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|BUSH ERASES LIBBY'S PRISON SENTENCE, LEAVES FINE INTACT
TOP DEMOCRATS SAY COMMUTING PRISON SENTENCE IS ABUSE OF POWER, APPEARS TO CONDONE ILLEGAL ACTIVITY THAT PROTECTED VP
3 July 2007
Pressured for months to pardon Libby by hard-line voices in the conservative establishment, Pres. Bush opted to commute the 30-month prison sentence, leaving the former vice-presidential aide with a $250,000 fine. Libby was convicted of lying to federal prosecutors and obstruction of justice for his actions during the investigation of the leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
While the law barring such acts was a jewel in the crown of pro-state-secret conservatives, and the leak itself, for its category, was once classified by the elder Pres. Bush as the most despicable a government agent could commit, conservatives have rallied around Libby as an unfairly targeted scapegoat, and have called for his pardon. Pres. Bush appears to have taken the middle road, using constitutional powers to free his vice president's former chief of staff, but going so far as to reverse the jury verdict.
Critics immediately heaped scorn on the action, saying it was a flagrant abuse of power and that it shows an consistent effort to reward those who violate the law in order to protect top officials who may be implicated in ongoing criminal probes. Others said it demonstrated that the White House believes it is "above the law".
Sen. majority leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Libby conviction had been "the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq War. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone". He also called the commutation "disgraceful" and promised that ongoing investigations would continue to seek to impose accountability on top officials.
Republicans, like Rep. Roy Blunt, said the commutation was necessary and welcome. They termed the prison sentence of 30 months "excessive", though Libby could have faced a much longer sentence, and have repeatedly described Libby as "a good man" who had done years of "service to his country".
No other convictions have emerged from the investigation into the leak of Plame's undercover status to the press, though then deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage has said he was responsible. Prosecutors opted not to file charges against those allegedly responsible for the actual leak. [s]
The case was complex and convoluted, and risked jeopardizing numerous fundamental values of American liberty and jurisprudence. One reporter was sent to prison and many were subpoenaed and forced to give up their sources. But special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has said the case is now closed, though no one has been charged with the leak of classified information itself. [Full Story]
COURT FILING CITES 'CONCERTED EFFORT' TO ATTACK CRITICS
Regardless of whether the president or the vice president have done anything illegal, it is now clear that they were both involved in deliberately using classified national security information to smear a critic of their Iraq policy. This contradicts statements made as recently as last week which suggest that the president opposed any such use of sensitive information for personal or political gain. [Full Story]
PRES. BUSH LINKED TO LEAK OF INFORMATION TO PRESS
As the case against Lewis "Scooter" Libby proceeds, for violating the federal law prohibiting the disclosure of the classified identities of undercover agents, he has reportedly testified to a grand jury that Pres. Bush was directly involved in the leaking of other information to the press. The information emerges from a court filing by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, citing testimony given during grand jury proceedings. [Full Story]
LIBBY CHARGED WITH PERJURY, OBSTRUCTION, RESIGNS
The office of the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, investigating the leaking of the classified identity of an undercover CIA agent, announced Friday a 5-count indictment [PDF] against Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby. Libby was charged on 1 count of obstruction of justice, 2 counts of making false statements and two counts of perjury. [Full Story]