Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Fall Guy

Scooter Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, is facing a long stretch in jail after he was found guilty of lying to investigators looking into the leaking of a CIA agent's name. As seems to be the case in most political scandals, he wasn't done for actually leaking Valerie Plame's identity (to try to discredit her husband, and critic of the intelligence basis for the Iraq war, Joseph Wilson), but for the cover-up that followed.

Although unknown outside politics before all this blew up, Libby was a pretty major player in the Bush administration. As one of the original signatories to the neo-conservative Project for the New American Century, he and his friends are essentially to blame for a lot of bad foreign policy decisions over the last few years. But despite his power and influence, Libby's still been set up as a scapegoat for some even more powerful and influential people above him.

His boss Cheney probably orchestrated the campaign to leak the name. President Bush's top political advisor Karl Rove was among others who gave it to journalists. The only reason they were never likely to be in the frame was because the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald didn't want to take on a really big fish, only to lose when it came to court.

That Fitzgerald has only been able to put Libby away for lying rather than leaking proves that was probably a sensible decision on his part. Fitzgerald's reputation was at stake just as much as Libby's. Now he can turn his attention to someone he seems more confident he's got the goods on - Conrad Black. The ex-media tycoon's fraud trial, with Fitzgerald prosecuting, begins in Chicago next week.

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