Saturday, July 09, 2005

Frank Rich on the Plame Investigation: Worse than Watergate

Go read Frank Rich's latest in the New York Times.

WHEN John Dean published his book "Worse Than Watergate" in the spring of 2004, it seemed rank hyperbole: an election-year screed and yet another attempt by a Nixon alumnus to downgrade Watergate crimes by unearthing worse "gates" thereafter. But it's hard to be dismissive now that my colleague Judy Miller has been taken away in shackles for refusing to name the source for a story she never wrote. No reporter went to jail during Watergate. No news organization buckled like Time. No one instigated a war on phony premises. This is worse than Watergate.


Political pressure didn't force Mr. Ashcroft to relinquish control of the Wilson investigation to a special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, until Dec. 30, 2003, more than five months after Mr. Novak's column ran. Now 18 more months have passed, and no one knows what crime Mr. Fitzgerald is investigating. Is it the tricky-to-prosecute outing of Mr. Wilson's wife, the story Judy Miller never even wrote about? Or has Mr. Fitzgerald moved on to perjury and obstruction of justice possibly committed by those who tried to hide their roles in that outing? If so, it would mean the Bush administration was too arrogant to heed the most basic lesson of Watergate: the cover-up is worse than the crime.

"Mr. Fitzgerald made his bones prosecuting the mob," intoned the pro-Bush editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, "and doesn't seem to realize that this case isn't about organized crime." But that may be exactly what it is about to an ambitious prosecutor with his own career on the line. That the Bush administration would risk breaking the law with an act as self-destructive to American interests as revealing a C.I.A. officer's identity smacks of desperation. It makes you wonder just what else might have been done to suppress embarrassing election-season questions about the war that has mired us in Iraq even as the true perpetrators of 9/11 resurface in Madrid, London and who knows where else.


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