Richard Cohen decided to answer reader questions about his recent column in defense of Scooter Libby.

First, let me state that Cohen’s reasoning is all over the place. He’s mad that Judith Miller went to jail and that reporters had to give up their sources. He thinks that Libby is being punished because the war didn’t go well. He insists that outing an undercover CIA officer is not a crime and is just part of the way the game is played. He thinks that a Republican AG, a Republican prosecutor, and a Republican appointed judge were all part of a Democratic political vendetta.

Forget for a minute that Richard Cohen is an idiot. He’s somehow missed the entire point of this dispute. Dick Cheney and Scooter Libby wanted intelligence from the intelligence community (including the CIA) that could be used to justify a war with Iraq. They weren’t getting it. So they started going over to headquarters and bullying the analysts. They still didn’t get what they wanted, so the set up the Special Plans unit in the Pentagon to stovepipe intelligence that they wanted. They set up the White House Iraq Group to push this bogus information into the media. And, then, when the intel turned out to be bogus, they blamed the CIA, forced George Tenet to take the blame, and outed one of his officers in retaliation.

This has not been a political vendetta. It has been a departmental vendetta. Libby messed with the CIA. The CIA messed with Libby. I have no idea how Richard Cohen could have missed this.

Scooter Libby’s champions, people who think he’s deserving of a pardon, feel he’s the victim of a poltiical vendetta, and if the war had been over when George Bush landed on an aircraft carrier, Libby wouldn’t hasve been indicted — the war was still popular. The unpopularity of the war drove the push for a special prosecutor to find out who the leaker was.

No, no, no. The unpopularity of the war didn’t become strong until well after the appointment of Patrick Fitzgerald. What drove the push for a special prosecutor was the fact that the CIA was irate that they were being blamed for there being no WMD’s in Iraq and that one of their officers had had her career ruined. And ruining the career of a CIA officer is a crime, whether Fitzgerald charged anyone with that, or not.

Another point I’m going to make here should be obvious but evidently is not. It’s true that Richard Armitage leaked Valerie Wilson’s employment to Bob Woodward and Bob Novak. It’s true that he was the first person to do it. But until Novak published his stupid article, it was still a crime for anyone else to leak that information. In other words, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby still committed a crime. Their only defense would be if they didn’t know she was a non-official cover covert officer in charge of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. That is what Fitzgerald needed to prove if he was going to charge them. He didn’t feel he could prove that in Rove’s case and in Libby’s case he found that 30 months in prison for obstruction of justice, perjury, and false statements would ‘vindicate the public interest’ in punishing the leak.

You have to ask your self what was Joe Wilson thinking? Did he really think he could write a column in the New York Times without risking blowing the cover of his wife? I find that hard to believe.

I know it is hard to believe now, but back then it wasn’t clear that the Bush administration would burn a highly trained operative just to win a news cycle.

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