October 13, 2005
Message to Patrick Fitzgerald:
The best thing
Patrick Fitzgerald could do for his country is get out of Washington,
return to Chicago and prosecute some real criminals. As it is,
all he has done so far is send Judith Miller of The New York
Times to jail and repeatedly haul this or that high administration
official before a grand jury, investigating a crime that probably
wasn't one in the first place but which now, as is often the case,
might have metastasized into some sort of cover up -- but, again,
of nothing much. Go home, Pat.
crime involves the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative whose
husband, Joseph Wilson IV, had gone to Africa at the behest of
the agency and therefore said he knew that the Bush administration
-- no, actually, the president himself -- had later misstated
(in the State of the Union address, yet) the case that Iraq had
sought uranium in Niger.
his case in a New York Times op-ed piece. This rocked
the administration, which was already fighting to retain its credibility
in the face of mounting and irrefutable evidence that the case
it had made for war in Iraq -- WMD, above all -- was a fiction.
So it set out to impeach Wilson's credibility, purportedly answering
the important question of who had sent him to Africa in the first
place: his wife. This was a clear case of nepotism, the leakers
just as clearly implied.
but it was what Washington does day in and day out. (For some
historical perspective see George Clooney's ``Good Night, and
Good Luck'' about Edward R. Murrow and that most odious of leakers-cum-character
assassins, Joseph McCarthy.) This is rarely considered a crime.
In the Plame case, it might technically be one, but it was not
the intent of anyone to out a CIA agent and have her assassinated
(which is what happened once) but to assassinate the character
of her husband. This is an entirely different thing. She got hit
by a ricochet.
Now we are
told by various journalistic sources that Fitzgerald might not
indict anyone for breaking the law he was authorized to investigate,
but some other one -- maybe one concerning the disclosure of secret
material. Here again, though, this is a daily occurrence in Washington
where most secrets have the shelf life of sashimi. Then, too,
other journalists say that Fitzgerald might bring conspiracy charges,
an attempt (or so it seems) to bring charges of some sort. This
is what special prosecutors do and why they should always be avoided.
(The one impaneled in 1995 to investigate then-HUD Secretary Henry
G. Cisneros for lying about how much he was paying his mistress
is still in operation, although the mistress most certainly is
I have no
idea what Fitzgerald will do. My own diligent efforts to find
out anything have come to naught. Fitzgerald's non-speaking
spokesman would not even tell me if his boss is authorized to
issue a report, as several members of Congress are now demanding
-- although Joseph E. diGenova, a former U.S. attorney in Washington,
tells me that only a possibly unprecedented court order would
permit it. Whatever the case, I pray Fitzgerald is not going to
reach for an indictment or, after so much tumult, merely fold
his tent, not telling us, among other things, if Judith Miller
is the martyr to a free press that I and others believe she is
or whether, as some lefty critics hiss, she's a double-dealing
grandstander, in the manner of some of her accusers.
at stake here than bringing down Karl Rove or some other White
House apparatchik, or even settling some score with Miller who,
by herself, is sometimes accused of taking this nation to war
in Iraq. The greater issue is control of information. If anything
good comes out of the Iraq War, it has to be a realization that
bad things can happen to good people when the administration --
any administration -- is in sole control of knowledge and those
who know the truth are afraid to pipe up. This -- this creepy
silence -- will be the consequence of dusting off rarely used
statutes to still the tongues of leakers and intimidate the press
in its pursuit of truth, fame and choice restaurant tables. Apres
Miller, comes moi.
why I want Fitzgerald to leave now. Do not bring trivial charges
-- nothing about conspiracies, please -- and nothing about official
secrets, most of which are known to hairdressers, mistresses and
dog walkers all over town. Please, Mr. Fitzgerald, there's so
much crime in Washington already. Don't commit another.
2005, Washington Post Writers Group