There are so many things for our fellow citizens to be worrying about, Mr. Fitzgerald, that I am wondering when it is you are going to show you cards in the case of Joseph Wilson IV and his wife Valerie Plame. I should know better than to give an ounce of credibility to a federal prosecutor (or a state prosecutor for that matter) in a high-profile case where they can see themselves climbing the career ladder at the expense of truth and justice. I am chagrined because I came to believe that you and your team and the federal grand jury called in the Wilson/Plame case had seen a grave crime being committed that would endanger our national interest and national security.
What I’m now reading and hearing is that what you have come up with is, at best, a complaint against someone, perhaps not even in government, for having told one or more reporters that Plame was responsible for sending her husband to Niger to look for yellowcake, which she was not, and that she was a covert agent, which she clearly was not at the time. There are still some anti-war legal beagles who are splitting hairs, insisting she still fit the CIA’s definition of a covert agent — or the Justice Department would never have turned the case over to you if they didn’t think she was covert. But for you to chew up two years on these kinds of Mickey Mouse legalisms would be outrageous if this is all you have. John Tierney of the NYT calls this “Nadagate,” a zero, and that`s what it`s beginning to look like to me.
The public only needs to know from you who, if anyone, in the government knew a serious falsehood about yellowcake was inserted into the President’s 2003 State of the Union Speech, knowing the lie would elicit national support for a war that turned out to be unnecessary. And if you can’t clear that up, please do not ask the grand jury to issue a handful of indictments on the measly issue of Plame’s status at the CIA, only to justify the time you have wasted in this proceeding. If you not already read Frank Rich’s op-ed in yesterday’s NYTimes, I urge you to do so forthwith:
These attacks, too, are red herrings. Let me reiterate: This case is not about Joseph Wilson. This case is about Iraq, not Niger. The real victims are the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprit – the big enchilada, to borrow a 1973 John Ehrlichman phrase from the Nixon tapes – is not Mr. Rove but the gang that sent American sons and daughters to war on trumped-up grounds and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from fighting the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. That`s why the stakes are so high: this scandal is about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative who posed for Vanity Fair.
Frank Rich is exactly right, although I would not be as hard on Karl Rove as he is. In a previous public commentary, believing you were engaged in a serious effort that might lead to Rove being indicted for perjury, I actually allowed myself to think Rove might have done such a thing. Now I’ve had to apologize to Karl for even thinking he could have done such a thing, having discovered that he learned of Plame’s role from reporters and it was not the other way around. Time’s Matthew Cooper, writing in this week’s issue after finally testifying before your grand jury, reminds us of the old saw that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecuting attorney asks it to. There will surely be a temptation for you to do so rather than say ìWhoops, there is nothing here that deserves prosecution,î but please, counselor, make sure it is worthy of distracting the American people from the serious problems we are having at home and around the world.
In Matt Cooper’s concluding paragraph, he expresses the opinion of most of us when he says:
So did Rove leak Plame`s name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson`s wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the “agency” on “WMD”? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don`t know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I`m as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has.
Please, Mr. Fitzgerald, show your cards, asap.
JUDE WANNISKI is a former associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, expert on supply-side economics and founder of Polyconomics, which helps to interpret the impact of political events on financial markets.