Sometimes the cover-up is worse than the crime, especially when the underlying crime is not really there. Put another way, Lewis Libby is an idiot (but we knew that).
Special Counsel Fitzgerald has made a filing in response to a motion to unseal the mysterious eight redacted pages from the Feb 15, 2005 court ruling that ultimately sent Judy Miller to jail.
And what, we all had wondered, was in those redacted pages that was of such significance that it could convince three judges to threaten reporters with jail? Surely this was where Fitzgerald had noted the highly classified information detailing the dire national security implications of the Plame outing, yes?
No. From the filing:
"After being served with the instant motion,the Special Counsel arranged for the classification review of the redacted portions of this Court’s February 15, 2005 opinion by the relevant agency. Based on that review, it has been determined that the redacted pages contain no references to information that is classified as of November 30, 2005. Thus, the presence of classified information no longer provides a reason for maintaining the secrecy of the redacted pages."
In fact, the redacted pages detailed (secret) grand jury testimony pointing to possible perjury/obstruction charges, and were cited by Judge Tatel to buttress the point that the testimony of Matt Cooper and Judy Miller was critical to advancing the case.
Not that long ago we argued that, regardless of her classifed status and one-time covert past, the national security implications of the Plame outing were almost certainly minimal. That was based on certain objective facts, such as the failure of the CIA to make a few phone calls to halt the publication of the Novak column.
A major caveat and wild card in that analysis was the eight redacted pages, whose importance seems to have faded.
But for old times sake, let's let Lawrence O'Donnell explain what those pages might have implied:
I’ll be surprised if all four of those elements of the crime [outing a covert agent under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act] line up perfectly for a Rove indictment. Surprised, not shocked. There is one very good reason to think they might. It is buried in one of the handful of federal court opinions that have come down in the last year ordering Matt Cooper and Judy Miller to testify or go to jail.
...Judge Tatel’s opinion has eight blank pages in the middle of it where he discusses the secret information the prosecutor has supplied only to the judges to convince them that the testimony he is demanding is worth sending reporters to jail to get. The gravity of the suspected crime is presumably very well developed in those redacted pages. Later, Tatel refers to “[h]aving carefully scrutinized [the prosecutor’s] voluminous classified filings.”
...Tatel’s colleagues are at least as impressed with the prosecutor’s secret filings as he is. One simply said “Special Counsel’s showing decides the case.”
All the judges who have seen the prosecutor’s secret evidence firmly believe he is pursuing a very serious crime, and they have done everything they can to help him get an indictment.
The astute Jane Hamsher was more succinct:
Does Fitzgerald have the nads to prosecute Rove et. al. as terrorists? Hell if I know, but I can say that the guy is a serious as a heart attack about national security -- his specialty is prosecuting terrorists, and if the eight redacted pages of Judge Tatel's decision to throw Jailhouse Judy in the slammer are any indication, much of Fitzgerald's inquiry is concerned with the breach of national security that her exposure and that of her CIA front company, Brewster-Jennings, may have caused.
Well, it was reasonable speculation at the time (and I'm glad I had company). So, what charges might Libby have faced if he had told the truth and taken his lumps? It looks like he will never know.
MORE: Jane Hamsher does the heavy lifting (and caffeinating) and delivers a very helpful cheat sheet.
Adam Liptak of the NY Times saves the national security implications for the closing paragraphs:
Floyd Abrams, who represented Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper before the appeals court, said Mr. Fitzgerald's filing was significant for the light it shed on the inquiry's progress.
"The revelation," Mr. Abrams said, "that Mr. Fitzgerald advised the court as early as the spring and fall of 2004 that his focus on Mr. Libby related not to potential threats to national security but to possible violations of perjury and related laws raises anew the question of whether the need for the testimony of Judy Miller and Matt Cooper was at all as critical as had been suggested."