Michael Barone joins the call for a pardon of Scooter Libby and makes this point:
The investigation purportedly was an attempt to discover who had told Robert Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA "operative" (Novak's word). But prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew before the investigation began that the leaker was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. It is astonishing that Armitage and his friend and boss Secretary of State Colin Powell didn't inform Bush of this and allowed two of his top aides, Libby and Karl Rove, to be harassed by Fitzgerald for months and years.
Hmm, how astonishing is it? Certainly its surprising if one accepts the pretense that Fitzgerald was investigating the sources of the Plame leak. However, he wasn't - his diligent gumshoes apparently never thought to check the appointment calendar of confessed leaker Richard Armitage. Had they done so, they might have thought to ask him about his chat with Bob Woodward on June 13 2003 and avoided subsequent unpleasant surprises.
A better way to understand Special Counsel Fitzgerald's role is to connect it to the Justice Department uprising against Vice President Cheney and his counsel David Addington that surfaced most dramatically with the famous hospital showdown with Ashcroft, Comey, Gonzalez and Card over the NSA warrantless surveillance program. Let's just add a few dates to this helpful Emptywheel timeline of the NSA program:
June 2003: John Yoo leaves his position at OLC.
October 3, 2003: Jack Goldsmith confirmed as head of OLC.
Mid-November 2003, Goldsmith to Ashcroft: draft memo, Review of Legality of the [NSA] Program
December 11, 2003: Comey appointed Deputy AG.
March 3 or 4, 2004: Ashcroft and Comey agree they cannot recertify the NSA domestic spying program.
March 4, 2004: Ashcroft hospitalized with pancreatitis.
March 10 2004: The hospital confrontation between Comey and Gonzales and Card.
Bearing in mind that John Yoo had become Cheney's man at Justice, let's add some dates:
Sept 26-28 2003: Andrea Mitchell followed by the WaPo break the news of the criminal referral of the Plame leak.
Dec 30, 2003: Ashcroft recuses himself in favor of Deputy Atty. Gen. Comey from Plame investigation; Comey appoints Fitzgerald as Special Counsel.
And away they went - Fitzgerald was a helpful torpedo in the water dropped towards the USS Cheney. Not without reason, of course - Libby's story to the FBI certainly seemed a bit of a stretch. But Fitzgerald's primary goal in this DoJ uprising was to poke at Libby's story and entangle Dick Cheney, not to determine whether Richard Armitage or Colin Powell had engaged in a bit of harmless gossip.
Just for example, Fitzgerald was intent on not investigating or hearing from Andrea Mitchell, who had been reporting various angles to the Niger-uranium story, had talked to Joe Wilson, had a public spat with Armitage when he stopped returning her calls in July 2003, and had counted Colin Powell among the guests at her wedding. Oh, yes, and she admitted to having been aware of the Wilson and wife story. But there was nothing to investigate there.