Judy Miller writes on the Libby Pardon. She tells us that she believes Libby was the victim of an overzealous prosecutor (who knew?). She describes her ex post probing:
The first thing I learned was that John Rizzo, the CIA’s former general counsel and an agency lawyer for over 30 years, disputed prosecutor Fitzgerald’s assertion that Valerie Plame had been a super-secret covert agent, not well known outside of the intelligence community, and that the leak of her name had caused grave, if unspecified, harm to America’s national security. Rizzo told me in an interview and subsequently wrote in his own book [link to review] that “dozens, if not hundreds of people in Washington” knew that Plame worked for the CIA. Even more significantly, he said, a CIA damage assessment of the leak had produced “no evidence” that her outing had harmed any CIA operation, any agent in the field, or “anyone else, including Plame herself.” I also learned that the CIA assessment had been finished in late 2003 or early 2004, long before Libby was indicted or I went to jail. Though Fitzgerald knew this, Rizzo’s crucial CIA finding became public only after his book was published. But if the leak had caused no national security harm, why had Fitzgerald continued the inquiry?
First, as to the "no notable damage assessment", who knew? Well, not to say 'I told you so', but plenty of people. Back in October 2005 (following a Fitzgerald press conference) Andrea Mitchell and Bob Woodward reported simultaneously on what sounds just like the assessment Rizzo described. The Woodward version:
WOODWARD: ... They did a damage assessment within the CIA, looking at what this did that Joe Wilson's wife was outed. And turned out it was quite minimal damage. They did not have to pull anyone out undercover abroad. They didn't have to resettle anyone. There was no physical danger to anyone and there was just some embarrassment.
So people have kind of compared -- somebody was saying this was Aldridge James or Bob Hanson, big spies. This didn't cause damage.
Six months later WaPo reporter Dana Priest, who picked up a Pulitzer for busting open the CIA secret prisons, offered this:
Valley Forge, Pa.: Hi Dana,
Thanks for doing these chats.
Now we are reading that Valerie Plame was involved with tracking nuclear proliferation/capabilities in Iran. Isn't this old news? (I seem to remember reading this same thing quite a while ago in the MSM - I don't generally read blogs)
From what you hear, was Ms. Plame working on Iran, how important was she to the tracking efforts, and how much has her "outing" really set us back?
Dana Priest: It was reported before that she worked on proliferation issues for the CIA. The leap in this new round of information is that her outing significantly impacted our current intel on Iran. I don't buy it. First, no one person who quit clandestine work four years ago is going to make that big of a dent in current knowledge. But also, nothing like this came up at the time of her outing and I believe it would have. Think we need some actual details. At present it just doesn't smell right.
The Rizzo no-damage assessment should not have been news
So why had Fitzgerald continued the inquiry? Ah, well! With the passage of time we have learned a lot about the in-house rebellion faced by Cheney and Bush in late 2003. Yoo had been replaced by Goldsmith as head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the DoJ. Goldsmith withdrew the legal opinions supporting the enhanced interrogation program and was gravely concerned with the warrantless surveillance program.
The famous hospital room showdown with Bushmen Card and Gonzalez, Acting AG Comey and recused, sick AG Ashcroft took place in March 2004. Right on the same timeline in December 2003 was the appointment by Comey of Fitzgerald, ostensibly to investigate "the truth" about the Plame leak but really (IMHO) to Get Cheney.
Cheney lost those fights and played a diminished role in Bush's second term, so Mission Accomplished (that's an ironic Bush-era reference, not a triumphalist Trump-era reference. or vice versa. Confusing, amirite?)
The contemporary parallels are obvious. The Hillary non-investigation was only sought by one side, the party not controlling the Executive Branch. Obama, Lynch at al threw grants of immunity like rice at a wedding, publicly and pre-emptively exonerated Hillary and eventually uncovered, geez, no crimes worth prosecuting. Imagine our surprise!
By way of contrast, the investigation into Trump has bipartisan support, since, as with Cheney, some establishment Republicans are on board. Well, it is Trump and the allegations are eye-catching. Still, as an ongoing phenomenon, the 'if you can't vote 'em out, cuff 'em and drag 'em out' doesn't seem like the ideal model of democracy in action.