suggest Poppy Bush subscribed to this madness. As the Bush family head, it's impossible to believe Poppy Bush would let his son start a war without weighing the consequences to the family and submitting his explicit endorsement. The Plame case is just the tip of this evil iceberg.

In a court motion on November 15, 2005, Patrick Fitzgerald filed a request to empanel a second grand jury. Rumor has it he intends to indict Karl Rove for the Valerie Plame leak. BushRove responded with their own rumors. Vice president Dick Cheney hinted he may resign early next year with his position going to Condoleezza Rice. At about the same time, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld may be asked to resign. Democratic senator Joe Lieberman seems to be the replacement frontrunner. This may explain why Bush kissed Lieberman after his State of the Union Address last January. This means BushRove planned several fallback positions as early as a year ago. There's no definitive word yet who might fill Karl Rove's shoes.

This strategy is brilliant. With the above resignations, Bush could claim he cleaned house just before the mid-term congressional elections next year. With replacement of Rumsfeld with Lieberman, he could claim he was reaching out to the Democrats for help solving the Iraq problem. Lastly, the replacement of Cheney with Rice would serve as political insurance against impeachment, if the Democrats seized the majority in either house. This ploy is reminiscent of Poppy Bush tapping Dan Quayle for vice president. Poppy Bush chose Quayle purely for impeachment insurance against an investigation into his criminal activities during the Iran/contra affair. The story goes: If you impeach me, look who'll become president. Moreover, this replacement gimmick would allow Cheney to leave (or abruptly pass away, like CIA director Bill Casey) before a full accounting of his actions in the Plame affair took place.

Patrick Fitzgerald has a monumental task ahead of him. It appears this young, Elliot Ness-type investigator has the tools and temperament to carry the day. He's fearless in the face of raw political power. And his blue-collar Catholic roots and innate distaste of elite criminality will spur him on. America faces the greatest treat to its survival since the Civil war. Our fate lies in the firm hands of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. Quick, Watson, the game is afoot!

Franklin L. Johnson


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