The conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to the FBI confirms the suspicions that millions of Americans have had for years about the lawlessness of this administration.
And the focus of the Libby trial on a particular aspect of that lawlessness — the determination of the administration to punish critics of the manipulation of intelligence to make the “case” for invading and occupying Iraq – means that these convictions go to the heart of the current debates about how to end that war and about how to hold those responsible for it to account.
Make no mistake about what has happened: An essential member of the Bush-Cheney administration has been convicted of attempting to undermine a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into scheming by the vice president and others to punish former Ambassador Joe Wilson for revealing that statements made before the start of the war by the president and others were in conflict with intelligence that had been provided to the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, got it right when he said: “It’s about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics.”
Reid got it right, as well, when he said, “(The Libby) trial revealed deeper truths about Vice President Cheney’s role in this sordid affair. Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.”
But Reid and other Congressional leaders have their own responsibilities now.
The Libby trial revealed stunning details about Cheney’s direct and aggressive involvement to attack Wilson. In the course of the trial, it was revealed by Catherine J. Martin, who served as the vice president’s top press aide in 2003, that Cheney dictated detailed “talking points” for Libby, and others on how they could impugn Wilson’s credibility
The vice president ordered press aides to closely track press coverage of Wilson and ordered Libby to begin making behind-the-scenes contacts with reporters covering the story. So engaged with the “get-Wilson” initiative was Cheney that, while he and Libby were traveling on Air Force Two, the vice president personally prepared materials to be slipped to a Time magazine reporter who was on the story.
That level of involvement by the vice president in an effort to discredit a former ambassador of the United States who was participating legally and appropriately in a national debate about how the war in Iraq began begs the question: Will Cheney be held to account?