Saturday, October 29, 2005

Daily Kos: Will There Be More Indictments?

A pardon for continuing down the path of Plame that I began over the past few days, but I've been following this story for more than 2 years and it's just frankly shocked me that something that seemed...well, not innocent, but rather commonplace in the misdeeds of this Administration, has blown up into what it has: a potential regime killer. Amazing, indeed.

Anyway, Hunter on Daily Kos has a nice piece up today on what the chances are of any more indictments, what the investigation may have uncovered, Libby's role in obstructing the view into the motives of the Administration (which seems obvious to me, but of course they need a high level of evidence to lay charges, especially in such a high-profile case), and what Libby's trial may mean to the possibility of further indictments. Great, great read. Here's a sample:

Will There Be More Indictments?
by Hunter
Fri Oct 28, 2005 at 10:44:56 PM PDT

I've been playing things close to the chest, at the moment, content to post the various sometimes-well-sourced, sometimes-questionably-sourced reporting of various outlets. But the obvious question on everyone's mind is this: will we see more indictments?

That's a very, very difficult question. More difficult than I think the vast majority of people -- in the media, in the punditry, and on the blogs, and on both sides of the partisan divide -- are giving proper credit. The only proper answer is maybe, and anyone laying out odds in either direction is almost certain to be burned.

To shoot down a talking point: Fitzgerald has said, both a year ago and today, that the vast bulk of the investigation is over. There is no reason to doubt his word. However, saying that the investigation is largely over is not the same thing as saying the potential implications of that investigation are over.

From the text of the indictment itself -- and I, like everyone else, have been going over it with a finetooth comb -- it is very clear that the investigation was able to drill down into who knew what, and when, and in front of who, with perhaps more accuracy than the White House was willing to give them credit for. Fitzgerald has a very good idea of the surrounding facts of the case. He also, from reading between the lines of the indictment, has excellent witnesses as to the motives of various officials. And that likely happened very early in the investigation.

What Fitzgerald is saying, and no doubt correctly, is that the investigation has uncovered the facts of the case. But he also said, today, in no uncertain terms, that Libby's repeated obstruction has hampered further efforts to explore the underlying legality of the actions being investigated. He asserted quite clearly that the obstruction in this case has hindered investigative attempts to determine the applicability of statutes to those underlying, already known actions.

That's both an end to the investigation, and a fuse. It means the investigation is over, for the purposes of determining necessary motives and nuances of knowledge required by the IIPA or Espionage Act... unless something else comes along. And the tricky thing is that, in gathering evidence and testimony for public trial, the odds are very, very good that a "something else" may indeed appear. Indeed, the thoroughness of the indictment itself would seem to suggest that there is much, much more evidence perhaps not directly applicable to this indictment in the hands of the special counsel. How much of the rest of it may surface?

The indictment makes a compelling case that Libby himself was the (an?) original leaker, to Miller and others. But it only barely touches on what made other White House officials call other reporters in an attempt to maximize the damage of the leak. Are those actions by other White House officials crimes? Fitzgerald seemed to argue fairly openly that Libby's false testimony was a major factor in obstructing special counsel efforts to analyze any of those actions and find out.

Most importantly, Fitzgerald broadly suggested today -- through his "baseball" analogy and other statements -- that Libby's obstruction was most damaging to determining the intent of the White House leaks, and whether or not Plame's classified status was explicitly known by Libby and others at the time they made their statements, which likely pertains to not only the IIPA, but also to Espionage Act based charges. It seems hardly credible that Libby, and the others did not know that the information was classified, given the apparent sources of the information, unless we imagine a scenario in which classified information was routinely widely distributed and mishandled by the upper levels of the White House. Unfortunately, given what we already know about the handling of intelligence in this administration, that scenario does not necessarily seem farfetched.

The White House is largely forced -- though as of yet, remarkably few reporters are actually calling them on the implications of this defense -- to rely on a defense of wholesale, administration-wide incompetence in the handling of Plame's classified status, in which none of the administration figures with reporter contacts were aware of the provenance of the information they were so methodically sharing.

That's the defense. It's either widespread incompetence in the mishandling of a piece of highly classified information, or an overt conspiracy to distribute that classified information. So at this point, they're going with incompetence.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:42 AM