Fred Thompson: The Great White Dope
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This post, written by Mark Kleiman, originally appeared on The Huffington Post
Fred Thompson hasn't been a real prosecutor for 35 years, but he plays one on TV. You might think he'd be careful about slandering a real prosecutors' prosecutor on behalf of a convicted perjurer. But you'd be wrong.
Ol' Fred may yet regret allowing his name to be used as a member of the Advisory Board of the Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust. I'm not sure, but to ordinary folks that may look like "Arthur Branch" is just a mite too cozy inside the Beltway.
As you may recall, for some inexplicable reason, the CIA sent the husband of one of its employees to Niger on a sensitive mission. She had suggested it. He came back to the U.S. and proceeded to publicly blast the administration. Naturally, everyone wanted to know "who is this guy?" and "why was he sent to Niger?" Just as naturally, the fact that he was married to Valerie Plame at the CIA was leaked.
Having virtually guaranteed that Ms. Plame's identity would be ultimately disclosed by using her, shall we say, "politically active" husband, the CIA then demanded that this leak of her name be investigated by the Justice Department for a possible violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
The Justice Department, bowing to political and media pressure, appointed a Special Counsel to investigate the leak and promised that the Justice Department would exercise no supervision over him whatsoever -- a status even the Attorney General does not have.
The only problem with this little scenario was that there was no violation of the law, by anyone, and everybody -- the CIA, the Justice Department and the Special Counsel knew it. Ms. Plame was not a "covered person" under the statute and it was obvious from the outset.
Furthermore, Justice and the Special Counsel knew who leaked Plames's name and it wasn't Scooter Libby . But the Beltway machinery was well oiled and geared up so the Special Counsel spent the next two years moving heaven and earth to come up with something, anything. Finally he came up with some inconsistent recollections by Scooter Libby, who had been up to his ears studying National Intelligence Estimates. But he worked for Dick Cheney, so that apparently was enough for the special counsel.
I didn't know Scooter Libby, but I did know something about this intersection of law, politics, special counsels and intelligence. And it was obvious to me that what was happening was not right. So I called him to see what I could do to help, and along the way we became friends. You know the rest of the story: a D.C. jury convicted him.
Mark Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy in the UCLA School of Public Affairs. He teaches courses on methods of policy analysis and on drug abuse and crime control policy.