Update on Wilson/Plame-White House incident

First off, I salute The Agonist (in the commending way, not the one-finger way) for its daily updates on what is going on with the Plame/Wilson story. Good job, lads.

I have not been putting in so many updates on this matter myself for several reasons, the main one being that news on substantive developments about the case has slowed down to a trickle. The articles floating around now are mostly of the recap and speculative variety. In this respect, I stand by most of the analyses and speculation I offered in the first few days after the CIA requested the investigation (one link here, another below, keep reading) - primarily that people at the highest levels of the Bush administration (and probably Bush himself at some point) were involved and that only a "real" investigation, preferably led by an independent investigator, would be able to do what Bush wants to see done so much and "get to the bottom of this".

But it is important for the media to stay on this. And stuff is coming out that deserves comment - especially when it allows me to give myself a good pat on the back. From today's Agonist roundup, we get this John Dean commentary, which also provides a good timeline of some major events in the case. Importantly, Dean points out that the "White House need not have leaked to have committed a crime":
...even if the White House was not initially involved with the leak, it has exploited it. As a result, it may have opened itself to additional criminal charges under the federal conspiracy statute.

This elegantly simple law has snared countless people working for, or with, the federal government. Suppose a conspiracy is in progress. Even those who come in later, and who share in the purpose of the conspiracy, can become responsible for all that has gone on before they joined. They need not realize they are breaking the law; they need only have joined the conspiracy.

Most likely, in this instance the conspiracy would be a conspiracy to defraud - for the broad federal fraud statute, too, may apply here. If two federal government employees agree to undertake actions that are not within the scope of their employment, they can be found guilty of defrauding the U.S. by depriving it of the "faithful and honest services of its employee." It is difficult to imagine that President Bush is going to say he hired anyone to call reporters to wreak more havoc on Valerie Plame. Thus, anyone who did so - or helped another to do so - was acting outside the scope of his or her employment, and may be open to a fraud prosecution.
Good to see Dean - a former counsel to the president (even if he was a crook) - backing up a similar argument I made last month. I'm not a lawyer, but I know the law. The question is: why doesn't the fucking president know it, or why doesn't he care?

In other news, a group of Democratic senators has criticized the investigation to date and renewed demands for an independent prosecutor. The criticisms include the advanced warning the White House was given about the investigation, the delay in ordering White House staffers to preserve possible evidence relating to the case, Gonzales' screening of materials before passing them on, and the clear conflict of interest that Ashcroft - a Bush appointee - has in leading the investigation.

It is a good bet that none of the information turned over to investigators will incriminate anyone in the Bush administration. That is, the White House almost certainly did not turn over all the relevant information (assuming it even still exists), which can also be expressed as the White House has almost certainly held back incriminating information. With Ashcroft at the helm, I do not see the possibility of these documents making it into the hands of the public or DoJ/FBI investigators. That means it is up to one of the people on the outside to provide the information on the leaker. But in the current intellectual/moral climate of the United States, I would not be hopeful on that score.

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