Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Plame wars

via American Prospect Online:

Murray Waas reports developments in the DOJ Plame investigation, though even he is reduced to speculation as to what it means.

The special prosecutor investigating whether any Bush administration official may have violated federal law by leaking the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak recently informed a federal court that his investigation has been “for all practical purposes complete” since October 2004.

The disclosure by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that he completed virtually all aspects of his federal grand jury investigation as long as six months ago was made in court papers the prosecutor filed on March 22. Despite the fact that the filing has been on the public record since then, it has previously been unreported.

I know I sleep easier at night knowing that the press is busy sleeping during the day. It seems that even the prospective jailing of two of their own is not enought to persuade reporters to do any, you know, reporting.

The fact that the special prosecutor has completed his investigation, albeit absent the testimony of the two reporters he still wants to call before his grand jury, on its face makes it more likely than not that Fitzgerald will not bring criminal charges in the case. But at least one former federal prosecutor (who worked closely with Fitzgerald in government and is now in private practice) says there should be no rush to judgment.

Referring to the contentious battle to obtain the testimony of the two reporters, this person said: “[Fitzgerald] would not have done this, and put everyone through it, without good reason. And he would have not just done this just to close out to case. He is meticulous and careful to a fault, and wants his work to be complete. But I doubt he would be going through all of this to just wrap up some loose ends.”

Neither Fitzgerald nor two of his deputy special counsels -- Peter R. Zeidenberg and James Fleissner -- responded to telephone messages seeking comment for this article. Fitzgerald has been particularly adept at keeping his cards close to vest, with few if any substantial leaks emanating from his office regarding the course of his criminal investigation.

And no one's lips have been tighter than Bob Novak's. Did he sing? Was he even asked to?

In the meantime, it is still unclear whether Novak has cooperated with Fitzgerald’s investigation, or even whether he testified to the grand jury. Novak has steadfastly refused to answer any questions about what he might or might not have done. He did not return phone calls for comment for this article.

But it seems inconceivable that Fitzgerald would have concluded most of his probe months ago, four current and former federal prosecutors said in interviews, without attempting to obtain Novak’s cooperation or testimony. Says one: “He is the one you would want to hear from.”

Floyd Abrams, the well-known First Amendment attorney who is representing The New York Times and Time in the Plame matter, told me: “In his motion, [Fitzgerald] represented that he is finished, except for the testimony of my clients. I don’t think he could say to the court that he is at that point unless he has already heard from Novak.”

In a just world, we would all be allowed to watch Novak elocute the way we had to watch Clinton's blow job deposition. And somebody in the White House would be doing hard time for outing a CIA agent for sport.


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