There really isn’t much to say about this, if you adhere to the notion
that if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at
of vice presidential aide I. Lewis Libby last week had little to do
with the core allegations in the CIA leak affair, but it said something
big about American law. Perjury and obstruction of justice are about
basic citizen obligations to speak truthfully under oath and, at least,
not create barriers to official investigations.
Beyond that, this trial exposed a reprisal mentality in the office of
Vice President Dick Cheney, an overzealotry in pursuit of a political
attacker. Libby, then-chief of staff to Mr. Cheney, wanted to strike
back at former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV who in 2003 had published
in the New York Times a scathing criticism of the administration’s
basis for invading Iraq. Libby’s conversations with reporters about Mr.
Wilson and his CIA-employee wife Valerie Plame — specifically whether
Libby was truthful in speaking with FBI investigators and a grand jury
– became the meat of the trial. The 11-person jury believed the
journalists’ version of those talks.
And that judgment deserves the respect of the country and certainly
should be a reminder of the seriousness of any citi-
zen’s obligations when speaking under oath. That’s despite the fact
that the scandal upon which this trial developed was hollow. A
bipartisan Senate inquiry in 2004 found that Mr. Wilson’s now-famous
op-ed article was false — that his report to the CIA did not dispute
British claims, cited by President Bush, that Iraq was seeking uranium
there but actually supported that conclusion. The claim that Mr.
Wilson’s wife was a covert CIA agent and was outed by Libby’s leaks was
similarly unfounded. She worked in an open CIA role, so disclosure of
her identity was no crime. In any case, that information came to a
newspaper column not from Libby but from a State Department official,
So there was no crime at the center of this affair. Arguably, the case
never should have come to trial. But there was a duty for Lewis Libby
to be truthful to investigators. The jury’s judgment that he didn’t, at
least for now, has to be the nation’s conclusion as well.